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Mark L. Van Name

Technological change is all around us, and it's only happening faster and faster. Computers, communications, biology—these and other sciences are evolving so rapidly that keeping up with even the highlights can be dizzying.

If you believe Ray Kurzweil and many other futurists, all of this change will lead to in a moment, which Kurzweil and others refer to as the Singularity, that will represent a fundamental shift, even a rupture in the course of human history. The results will include machines (or at least non-biological intelligences) that are smarter than people, biological and computer-based intelligences merging to create new kinds of life, bioengineering beyond our current imagining, and much, much more. Just as a black hole is a singularity, a point at which matter and energy behave as nowhere else, this technological singularity will result in a complete rewriting of the rules about what it means to be human.

Or not.

Maybe despite all the changes, people will continue to behave as they always have, humankind will remain distinct and distinctly different from its computers and other machine aids, and we will simply gain better, more efficient tools that will change the way we live but not who we fundamentally are.

Whichever destination awaits us, the path from now to then is certain to be a fascinating and challenging one. In the eleven stories in this book, writers of all sorts—one British, one Irish, one South African, one Canadian, and seven American; three women and eight men; authors commonly associated with hard science fiction, with humor, and with fantasy—ponder the types of changes that await us. The works they've produced for this collection range wildly in setting, from a global outbreak of a very unusual sort to a prison meeting with a most unlikely candidate for transcendence, and from a deep-space adventure to a high-school reunion, but all share two traits: they are entertaining stories, something we of course required of all submissions, and they are fundamentally optimistic, something we did not demand but were quite pleased to discover. Many of the stories consequently also feel to us—in good ways!—like products of earlier decades, and it's in that spirit that we provide short introductions reminiscent of the story intros in the SF magazines of those times.

Let's create a future that proves this optimism justified.

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