Singularity and Us
Ray Kurzweil has been speaking about an upcoming singularity in our human civilization around 2020 and he has just published a book called Singularity is Near. If this singularity happens a decade sooner or later, the expected date is still too close for anyone to ignore it as just an issue of distant future. In other words, just as the prediction of post-industrial society by Daniel Bell happened within the lifetime of his readers, this event can happen the same way, in a very short span of time.
The impact of the upcoming event will be way beyond what happened by the information society, because it is a major rapture in human civilization, like what I once wrote of intelligent tools, as not just a stage in existing human society, but to be comparable to the first making of tools by homo sapiens, that separated humans from other primates, and such an upheaval and rupture deserves a close understanding as to what it means for individuals, nations, and the world at large.
Let's first understand what is a *singularity*? One example is the Big Bang. As I once wrote about space and cosmology, some people do not believe in the Big Bang theory of the formation of the Universe and some others do not see it as a singularity. But for those who think there was nothing before the Big Bang, and we had a Universe after the Big Bang, when stars were formed at an accelerated speed since that event, the singularity point obviously is a real break from the continuum, whatever we may call that continuum, Nothingness or Steady State or simply something incomprehensible to us the children of the Universe.
Another example, as I noted above, is the tool making and how humans in a short span of time evolved and the acceleration speed by which homo sapiens sapiens distanced themselves from other primates, and as compared to the lifetime of primates as a whole, it took a short time for us to get very far from our Chimpanzee cousins. In other words, we left them behind in the forests, when evolving at an accelerated speed.
The singularity that Kurzweil has been talking about is from humans to transhumans which he thinks will start when the computer CPU can have the speed exceeding the speed the human brain processes instructions and he has shown by the way the CPU speed has increased progressively for decades, that this point of singularity, where the CPU speed exceeds the speed of human brain, is very close, almost two decades from now.
Thus the question is that those who are in the advanced civilizations, and are prepared for this point of singularity, will be like the ancestors of homo sapiens primates who were tool-makers, and they will go with the rapid train that will leave the current human conditions, when we arrive at the point of singularity. All those who do not embark the transhuman train at that point, will be like the Chimpanzees who were left behind in the forest.
I think anyone in the world should pay attention to this event because it will impact both those who know about it and are prepared for it, and those who don't know about it and have no preparation for it.
In fact, I think backward countries that were colonialized in the past, were because of their natural resources and cheap labor, and because they had the first two, they also earned the money which created a market that additionally attracted some colonial firms to go to those regions to sell products. Now if a country's natural resources are not of interest and it has no suitable labor force for upcoming production processes, that even at its low cost would be of interest to anyone, the end result will be no real market of interest to any colonial seller of products either, and the final result will be what we see in some African countries that do not even some natural resources of interest to anybody, and the national income has fallen and life expectancy is less that thirty years for them, in a world where the life expectancy is going way above 60 in the advanced countries.
The reality about the upcoming singularity is that it will happen alongside the growth of nanotechnology. It is clear that advancements in nanotechnology means artificial production of natural resources like oil. So it is not far fetched to see that countries that are oil producers, during this period, will lose the attraction they have because of oil, and they can end up like the poor backward African countries that I noted, which have no natural resource of interest to the world, and technologically , are ages behind the post-industrial production.
In short all backward countries, including those that because of some natural resources like oil are still thriving, can easily be the backward forest, and get left behind the other side of the singularity point.
The above means that even countries like Iran, will not have a future if they cannot build an advanced infrastructure for new technologies such as nanotechnology, and complacency because of the oil money, can be detrimental to the people of countries like Iran, and a national plan to prepare for the upcoming singularity must be taken seriously.
Yes, the new singularity means to be prepared to take any form in the future, including non-biological forms, and being stuck in religious models of thousands of years ago, can only make us unprepared to transform into a transhuman identity, where reprogramming our DNA, as noted by Kurzweil, is the first step in ending death, the most devastating reality of human life, ever since humans achieved *self-consciousness*, that allows us to recognize our *selves*, and thus to be aware of the death of ourselves and other *selves*.
Without self-conscious thinking, there is no *self* to die or live, but with self-consciousness, yet physically being limited to biological reality, we have suffered death, and made fables to assuage the pain of the death of ourselves and our loved ones, without being able to overcome death, even though yearning for immortality. The upcoming singularity, as Kurzweil shows, puts an end to this plight of human life, and of course, it is not without challenged of its own, but surely when the evolution from primates to humans happened, the fear of challenges of human life was no reason to stay behind and keep living like a primate, which may not even be a choice!
Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher
Sept 17, 2005