Dogma and the Technological Singularity

Noted Singularity advocate Michael Anissimov sez singularity supporters are unfairly being treated the same as religious rapture fundies:

The comparison between the singularity and religious rapture is an unfair smear. As Steven says,

But that image of a shared psychological flaw is itself so seductive that it has distorted people’s view of what the singularity is about into a kind of geek-bible-wielding strawman — singularitarian ideas are assumed to parallel fundamentalist Christian ideas even where they don’t, just because the comparison is apparently so much fun. “Oh, look at those silly nerds, aping the awful fundies without even knowing it!”

People who compare discussion about the possibly huge impact of emerging technologies to that of religious delusion are themselves falling victim to a seductive and oversimplified view of the reality. The press release pretends to be objective, but it’s completely not. Casually tossing off phrases like “singularity dogma” are just perpetuating this seductive but incorrect interpretation.

The ‘Steven’ Anissimov refers to wrote a blog post last year denouncing the comparison. Now after studying the Singularity and its possible affects for a couple of years (mainly because I have a vested interest in staying alive) I can see what Anissimov and Steven are railing against. So far from what I have read on Anissimov’s blog, he is pretty interested in Aubrey Degrey’s Methuselah Foundation. I am too, because of my previous statement, but Degrey not only studies the technical aspects of life extention, his foundation has occult connections as well. That’s a discussion for another day though.

As Anissimov notes, life extention and increased intelligence/mind uploading are two different things (actually three), so lumping the two/three together into ‘Singularity’ subjects isn’t right, thus the term is irrelevant:

This press release insults all life extension advocates, confusing them with singularity advocates. For instance, the Methuselah Foundation, with over $10 million in funding, practices “death avoidance” — or what some might call “recognition of the horror of physical and mental deterioration prior to an unwanted death”. But the Methuselah Foundation and numerous “death avoiders” have little connection to discussions of the singularity, which focuses on the possibility of greater-than-human intelligence. Having a high IQ and living a long time are two different things. One contributer seems to be going after mind uploading.

Fair enough, but tell that to Ray Kurzweil. He is the main reason why people lump the Singularity in with Rapture Theology. He is the High Priest of the Singularity so to speak. If his book “The Age of Spiritual Machines” isn’t a Bible of technological/theological beliefs, I don’t know what is.

As far as his blog post goes, he doesn’t mention Kurzweil even once. Maybe for the above reasons. If he has in the past, I’m sure I’ll be corrected and that would be fair.

But to complain that certain aspects of a possible technological Singularity is unfairly being compared to religion is also unfair. Especially if one of its main apostles attaches religious connotation to it.

Like it or not, the Singularity has dogma all over it.

Special Report on the Singularity by IEEE Spectrum


5 responses

  1. Well, I figure that religion, philosophy, or just plain old intuitive belief are directly proportional the the intelligence of the species. Our particular species known as Man is so lost in abstract thought that we have forgotten that we are all Mankind, but equally divided between male and female. Somewhere along the line some intellectually gifted individual noted the difference and said…Whoah Man. We’re all just Man and the whole Womans Lib and Gay Rights thing is a farce along with the racial ideas that are used to declare that we are the coolest Man on the planet. Most wild animals on this planet are cooler than us as far as knowing how to act and be and see, so I find myself at a loss to find a rational reason for my existence to hold any more important place here than the critters that I bar-b-que for a Sunday picnic. Amen

    As far as intelligence that surpasses what I call smarts, I believe that it is already done and is threaded through time while we are caught in it. Like you say dad, it’s like an ant being on a flat piece of paper and trying to view Mankind in three dimensions.
    The computor linked through the tubes with the ever increasing storage of data is quickly developing a sort of intelligence, and seems pretty intelligent to me because it doesn’t forget and always accesses the same data if your search engine will find it. Serendipitity, where the computor randomly finds and filters information seems to be evolving into a research tool that will soon be filling the Google servers. I don’t know where it will all lead, but I doubt that it will make any of us as an individual any more intelligent than we now are, in fact, it could be possible that we could become dumber through atrophy. Just a minute, I’ll see what I can find out about this on Google…G:

  2. The Highwayman | Reply

    Someone call for a fundie? Huh? Someone need a fundie?


  3. Serendipitity, where the computor randomly finds and filters information seems to be evolving into a research tool that will soon be filling the Google servers. I don’t know where it will all lead, but I doubt that it will make any of us as an individual any more intelligent than we now are, in fact, it could be possible that we could become dumber through atrophy

    Words of wisdom if I ever read any Geez.

    My question about the evolving Google-plex is this, “If it attains sentience, will it be conscious?

    Intelligence doesn’t necessarily need self awareness as you frequently note G:.

    LOL Gear-grinder! FundaMENTALism runs amuck everywhere! 😎

  4. I like Ray Kurzweil as a person, so even if I disagree with his religious slant, I have trouble repudiating him. Most of Kurzweil’s arguments are entirely reasonable and lack theological tint entirely — The Age of Spiritual Machines is, on balance, a sober work. Only a minority of his pages are devoted to promulgating his personal philosophical view on the Singularity. To a degree, I think Kurzweil has also hijacked the term of the Singularity and made it more difficult to understand by defining it so vaguely.

    Distinguish between Kurzweil’s Singularity, and Vinge’s Singularity. They are two different things. I care most about the latter.

  5. Thanks for stopping by Michael. I love your blog!

    Yes, there’s certainly a difference between Kurweil’s and Vinge’s versions of a Technological Singularity. And I’ve been a fan of Vinge for years, even before he posited the modern version of the Singularity.

    Unfortunately Kurweil does cloud the Singularity with a ‘messianic’ type fervor that gets most of the media attention and that is what people identify it with, not Vinge’s original vision.

    Not to take anything away from Kurweil, the man is a frakking genius and he does make logical arguments about a fundamental paradigm shift coming.

    But you might have to repudiate him a little because of the ‘semi-religious’ dogma he does bring to the table.

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