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William Hertling on Singularity 1 on 1: The Singularity is closer than it appears!

William HertlingWilliam Hertling is a rather recent science fiction discovery of mine and the author of award-winning novels Avogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears, A.I. Apocalypse, and The Last Firewall. William has written several plausible scenarios for the technological singularity that were so engaging and compelling that, as soon as I finished his first book, I could not help it but go ahead and read the next one too. And so I was very happy to get an opportunity and interview Hertling on my Singularity 1 on 1 podcast.

During our 45 min conversation with William we cover a variety of interesting topics such as: the impact of reading Accelerando and The Singularity is Near; how he was challenged to become a sci fi author and outlined the plot of his first book on the proverbial paper-napkin; the extrapolation of current trends in software and hardware as a way of predicting technological progress; the importance of theory of mind for the creating of artificial intelligence; the singularity and whether it is more likely to happen in a hacker garage or a military lab; hard take-off vs soft take-off; whole brain simulation and the diminishing costs thereof; if an AI apocalypse is a plausible future scenario or not; transhumanism and healthy life-extension…

This is the second out of a series of 3 sci fi round-table interviews with Ramez Naam, William Hertling and Greg Bear that I did last November in Seattle. It was produced by Richard and Tatyana Sundvall and generously hosted by Greg and Astrid Bear. (Special note of thanks to Agah Bahari who did the interview audio re-mix.)

(You can listen to/download the audio file above or watch the video interview in full. If you want to help me produce more high-quality episodes like this one please make a donation!)


Who is William Hertling?

William Hertling is the author of the award-winning novels Avogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It AppearsA.I. Apocalypse, and The Last Firewall. These near-term science-fiction novels about realistic ways strong AI might emerge have been called “frighteningly plausible,” “tremendous,” “must read.”

Avogadro Corp won Forewords Review Science Fiction Book of the Year and A.I. Apocalypse was nominated for the Prometheus Award for Best Novel. The Last Firewall was endorsed by tech luminaries including Harper Reed (CTO for Obama Campaign), Ben Huh (CEO Cheezburger), and Brad Feld (Foundry Group).

He’s been influenced by writers such as William Gibson, Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, and Walter Jon Williams.

William Hertling was born in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up a digital native in the early days of bulletin board systems. His first experiences with net culture occurred when he wired seven phone lines into the back of his Apple //e to build an online chat system.He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.

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  • Great interview Nikola! In living colour!

  • Yeah, I am just not brave enough to convert the in-person high-quality ones like this one into B&W… though it may happen one day…

  • jeanpaulazzurro

    Again blown away by this new kind of video quality standard that you and your helping friends have achieved now. Amazing cosy looking setting. professional lighting, great clean sound, multiple video sources. The whole interview appeared much more organised and in a more logical sequence but still without appearing too technical.
    Outstanding job, Nicola!
    Its so great to see how far you have come along with your Project!

    Thanks for your dedication and to all the people involved!

  • Thanks very much my friend, I wish I had the resources to do this every time but, at least for now, we’d have to make do with thigh kind of good quality only as often as we can afford to, but not more 😉

  • Dr Johnty

    Very interesting take on the subject and I particularly liked the point that by the Singularity we will already to some degree have merged with our technology.

  • Backstage Pass

    Great interview. I hope his book series continues to receive new readers and recognition from the critics. It’s good to know singularity ideas are also becoming more accessible and prominent within the general public and not confined to academic/tech circles.
    As stated below nice setting and video quality, I think you and the set are ready for an interview with Johnny Depp next, ahead of his new movie – Transcendence. He seems like a cool guy who would go for it.

  • Wholewitt

    I have read Will’s first two books and will eventually get to the third. They were very riveting and I really enjoyed the interview as well. Thanks, Nikola!

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  • Hi Socrates, first time commenter here. Thanks for all your hard work in producing fascinating, high-quality content. Your podcast is more interesting to me than any MSM channel!

    As I go through your very substantial backlog, this recent interview with William Hertling stands out as one of my favorites so far. I’ve read all 3 novels by the author and while I loved them (I speed-read the Last Firewall the minute it came out), I was still surprised at how original and thought-provoking he is in conversation.

    I even see this interview as one of the best intros available to singularity thinking and I’m sharing it as such with lay friends. It’s a fun, inspiring romp, filled with interesting observations and metaphors, and it ties together neatly, through your questions, the thought of other leading AI/singularity thinkers like Stross, Kurzweil, de Garis, Minsky, and Chomsky.

    A suggestion for a future interviewee is John Storrs Hall (Josh), the author of Beyond AI https://amzn.com/1591025117, a brilliant thinker and a friend of Vernor Vinge.

    PS: It’s great that you’re accepting bitcoin donations! https://blockchain.info/tx/ebfac8d8aa6d7980001bce9b2c3b46cc33e1ac18811d2b4dbd7484404808708b

  • Thanks very much for your support and good words friend, I really appreciate it! I have also placed John Hall on my list of future guests 😉

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  • The Singularity will be Open Sourced?

  • williamhertling
  • Somdatta

    This is absolutely fantastic, one of the best interviews I’ve ever seen. Keep up the good work, hope you are getting enough sponsors and are financially fluid. Will definitely try to watch your other interviews, I agree with the featured commenter above that all this is way better than the normal stuff on TV. Thanks for doing all this.

  • Thanks very much for your words of encouragement and support friend. The truth is that, white things are getting better, this blog is not financially self-sufficient yet and I am very much looking for sponsors. At any rate, with more comments like yours I should be able to fix that soon 😉

  • Travis

    This interview got me thinking about friendly clandestine AI psychologist.

  • Lokesh

    Nikola, Its always really interesting watching your interviews! Great Stuff!

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