Vernor Vinge

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Vernor Vinge
Vernor Vinge.jpg
Vernor Vinge, at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference (CFP) 2006
Born Vernor Steffen Vinge
(1944-10-02) October 2, 1944 (age 69)
Waukesha, Wisconsin, U.S.A.
Occupation Computer scientist
Nationality American
Period 1966–
Genres Science fiction
Notable work(s) True Names (1981),
A Fire Upon the Deep (1992),
"The Coming Technological Singularity" (1993),
Fast Times at Fairmont High (2002)
Notable award(s) Hugo Awards,
  Best Novel: 1993, 2000, 2007;
  Best Novella: 2003, 2005
Prometheus Awards:
  1987, 2000, 2004, 2007, 2014 Special Award for Lifetime Achievement
Spouse(s) Joan D. Vinge (1972–1979, divorced)

vrinimi.org

Vernor Steffen Vinge (/ˈvɪn/; born October 2, 1944) is a retired San Diego State University (SDSU) Professor of Mathematics, computer scientist, and science fiction author. He is best known for his Hugo Award-winning novels and novellas A Fire Upon the Deep (1992), A Deepness in the Sky (1999), Rainbows End (2006), Fast Times at Fairmont High (2002), and The Cookie Monster (2004), as well as for his 1984 novel The Peace War and his 1993 essay "The Coming Technological Singularity", in which he argues that the creation of superhuman artificial intelligence will mark the point at which "the human era will be ended", such that no current models of reality are sufficient to predict beyond it.

Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.

—"The Coming Technological Singularity" by Vernor Vinge, 1993

Life and work[edit]

Vinge published his first short story, "Bookworm, Run!", in the March 1966 issue of Analog Science Fiction, then edited by John W. Campbell. The story explores the theme of artificially augmented intelligence by connecting the brain directly to computerised data sources. He became a moderately prolific contributor to SF magazines in the 1960s and early 1970s. In 1969, he expanded the story "Grimm's Story" (Orbit 4, 1968) into his first novel, Grimm's World. His second novel, The Witling, was published in 1975.

Vinge came to prominence in 1981 with his novella True Names, perhaps the first story to present a fully fleshed-out concept of cyberspace,[1] which would later be central to cyberpunk stories by William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and others.

His next two novels, The Peace War (1984) and Marooned in Realtime (1986), explore the spread of a future libertarian society, and deal with the impact of a technology which can create impenetrable force fields called 'bobbles'. These books built Vinge's reputation as an author who would explore ideas to their logical conclusions in particularly inventive ways. Both books were nominated for the Hugo Award, but lost to novels by William Gibson and Orson Scott Card.[2][3]

These two novels and True Names also emphasized Vinge's interest in the technological singularity. True Names takes place in a world on the cusp of the Singularity. The Peace War shows a world in which the Singularity has been postponed by the Bobbles and a global plague, while Marooned in Realtime follows a small group of people who have managed to miss the Singularity which otherwise encompassed Earth.

Vinge won the Hugo Award (tying for Best Novel with Doomsday Book by Connie Willis) with his 1992 novel, A Fire Upon the Deep.[4] In it, he envisions a galaxy that is divided up into 'zones of thought', in which the further one moves away from the center of the galaxy, the higher the level of complexity one can achieve. Nearest the center is 'The Unthinking Depths', where even human-level intelligence is impossible. Earth is in 'The Slow Zone', in which faster-than-light (FTL) travel cannot be achieved. Most of the book, however, takes place in a zone called 'The Beyond', where the computations necessary for FTL travel are possible, but transcendence beyond the Singularity to superhuman intelligence is not. In the last zone, 'The Transcend', there are apparently no limitations at all. The Beyond, therefore, permits a classic space opera, using technology that would push past the Singularity. Fire includes a large number of additional ideas making for an unusually complex and rich universe and story.

A Deepness in the Sky (1999) was a prequel to Fire, following competing groups of humans in The Slow Zone as they struggle over who has the rights to exploit a technologically emerging alien culture. In addition, Deepness explores the themes of technological freedom vs. technology as a tool of enslavement and control, among other deep political issues. Deepness won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2000.[5]

Vinge's novellas Fast Times at Fairmont High and The Cookie Monster also won Hugo Awards in 2002 and 2004, respectively.[6][7]

Vinge's 2006 novel, Rainbows End, set in a similar universe to Fast Times at Fairmont High, won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Novel.[8] His next novel was released in October 2011. The Children of the Sky is a sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep, set approximately 10 years later.[9][10]

Vinge retired in 2000 from teaching at San Diego State University, in order to write full-time. Most years, since its inception in 1999, Vinge has been on the Free Software Foundation's selection committee for their Award for the Advancement of Free Software. Vernor Vinge was Writer Guest of Honor at ConJosé, the 60th World Science Fiction Convention in 2002.[11]

Vinge was formerly married to Joan D. Vinge, also an accomplished science fiction author.[12]

Themes[edit]

The concepts of artificial intelligence and technological singularity inform much of Vinge's writing, whether his stories embrace them (Bookworm, Run!; True Names; Rainbows End) or construct worlds to specifically explain the non-existence of these phenomena (A Fire Upon the Deep, A Deepness in the Sky).

