Sunday, December 4, 2011

Is The Singularity Already Shaping Itself?

The idea of an imminent technological singularity that will result in an intelligence greater than current human limits posses some interesting questions. It's called a singularity because we are mentally incapable of understanding how this greater intelligence will work because it will operate on levels of efficiency, understanding and meaning that exceed what we can conceive. The singularity is that point through which human society will begin to be driven by a collectively developed intelligence greater than any one human mind.

This is why the whole Terminator/Matrix/war-with-technology fear is an entirely human emotional response to the unknown; the actual emergence of a greater intelligence (there is nothing artificial about it) will not appear as a comprehensible entity because we will not be able to conceive of its whole. If you want a better grasp of the ineffable quality (and scale) of this evolution, Asimov's Foundation series might get you closer than current tech-fear mongering.

It's tempting to get theological about this, but that would be yet another attempt to dress something greater than we can conceive in a simplistic human understanding, something I'd argue humans have been doing with God forever. I'm going to try and stay away from that. I've always preferred Lao Tsu's approach anyway ("The name that can be named is not the enduring and
unchanging name.")

If we're unable to conceive of how this greater intelligence will manifest itself, perhaps it's already here and we're not able to perceive it. I suspect it already exists (and always has) and, at its best, technology will allow us to access this universal awareness by allowing us to interact with reality in greater and more meaningful ways.

A greater intelligence would also exercise a finer, more expansive relationship with reality, something that technology is allowing us to do in an ever increasing manner. At some point, if technology is progressing as it should, it will allow human beings to sense and interact with reality in minuscule, massive and fully comprehending ways.

In our technological adolescence, we stumble around, amplifying our ignorance with new technology, using it to distract and isolate ourselves from the world around us, rather than as a tool for understanding, enhancing and interacting with reality. It's a dreamtime of technology use when a minority of people are harnessing technology as a means of amplifying themselves, while the vast majority use it as a narcissistic distraction. Then there are the Luddites who fear technology change to such a degree that they actively work to sabotage it.

Until technology gets to the point that it obviously and directly improves everyone's awareness of and participation in reality, it will not even begin to approach a meaningful increase in efficiency. If technology empowers people to destroy their environment, become obese, physically useless, less productive and/or merely dumbs them down into digital sheep, then it is not going to survive because, ultimately, it will end us too.

If there really is a universal Tao or God, then technology that amplifies our ability to learn, create, remember, relate, comprehend, conceive, feel and physically relate with reality should bring us closer to creation. If this is what transhumanism or the singularity will bring, then it means we'll all be continually challenged to be our maximal selves (mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically), anything less would not be optimal from even our own limited awareness. If people are becoming a part of a greater intelligence, then they need to be the most educated, engaged, self-aware, empowered people they can be; anything less is... less.

I'm still playing with the idea at: