Historicism, Science Fiction, and the Singularity

In Barry Dainton, Will Slocombe & Attila Tanyi (eds.), Minding the Future: Artificial Intelligence, Philosophical Visions and Science Fiction. Cham, Switzerland: pp. 197-218 (2021)

Mark Silcox
University of Central Oklahoma
Mark Silcox
University of Central Oklahoma
Many writers who have discussed the Singularity have treated it not only as the inevitable outcome of advancements in cybernetic technology, but also as natural consequence of broader patterns in the development of human knowledge, or of human history itself. In this paper I examine these claims in light of Karl Popper’s famous philosophical critique of historicism. I argue that, because the Singularity is regarded as both a product of human ingenuity and a reflection of the permanent limitations of our rational capacities, speculation about its likelihood occupies an interesting border zone between what Popper referred to as “technological prediction” and what he lambasted as “prophecy.” I go on to examine representations of a post-singularity world in the novels of Iain M. Banks, as well as in Bruce Sterling’s short story “The Beautiful and the Sublime.” These narratives demonstrate how trying to imagine what human life might be like in the presence of intellectually superior AIs requires a more aggressively skeptical attitude toward the human capacity to understand our own history than even Popper was prepared to allow for.
Keywords David Chalmers  Artificial Intelligence  AI  Karl Popper  Science Fiction  Singularity  Historicism
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on Amazon.com
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,130
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Can Intelligence Explode?Marcus Hutter - 2012 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 19 (1-2):143-166.
Introduction to Singularity Edition of JCS.Uziel Awret - 2012 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 19 (1-2):7-15.
Singularity and Inevitable Doom.Jesse Prinz - 2012 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 19 (7-8):7-8.
Imagining Uncertainty: Charles Olson and Karl Popper.Mark Byers - 2015 - Philosophy and Literature 39 (2):443-458.
Leakproofing the Singularity Artificial Intelligence Confinement Problem.Roman Yampolskiy - 2012 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 19 (1-2):194-214.
The Poverty of Historicism Revisited.John Passmore - 1975 - History and Theory 14 (4):30.
The Singularity: A Reply to Commentators.David J. Chalmers - 2012 - Journal of Consciousness Studies (7-8):141-167.
Psychoanalyzing Historicists?: The Enigmatic Popper. [REVIEW]Setargew Kenaw - 2010 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 41 (2):315 - 332.
Leakproofing the Singularity.Roman V. Yampolskiy - 2012 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 19 (1-2):194-214.
Holism, Historicism, and Emergence.Gustav Bergmann - 1944 - Philosophy of Science 11 (March):209-21.


Added to PP index

Total views

Recent downloads (6 months)

How can I increase my downloads?


Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.

My notes