Recent SF Readings on Singularity & Decentralization

Motivation

When thinking about the future, I find it much easier to interpolate than to extrapolate. Then it’s just connecting the dots, rather than continually extending into the unknown. It’s good for career planning too: think about the possible paths of how dots connect, then insert yourself into it [1].

To interpolate, one needs some well-defined possibilities of what the future might hold. That’s where science fiction (SF) can help tremendously. SF has changed. It’s not your dad’s 1950s space operas. The new SF has a broader design space because science and technology have progressed, inspiring new generations of writers in new ways. It explores various singularity scenarios, ideas about reputation and identity, and even blockchain-y infosec. Explorations on AI, AR, VR, and brain computer interfaces are more fleshed out, more accurate, and more thoughtful (on average).

Friends often ask me what recent SF has influenced me the most. I’ve typically shared it by email. But, I’ve just realized, why not share it with everyone? That’s what this post is about. I’ve also added several non-fiction books which are nicely complementary.

Image: gephi_org, Creative Commons

Single Picks

If I had to pick just one about singularity, I’d suggest Accelerando, by Charlie Stross. It starts with the near future, and ends with a radical future thousands of years from now. In between it’s a hilarious crazy creative journey. A couple highlights:

  • Early in the book, the protagonist loses his AR headset. And in doing so, forgets who he is and stumbles around like a lost soul. Where do our selves end and our cognitive enhancers begin?
  • Later on, the protagonist’s girlfriend breaks up because he was acting bird-brained for a couple centuries too long. Literally bird-brained: he’d transformed himself into a flock of birds.

For blockchain & society, I’d suggest the two-part series Daemon, then FreedomTM, by Daniel Suarez.

  • It starts with the present. A bunch of “dumb” agents leads to a chain reaction of events that ends with a radical restructuring of society. We get to watch every step of the way. If you want to understand possible scenarios of where decentralization & DAOs might take us, this is required reading.

Full List

Here’s a full list of recent SF that has influenced me the most.

Nonfiction

Here’s some related, recent nonfiction of note:

This is not a thorough list. It’s not intended to be. But if you read even some of these books, I guarantee it will change how you think about the future. And maybe even influence how you design your career!

[1] T. McConaghy, “The Futurist CTO: Moore’s Law and Cognitive Enhancement as Career Planning Rails”, invited talk, CTO Circle, Berlin, Germany, Oct 8, 2015 [link] [pdf]