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Cory Doctorow on Singularity 1 on 1: The Singularity Is A Progressive Apocalypse

Portrait by Jonathan Worth

Cory Doctorow is one of my all time most favorite science fiction writers. So it is no surprise I had so much fun interviewing him.

I don’t know how he does it, but Cory is one of those rare individuals who can juggle successfully being a father, an avid reader, a blogger, an activist, a journalist and a prolific science fiction writer, all at once.

It is for this reason that I was persistent in chasing Cory for over 2 years so that I can finally get him on Singularity 1 on 1. And it was totally worth it: Doctorow is indeed a very dynamic, eloquent, passionate, challenging and fun interlocutor.

During our conversation Cory covers a wide variety of topics such as: how Star Wars inspired him to become a science fiction writer; Cory’s initial jobs as a bookstore seller, Greenpeace activist, web developer, entrepreneur and director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation; the intimate relationship between being a science fiction writer, a blogger and an activist; the motivation and goals behind his work; what science fiction is about and what it is good and bad at doing; Doctorow’s take on the technological singularity as a “progressive apocalypse”; his “militant atheism” and technology activism.

Some of my favorite quotes that I will take away from this interview with Cory are:

“Science fiction is very good at predicting the present.”


“Evolution is not perfection. Evolution is suitability.”


“We have failed to appreciate the gravitas of the internet and continue to regulate it as if it is a glorified video on demand service. And as we do this, we put everything that we do on the internet – which is everything – in jeopardy.”

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

To show your support you can write a review on iTunes or make a donation.


Who is Cory Doctorow?

photo by Jonathan Worth

Cory Doctorow is a science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist. He is the co-editor of the popular weblog Boing Boing, and a contributor to The Guardian, the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Wired, and many other newspapers, magazines and websites. He was formerly Director of European Affairs for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit civil liberties group that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards and treaties. He holds an honorary doctorate in computer science from the Open University (UK), where he is a Visiting Senior Lecturer; in 2007, he served as the Fulbright Chair at the Annenberg Center for Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California.

His novels have been translated into dozens of languages and are published by Tor Books and simultaneously released on the Internet under Creative Commons licenses that encourage their re-use and sharing, a move that increases his sales by enlisting his readers to help promote his work. He has won the Locus and Sunburst Awards, and been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and British Science Fiction Awards. His New York Times Bestseller Little Brother was published in May 2008. A sequel, Homeland, will be published in 2013, and another young adult novel, Pirate Cinema will precede it in October 2012. His latest short story collection is With a Little Help, available in paperback, ebook, audiobook and limited edition hardcover. In 2011, Tachyon Books published a collection of his essays, called Context (with an introduction by Tim O’Reilly) and IDW published a collection of comic books inspired by his short fiction called Cory Doctorow’s Futuristic Tales Of The Here And Now. His latest adult novel is Makers, published by Tor Books/HarperCollins UK in October, 2009. The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, a PM Press Outspoken Authors chapbook, was also published in 2011.

Little Brother was nominated for the 2008 Hugo, Nebula, Sunburst and Locus Awards. It won the Ontario Library White Pine Award, the Prometheus Award as well as the Indienet Award for bestselling young adult novel in America’s top 1000 independent bookstores in 2008.

He co-founded the open source peer-to-peer software company OpenCola, sold to OpenText, Inc in 2003, and presently serves on the boards and advisory boards of the Participatory Culture Foundation, the Clarion Foundation, The Glenn Gould Foundation, and the Chabot Space & Science Center’s SpaceTime project.

In 2007, Entertainment Weekly called him, “The William Gibson of his generation.” He was also named one of Forbes Magazine’s 2007/8/9/10 Web Celebrities, and one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2007.

His forthcoming books include The Rapture of the Nerds (a novel for adults, written with Charles Stross); Anda’s Game (a graphic novel from FirstSecond).

On February 3, 2008, he became a father. The little girl is called Poesy Emmeline Fibonacci Nautilus Taylor Doctorow, and is a marvel that puts all the works of technology and artifice to shame.

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  • CM Stewart

    Too few people understand and agree with Doctorow’s “Evolution is not perfection. Evolution is suitability.” message. But the reality of evolution is that transhumanistic self-direction is not always sustainable. Doctorow also makes an excellent point about how we do not understand, and therefore cannot qualify, self-identity (yet). An unambiguous and workable definition of self-identity is a prerequisite for possible mind-uploading with confidence.

    Thank you, Nikola and Mr. Doctorow, for an enlightening interview!

  • You are always welcome Cynthia! Very happy you enjoyed it as much as I did!

  • Kibwe McIntyre

    Incredible depth. I love the fact that he tackles the eventual loss of singularity and originalty in todays society. I’m 17 and I notice the sudden rush to make kids disclose everything. There is no such thing as a personal life anymore outside my house. The cost of anonymity is so high that mist people cannot afford to maintain it.

  • I highly enjoyed that podcast, very smart person this Cory Doctorow. As always you are doing a fantastic job socrates.

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  • Thanks for a great conversation; Cory never disappoints! For those curious about the book he recommended, it was ‘Pacific Edge’ – the third book in the ‘Three Californias Triptych series’ by Kim Stanley Robinson – http://www.goodreads.com/series/58577-three-californias-triptych

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  • It always surprises me that so many science fiction writers are generally negative to the concept of the technological singularity, although at least Cory is consistent. His stories that touch on the singularity seem to be generally dystopian (an excellent example being OverClocked).

    I can understand his point about the singularity being cataclysmic, but I wonder if he really is describing the worst case, rather than the best case or somewhere in between. Certainly, the vast majority of people alive today do not understand the technology they hold in their hands, even if the UI gives them the confidence to use the tool. Kurzweil and Vinge both describe the singularity as the point in time where it is almost impossible to understand what is happening, far less keep up with advancements, and I’d argue that is already happening, but is a fluid event stretching over several decades and affecting individuals differently. But I don’t hold to the idea it must be cataclysmic. As soon as we reach a point where every person will be neurally connected to all information, then understanding of our technology will be instant and non-cataclysmic.

    Could it be that Cory and other apparent skeptics of the singularity are thinking that the omega point is an end, rather than a beginning?

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  • jack smith

    only someone committed to being an ape would fear anthroprogenic technological post-humanism

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