So, let me start by saying that I have been fascinated by the concept of The Singularity since having my mind blown by Kurzweil’s book, The Singularity is Near years ago. I have bought into the Law of Accelerating Returns, and that the rate of technological change is nearly impossible to grasp. I agree that the implications are profound, and that the continued progression towards an AI is inevitable.
I love thinking of the Internet as the central nervous system of the planet, and how devices like Google Glass are fundamentally changing the way in which we plug ourselves into the CNS, removing the friction associated with having to manually enter queries using keyboards and fingers. I also believe those who claim that someday, inevitably sooner than “we” think, there will be tighter man/computer integration, with Google Glass becoming a contact lens and ultimately an implant.
Recently, I downloaded Doug Wolens film, “The Singularity”, and finally had the opportunity to watch it on a flight yesterday. I found it to be a well-balanced, thoughtful discussion of The Singularity. What I found particularly compelling, was the multi-disciplinary cross-section of talking heads, forcing one to look at The Singularity through multiple lenses. Of course Kurzweil was prominently featured, but he was often rebutting skepticism by others.
One speaker that struck me was Bill McKibben, Scholar in Residence at Middlebury College. I’ve never heard of Bill before, but his comments around the implications of parents modifying the genome of their kids struck a chord.
“So you’ve gone into the clinic and made your first child, and checked off the things on the list that you want. Three years later you’re ready for another kid. You go back in…Everybody in this world is eager to tell you how quickly things change (referring to Singularity proponents). Three years is a long time in technology…Now you can intervene in way more places on the genome than you could before…You can get a kid that is much smarter, better. What does that make your first kid? Your first kid is now Windows 95. They’re not even the same thing. Each is moored on their own island of technological obsolescence…”
Bill McKibben, Scholar in Residence, Middlebury College
“The Singularity”, film by Doug Wolens
It definitely gives one pause to think that there will be different versions of “software” installed on various hardware platforms (people). What happens to the v1.0’s out there when the v2.0s come online? Tough question at a societal level, but also at the familial level as McKibben suggests. We all love when we get a shiny new device that does things the previous one didn't - but what if it's your kid?!?
Good books and film make you think. I still maintain that much that Kurzweil describes remains inevitable – the techno-Genie is not going back in the bottle. But thanks to Wolens, and his cast of characters, I now have other aspects of The Singularity on which to noodle.
That’s my .02!