A pro-market/anarcho-capitalist theme can be seen in other works, either explicitly (The Ungoverned, Marooned in Realtime) or more quietly (the confrontation between the Emergents and the Qeng Ho in A Deepness in the Sky).[citation needed]

References in other works[edit]

In Gene Wolfe's The Fifth Head of Cerberus (published in 1972, before Vinge had written his best-known work), the narrator finds a collection of Vernor Vinge stories on a top shelf of a far-future library on a distant world, though the cover has been so worn down that he thinks a librarian must have mistaken the "V. Vinge" on the spine as "Winge".

In David Brin's Kiln People, there is a reference to the main character experiencing something like "Vingeian focus," a quick reference to A Deepness in the Sky. Vinge's review of the book is featured on the back cover.

The "Vinge catastrophe" is mentioned in chapter 8 of Charles Stross' novel Accelerando, and also on Ian Douglas' Star Carrier series.

In the sleeve notes for Harmonic 313's album When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence, Mark Pritchard refers to his "good friend Vernor Vinge", crediting him for naming the "technological singularity".

In Robert J. Sawyer's WWW:Watch, a novel featuring an emerging artificial intelligence, a character quotes from Vinge's 1993 essay The Coming Technological Singularity in reference to what is happening. (The listener is surprised to hear that the author's name is pronounced "Vinjee" instead of rhyming with "hinge".)

The 'Tine' race, introduced in A Fire Upon the Deep, is an example of a gestalt-sentient species: a race that is only sentient in a grouping of individually non-sentient members (distinct from the more common group consciousness in that individual members of such are still themselves sentient or a hive mind in that there is no single sentient entity controlling large groups of non-sentients). Anvil of Stars, by Greg Bear, also makes use of this type of alien with its 'Cord' race, although as both books were released in 1992, it is unlikely that one references the other.

In the webcomic Questionable Content, a fictional speech on A.I. rights is quoted. The full speech, available on the artist's website,[13] names the speaker as "V. Vinge" in homage to Vinge.

Bibliography[edit]

Novels[edit]

Realtime/Bobble series[edit]

Zones of Thought series[edit]

Collections[edit]

Uncollected short fiction[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Saffo, Paul (1990), "Consensual Realities in Cyberspace", in Denning, Peter J., Computers Under Attack: Intruders, Worms, and Viruses, New York, NY, USA: ACM, pp. 416–420, doi:10.1145/102616.102644, ISBN 0-201-53067-8 . Revised and expansed from "Viewpoint", Communications of the ACM 32 (6): 664–665, 1989, doi:10.1145/63526.315953.
  2. ^ a b "1985 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  3. ^ a b "1987 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  4. ^ a b c "1993 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  5. ^ a b c d "2000 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  6. ^ "2002 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  7. ^ "2004 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  8. ^ a b c "2007 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  9. ^ Interview with Vernor Vinge, 12 October 2009, Norwescon website. (Vinge was the Writer Guest of Honor for Norwescon 33.)
  10. ^ "Vernor Vinge's sequel to A Fire Upon The Deep coming in October!". 
  11. ^ "Guests of Honor". ConJosé (the 2002 Worldcon). 
  12. ^ Vinge, Vernor. Introduction to "The Peddler's Apprentice", a story by Vernor Vinge and Joan D. Vinge, in True Names ... and Other Dangers. Baen books, New York, 1987. ISBN 0-671-65363-6.
  13. ^ UN Hearing On AI Rights. jephjacques (2012-08-30). Retrieved on 2013-09-19.
  14. ^ "1992 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  15. ^ "1999 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  16. ^ Vinge, Vernor (12 October 2000). "Win a Nobel Prize!". Nature 407 (6805): 679. doi:10.1038/35037684.  (Paid subscription required.)
  17. ^ Vernor Vinge reading "A Dry Martini", recorded live at Penguicon 6.0 on April 20th, 2008
  18. ^ Vinge, Vernor (June 30, 2004). "Synthetic Serendipity". IEEE Spectrum. 

External links[edit]

About Vinge[edit]

Essays and speeches[edit]

Interviews[edit]