"singularity" appropriated by paranoia TV?

JAMES FEHLINGER (fehlinger@home.com)
Sun, 04 Apr 1999 12:51:01 -0400

I was channel-surfing past The Sci-Fi Channel on cable TV the other day, and was surprised to hear the term "singularity" come from the mouth of a character in one of the failed TV shows that the Sci-Fi Channel picks up and recycles.

The show was "Dark Skies", an X-Files knockoff (at least, after "The X-Files" got stuck on the UFO theme), in which an alien race called "The Hive" is taking over Earth by implanting each of their human victims with an insectile organism known as a "ganglion" (as in the Star Trek: Next Generation episode "Conspiracy", Heinlein's _The Puppet Masters_, etc. -- makes for good gross-out footage when victims are made to spit up these squealing bugs by being forced to drink something that looks like Phillips Milk of Magnesia). There's the usual government cover-up of the alien invasion, a man and a woman who are fighting the aliens solo and who are therefore being pursued both by the aliens and by the government men-in-black, and the further gimmick that the story is set in the 60s and amalgamates actual historical events (the JFK assassination) and characters (Bobby Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover). It's conspiracy TV explicitly targeted at baby boomers.

Anyway, a bit of Web searching revealed that "Singularity" in the context of this TV show refers to the final merger of a human with the Hive (which occurs when a human who has been implanted with a ganglion touches a ball of blue light called an "orb" -- a human can only be freed from a ganglion, via the gross-out Milk of Magnesia plus injections routine, before Singularity has taken place). By extension, Singularity may also refer to the ultimate absorption of the human race into the Hive (one of the Usenet fans of "Dark Skies" uses the slogan "Resist Singularity!" in his signature file).

This suggests the inevitability of the appropriation of whatever terminology is used in Extropian discussions (particularly once it has become somewhat more widely-known and trendy, perhaps by having been mentioned in "Wired" magazine or discussed on ZDTV), by whatever passes for sci-fi in the minds of Hollywood movie and TV producers (which, at the moment, seems to cater strongly to UFO cultists, conspiracy theorists, and other paranoids). The term "matrix", used by William Gibson in _Neuromancer_ simply to refer to the "user interface" between a human and cyberspace, is similarly appropriated by the recent movie of the same title.

All the concepts and terminology originating in "high-brow" sci-fi (Greg Egan, for instance) will, if they can be exploited for the economic purposes of the mass media, undergo these uncontrolled memetic shifts as they are recycled into "low-brow" movies and TV (not that I didn't enjoy seeing "The Matrix" this week!). It will, no doubt, only exacerbate the political volatility of these issues.

Jim F.