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Singularity Podcast: Extended Show Notes

Talkin'bout the Singularity




Church of Virus

: a neo-cybernetic philosophy for the 21st century









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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
sutut
Oct. 19th, 2006 01:46 am (UTC)
That's a good one!
Nice to see more c-realm!
kmo
Oct. 19th, 2006 04:10 pm (UTC)
Re: That's a good one!
The comics are way old, but thanks. Did you listen to the podcast?
prester_scott
Oct. 20th, 2006 08:42 pm (UTC)
Well, okay, after reading and listening to all that (and also poking around in Wikipedia), I have a better idea of what the Singularity is.

I'm far from convinced that it will happen.

Robert Anton Wilson's illustration, its apparently intentional weirdness aside, is useful in explaining one big reason why I am not convinced. He looks at the history of technology and sees evidence of exponential growth. However, the very same evidence could also be pointing to hyperbolic and therefore asymptotic growth. In other words, we may be reaching a point where we don't have enough energy or intelligence to sustain the momentum that's propelling us up that curve, and "progress" will slow to allow everyone to catch up. The case hasn't been sufficiently made, at least not to me.

A good science-fiction example of the hyperbolic outcome is the Star Wars universe. Their tech level is very high in some respects, but the tech is all mature, available, relatively user-friendly, and fully integrated into society. It also universally serves humanity (and comparable intelligent biological life) rather than transforming or ruling it; indeed, the abandonment of biology is the aspect of the Singularity I find least believable and palatable. I'll believe that a human soul can exist in a silicon body when I see it, and even then I won't be convinced that it is moral.

Now, as a Christian, I can certainly relate to eschatology and apocalypse, and it is my opinion that what you call the Singularity and transhumanism do have analogues in our faith. The Eastern Orthodox concept of theosis is all about this, and the (very) speculative theology of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is similar to what you all are proposing. However, the difference between our two visions is fundamental. Your view is flatly naturalistic and evolutionary: our children are our gods, giants standing on the shoulders of dwarves through some as-yet undiscovered wrinkle of metaphysics. My view is flatly supernatural and theocentric, indeed christocentric: Christ is the ineffable Alpha and Omega, yet at the same time was and is of the same physical and rational nature as all of us "baseline" humans, and therefore only He can be the bridge between ourselves and the Divine. In showing that these two visions are mutually exclusive, competing mythologies, I call your attention to the fact that the Singularity is itself a mythology. It is not a material fact, but a theory embraced by faith. It does not even claim to be divine revelation -- God presumably having infallible knowledge of past, present and future -- but merely human speculation. Whence the confidence?

If it does happen, then any number of good or bad outcomes -- as judged from the standpoint of baseline humanity -- could occur. We've already explored these possibilities briefly, and the impossibility of gauging those possibilities. It seems vain to speak of planning for the completely unpredictable. And yet those who speak of it put it in terms like Christian apocalyptic. It is humanistic and individualistic. We are enjoined to hope for a better transhuman tomorrow, and to prepare ourselves by "mind expansion." This lends credence to my sense that it is based less on evidence and more on wishful thinking, and possibly that it is an unwitting copycat of religious traditions, including but not limited to the Christian.

That's my take on it. I'll be amazed if you can fit all of that into a footnote in a podcast. ;)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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