Use The Force, Luke!
[originally published November 2004] What presents a greater threat to our future? If we listen to sci-fi writer Vernor Vinge along with Ray Kurzweil, Hans Moravec, Marvin Minsky, and their ilk, transcendent AIs threaten the very foundations of our world. But if we listen to Eric Drexler and Neal Stephenson (among others), we should worry more, or perhaps less, about threats from nanotechnology -- in other words, death by gray goo. Are we living in denial? Vinge's basic argument for singularity is compelling, give or take any real understanding of what a transcendent AI's software might look like. Nanotech is similarly compelling, although the gray-goo thesis is less likely than some alarmists would have us believe -- autonomous nanofactories that can "live off the land" won't happen any time soon or by accident. In this final installment of Biblio Tech, we'll examine some of the various views of life and intelligence that have thriven in sci-fi over the years