I’m reading Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near.
It occurs to me that the transition that the human race is about to experience is similar to other major transitions that are often described as epochs – paradigm-shifts – in which a new structure emerges over a previous structure. There are six key epochs that Kurzweil describes. (The first four are not unlike epochal stages described by Terrance Deacon and others.)
- Physics and Chemistry
- Biology and DNA
- Human Intelligence Merges with Human Technology
- Cosmic Intelligence
When a new epoch comes into being, the agents of that new epoch don’t necessarily eradicate, overcome, usurp, reduce, or impede the agents of the previous epoch. Every epoch stands on the shoulders of the last epoch.This is one reason not to fear the Singularity…as if it is going to destroy us or render us un-human. In fact, epoch number 5 may allow us to become more human (a characterization that we could only truly make after the fact – not from our current vantage point).
I like to think of “human” as a verb: as a shift from animal to post-human, because it characterizes our nature of always striving for something more.
There are debates raging on whether the Singularity is good or bad for humanity. One way to avoid endless debate is to do the existential act: to make an attempt at determining the fate of humanity, rather than sit passively and make predictions. As Alan Kay famously said, “the best way to predict the future is to invent it”. We should try to guide the direction of the next epoch as much as we can while we are still the ones in charge.
In a previous article I wrote that criticizes some predictions by Nick Bostrom, I compare our upcoming epochal shift to a shift that happened in the past, when multi-cellular beings evolved. Consider:
Maybe Our AI Will Evolve to Protect Us And the Planet
Billions of years ago, single cells decided to come together in order to make bodies, so they could do more using teamwork. Some of these cells were probably worried about the bodies “taking over”. And oh did they! But, these bodies also did their little cells a favor: they kept them alive and provided them with nutrition. Win-win baby!
I am not a full-fledged Singularitarian. I prefer to stay agnostic as long as I can. Its not just a human story. Our Singularity is just the one that is happening to us at the moment.
Similarly, the emergence of previous epochs may have been experienced as Singularities to those that came before.