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Initial post: Jan 17, 2006 3:43:47 PM PST
Joy Ward says:
Perhaps the question that really needs asking is not whether Kurzweil is correct in his future projections but do we really want to allow technology to change our lives, relationships and civilizations so completely. More importantly, why do we wholeheartedly welcome such extensive changes?

We have evolved over millenia to be a species that must work together, build connections with others, if we are to survive as a species. Yet the technology Kurzweil so welcomes is the antithesis of connection. He may talk about how we will all be connected through technology yet it is only the illusion of connection. We learn as a species through shared experiences. We learn as individuals through empathy, much of which is gained through shared events. I understand your hurt because I have felt pain.

Virtual reality is NOT reality. In fact it is the offer of fake connection for the real connections of real people and events.

Moreover, why should we want to embrace a reality for which we are not biologically or psychologically suited? Our brains are wonderfully evolved to process and manage information, and perhaps most importantly if you follow the work of certain neuroscientists (i.e., Damasio) emotional input. Where does emotion live in this new world of Kurzweil's?

Lastly, are we to expect that everyone will have access to this nanobot-enhanced world? What about the poor? What about the middle-class? I suspect that Kurzweil's brave new medical and technical breakthroughs would only be available to those who could afford them. Just like medical care in America today, many people would simply be cut out and left behind.

The upshot of technology such as this at the beck and call of the wealthy is that they (who are already often extremely out of touch with the real world of everyday people) would become even more out of touch. What does this say for the decisions that they will make that influence us all? I suspect those decisions will do even less to draw us together. Why should the wealthy and powerful make decisions that help everyday people? Through virtual reality they can become even more insulated from the results of their acts. Those left on the outside (probably the mass of humanity) are not as "human" or advanced are we? So, like the 21st century version of Puritanism with this form of technology as God, everyone without it will be found wanting and cast off into the technological and civil underworld.

Note, I am not a Luddite. I would not question all new technology but something as fundamentally important as how humans interact with the world and others is something to be closely considered and examined before letting it loose to do untold damage.

So I ask again -- Why do we so easily welcome this technology without closely examining potential results from every angle?

Joy Ward

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 12, 2006 9:27:52 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 12, 2006 9:30:00 PM PST
Trystero says:
Dear Joy:

You bring up three possible arguments against the desirability of the Singularity scenario.

1. "Virtual reality is NOT reality"

Here, I think that we have to be careful. Our experience of what we call "reality" is deeply mediated through our brains. We never experience "real" reality in an unmediated way. The virtual reality of some future scenario is not necessarily less real than the reality that we experience today. I have yet to hear a good explanation for why a fulfilling, meaningful life cannot be lived within a virtual reality. The "real" real, even if it could be described apart from the constraints of our particular species-being, has no necessary priority over different layers of the virtual. Deciding between the real and the virtual is a matter of defining one's terms rigorously, then expressing one's values.

2. "[W]hy should we want to embrace a reality for which we are not biologically or psychologically suited?"

We are arguably most biologically and psychologically suited to those conditions in which we evolved. That is, the world we live in today is not necessarily the best of all possible worlds we could live in; nor are any features of it inevitable. Our world seems inevitable to use because we co-evolved with our world: we tend to reject those aspects of technology and cultural change which are bad matches for our (still unknown) species-being. Even within that range, cultures vary enormously. There is no principled distinction between those enhancements that the internet brings to our savannah-evolved biology and psychology; and those changes the Singularity is said to herald. The difference is one of rate of change: whereas techno-cultural change previously occurred over the course of generations, the Singularity promises (if we take its proponents seriously) to change everything we know within the course of our lifetime. This, arguably, cuts deliberative and adaptive time to a point where we might end up getting stuck with bad choices.

3. "Lastly, are we to expect that everyone will have access to this nanobot-enhanced world? What about the poor?"

This, I think, is the most serious objection. Kurzweil rejects this line of reasoning at the end of the book by observing that the cost of these IT-like technologies will get reduced essentially to zero. This is an interesting argument, but even if we assume that this is true the gravest threat that the Singularity scenario offers is that it possibly threatens to embed within its forms of life the power relations that gave rise to it: a capitalistic singularity will tend to maintain capitalistic forms of life. An egalitarian singularity will arguably do likewise. Just because what we consider to be scarce will become less scarce under the Singularity scenario, this does not mean that allocation systems will not have to develop values and modes of deciding who gets what.

Arguably, the main reason for deciding against a Singularity scenario is that it threatens to destroy what we hold dear. We can collectively decide what we are to do with our future. Don't believe anyone who tells you anything is inevitable. So is Singularity good or bad? My response: it depends on the character of the Singularity. There are many different kinds of Singularity: if we choose this path, let's make it a humane one.

