The starship Field Circus is racing through space on a seven-year journey to a brown dwarf three light-years from Earth and, if all goes well, a business meeting with an alien civilization from another universe. It's around the year 2030, and there's time to kill, so three crew members, Boris, Pierre and Su Ang, are sitting in the bar, a wood-paneled room modeled after a 300-year-old pub in Amsterdam. There's a 16-page beer menu, but Boris has opted for a cocktail made of baby jellyfish. Pierre is angling for a sip when Donna the Journalist appears. She isn't exactly welcome, but she sits down anyway, orders a bottle of German beer from the waiter, and asks the three if they believe in the Singularity.
Ah yes, the Singularity. A very real term, although the scene above is taken from a soon-to-be-published novel, Accelerando, by British writer Charles Stross. The idea was conceived by Vernor Vinge, a computer scientist and science-fiction writer who's now a professor emeritus at San Diego State University. We're living through a period of unprecedented technological and scientific advances, Vinge says, and sometime soon the convergence of fields such as artificial intelligence and biotechnology will push humanity past a tipping point, ushering in a period of wrenching change. After that moment--the Singularity--the world will be as different from today's world as this one is from the Stone Age.