The Technological Singularity and high-tech tedium in SF: avoiding the obvious and moving on…

There’s something that can get quite tedious and disengaging about the Technological Singularity and posthumanism…

Unrelatable worlds

What I find perplexing about the transhumanists and the singularitarians is that there’s a large vocal group of them that tends to construe progress almost exclusively in positive terms. Their reasons for this seem to me to be rather naive and simplistic…
Elektro and Sparko (263022490)
Apart from being deterministic, when we have so much conflict in our past and present, and will continue to have in the near future, and the underbelly of the Internet and computing and their developmental trajectories, etc., is so disturbing in a variety of ways, it’s hard to imagine how anything other than the complete subjugation of the soul from an omnipresent and omnipotent entity is going to reduce the anti-social tendencies in the population to a harmless level so that we can all live safely in utopia.

Lone lost soldiers and incorrigible criminality will always be a problem until there aren’t any roaming around free, after all…

We also have the related problem of irradicating the world of dystopian realities: the ill-intentioned governments, regimes, corporations and alliances.  Who’s going to trust them with more technological power and how could that get us closer to any kind of utopia?  Like they’ve proven they deserve our trust or something… anything but…!

In addition to the above problems is that the extremes of high-tech realities are all but unrelatable in our condition, they’re too far removed (even if proponents insist that they’re just around the corner.  In fact, that doesn’t help at all.), which makes it more or less devoid of emotion and stake, and consequently less engaging … for most of us, anyway. And, if you’re writing fiction, particularly near-future science fiction like this, you’re going to have trouble relating to readers and gaining their support if you go too far down these extreme paths.

Lower-tech realities, dystopia and complicatedness

The best way to avoid that is to limit the narrative to pre-singularity and pre-utopian contexts … to something much more low tech that has more elements of humanity and our familiar environments contained therein (pseudo-utopian contexts would be a good starting point and end point, though.).  Utopia and post-singularity qualities could be alluded to but kept at a distance in more low-tech cyborg/transhuman/dystopian or just unsatisfactory conditions that are full of ambiguity, complicatedness, complexity and allusions to a range of potential outcomes without actually getting there.

It’s about stake and relatability.

This is what I tried to do in my sequels to my second novel DAY ZERO, which itself isn’t about the Technological Singularity or posthumanism, etc., at all; instead, it’s about personal change agency and near-future world revolution in a dystopian plutocracy. But the sequels (AGENT ZERO and NEW WORLD) include the Anti-Human Collective — a posthuman collective consciousness that’s evidently malicious … and there’s a much higher tech reality than the one found in DAY ZERO.

The main characters, though, still resemble us, except they’re further down the cyborg/transhuman paths than we are.

Ending in low tech with potential for a lot more development, conflict and resolution still ahead

I think that keeps it more interesting.  What it also allowed me to do was to explore more complex issues about progress and change without it being technologically reductive, deterministic or obvious, etc.

Although I think I drew the line in an interesting and challenging way, I still think that I’ve had enough of really high-tech futures for the time being … once I finish my extreme space opera trilogy early next year, that is.  But that’s another story.

After that … I’m going to bring things closer to home to explore lower-tech SF realities to get to the gritty and dirty stuff that’s full of content.

I’m looking forward to it…

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2 thoughts on “The Technological Singularity and high-tech tedium in SF: avoiding the obvious and moving on…

  1. Like most things, if post-singularity stories are well-told abstractions of our present world, they can give readers a deeper insight into everyday life. High tech authors who remember this can avoid the problem of unrelatable worlds you highlighted.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jason. If they can do that, it would be great. I suppose there are probably some examples I’m not aware of. The (mis-)understanding of the Technological Singularity (pre- and post-) may differ quite a bit as well, which could account for any discrepancies. I still tend to believe that if we think a high-tech reality is relatable and relevant to our life ‘at present,’ then we haven’t taken it extreme enough. I do agree with you that there are certain philosophical abstractions, though, that are generally significant to our condition that can be examined in extremely high-tech realities; but this would only be interesting to a small number of readers because most readers have a different idea about ‘relevance to everyday life,’ etc: they want characters they can identify with, and so on. For that to happen, there generally needs to be some significant overlap and set of similarities to what’s familiar. The trick with future-oriented SF is getting the balance right between the mundane and the ultra high tech depending on what you’re trying to communicate to what audience and to how many, etc.

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