Vernor Vinge

American mathematician, computer scientist, and science fiction writer (1944–2024)

Vernor Vinge (October 2, 1944March 20, 2024) was a computer scientist and science fiction author, as well as a retired San Diego State University Professor of Mathematics.

Vernor Vinge in 2006

Quotes edit

The Coming Technological Singularity (1993) edit

Presented at the VISION-21 Symposium sponsored by NASA Lewis Research Center and the Ohio Aerospace Institute, 30–31 March 1993.[1] Also retrievable from the NASA technical reports server as part of NASA CP-10129. A slightly changed version appeared in Whole Earth Review, Winter 1993.
  • Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.
  • The acceleration of technological progress has been the central feature of this century.
  • We can solve many problems thousands of times faster than natural selection. Now, by creating the means to execute those simulations at much higher speeds, we are entering a regime as radically different from our human past as we humans are from the lower animals.
  • I have argued above that we cannot prevent the Singularity, that its coming is an inevitable consequence of the humans' natural competitiveness and the possibilities inherent in technology. And yet … we are the initiators. Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things. We have the freedom to establish initial conditions, make things happen in ways that are less inimical than others. Of course (as with starting avalanches), it may not be clear what the right guiding nudge really is...
  • The work that is truly productive is the domain of a steadily smaller and more elite fraction of humanity.

A Fire Upon the Deep (1992) edit

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Tor Books in February 1993, ISBN 0-812-51528-5, 8th printing
Italics as in the book; bold face added for emphasis
  • How to explain? How to describe? Even the omniscient viewpoint quails.
    • Prologue (p. 1; opening words)
  • "Poor humans; they will all die."
    "Poor us; we will not."
    • Prologue (p. 2)
  • The hours came to minutes, the minutes to seconds. And now each second was as long as all the time before.
    • Prologue (p. 4)
  • Peregrine Wickwrackrum was of two minds about evil: when enough rules get broken, sometimes there is good amid the carnage.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 18)
  • The voice was gentle, like a scalpel petting the short hairs of your throat.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 51)
  • Politics may come and go, but Greed goes on forever.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 68) (motto of the Qeng Ho trading group)
  • He was guided by what he saw rather than by what he wanted to believe.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 109)
  • Life is a green madness just now, trying to squeeze the last bit of warmth from the season.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 119)
  • I say, let’s learn more and then speculate.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 122)
  • Sometimes terror and pain are not the best levers; deception, when it works, is the most elegant and least expensive manipulation of all.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 145)
  • If during the last thousand seconds you have received any High-Beyond-protocol packets from "Arbitration Arts," discard them at once. If they have been processed, then the processing site and all locally netted sites must be physically destroyed at once. We realize that this means the destruction of solar systems, but consider the alternative. You are under Transcendent attack.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 161)
  • Hexapodia as the key insight...
    I haven’t had a chance to see the famous video from Straumli Realm, except as an evocation. (My only gateway onto the Net is very expensive.) Is it true that humans have six legs?
    • Chapter 18 (p. 226)
  • It was not called the Net of a Million Lies for nothing.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 228)
  • We've watched the Homo Sapiens interest group since the first appearance of the Blight. Where is this "Earth" the humans claim to be from? "Half way around the galaxy," they say, and deep in the Slow Zone. Even their proximate origin, Nyjora, is conveniently in the Slowness. We see an alternative theory: Sometime, maybe further back than the last consistent archives, there was a battle between Powers. The blueprint for this "human race" was written, complete with communication interfaces. Long after the original contestants and their stories had vanished, this race happened to get in position where it could Transcend. And that Transcending was tailor-made, too, re-establishing the Power that had set the trap to begin with.

    We're not sure of the details, but a scenario such as this is inevitable. What we must do is also clear. Straumli Realm is at the heart of the Blight, obviously beyond all attack. But there are other human colonies. We ask the Net to help in identifying all of them. We ourselves are not a large civilization, but we would be happy to coordinate the information gathering, and the military action that is required to prevent the Blight's spread in the Middle Beyond. For nearly seventeen weeks, we've been calling for action. Had you listened in the beginning, a concerted strike might have been sufficient to destroy the Straumli Realm. Isn't the Fall of Relay enough to wake you up? Friends, if we act together we still have a chance.

    Death to vermin.

