the singularity makes it to prime time tv. sort of.

While the Singularity Institute is celebrating their vision on a mainstream sitcom, it's actually become a punchline...

Sometimes, when the TV is on and I’m too lazy to change the channels, I’ll catch a sitcom of some sort, or the occasional CSI show. I’m not sure which CSI shows though because they’re all pretty much interchangeable, just add another set of characters and another city tacked on to some acronym-heavy title. But I digress. Last night’s The Big Bang Theory managed to catch my attention when Sheldon, the character who was a serious motivation for my post about Hollywood’s ridiculous portrayal of techies and scientists, decided to channel the spirit of Ray Kurzweil’s unbound utopian optimism and count down the days until he could fuse his mind with a machine and become immortal. Yes, that’s right, utopian transhumanism made it to prime time TV…

Oh and before you laugh about how exaggerated Sheldon’s robot is, that’s exactly how Sergey Brin attended the sessions at Ray’s Singularity University, so if you’re aware of this, you can see the point of the joke. This is how devout Singularitarians who walk around with their heads in the clouds seem to those of us who are a little more realistic about what technology can do for us and how long it would take to do it. Numerology about exponential growth and advancement has to be backed up with something a little more serious than a remote controlled toy with a webcam and a screen, and really, as someone who works with computers for a living as well as academically, I’ve heard enough about Moore’s Law. It’s over. Done. We’re living in a post-Moore world where computer chips have reached the limits of how far we can push them without melting and have to use multi-core and multi-processor systems to get any improvement in everyday computing. Moore’s Law wasn’t a template for how technology will progress, it was just a marketing gimmick for Intel. And if you were about to mention quantum computing, remember that it’s faster only for running certain algorithms.

Now, as I’ve written before, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to surpass human limitations, and in fact, we should help those who have the drive and the cash to try. But trying to prepare yourself for that magical day when some mysterious cabal of scientists conjures up the technology that will suddenly turn you into a robot is unrealistic and just plain awkward for your social circle. So maybe in a few hundred years we can talk about what it would take to make a few transhumanist dreams come true, but today you’re probably just going to find your sci-fi inspired hopes and dreams played off as a gag on a sitcom, or a recurring topic for a skeptic who just so happens to work in IT and study computer science…

# tech // entertainment / technological singularity / transhumanism / tv shows


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