Vernor Vinge, Author Who Popularized AI ‘Singularity’ and ‘Cyberspace,’ Dies at 79

Vernor Vinge, science-fiction author and professor who popularized the idea of an artificial intelligence singularity and the term “cyberspace,” has died at 79. He’s best known for his works “True Names,” “A Fire Upon the Deep,” “The Coming Technological Singularity” and “Fast Times at Fairmont High.”

Author David Brin shared the news of Vinge’s death Wednesday. He died in La Jolla, California.

“It is with sadness — and deep appreciation of my friend and colleague — that I must report the passing of Vernor Vinge,” Brin wrote. “A titan in the literary genre that explores a limitless range of potential destinies, Vernor enthralled millions with tales of plausible tomorrows, made all the more vivid by his polymath masteries of language, drama, characters and the implications of science.”

Vinge, who won several Hugo awards, was born on Oct. 2, 1944 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Best known for popularizing and being one of the first to explore the technological singularity concept and fictional “cyberspace” in literary works, Vinge released his first short story “Apartness” in June 1965. A year later he penned “Bookworm, Run,” which landed in the March 1966 edition of Analog Science Fiction. He took the idea of “singularity” — a term whose usage regarding computers and AI he coined in a 1983 article — and expanded it in his 1993 essay “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era.”

Vinge argued that there would be a cultural shift once humans created technology smarter than themselves, similar to the center of a black hole — a singularity, where technology began to improve itself and develop at an incredible rate. His estimate was that we would reach said singularity by the year 2030.

“We are saddened by the loss of science fiction great Vernor Vinge,” the official account for pop culture festival Comic-Con wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “He was a retired professor at San Diego State University and a regular panelist at Comic-Con. He received the Inkpot Award in 1992.”

Vinge took home Hugo awards for “A Fire Upon the Deep,” “A Deepness in the Sky,” “Rainbows End” and his novellas “Fast Times at Fairmont High” and “The Cookie Monster.” Aside from writing, he also obtained his Ph.D in mathematics from the University of California, San Diego, where he taught until 2000.

In later years of his life, Vinge was put under care for progressive Parkinson’s disease, though Brin said he was “relatively comfortable.”

“I am a bit too wracked, right now, to write much more. Certainly, homages will flow and we will post some on a tribute page. I will say that it’s a bit daunting now to be a ‘Killer B’ who’s still standing. So, let me close with a photo that’s dear to my heart,” Brin said. “We spanned a pretty wide spectrum — politically! Yet, we KBs (Vernor was a full member! And Octavia Butler once guffawed happily when we inducted her) always shared a deep love of our high art — that of gedankenexperimentation, extrapolation into the undiscovered country ahead. And — if Vernor’s readers continue to be inspired — that country might even feature more solutions than problems. And perhaps copious supplies of hope.”

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