Vernor Vinge, groundbreaking science fiction novelist, dies at 79 | Trending Viral hub


Vernor Vinge, a mathematician and prolific science fiction author who in the 1980s wrote a novel that offered an early glimpse of what became known as cyberspace, and who shortly thereafter hypothesized that artificial intelligence would surpass human intelligence , died on March 20 in the Jolla area of ​​San Diego. He was 79 years old.

James Frenkel, who edited nearly all of her work since 1981, said the cause of her death, in an assisted living facility, was Parkinson’s disease.

David Brina science fiction writer and friend of Mr. Vinge said in a tribute. On Facebook, “Vernor captivated millions with stories of plausible tomorrows, made all the more vivid by his scholarly mastery of language, drama, character, and the implications of science.”

Vinge (pronounced VIN-jee) was known for his novel “True Names” (1981), in which he created an early version of cyberspace – a virtual reality technology he called “Other Plane” – a year before William Gibson gave The nascent digital ecosystem took its name from a short story, “Burning Chrome,” and three years later he popularized the word in his novel “Neuromancer.”

In “True Names”, Mr. Slippery, one of the anonymous hackers known as warlocks working on the Other Plane, is identified and captured by the government (the “Great Enemy”) and forced to help stop a threat posed for another. sorcerer.

Vinge created an early version of cyberspace – a virtual reality technology he called “Other Plane” – in his novella “True Names,” first published in 1981.Credit…Tor Books

In a 2001 article about Mr. Vinge, New York Times technology reporter Katie Hafner wrote that “True Names” “portrays a world rife with pseudonymous characters and other elements of online life that now seem almost boring,” adding that, in retrospect, the book seemed “prophetic.”

Vinge’s immersion in computers at San Diego State University, where he began teaching in 1972, led him to develop his vision of a “technological singularity,” a tipping point at which machine intelligence possesses and then exceeds that of humans.

He described an early version of his vision in an article in Omni magazine in 1983.

“We are at the point of accelerating the evolution of intelligence itself,” he wrote, adding: “Whether our work is done in silicon or DNA, it will have little effect on the final results.” He wrote that the moment of intellectual transition would be as “impenetrable as space-time knotted at the center of a black hole” and that at that moment “the world will go far beyond our understanding.”

A decade later, he developed the intellectual transition – the singularity – in an article (subtitled “How to survive in the post-human era”) for a symposium sponsored by NASA’s Lewis Research Center and the Ohio Aerospace Institute.

“Within 30 years,” he said, “we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly afterward the human era will end. Is such progress avoidable? If they cannot be avoided, can events be guided so that we can survive?

That prediction hasn’t come true, but artificial intelligence has accelerated to the point that some people fear the technology will replace them.

Frenkel said Vinge used the concept of singularities in his “Thought Zones” series, in which they are superintelligent beings in a part of the galaxy called Transcend.

“They are pure thought entities,” Frenkel said in a telephone interview. “They are enormously powerful. Some are beneficial and others malevolent.”

Vinge won one of his five Hugo Awards for “A Deepness in the Sky” (2000), a novel in his “Zones of Thought” series.Credit…Tor Books

Two of the novels in that series, “A Fire in the Depths” (1993) and “A Depth in the Sky” (2000), won the Hugo Award, the highest honor in the science fiction genre. Mr. Vinge also received Hugos for another novel, “Rainbows End” (2007), and for the novels “Fast Times at Fairmont High” (2002) and “The Cookie Monster” (2004).

In his review of “A Fire Upon the Deep” in Wired magazine, Peter Schwartz wrote: “Not since William Gibson gave us the fully realized world of cyberspace in ‘Neuromancer’ has anyone given us such a rich diet of new ideas. Let us imagine a universe where the laws of physics vary along the axis of the great wheel of the Milky Way.”

Vernor Steffen Vinge was born on October 2, 1944 in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and moved with his family to East Lansing, Michigan, where his father, Clarence, taught geography at Michigan State University. His mother, Ada Grace (Rowlands) Vinge, was a geographer who wrote two books with her husband.

After graduating from Michigan State with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1966, Mr. Vinge received his master’s degree and Ph.D. in the same subject at the University of California, San Diego, in 1968 and 1971. He began teaching mathematics at San Diego State University in 1972, but eventually switched to computer science after beginning to “play with real computers” early in his career. from the 1970s. told The Times. He retired in 2000 to focus on his writing.

“Vernor liked teaching and was very popular with students, but he mentioned that he could only find time to write between semesters (mainly in the summers),” said John Carroll, a colleague of Mr. Vinge in the San Diego computer science department. State and the executor of his estate, he wrote in an email. “Something had to give and others could impart her teachings, but the growing flow of novels and ideas was irreplaceable.”

Vinge’s first published short story, “Apartness,” appeared in New Worlds magazine in 1965. Four years later he published his first novel, “Grimm’s World,” which revolves around a 700-year-old science fiction magazine, published on a gigantic barge that travels the world: that is the source of technological progress in the world.

In 1972 he married Joan Dennison. That marriage ended in divorce seven years later, but they remained friends. Like Joan Vinge, she has won five Hugo Awards. She married Mr. Frenkel, her editor, in 1980.

Mr. Vinge’s sister, Patricia Vinge, is his only immediate survivor.

Mr. Vinge was teaching networking and operating systems when he came up with the idea for “True Names.” He had been using an early form of instant messaging called Talk in the late 1970s, when he and another user tried to find out each other’s names.

“Finally, I gave up and told the other person that I had to go, that I was actually a personality simulator, and that if I kept talking, my artificial nature would become obvious,” he said in a 2001 Times article. “Then I realized that I had just lived a science fiction story.”

Mr. Vinge occasionally returned to the theme of singularity.

When interviewed in 2000 for NPR’s “Fresh Air” He said his forecast was inspired in part by Moore’s Law, postulated in 1965 by Gordon Moore, then head of research and development at Fairchild Semiconductor and later founder of Intel. He claimed that each year the number of transistors in an integrated circuit would double, without a large increase in cost, exponentially increasing computing power. Mr. Moore later amended it to be every two years.

The logical conclusion suggested by Moore’s Law, Vinge said, was that “we will reach a crossover point” that would make computers as intellectually powerful as humans, “assuming someone can program them.”


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