Tracy R. Atkins: Don’t Wait For The Singularity, Change The World For The Better Today

Tracy R. Atkins is not only a contributor to Singularity Weblog but also the author of a brand new singularity book titled Aeternum Ray.

Aeternum Ray is rather unique because it is openly and whole-heartedly utopian in character. It is written in the epistolary literary tradition of classic science fiction works such as Frankenstein, and is structured as a mémoire – a series of letters from a father to his son.

The book is also interesting from a technical point of view: It also comes in a Dyslexia edition which has been formatted to include a special typeface that may assist readers who have a developmental reading disorder (DRD or Dyslexia). The open source font – OpenDyslexic by Abelardo Gonzalez, utilizes weighting at the bottom of many characters in an effort to prevent letter inversion while reinforcing the line of text. This typeface modification technique has been shown to increase reading accuracy for some forms of DRD.

During our conversation with Tracy R. Atkins we cover a wide variety of topics such as: his definition of the technological singularity; how Star Trek inspired Tracy to love science fiction and how Transcendent Man inspired him to write a singularity novel; growing up in a home that marveled in science and technology; what the title Aeternum Ray stands for and what the novel is all about; whether the future of humanity is digital or if there are benefits to biology; writing dystopia versus writing utopia; human nature and the potential for a pre-sigularity global war…

As always you can listen to or download the audio file above, or scroll down and watch the video interview in full.

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More About Aeternum Ray:

“Poverty, terrorism, murder, disease, homelessness, hopelessness, hunger and death; all cease to exist in 2049.”

Aeternum Ray is a sweeping, yet intimate story of mankind’s next renaissance that will appeal to fans of visionaries Isaac Asimov, Gene Roddenberry and Ray Kurzweil.

The novel is a collection of emotional personal letters written by 240-year-old William Babington to his newborn son Benjamin. Having lived a full life, William has experienced everything from death to his rebirth into the utopian Aeternum; an advanced computer system shepherded by the omnipotent artificial intelligence Ray. William pens the highlights of his existence, love, and loss while reflecting on the centuries of wonder he has witnessed firsthand. His humble letters form a detailed memoir that is intertwined with humanity’s greatest triumphs, the technological singularity, and the solemn burden of surviving Earth’s darkest night of terror.

Through the light and dark times of the near future, Aeternum Ray departs from dystopian themes and brings back the uplifting notion of utopian speculative ideals.

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More about Tracy R. Atkins:

Tracy R. Atkins has been a technology aficionado since a young age, proclaiming with lighthearted glee that it began when he first saw DOS in kindergarten. By fifteen, Tracy had already written and sold software, as well ran a pre-internet era bulletin board system, which put many residents of his home town of Madison, WV online for the first time. At the age of eighteen, he played a critical role in an internet startup, cutting his tech-teeth during the dot-com boom. After the bust, Tracy hit the books and graduated college at the top of his class with a degree in Business Information Systems. Throughout his fifteen year career, he has earned numerous professional level tech-industry certifications, which he pursued out of a misguided sense of fun.

As a man whose life is intertwined with technology, he has not let it define him. That same sense of fun and exploration that propelled his career has also driven his desire to live life to the fullest. Tracy’s interests have run the gamut from writing, traveling, and attempting to set a record by eating a cheeseburger the size of his head, to bringing home a World Champion trophy for his car stereo. His interests may be eclectic but at the core, Tracy is a family man first, with four wonderful children and a supportive wife. All of these multi-faceted experiences coalesce in his writing, creating interesting stories full of excited wonder and humanity.

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  • http://singularity-2045.org/ Singularity Utopia

    In 2010 when I first started blogging about the Singularity, the idea of “utopia” was a dirty word, it was an almost shameful notion to consider technology creating utopia, thus I focused on utopia because to my mind utopia would be an inevitable consequence of technology but our approach towards utopia was a neglected issue.

    Utopia seemed to be a logical and inescapable conclusion. Now there seems to be a growing awareness of how utopia is truly possible. The shame of realizing total happiness via technology is diminishing, people are beginning to appreciate the logic of utopia. I am becoming more aware of other people who share my utopian view.