Lee

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 16, 2006 1:44:19 PM PST
Steven Bates says:
"More importantly, why do we wholeheartedly welcome such extensive changes?"

There it is.. patterned charge, which manifests itself in humans over millions - no; billions of years - as emotions (or "wholeHEARTedly") - is not 'replaced' by any 'source' outside of transcending 'code'. The elegant origin of patterned charge is priori and cannot be 'replicated'. It can be 'advanced', such as civilization; but not replicated.

A singularity is in direct denial/refuting/falsifying/defiance of a simple induction/production model that progresses generative origin. Spiral Dynamics is closer to the heart.....sorry, gotta go listen to Rush! ;)

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 27, 2006 10:50:55 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Feb 27, 2006 10:55:16 PM PST
Singularity is Now ... Our main purpose is to be producers or proteins , the rest is just what happens in the meantime , i mean , mealtime ... Deromantizising the world will be our romance ...

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 7, 2008 8:44:11 PM PDT
"More importantly, why do we wholeheartedly welcome such extensive changes?"

Over the long run, it offers, perhaps knowledgable mastery of the physical nature of existance. Automating many functions allow us to persue much more creative venues. Enhanced minds and bodies with unlimited lifespans give us more time to create our lives and make fewer errors and suffer less along the way.

"Moreover, why should we want to embrace a reality for which we are not biologically or psychologically suited? Our brains are wonderfully evolved to process and manage information, .."

No, not really.

Many people suffer from deseases of the mind, depression, bi-polar illness, almost all of us have judgement errors all the time. Memory can be a problem, dimentia as we get old, and we die. No, we can do better, and I think we should, just hope I can see it in my lifetime.

"I suspect that Kurzweil's brave new medical and technical breakthroughs would only be available to those who could afford them. Just like medical care in America today, many people would simply be cut out and left behind."

A reasonable concern.

A couple of things mentioned which I believe are reasonable.

Much of todays medical technology is of the macro-allopathic (spelling?), or just the extension of the "industrial era" technology, with some smatterings of information technology.

One point is that when bio-tech and nano-tech are driven by information technologies, the price performance improves.

Major surgeries are expensive, but in the future, modifying the genetics on the front end so to speak, will prevent the need for extremely expensive "repair".

Imagine being equipted with a superior form of body repair, so we can regenerate organs, brian matter, and severed limbs the way our liver now regenerates, or the way some other lifeforms can now.

Also, the rich will buy the expensive high tech stuff at first, and the rest of us will be left out. True.

Think cell phones.

Think, then, the law of accelerating returns.

"Those left on the outside (probably the mass of humanity) are not as "human" or advanced are we?"

The wealthier will get the technology earlier on, when it is more expensive and less developed, and the rest will get it when it is cheaper and better developed, at least that is as reasonable a probability as the dystopian outcome.

"would not question all new technology but something as fundamentally important as how humans interact with the world and others is something to be closely considered and examined before letting it loose to do untold damage."

Sorry. This is one of the most irritating arguments that can be presented.

We are individually responsible for how we choose to interact with each other or not.

Just because a technology will allow us to "zone out" and "isolate" more, isn't a reasonable consideration.

Many people will dis-connect, and others will use these tools to connect in more varied and creative ways than could be possible otherwise.

The Internet is a great example.

People can hole up in a room and play video games with other computers or people with little interaction, or people can join internet user groups and make friends, have dinner, dates, and even create new forums.

I don't consider the argument of how people will choose to connect or not as being valid.

What right do some people have to make that determination for all others, when in reality they have almost no idea how these things will pan out when used by free, conscious humans (or post humans) who individually make these determinations for themselves.

I say no to any external "authorities" making these deciscions for us.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 28, 2010 4:57:07 PM PDT
Timmiley says:
the whole reason and truth is for the advancement of intelligence. we have the power to make earth an utopia and later to change the whole universe. i just hope we do not destroy ourselves before the singularity or a natural disaster takes us out before we get to the 6th level.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 15, 2010 2:23:56 PM PDT
Sparhawk says:
"yet it is only the illusion of connection. We learn as a species through shared experiences."

I'm curious. Was this opinion held when movies became a central focus of culture? Did people worry about losing the shared experiences of sitting in a theater watching a play with the only other people who would ever see that individual performance?
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Participants:  7
Total posts:  8
Initial post:  Jan 17, 2006
Latest post:  Oct 15, 2010

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The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology
The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil (Paperback - September 26, 2006)
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