Technology has started to accelerate at a terrifying rate. By mid-21st century, we might see a Singularity: a convergence of artificial intelligence, advanced nanotechnologies for building things at the atomic scale, precise genomics, other wonders.
What happens after that Will the descendents of today's humanity become gods or demons, or simply destroy themselves And will we be among their number, carried along by rejuvenation and immortality treatments
For Natalie and her irritatingly beautiful young sister Fiona, these are no longer abstract questions. The familiar world is on the brink of crisis. Dumped by her live-in boyfriend and stuck back at home with her parents, Nat is not a happy person. And her father Hugh is acting like a mad scientist. What the hell is he building out there in the garage.
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October 01, 2003
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Excerpt from The Hunger of Time by Damien Broderick
We think we seek ends, but those come to us unbidden. No, what we search for, all our lives, are beginnings.
'Talbot says if the holy war continues, people will start chucking nukes,' I told my family. That sounded like the end of the world to me, or a good enough approximation. Tal had walked out on me fully three months earlier. Just left me high and dry. So why the hell did the bastard's miserable little obiter dicta keep popping out of my mouth? If a major global conflict really did happen--and the newspaper editorials, not to mention trash television, made it sound as if it might--and if it spread, the whole world's burning would somewhat approximate this last year with my ex-boyfriend. I shuddered, and spread canola margarine on another wholemeal roll.
Certainly my father was convinced the world was about to end, and he wasn't shy about saying so. Grace told him that he shouldn't talk about such morbid topics at the dinner table.
'I don't believe in hiding the truth from our daughters,' Hugh said, 'no matter how grim it is. That's how we got into this goddamned fix in the first place.'
'Hugh, I'd rather you didn't use that kind of language in front of Suzanna, either,' Mom said very primly, pursing her lips, then grinned and punched him in the arm. 'With Natalie, of course, you can say whatever you fucking well like.' She was a great kidder, but I could tell that she really didn't like any talk about the end of the world. She said it made her nervous and spoiled her appetite. Grace was so lean and muscular from aerobics and Tai Chi classes that she didn't need to be put off her food, because she always ate twice as much as me, which was saying something even though I'm on an endless diet and, okay, a few pounds overweight. But I don't care. I'm not a slave to fashion, like Suzanna. That's my sister, the young beautiful one. And no, I'm not all twisted up with envy and jealousy.
When I was a child, I'd had nightmares from skimming the books Father left lying around the living room. Hair-raising stuff from the 1980s when people like Hugh and Grace D'Anzso were expecting to be totaled at any minute. Anyway, that's the impression you get. Awful, blood-curdling rhetoric. Let the words creep into the back of your mind and nestle there in the night: Ground zero. First strike capability. Hardened targets. Megatons of explosive nastiness in the multiple-warhead nose cones of missiles launched from attack submarines deep under the Arctic ice or cruising the Pacific. Plus the more recent nightmares: monstrous acts of terrorism, genomic engineered viruses, probably, and god knows what the military were doing in their containment labs with nanotechnology.
I'd woken up whimpering that winter morning, too cold to go back to sleep, scrunched up under the non-allergenic comforter. What I wanted was a warm body next to me; I lay shaking in my misery and anger, tears running down my face. It was too early to get up and light the old wood stove. The solar panels weren't powerful enough, of course, to warm my parents' house, so all they had were basic services like lighting, television--and the computers, naturally. Cooking and hot water were handled with a blend of 21st century retrofitting--ugly big drums of water to absorb heat during the daylight hours, rational placement of windows and bushes to catch or shade the Sun's heat--and 19th century tried-and-true. My parents didn't believe in using the public utilities, like gas and electricity, because you could never tell when the government might decide to turn them off or there could be a drastic oil shortage at any moment. Talbot had agreed for the sake of peace and quiet that these precautions made perfect sense, but my dearest friend Deb often insisted over a cheerful coffee latte and pastry that this was mad bullshit and I suspected she was probably right, but what would I know? (Ha!)