In outlining various paths to a technological Singularity, Vinge believes scenario based planning is incredibly important when outcomes are uncertain. It gives you a system of symptoms to watch for, so you can plan responses for different sets of symptoms. If you are doing scenario based planning, having a science fiction writer as a loose canon in your next meeting may shake up the committee in a positive way.
Vinge’s scenarios for how humanity could get to a tech singularity are as follows:
1. Pure Artificial Intelligence: The advent of an intelligent superhuman computer.
2. Intelligence Amplification: Take a natural mind, interface it with a computer and make it smarter (popular science fiction author David Brin calls the computer a neo-neo cortex; the machine part allows us to be smart, and the human part provides us with the component we’re good at: wanting things).
3. Computer Networks + Humanity: A phenomenon he calls “groupmind” or social networking, where we achieve superhuman intelligence (at least a functional sort – proceeding at a more robust rate than the others) through coordinated group efforts. An example of this would be Wikipedia.
4. Digital Gaia: A world with ubiquitous microprocessors able to communicate with their neighbors: if every physical object knew what it was, where it was, and could communicate with any other device, the result could be one where the world itself wakes up and becomes its own database.
5. Biomedical improvements in human intelligence lead to better memory and other changes.