The Singularity and You
2013’s Anonymous wrote: “Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have all this technology, and we had to get together and discuss what actions we should take in our future? Can I get off the computer now?” I don’t think he understands much the way we’re heading. As mentioned in my classroom presentation, the common futurist perspective is this idea of a coming technological singularity where machine will outpace human evolution and reach a point beyond any measure of comprehension. The stark truth, Anonymous, is that you’ll never get off the computer, and by extension of being a model assignment, you’ll live in that stasis condition forever.
The technological singularity is briefly described in “Hinterlands” as the wormhole/transmitter point for cosmonauts and higher life forms. The term is described more closely to its physics use of a center point of a blackhole from which no data can escape, no light and therefore no observation. The singularity is used here as a stand-in for the concept of limitless potential. Like “Heliopause” with the omniscient central computer that can read thoughts and project them, the singularity is colloquially used as a stand-in for the point where technology begins to breakdown beyond convention. As Arthur C. Clarke put it, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Thus the singularity.
From my understanding the singularity is the point that comes after the melding of man and machine. Like “Mnemonic’s” assassins and “Chrome’s” cybernetic protagonist, nature and technology play into each other as a feedback mechanism, technology advancing the limits of humanity and humanity therefore developing more advanced forms of technology. “Chrome” uses this technology to practical ends of physical use, but in the further abstract, technology will eventually evolve to replace more than physical apparatus but computational, synthesizing not the gears and motors that can maneuver an arm, but input-free informational absorption and application. In being made to mimic the unseen pattern recognition functions of the brain, a computer can learn to associate certain stimuli to specific reactions. When the character in “Heliopause” queries his computer for a definition, the argument can be made there is no sentience to the computer, but a very clever recognition of definition requirement and word input, and regurgitating the appropriate response.
In this same way do we as humans first begin to speak, looking at visual stimuli and associating specific nouns or verbs where appropriate, and only after sufficient pattern recognition can we begin to think in higher abstract forms of adjective and adverb. Thus can a computer similarly learn and evolve. The fun part begins when a computer is not inhibited by sleep or time or alcohol or loss of neural plasticity through age. Instead, artificial pattern learning software could continuously learn and form associations in fractions of the time it would take us to do the same task, and by extension of learning more, quicker, could reach higher levels of abstraction similarly higher. This omniscient aid would allow humans to find solutions to problems quicker, and if we were to enter the realm of photonic and quantum computers, not only would a machine be capable of learning things quickly, but it’d be able to simultaneously learn things very quickly. Like Garden of forking paths where there’s multiple way to read the story depending on choice, quantum computing allows for computational forking so data can be sought for or executed in all possibilities simultaneously.
This is all to say that computers can learn very quickly.
But this is important because in reality, if we do reach a point of this singularity, if we do in fact have half-machine men, that would be the race that makes it into the future. Those pioneers would be the ones capable of living beyond traditional generations and making intergalactic flights, and similarly, would have the learning potential to make contact with alien forms and not act immediately with hostility or suffer a deadblock of confusion.
But I digress.
The truth of the singularity is that at some point, synthetic technology will have the ability to grow exponentially, to cram a civilization’s worth of information into an hour, and then build another civilization’s worth in the next. It becomes that things will simply exist, questions will have absolute answers, with data from trillions of human years’ worth of data compiled and executed to analyze and respond with. And with one computer built, it will facilitate the building of a better computer, and then another, and therefore and so on until we can ask it to analyze the most efficient ways to build a transgalactic-multiuniversal-hyperdimensional propulsion set.
this to some extent. But with the singularity we’d have an unstoppable number
cruncher that can process and render to our hearts content, and with the advent
“Holo one, synth one, sim one.” If anything, our future will make this semester’s reading look quaint.
But that’s the future I want to write.