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Ray Kurzweil (1948 – ∞) is an American philosopher of the technological future of humanity. “A successful person isn’t necessarily better than her less successful peers at solving problems; her pattern-recognition facilities have just learned what problems are worth solving.”
Intelligence is: (a) the most complex phenomenon in the Universe; or (b) a profoundly simple process. The answer, of course, is (c) both of the above. It’s another one of those great dualities that make life interesting.
I’m an inventor. I became interested in long-term trends because an invention has to make sense in the world in which it is finished, not the world in which it is started.
Supercomputers will achieve one human brain capacity by 2010, and personal computers will do so by about 2020.
By the 2030s, the nonbiological portion of our intelligence will predominate.
A successful person isn’t necessarily better than her less successful peers at solving problems; her pattern-recognition facilities have just learned what problems are worth solving.
Find your passion, learn how to add value to it, and commit to a lifetime of learning.
My view is that consciousness, the seat of “personalness,” is the ultimate reality, and is also scientifically impenetrable. In other words, there is no scientific test one can postulate that would definitively prove its existence in another entity. We assume that other biological human persons, at least those who are at least acting conscious, are indeed conscious. But this too is an assumption, and this shared human consensus breaks down when we go beyond human experience (e.g., the debate on animal consciousness, and by extension animal rights).
Evolution moves towards greater complexity, greater elegance, greater knowledge, greater intelligence, greater beauty, greater creativity, and greater levels of subtle attributes such as love. In every monotheistic tradition God is likewise described as all of these qualities, only without limitation: infinite knowledge, infinite intelligence, infinite beauty, infinite creativity, infinite love, and so on. Of course, even the accelerating growth of evolution never achieves an infinite level, but as it explodes exponentially it certainly moves rapidly in that direction. So evolution moves inexorably towards this conception of God, although never quite reaching this ideal. We can regard, therefore, the freeing of our thinking from the severe limitations of its biological form to be an essentially spiritual undertaking.
Being a Singularitarian has often been an alienating and lonely experience for me because most people I encounter do not share my outlook. Most “big thinkers” are totally unaware of this big thought. In a myriad of statements and comments people typically evidence the common wisdom that human life is short, that our physical and intellectual reach is limited, and that nothing fundamental will change in our lifetimes. I expect this narrow view to change as the implications of accelerating change become increasingly apparent, but having more people with whom to share my outlook is a major reason that I wrote this book.
Although neither utopian nor dystopian, this epoch will transform the concepts that we rely on to give meaning to our lives, from our business models to the cycle of human life, including death itself. Understanding the Singularity will alter our perspective on the significance of our past and the ramifications of our future. To truly understand it inherently changes one’s view of life in general and one’s own particular life. I regard someone who understands the Singularity and who has reflected on its implications for his or her own life as “singularitarian.”
The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology
Biological evolution is too slow for the human species. Over the next few decades, it’s going to be left in the dust.
Intuition is linear; our imaginations are weak. Even the brightest of us only extrapolate from what we know now; for the most part, we’re afraid to really stretch.
External accomplishment, and not a brain stuffed with facts, is the only thing that counts in the natural world, and the kind of accomplishment that counts the most is something new and useful in the local environment. That is how the U.S. Patent Office defines an invention, and Ray Kurzweil is a prime example of an inventor. Learning and education are counter-productive if they don’t bring about some tangible accomplishment in the physical world, and thus all education is successful in instilling the routine abilities of routine life, but it’s a disaster for the most important kind of accomplishment, that is, new ideas.
Traditional education may fill a person with facts and processes, but at the same time it instills a habit of inhibition of their ability to put ideas together in wrong ways. But new ideas that work better than the old ones must inevitably come out of misapplications and misarrangements of the previous ones, and standard education stifles and punishes that kind of thinking.
There is hope! At Stanford University there has been an effort to stimulate some thinking outside of careful academic learning, and that effort will probably be productive, but that effort is layered on top of people who are already proven themselves to be champions of routine thinking. It is a strange mixture of minds, but it is an environment in which Kurzweil has been thriving.
My concern is if humanity will achieve Kurzweil’s technological Singularity of blending organic humans with other forms of electronic-equipped matter, or an encounter with Armageddon-like destruction of the world; or perhaps an Apocalypse-like lifting of the veil of secrecy of humans’ inner thoughts; or an invasion of personal privacy, a Revelation, and thus exposure of everyone and everything by invasive spying of the internet-enabled governments of the world. The people of the world must demand the right to spy on their masters and this will be enabled by everyone having a cellphone and a guaranteed free and open internet connection. Everyone must have the same opportunity to see everything that the controllers of the levers of society possess.
What will you choose — Singularity or Apocalypse or Armageddon or Revelation?