I've written about the origins of Accelerando a lot, so let me try and say something new and different. (You can find my earlier Accelerando origin story here)
It's May 27th, 2013 -- roughly the year in which Accelerando was set, when I began writing "Lobsters" on a rainy day in 1998. I was sitting in the cafe In de Wildeman in Amsterdam, on Kolksteeg, being depressed by work (a first generation dot com where the workload was growing at a compound 30% rate per month, and the revenue wasn't -- yet). It was pissing down outside, and my then girlfriend (now wife) and I were taking a long weekend break because I was so stressed out by work that the alternative was to quit my job. And then I got some good news by phone (here's the whole grisly story) and sat down to get merrily drunk, and for some reason I pulled out my portable computing appliance and began to type.
Manfred's on the road again, making people rich ...
I typed those words on a Psion 5. A perfectly-formed miniature computer with keyboard and screen, 8Mb of RAM, a 16Mb CF card, and a 22MHz ARM processor running an operating system called EPOC32, which was the missing link ancestor behind Symbian. It has a serial port and an infra-red interface by which it could talk to my mobile phone, a tri-band Motorola GSM device that had an infrared modem that supported the dizzy data rate of 9600 bits/second over the air.
Fifteen years pass.
I am sitting in de Wildeman, drinking a pint of very nice De Molen single hop Chinook cask ale, and typing on an iPad Mini. 1024Mb of RAM, 65,536Mb of flash storage (equivalent to that CF card except non-removable), and a dual-core 1024MHz ARM processor. It's running something cute and shiny that sits like a reflective plastic film across the inscrutable depths of a UNIX system as powerful as a 1990-vintage Cray supercomputer. The more things change ...
The air is, indeed, full of unpaired bluetooth devices shrieking their loneliness and asking if anyone will claim them. (Only now the pub has wifi as well -- who, in 1998, expected wifi to get this big? -- and I have roaming HSPA+ 3G bandwidth that's as fat as wifi circa 2001.)
We live in a networked world, but the paint on the ceiling and the wooden bar furniture seem unchanged, and the beer would still be more or less recognisable to a neolithic brewer.
On the other hand, the pub now has an app. It's in the iOS store. It has beer launches, too, and while tweeting from it I was noticed by a local bookstore and invited to drop in for a flash signing. Verily, things sometimes do change -- this would never have happened in 1998.
We are, in fact, living through the earlier moments of "Accelerando", because that part of the novel the story "Lobsters" -- was set in the predictable near-future. But "Accelerando" as a whole doesn't seem to be coming true, and a good thing too. In the background of what looks like a Panglossian techno-optimist novel, horrible things are happening. Most of humanity is wiped out, then arbitrarily resurrected in mutilated form by the Vile Offspring. Cspitalism eats everything then the logic of competition pushes it so far that merely human entities can no longer compete; we're a fat, slow-moving, tasty resource -- like the dodo. Our narrative perspective, Aineko, is not a talking cat: it's a vastly superintelligent AI, coolly calculating, that has worked out that human beings are more easily manipulated if they think they're dealing with a furry toy. The cat body is a sock puppet wielded by an abusive monster.
The logic of exponential progress at a tempo rising to a vertical spike is a logic that has no room in it for humanity. It's also a false apprehension based on the assumption that the current state of affairs will persist indefinitely. We've had these exponentiating progress spikes in the past; they generally turn out to be a sigmoid curve, and the rate of exponentially increasing progress suddenly flips upside-down, converging slowly with a plateau.
Still, it's fun to ask the thought-experiment, once in a while, "but what if it happened for real this time?"
Other random thoughts:
Writing the series of nine novelettes that constituted the Accelerando arc was hard work. So hard that at one point, rather than work on "Router" (the middle story) I took a couple of months off to distract myself with an evasion activity. The evasion activity in question has just been republished in something close to its original form as "The Bloodline Feud", so it was worth pursuing, but: how often do you hear of authors taking time off from a short story to write a novel, because writing the novel is easier?
Final assembly of the stories into the novel happened in 2004. I will confess to having become completely burned-out on the project by the time I got there. "Accelerando" was not the longest novel I have written in terms of words, but it was by far the longest in terms of time (1998-2004) and by far the hardest at that point. If the narrative feels a little disjointed, it's because these were originally written as separate stories and I didn't have the energy and enthusiasm to take the entire thing (all 145,000 words of it!) apart and re-write from scratch as an integrated whole. Nor do I have the energy (or the level of naive belief in the posthuman project, to be honest) to go back and do the job again (as I did with The Merchant Princes, about which I should probably write next).