Documenting the Coming Singularity

Monday, July 09, 2007

Singularity's Choice: Sink or Swim?

The singularity, as it grows near, will certainly confront humanity with a stark choice: Stagnation and extinction, or adaptation and continued being. Sink or swim. Just as in nature, those who will not or cannot adapt themselves to a changing environment will disappear. Where is Neanderthal? He has gone, passed from the scene, leaving only his fossilized bones. Will Homo Sapiens follow him into the mists of time?

I have often been bewildered by the thinking of those who fight against inevitable change. It has been said that the only constant in life is change. When blacks grew out of the mentality forced upon them by whites and demanded equality and integration, some fought against change. When technology began to transform society, Ted Kaczynski fought against change, as did the Luddites in a previous century.

So here we are, on the brink of immense transformation. When machines arrive at the processing power of the human brain. It will happen, and soon. We won't be able to beat them after that, so we will have to join them.

Scientists tell us that we have just about reached the limit in terms of increasing our own brain-size. There just isn't room for any more brain inside our inflexible skulls. And we don't have the time for our skulls to evolve more room, either. Biology just won't do it for us anymore. It will be time to merge with the machines.

Some have envisioned a series of transitional species, moving from home sapiens to homo optimus, a sort of optimized human being, enhanced by drugs and gene therapy. From there we will be forced by competition from machines to become homo cyberneticus, a carbon-silicon amalgam. But even that won't do the trick, because biology is simply too fragile and ephemeral. Finally we will go on to become homo machinus, dispensing with biological materials once and for all.

Of course this all seems like silly science fiction to most folks, but that lack of interest will evaporate as things ramp up in the next 5 to 10 years. Then we will be forced to face where we are headed. Some will go with it, some will not. But change will be inevitable. If I live long enough, I think I'll choose to swim.

* I derived some of my thoughts on these issues from Robyn Williams' interview with Dr. Peter Lavelle, who writes for the ABC's (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Health Online. You can read the transcript or listen to the podcast and decide what you think about it all.

[via EthicalTechnologies]

Singularity & The Price of Rice is updated daily; the easiest way to get your daily dose is by subscribing to our news feed. Stay on top of all our updates by subscribing now via RSS or Email.


Spaceman Spiff said...

You should at least admit the distinct possibility that the advancements you speak of could lead to the destruction, while there is little reason to suggest that a less expansionistic humanity would die out simply for the reason of not progressing further technologically.

For example, had the Europeans not come in and conquered the American Indians, (and had they not conquered each other too much) it doesn't seem like they would have *died out* without progress. They seemed to have found an equilibrium. On the other hand, Dr. Strangelove aint just a funny movie. The idea that progress can kill isn't as mystifying as you suggest.

bmahfood said...

I agree that there are existential dangers involved in technological advance. But the option of standing still is not a realistic one. It has been demonstrated through history that humans will not stop inventing and spreading, although there are always voices advising us to do so.

Spaceman Spiff said...

Arguably the tension is what is necessary, not one side winning out over the other entirely.