Refrigeration and teleportation – The Sims 3 seems to be stuck in the 1990es, but with some fantastical elements. Could that happen in our future?
I have been writing a bit on my Sims 2 fanfic lately. And as usual I use the word “fanfic” very lightly. “Inspired by The Sims 2” may be more correct. But it amuses me that in my fiction worldbuilding, I have explained some of the differences between The Sims 2 and the real world with one single explanation: The technological singularity.
The concept of the technological singularity, or simply “the Singularity” among futurists, was first named by science-fiction writer Vernor Vinge, but has since gained mainstream acceptance not least thanks to Ray Kurzweil (inventor, futurist and eccentric genius, currently working with Google). Kurzweil delivers a credible defense for his hypothesis that the accumulation of information complexity increases exponentially. He sees Moore’s Law as just one phase of a much longer process, starting at the beginning of single-celled life if not before. If we plot this on a graph, we will see a line that is almost flat for billions of years, then rising slowly, then more rapidly, until a few years from now it turns vertical and goes through the roof. This point is the singularity – the time when the accumulation of information is so fast that humans as we know them will not be able to follow it.
There are basically two ideas about how the singularity will come to be: Either we develop artificial intelligences with the ability to improve themselves, and they leave us in the dust; or, we improve ourselves (most likely by merging with computer systems) beyond anything today imaginable as human. One version of the latter was described by Vinge in his novels: Human minds became connected electrotelepathically into superminds where humans (and their machines) were all nodes working seamlessly together.
Now back to my fiction. There, sometime in the 21st century, the Singularity has already come and gone. Steadily more fantastic inventions were made, some of which are still around. The Singularity multi-mind attracted most of the bright, creative and curious people in the world. For a while, more and more people flocked to it, and its power increased exponentially. But at some point the distance became too large: The Singularity was beyond human understanding, a “weakly godlike superintelligence” as the futurists call it, and those who were outside were not the most adventurous souls of mankind. And so the Singularity developed on its own. It fixed the climate, restored extinct species, re-knitted the web of life, reclaimed deserts. From a shining city in orbit, the Singularity looked at its work and presumably saw that it was good.
Then, on the night of Passover, they left. This event is when the new era began: AS, After Singularity. Some call it the Rapture of the Nerds, but technically most of them were already gone before that. Nobody knows what happened. Suddenly, the City in the Sky shone like many suns, and then it was gone. Some think it left for another planet or another solar system or another galaxy. Some think it traveled in time, or to another dimension. Some think it ascended to a higher plane. Some think it will come back one day. Some think it realized that life is meaningless and blew itself to atoms.
The dullards inherited the Earth: The dimwitted, the conformist, the fearful, the unimaginative and uninspired. Homo Sapiens Mundanis has locked itself in an idealized, endless 1990es where progress is both impossible and unwanted. For almost a century, life has repeated itself like this, the remnant of mankind slowly growing back in a world just beyond their comprehension, quietly maintained by vaguely humanoid robots and semi-intelligent machines. But a tiny glimmer of change is beginning: The nano-witchards consider themselves the Heirs of the Ascended, and they intend to change everything, again.
This backstory explains many of the anomalies of The Sims 2 as relics of the Singularity or the time just before it, when technology was indistinguishable from magic. Here are some of the weirdness from The Sims 2 and its expansion packs that fall in this category:
-Robots more intelligent than the sims: These vaguely humanoid robots became plentiful during the last years before the Singularity, and did all the hard work. They can repair themselves, or failing that, each other, and are still good as new generations later. They can also produce the kits needed to create more robots, but seem to have no will to actually produce new robots themselves and take over the world.
-Aliens and saucers. The green aliens with big black eyes are not actually from another planet, although they live there now. They are a faction that parted ways with the Singularity after they had reached near-magic technology but before the final integration into a common mind. They occasionally decide to improve the gene pool of the earthlings by making men pregnant with little green babies. Why men? Nobody knows. It is uncertain whether there are female “aliens”, certainly no one has seen any.
-Werewolves, vampires, bigfoot and plantsims: Results of genetic experiments in the run-up to the Singularity. With the possible exception of Bigfoot, they are the result of highly advanced viruses that can transform humans into alternate forms. The reason for this added diversity is lost with the Singularity Exodus, but a mechanism was put in place to make the mutations reversible.
-Djinns: Djinns are holograms, created by the artificial intelligence inside the lamps. They fulfill wishes, but only three in the same area, then they need to be moved. These lamps are examples of nanotechnology, indistinguishable from magic. The resurrect-o-tron is another example, which can return a dead person to life, but not always perfectly. The djinn can also do this, and the two artifacts are probably from the same time, the last year of the Old Era.
-The Gypsies: The people known as the Gypsies are ordinary humans but are following instructions from the Singularity and are provided for by the nanomagic they serve. They distribute the lamps and use another relic from the end of the Old Era, the crystal balls that are interfaces to an information technology far superior to any that has existed before or since.
-Witches: The final gift of the Singularity was the Wand, the Cauldron and the Spellbook. A nanotechnology truly indistinguishable from magic, witchery can perform a wide range of functions, including creating copies of the artifacts themselves. Witches / wizards (known in my story collectively as witchards) do not actually understand the “magic” they use, but are convinced that by spreading the use of it, they will usher in a golden age where humans will once again regain their former intellect and creativity.
So there you have The Sims 2. Electric equipment that doesn’t need cables, toilets that don’t need plumbing, houses that raise themselves, the occasional robot, witch or vampire; but nobody realizes that the real 1990es weren’t like that, because nobody remembers that time anymore except from old TV series.