I’ve long known of singularities. In astrophysical terms, a singularity is a point in space with no height, width, or depth–often with a whole star shoved inside.
But there’s another kind of singularity–a cultural change that is so revolutionary that the world will not be the same afterward. The shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural city-state was a singularity. The hunter-gatherers on one side could not possibly understand the city-dwellers on the other.
The Gutenberg printing press was another singularity, taking reading and writing from the province of priests to that of every person.
In the same way, the Civil War marked a singularity in U.S. culture. The south was agrarian, in need of slavery, and the north was industrial, in a post-slavery economy. As much as anything else, the War of Northern Aggression was the war of a new paradigm against an old one.
The point of a singularity is that you have to get through it. If you don’t, you are stuck in the past, and the world will no longer make sense to you.
We are forcing our way through a singularity right now, folks. The kids born into this singularity already live on the other side of it. Those of us born before the Internet, though, have a choice. We can press our way through the bewildering new world of social media and find the future on the other side, or we can reject it all and become artifacts of a previous age.
Way back in the early ’90s, I had a friend who was a computer expert. I asked him how he could possibly stay on top of the ever-evolving world of computers. He said he had to give up his right to incredulity. When someone said that computers could do something, he couldn’t say “No!” He had to simply find out how.
That’s the credo for anyone who wants to get through this current singularity. You have no right to reject new technology. To say you don’t want to learn how it works is to turn down the future. No. You have to say, “How does this work? I want to understand.”
Left to my own devices, I would’ve come up with the wrong answer. I would’ve been left behind.
So, thanks to my two great publishers–Sebranek, Inc., and Angry Robot Books. Both have required that I get through this singularity. Both have insisted that the world beyond is worth seeing, and that I am not worth leaving behind.
So, thanks, Chris and Marco and Lee. Now that I’m on the other side, I have to agree with you.March 30th, 2010
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