Documenting the Coming Singularity

Saturday, July 28, 2007

When Will the Public Finally Get It?

I was just reading George P. Dvorsky's recent post wherein he expresses his understandable frustration with the paucity of attendees at TransVision 2007, which demonstrates the fact that, as he puts it, some of the most important ideas and thinkers of our time are largely being ignored by the general public.

He is right in his assessment, and admits that "I’ve struggled to figure out why this is the case." In my own humble way I will attempt an answer which is closely tied to something I've been contemplating in the last few days.

Since I started blogging about the singularity, I have noticed that I'm writing two kinds of posts: Breaking news about important developments in technology that will help bring the singularity about, and my own speculations as to what it will look like and how it might affect people. What's been absent, and what I have been trying mightily to find, are reports about dramatic advances that will grab the public's attention. They just aren't there...yet.

Don't get me wrong: The public is just beginning to be engaged in dialog about the singularity. The mainstream media is just beginning to pay a bit of attention. But the time is not yet right for a full-fledged appreciation of what is happening. Most of the really cool stuff is still under the surface. It is bubbling, and hints of it are getting through, but the public will not pay attention until one or more of several possibilities occur:
  • When a human brain is radically enhanced by connecting it to a computer chip. (I'm talking about being able to perform feats of amazing processing power or memory, or seeing in ultraviolet, that sort of thing.)
  • When a machine is reported to be indistinguishable from a person, a la the Turing test.
  • When a person first plugs his brain into an almost fully-immersive VR system.
  • When an everyday-sized object is first built using a nano-assembler.
  • When a 60-year-old human is rejuvenated back to the equivalent of 40.
  • When an entirely new species that is visible to the unaided eye is created.
We just aren't there yet. But that's when the public will wake up. And, by mere coincidence, it is also when those of us who have been blogging about the singularity all these years will finally become rich. Hallelujah!

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Danila said...

That's also when the discussion will become pointless, because it will be too late to change anything.

JEmerson said...

I'd agree that it'd be pointless in a world without laws and bureaucracy. The lawyers and politicians are going to make sure that progress slows to a slow crawl the second any of those are hit. And I've been around long enough to see that in most countries, the will of the people means very little when it comes into conflict with the will of either the upper class or the upper class lawmakers.

You might get people doing it in the back alleys, sure. But most of us need to eat, and it's fairly rare that progress in most of those will come from garage tinkering in between work and family life. I'd say that AI is the only one which 'might' slip between both areas of my pessimism. Some of the lack of applied theory there is just odd, to the point where one can just grab journal articles and implement tests fairly quickly and easily. While I don't think it'd scale well past a certain point by those methods, it does at least offer some motivation for someone with only an hour or two a day to donate to the cause.

Anonymous said...

Why would people 'pay attention'? To what? We are used to impressive inventions and a continioussly changing world. The impact of technology in the 19th century was way more profound since it changed 'the universe' dramatically and unprecendented. It did affect everybody.

For upcoming technologies and scientific insights, the shock of realizing the world has changed (while it has not) is for people with reality contradicting worldviews, ideologies and/or religions. But than again, people have proven to be very persistent in ignoring what they see.

No. Most people don't care. They simply continue to buy new stuff, while ignoring most things they don't understand. As it has always been. People don't care for far more intelligent entities since there is nothing new there, there have always been far more intelligent people and groups of people around with mind boggling skills and power. Ironically, quite some people are even used to the idea of an alseeing, omnipotent and uber intelligent superbeing that is interfering with every aspect of their daily live. For knowledge, we already do have a vast interactive network of facts and opinions that even show up on a cell phone if you want to. Although this made some things a whole of a lot more simpler, people basically stayed the same.

Discussion regarding progress is merely an ethical one. Nothing new here. Regarding 'technological singularity': yes, we will see incredible things (aren't we already?) and no, GreyGoo inc. will not be tolerated.

Drake said...

*Technological Singularity.