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Succinct Singularity

Okay, it’s not exactly succinct, but if you have an hour or so to spare, you can get a good idea of what the Singularity is by watching this film by Ken Gumbs. I don’t know who Ken Gumbs is, but this film is pretty good: Singularity in a nutshell.

If you don’t have the hour and a half to watch, here’s some points I found interesting:

It starts off with the idea that science gave us the Bomb. This is pretty generous for something that seems to be a proponent of all things technological.

Another negative thing: Man is described as the toolmaker. Our earliest tools were improvements on our muscle power. As this is being narrated the scenery in the background depicts ugly scenes of the industrial revolution. It gives you the feeling that perhaps toolmaking was not such a great thing. It gave us that horrible assembly line labor and terrible air pollution. Surely we’ve done better than that somewhere in our toolmaking, muscle-extending past.

Th film cites Moore’s Law as driving the Singularity. This may be a problem, as there are some who say Moore’s Law will not increase indefinitely and it is in fact already peaking (see The Repeal of Moore’s Law.) To be fair, it was stated in the film that people have been saying that all along and the rate hasn’t slowed yet.

Anne Foerst, phD and Theologian, brought up the concept of rights for robots, implying it is something we will need to deal with. I guess this is predicated on the belief that computer intelligence will one day have feelings. The implication was that higher intelligence brings consciousness and feelings. I’m not sure I believe that. My dog has both. He doesn’t have higher intelligence. I think something else is required for feelings. Something that is not necessary in a robot. A competitive nature, maybe? Why would robots have a competitive nature? And why would you want robots to have feelings anyway? We need them to do our boring work. Giving them feelings is going to make mundane work mundane for them as well. What good will that do us? We’re already overpopulated with willful, prejudiced, mean-spirited people. Why create more? I personally don’t think robots would need rights unless they were capable of physical or psychological pain and how are you going to determine that? They can be programmed to say anything and to make us believe anything. On the flip side, they may very well be capable of feelings, but would be unable to communicate that fact properly. How would we know then? And besides we’re already prone to disregard feelings of others if it benefits us to do so. I got nothing specifically against rights for robots, but why don’t animals have the same rights as humans, or non-sentient parts of the environment? Lots of things need rights. Humans need rights.

There’s also a bit of hubris on the part of the Singularists here. I have no doubt that plenty of people will get on board with this technology, especially if it is introduced slowly, but that doesn’t mean those that choose not to get brain enhanced are going to get left behind. There’s an air of arrogance present when they compare Luddites to cows. Apparently choosing to remain stupid is, well, a stupid thing to do. I’m not so sure of that. I don’t think our technological progress has made us any happier. Cultures that choose to skip technological progress have something that we do not: independence. This technology is going to rope us into yet another grid subscription. That’s fine, but it’s not a guarantee that it’s the best way for us to live or the way that will make us happier. It will just be a new way. And I don’t think we should be looking down at people that choose a different lifestyle just because it means more physical labor for them. There’s a lot to be said for physical labor. I think the Singularity is fun for people that are making it happen. Kind of like a puzzle. Gives them something to crack. But for the rest of us that will have to live with it, well, I don’t think it’s going to be better or worse. And I doubt we’ll even notice it.

Finally, Neo in the Matrix is cited. The point is raised that maybe living in a matrix wouldn’t be so bad. Who could argue with that? I hate waking up to reality from a nice creamy dream, but one thing I can never figure out: how was Neo able to visualize all that he did before he’d even ever experienced reality? It’s easy to say that those visions were piped in to him, but I’m not so sure that giving someone dreams and visions is a simple matter of loading something up to their brain, or exciting specific sets of neurons. I have a feeling your body needs to have experienced sensation for those dreams to be in there.

Do I have proof of that? Not a whit. Just my intuition. Put that in your synapse and stoke it.

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