    Tracey you correctly say Kurzweil is optimistic but he has stated various times he thinks utopia is impossible.

  • CM Stewart

    Glad to see a positive speculation on the future, Mr. Atkins! As I greatly enjoyed your “Completely Uninterested in You” article, and look forward to reading Aeternum Ray and your subsequent novels, with regard to possible post-Singularity outcomes, I wonder about the feasibility of a human-directed technological post-Singularity outcome.

  • Tracy_R_Atkins

    Thank you!

    I think “utopia” as a concept is something that is both personal and ever evolving. Historically, visions of a utopian society were commensurate with the time in which they were imagined. In many ways, we are living in a technological utopia now, by the standards of dreamers from only a century ago. So in that regard, the “utopia ball” is always moving forward, relative to the day.

    I also think it is exciting that when we dream “big”, that we can not only work to achieve some measure of the dream in time, but also find ourselves dreaming ever better things when we get there. I actually pondered how people living in my little utopian dream would imagine an even better world for their children. So perhaps utopia is “impossible” only in that trying to confine it to a single definition is impossible. In my mind, it’s akin to how happiness is impossible to define on a grand scale, because it is a personal vision in some ways, which we try to apply to a society-wide framework.

    For me, personally, a utopian society is perhaps one that empowers people to easily find happiness, achieve personal fulfillment and do it without the burden to struggle for survival (post scarcity). A society where personal happiness has no roadblock. Be that a technological wonder-utopia, or even something more intimate. I think perhaps that utopia is in the mind of the dreamer, yet, dreams can become a template for action and change. Maybe with the right tools, we can all achieve our own vision of utopia.

    It is a wonderful thing to ponder.

  • Tracy_R_Atkins

    Thanks CM Stewart!

    I am glad you enjoyed my article as well, and I hope that you enjoy the book too. 

    I agree that the level of direction that humanity can impart on the singularity is a big question, if not the biggest to debate and discuss. Once that tipping point is reached, where AI becomes strong and self-advancing, control becomes everything from a technical debate to a moral discussion.

    I am sure you have seen video clips of a rocket on the launch pad. For years, hundreds or thousands of the smartest people alive have labored to make sure everything goes exactly right. Contingency plans are made; things are checked and checked again. The weather is just right. The rocket ignites and rises from the pad in a brilliant shower of spark and flame. Within seconds, it veers off course and slams into the ground, in an equally impressive wall of fire.

    It’s happened several times.

    Yet, you take another scenario. The weather is just right. The rocket ignites and rises from the pad, and flies gracefully like an amber comet into the night. The world watches breathlessly for days. A man steps from a small pod and achieves an unimaginable triumph as he puts hit foot on the lunar surface.

    Therefore, I think we are capable of directing technology to failure, but we are also capable of directing it to triumph as well, even when things are out of our hands.

  • http://singularity-2045.org/ Singularity Utopia

    I think historic visions of utopia applying to our current age are not valid because either the historic definers of utopia would not think our current age is utopian or their definitions were flawed. I think my definition of utopia is not parochial, it is not merely linked to this epoch.

    My idea of utopia is Post-Scarcity, which entails everything being free, it is about limitless resources.

    Despite living in better times we do not live in a utopian world by any definition of the term. To explain this we should analogously consider increasing efficiency in healthcare, which has not yet created immortality. We live in times of greater abundance but similar to how we live in times of greater sophistication regarding healthcare, yet we continue to be mortal, our level of abundance has not yet reached a level where utopia is possible similar to how immortality is not yet possible despite increases in healthcare.

    The argument that new diseases will eternally make immortality impossible are not valid, it is similar to how people erroneously state exponentially increasing technology will be linked to exponentially increasing consumption thus PS (utopia) is impossible. Looking at the evidence, we see today how we consume more than we have ever consumed but despite increases in our consumption prices are decreasing while the power of our technologies increases.

    We have not reached immortality yet but we will reach it. Likewise we have not reached PS (utopia) yet but we will do.

  • Tracy_R_Atkins

    Those are some great points and i agree. Also, i just read your Scarcity article and it was great.