I recently stumbled upon a link to the latest issue of technology magazine IEEE Spectrum, which has a special report on technological singularity (often referred to simply as “the singularity”). In his article “Waiting for the Rapture,” Glenn Zorpette describes the basic concept:
“The singularity is supposed to begin shortly after engineers build the first computer with greater-than-human intelligence. That achievement will trigger a series of cycles in which superintelligent machines beget even smarter machine progeny, going from generation to generation in weeks or days rather than decades or years.”
What’s interesting to me is that much of the rhetoric around this subject seems to sound more like prophesy then scientific hypothesis. A lot of the discussion focuses on the transcendent possibilities of “the singularity” — imagining a time when human consciousness can become downloaded and stored by advanced technology, eventually leading to immortality (that is, until somebody trips over the cord).
I can’t help but try and relate this to my current relationship with technology — one that seems to alternate between embracing and rejecting the newest tools and toys. There’s a short distance between the exciting and the invasive when it comes to this stuff: while I’m still hesitant to broadcast my every move through something like Twitter, but I have no trouble broadcasting my every other move on Facebook.
Maybe this is something to consider when thinking about such extreme models for technological development; even if innovation happens at a breakneck pace, how quickly will we be willing to let technology invade our physical — and perhaps, eventually — spiritual domains?
(image: “Dante Cyborg,” a digitally manipulated version of Botticelli’s “Portrait of Dante” by Roberto Rizzato, via Flickr)