    • Chapter 20 (p. 245)
  • "Well, what do you know," Pham said. "Butterflies in jackboots."
    • Chapter 26 (p. 318)
  • He claimed that nearby gun thunder cleared the mind—but most everybody else agreed it made you daft.
    • Chapter 31 (p. 373)
  • Effective translation of natural languages comes awfully close to requiring a sentient translator program.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 397)
  • All his life he had lived by the law. Often his job had been to stop acts of revenge....And now revenge was all that life had left for him.
    • Chapter 33 (p. 428)
  • Sometimes the biggest disasters aren’t noticed at all—no one’s around to write horror stories.
    • Chapter 33 (p. 443)
  • Over the last few weeks, some newsgroups have been full of tales of war and battle fleets, of billions dying in the clash of species. To all such—and those living more peaceably around them—we say look out on the universe. It does not care, and even with all our science there are some disasters that we can not avert. All evil and good is petty before Nature. Personally, we take comfort from this, that there is a universe to admire that cannot be twisted to villainy or good, but which simply is.
    • Chapter 35 (pp. 483-484)
  • The heart of manipulation is to empathize without being touched.
    • Chapter 37 (p. 519)
  • “I have come to kill you.”
    The death’s heads shrugged. “You have come to try.”
    • Chapter 39 (p. 555)
  • If there be only hours, at least learn what there is time to learn.
    • Chapter 41 (p. 580)
  • Peregrine Wickwrackscar was flying. A pilgrim with legends that went back almost a thousand years—and not one of them could come near to this!
    • Epilogs (p. 595)

A Deepness in the Sky (1999) edit

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Tor Books in January 2000, ISBN 0-812-53635-5, 1st printing
  • They’re very good at reaching nonsense conclusions from insufficient information.
    • Prologue (p. 3)
  • Technical people don’t make good slaves. Without their wholehearted cooperation, things fall apart.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 26)
  • So high, so low, so many things to know.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 63; repeated as the last line of the book)
  • Interesting problem, pain. So helpful, so obnoxious.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 90)
  • The old truths still hold: without a sustaining civilization, no isolated collection of ships and humans can rebuild the core of technology.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 146)
  • So even in hell, there are clowns.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 158)
  • Politics may come and go, but trade goes on forever.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 222)
  • Being alone was something he was very good at. There was so much to learn.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 227)
  • The essence of real creativity is a certain playfulness, a flitting from idea to idea without getting bogged down by fixated demands. Of course, you don’t always get what you thought you were asking for. From this era on, I think invention will be the parent of necessity—and not the other way around.
    • Chapter 19 (p. 252)
  • Didn’t Underhill understand? All decent societies agreed on basic issues, things that meant the healthy survival of their people. Things might be changing, but it was self-serving nonsense to throw the rules overboard.
    • Chapter 19 (p. 260)
  • Funny how the least attempt at deception always seems to make life more complicated.
    • Chapter 21 (p. 282)
  • Yet, even with the greatest care, a technological civilization carried the seeds of its own destruction. Sooner or later, it ossified and politics carried it into a fall.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 310)
  • Civilizations rise and fall, but all technical civilizations know the greatest secrets now. They know which social mechanisms normally work, and which ones quickly fail. They know the means to postpone disaster and evade the most foolish catastrophes. They know that even so, each civilization must inevitably fall.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 319)
  • Pham was overwhelmed by the other things that Gunnar Larson had to say, the advice that might be worthless but that had the stench of wisdom.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 324)
  • There had been an era of ubiquitous law enforcement, and some kind of distributed terror.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 324)
  • There was an old Qeng Ho saying, “You know you’ve stayed too long when you start using the locals’ calendar.”
    • Chapter 23 (p. 327)
  • “Do you think she really believes what she’s saying?”
    “Sure she believes it. That’s what makes her so funny.”
    • Chapter 24 (p. 343)
  • There is a deepness in the sky, and it extends forever.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 353)
  • This was the sort of desperate hallucination he must guard against. If you raise your desires high enough, certainty can grow out of the background noise.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 380)
  • Viki was awed by all the incredible quackery. Daddy thought such things were amusing—“like religion but not so deadly.”
    • Chapter 28 (p. 394)
  • “We think the governance has opted for ubiquitous law enforcement.”
    Pham whistled softly. Now every embedded computing system, down to a child’s rattle, was a governance utility. It was the most extreme form of social control ever invented. “So now they have to run everything.” The notion was terribly seductive to the authoritarian mind.
    • Chapter 38 (p. 491)
  • What do you do when your dream dies?
    • Chapter 43 (p. 556)
  • What do you do when your dream dies?
    Dreams die in every life. Everyone gets old. There is promise in the beginning when life seems so bright. The promise fades when the years get short.
    • Chapter 43 (p. 556)
  • So what do you do when your dream dies?
    When your dream dies, you give it up.
    • Chapter 43 (p. 557)
  • The hard facts are extraordinary, without adding superstitious mumbo-jumbo.
    • Chapter 44 (p. 568)
  • Yes, we did quite well. But then, telling people what they want to believe is an easy job.
    • Chapter 44 (p. 573)
  • The more you realized what the stars really were, the more you realized what the universe must really be.
    • Chapter 49 (p. 620)
  • “But see, your theory ‘explains’ all sorts of things without helping to do anything, much less providing tests for itself.”
    • Epilogue (p. 770)

Rainbows End (2006) edit

  • So much technology, so little talent.

See also edit

External links edit

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