On Wednesday, writer David Brin introduced that Vernor Vinge, sci-fi writer, former professor, and father of the technological singularity idea, died from Parkinson’s illness at age 79 on March 20, 2024, in La Jolla, California. The announcement got here in a Facebook tribute the place Brin wrote about Vinge’s deep love for science and writing.

“A titan within the literary style that explores a limitless vary of potential destinies, Vernor enthralled hundreds of thousands with tales of believable tomorrows, made all of the extra vivid by his polymath masteries of language, drama, characters, and the implications of science,” wrote Brin in his put up.

As a sci-fi writer, Vinge received Hugo Awards for his novels A Fire Upon the Deep (1993), A Deepness within the Sky (2000), and Rainbows End (2007). He additionally received Hugos for novellas Fast Times at Fairmont High (2002) and The Cookie Monster (2004). As Mike Glyer’s File 770 weblog notes, Vinge’s novella True Names (1981) is often cited as the primary presentation of an in-depth have a look at the idea of “our on-line world.”

Vinge first coined the time period “singularity” as associated to know-how in 1983, borrowed from the idea of a singularity in spacetime in physics. When discussing the creation of intelligences far larger than our personal in a 1983 op-ed in OMNI journal, Vinge wrote, “When this occurs, human historical past could have reached a sort of singularity, an mental transition as impenetrable because the knotted space-time on the heart of a black gap, and the world will move far past our understanding.”

In 1993 he expanded on the thought in an essay titled The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive within the Post-Human Era.

The singularity idea postulates that AI will quickly turn into superintelligent, far surpassing people in functionality and bringing the human-dominated period to an in depth. While the idea of a tech singularity generally evokes negativity and concern, Vinge remained optimistic about humanity’s technological future, as Brin notes in his tribute: “Accused by a few of a grievous sin—that of ‘optimism’—Vernor gave us peerless legends that always depicted human success at overcoming issues … these proper in entrance of us … whereas posing new ones! New dilemmas that will lie simply forward of our myopic gaze. He would usually ask: ‘What if we succeed? Do you suppose that would be the finish of it?’”

Vinge’s idea closely influenced futurist Ray Kurzweil, who has written concerning the singularity a number of occasions at size in books akin to The Singularity Is Near in 2005. In a 2005 interview with the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology web site, Kurzweil mentioned, “Vernor Vinge has had some actually key insights into the singularity very early on. There have been others, akin to John von Neumann, who talked a few singular occasion occurring, as a result of he had the thought of technological acceleration and singularity half a century in the past. But it was merely an off-the-cuff remark, and Vinge labored out a few of the key concepts.”

Kurzweil’s works, in flip, have been influential to workers of AI corporations akin to OpenAI, who’re actively working to deliver superintelligent AI into actuality. There is presently an excessive amount of debate over whether or not the method of scaling giant language fashions with extra compute will result in superintelligence over time, however the sci-fi affect looms large over this technology’s AI researchers.

British journal New Worlds revealed Vinge’s first quick story, Apartness, in 1965. He studied laptop science and obtained a PhD in 1971. Vinge was additionally a retired professor of laptop science at San Diego State University, the place he taught between 1972 and 2000.

Brin stories that, close to the top of his life, Vinge had been below look after years for progressive Parkinson’s illness “at a really good place overlooking the Pacific in La Jolla.” According to Vinge’s fellow San Diego State professor John Carroll, “his decline had steepened since November, however [he] was comparatively snug.”

This story initially appeared on Ars Technica.

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