Definition of Technological Singularity from Wikipedia: “A technological singularity is a hypothetical event occurring when technological progress becomes so extremely rapid, due in most accounts to the technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligences, that it makes the future after the singularity qualitatively different and harder to predict. It has been suggested that a singularity will occur during the 21st century, and there are several mechanisms by which a singularity could occur.”
Lately however, there have been some voices decrying the validity of a technological singularity occurring. In fact, there have been singularity technologies coming into existence since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
Many scientifically-minded people believe the Singularity is a time in the future when human civilization will be completely transformed by technologies, specifically A.I. and machines that can control matter at an atomic level (for a full definition of what I mean by the Singularity, read my backgrounder on it). The problem with this idea is that it’s a completely unrealistic view of how technology changes everyday life.
Case in point: Penicillin. Discovered because of advances in biology, and refined through advances in biotechnology, this drug cured many diseases that had been killing people for centuries. It was in every sense of the term a Singularity-level technology. And yet in the long term, it wound up leaving us just as vulnerable to disease. Bacteria mutated, creating nastier infections than we’ve ever seen before. Now we’re turning to pro-biotics rather than anti-biotics; we’re investigating gene therapies to surmount the troubles we’ve created by massively deploying penicillin and its derivatives.
hat is how Singularity-level technologies work in real life. They solve dire problems, sure. They save lives. But they also create problems we’d never imagined – problems that might have been inconceivable before that Singularity tech was invented.
What I’m saying is that the potato chip won’t taste better after the Singularity because the future isn’t the present on steroids. The future is a mutated bacteria that you never saw coming.
In Heaven, everything is fine. In the future, not so much.
After the Singularity, humans will supposedly live for a very long time, if not forever. And we will build spaceships using nanobots that assemble it from carbon atoms on up. I am always suspicious of predictions that sound like religious myths. I’m not opposed to religion – it’s fine with me if you want to believe in God or dharma – but I am opposed to basing visions of tomorrow on fantasies from the past rather than what we can glean from factual accounts of history.
For previous generations, the machines of industrial mass production and the huge dynamos that generated electricity were Singularity-level technology. Humans could accomplish tasks that were simply impossible a hundred years before. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, pamphlets were full of predictions about how humans had entered a new age of leisure, and things were only going to get more leisurely from there. Sort of the way potato chips are only going to get tastier.
No one can doubt that our lives are infinitely better than the regular worker in the 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.
Diseases like typhoid, diphtheria, tuberculosis, measles and small pox no longer kill people due to the wondrous singularity tech drug penicillin.
Only now to be plagued by super bugs that require genetic engineering to kill.
The post’s author makes a valid point in that in spite of all of the wondrous technological advancements we make, there will always be problems to replace the old ones. Such is the state of the human condition.
As for myself, I’ll take every singularity tech advancement in the medical field that comes my way, for the simple fact that singularity tech keeps me alive.
That’s why I consider myself a transhuman. Or an early version of one and only one of many.
A world of the transhuman condition?
It won’t be any different than this one.