Sci-Fi Live: From William Gibson to Ray Kurzweil
Mojca Krevel, Professor of English at University of Ljubljana and UMA Visiting Scholar
Wednesday, March 26, Noon to 1 pm, to be followed by a reception from 1 pm to 2pm
University of Maine at Augusta Katz Library
46 University Drive, Augusta ME 04330
Students, Staff, Faculty and Community are Welcome
“I got the idea for the topic of this talk a few months ago when, while randomly flipping through channels, my attention was caught by the familiar phantasmagoria of flickering trajectories of brain-computer interfacing and pulsing images of neurons firing to computer-generated data. What initially looked like a yet unseen documentary on the 1980s cyberpunk movement, was, in fact, a film version of Ray Kurzweil’s 2005 best-selling The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Technology. The resemblance between Kurzweil’s vision of the future and the worlds of literary cyberpunk, especially those envisioned in William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy, seemed uncanny.
“The thing is, Kurzweil’s predictions for the future fundamentally rely on the actual developments and developmental trends in 1990s and 2000s technology and science. Kurzweil is, after all, an award-winning inventor, mathematician, and one of the leading experts on computer and artificial intelligence. William Gibson, on the other hand, is a full-time sci-fi writer with a BA in English, who provided the blueprint for what were to become the trademarks of the 1980s cyberpunk writing: computers, computerized environments and artificial intelligence. But while fuelling digital fantasies of thousands of computer geeks, Gibson wrote most of his Sprawl trilogy on a typewriter and consciously avoided using the internet well into the 1990s.
“In my talk I will focus on two things. First I will present the extent to which Kurzweil’s informed and well-founded projections coincide with the invented concepts and motifs in Gibson’s 1980s Sprawl trilogy. I will then consider the correspondence from the perspective of the hitherto established mechanisms governing the functioning and the structure of the postmodern epoch. Relying primarily on the concepts and terminology developed by Jean Baudrillard I will show that the high degree of correspondence is far from uncanny; it is practically inevitable given the popularity of Gibson’s trilogy. The explanation will also make clear why the criticism and controversies surrounding the accuracy and feasibility of Kurzweil’s predictions are ultimately irrelevant to the topic at hand.”