Folks, I give you the future. Well, the future via The Singularity, anyway. You may have heard about this phenomenon; it’s been getting a lot of press lately. It has a sizable following. There’s even a movie out about it.
So what is this Singularity thang? In case you haven’t a clue, what follows is a rundown. Skip to The Chase below if this is so yesterday for you.
The term “singularity” is given to a lot of different phenomena, but THE Singularity, the one everybody’s talking about, refers to the technological singularity, #15 on Wikipedia’s list.
The technological Singularity points to the rapidly increasing rate of our technological advancement. Everyday we come up with something that moves us toward a future our ancestors could not conceive of and we ourselves will barely understand. A rate that is so fast one day soon human beings will no longer comprehend the world, the future, themselves, or even their family members. (I know, I know, most of the time we don’t understand our family members now). Artificial intelligence will bypass our human intelligence and will, in fact, be running things—making our decisions for us and probably knowing what’s better for us than we do ourselves.
Science fiction writers have been writing about this for decades. I’m a science fiction writer and I’ve been writing about it for, oh, about three years. A lot of what we write about is dystopian and you can well imagine why. The world run by Hal the computer? We know what happened there and we don’t like it.
There are tons of people that beg to differ with an apocalyptic view of the future, though. These happy people are eagerly anticipating the Singularity when humanity will enter its post-human phase. These transhumanists believe we will become one with our artificial intelligence and live forever, continuously uploading our minds to new substrates when the old ones wear out.
Certainly sounds like science fiction.
There’s a lot more to it than that of course, but that’s it in a nutshell. I make no judgments on this. I’m neither a believer nor a cynic, but I like to watch our progress toward this weird future. It’s fascinating, comical, scary, and certainly entertaining. I doubt we’ll ever live forever, but it certainly seems like we are becoming one with our tech. We have implants of microdevices capable of manipulating our bodily functions and broadcasting news of our personal existences. We’re figuring out how to read minds using radio waves. How much longer before we can be remotely controlled? Sounds like paranoia, but who knows, maybe it’ll be a good thing. One thing is for certain, we are living in the “interesting times” of the ancient Chinese curse.
I’ve been watching and reporting on The Singularity for a couple of years now. I like to pay attention to the latest gizmos and gadgets and research with an eye towards figuring out how it fits into our lives. Obviously an artificial limb that can be manipulated by the wearer’s mind is going to be a boon to someone who’s lost an arm or a leg, but there are deeper consequences to much of our technology and I try to figure out what they are. Will genetic modification of farm animals lead to genetic modification of humans? And at what level? There’s a big difference, morally speaking, between breeding diabetes out of the human race and breeding killer instincts into future soldiers? Is there a connection? Should we bother thinking about these things or is it happening so fast that the consequences are here immediately after the launch of some new technological gee gaw? Is everything becoming too late?
Are you, like me, fascinated with the ability to breed puppies that glow in the dark and why someone would want that? Maybe you want to be there when the first consumer takes that ride to outer space. Or perhaps you’re patiently waiting for your flying car same as me. If you’re curious about any of that, come sit with me and watch the Singularity unfold. I repeat: I’m neither a believer nor a cynic, and I do have a sense of humor. If you do too, stay tuned.