Singularity? Pfft. It Happened Years Ago.

20 Feb

For those who aren’t in the know, the term Singularity does not, in this case, refer to a black hole, but to event that has gotten traction both in and out of the pages of science fiction. The basic idea is that with the arrival of the Singularity everything is going to change; in essence we can no longer predict the future, and in extreme circumstances might wake up to a tomorrow that doesn’t look anything like today. For some people it will happen when we invent an artificial intelligence that is smarter than humans. For Grant Morrison, at least in the pages of The Invisibles, it’s when we all jump into the supercontext.

If you’ve read my post about Doktor Sleepless and cellphones you know what I’m about to say; we are already living in a Post-Singularity world. In fact, I would argue that we experience a new “Singularity” on a fairly regular basis. As I’ve said before, most of the technology we now use on an everyday basis, at least in the “industrialized” nations, was largely the stuff of science fiction during my childhood. Given that I’m only in my early 30s that wasn’t all that long ago, relatively speaking. I tend to adapt to new technologies quickly, but I know people who aren’t all that much older or younger than me who still have problems using a computer.

We grew up in an age where this technology simply did not exist. People older than my contemporaries often have even more trouble adapting. For these individuals, future shock is something that happens to them on a daily basis. If technology continues to progress as an equal or increasing rate, this experience is only going to be more profound. More to the point, we’ve never created a super-intelligent AI. We can’t yet put cellphones in our skulls.

The Singularity isn’t some big, mysterious event, and as I point out above it it is by no means a singular event. The result of technological progress is that from one generation to the next the world will not necessarily be a world which they would recognize. Of course there are sometimes setbacks; there’s the whole having to rediscover the lost knowledge of Rome, for example. Like I’ve said before, I like gadgets and gewgaws. So why am I talking about this? Simple, if we spend too much time thinking about some far away future, we’ll forgot that we’re already living in it. Singularity, in its own way, bears a striking resemblance to those pesky “teleological narratives” that Nietzsche was so concerned with. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan ahead, it just means we shouldn’t neglect today simply because we’re worrying about, or hoping for, an event that’s already happening on a constant basis.

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Posted by on February 20, 2011 in Pop Culture


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