William Gibson on real vs. virtual and singularity

[From The Washington Post; for more, see a post in Discover magazine’s Science Not Fiction blog]

Backyard astronomy and the weird future

By Aaron Leitko, Monday, December 12, 2011


How I learned to stop worrying and love my virtual reality

Chicago Humanities Festival

Between smartphones that answer your casual questions and mass-multiplayer videogames, it’s getting more difficult to make a distinction between the real world and the one inside your laptop. But why worry about it? Go to www.chicagohumanities.org and watch William Gibson — who wrote the sci-fi classic “Neuromancer” and coined the term “cyberspace” — talking at the Chicago Humanities Festival about how technology is changing our day-to-day lives and whether we should be self-conscious about it. “Look at the Victorians. For some reason, they had a need to deny that sex existed,” he says. “When we’re the Victorians, I think that people will say, ‘For some reason they had a need to distinguish between what they thought of as the real and the virtual.’?”

The author takes a moment to debunk “singularity” — the theory that man and machine will eventually merge in some kind of climax — calling it “the geek rapture.” In Gibson’s opinion, the biggest changes will sneak into our lives gradually, the way Walkmans morphed into iPods, then iPhones. “There’s not going to be any ‘future,’ because things are changing too quickly,” he says. “It’s just going to be .?.?. stranger and stranger, and as it happens to you, you will be in the present moment, and it will be weird.”

— Aaron Leitko


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