the singularity, now with even more utopia
Yesterday was the big initiation of the first class to attend Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity University at Moffet Field where they’ll study the mysteries of transhumanism and the upcoming technological utopia as well as how his big ideas could help you live long enough to see the glorious age when man and machine become one. During the introductory lecture by Kurzweil himself, the class was told that since technology was advancing at an exponential rate, the Singularity will sneak up on us before we even know it. And those worried about all the exponential high tech developments of the near future being used for something less than noble need only to believe in the exponential curve since it will yield all the answers that the militaries and crime fighters of the future will need. So not only will the Singularity give us immortality, but it will exorcise all the evils of the world.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the logic that took us from nuclear bombs to thermonuclear bombs and then to exponentially more powerful thermonuclear bombs in such numbers that the sheer insanity of the fact that an angry general at a central command bunker could end the world with a push of a button, is what kept us from outright nuclear war that would shower our planet in fallout only slightly less lethal than a gamma ray burst. It’s the old cliché of seeing all problems as nails while holding a huge hammer and being absolutely positive of a big enough hammer for every nail out there. In reality, that’s not how it works and pretty charts with a carefully selected list of inventions and technological advancements which seem to show our technology improving at an exponential rate won’t make it so. Not only that, but those charts are quite deceptive, focusing on inventions related to modern computer technology or computers without taking into account areas of research that came to a crawl or haven’t advanced because we’ve run into significant problems.
As pointed out in a recent post, new technologies also tend to come with caveats and wishful thinking along the same lines as today’s transhumanists rarely solves the applicable research and development problems involved with the kinds of drastic changes they expect to happen any time now. At this point, I’m not sure how many times those of us who’ve had some interaction with Singularitarians and their ideas have to point out all the issues that need to be overcome in order to make them a reality. It doesn’t matter how many much money is being spent worldwide on research because not all of it will be magically applicable to your cause. Invoking exponential timelines of progress based on a rather selective collection of arbitrary data points won’t make a fundamentally flawed notion intended to serve as an important node for the birth of future technology correct. I’m probably the last person to object to using machines to extend lifespans and solve worldly problems. But we have to do a lot more than talk about it and stare at computers with dreamy eyes, hoping that one day soon they’ll make all the bad people go away after giving the Grim Reaper a swift kick in the rear.