Redefining The Singularity
I’m going to take a moment to point out some observations on how humanity has developed, and what they may mean for our future. As a lover of all things science and science fiction, I have always been keenly interested in wondering how technology has affected us as a society. It has just sped communication up, as expected, but it changed the fundamentals of communication. It hasn’t just given us more information about the universe, it has changed the entire skyline of reality. In the 1960’s, everyone was certain that we would be settling and mining the solar system by now. Why aren’t we? Because we haven’t taken the next step in our evolution, yet. That evolution will probably lead to the end of life as we understand it, because there are far too many unpredictable hazards for biological organisms to explore space.
What I mean is that technology changes us as a species. When the first ancestors began speaking, the human brain ceased to exist as one organ in one person’s head. You could now offer and listen to opinions and “group-think” any issue that arose and have far more (excuse the term) computing power with which to work. At that moment, we stopped being human beings and became a new organism: The Tribe. Now tribes as their own life force might sound a bit much, but think about it. Every person in the tribe plays a part, communicates and, when the tribe becomes too large for its infrastructure, it divides. This sounds a bit like cellular-life doesn’t it? Philosophically, you could discuss any society from the perspective of Biology.
Communication shifted our focus from personal survival to societal struggle. Tribes grew, developed agriculture and then evolved again to form Nations. The nation has been a problematic concept since its development. Constantly at war and eating up resources, but what animal doesn’t do that when unchecked? Most apex predators, such as sharks and lions, are cannibalistic or homicidal. Why in the world would that be? Because life is still under the watchful eye of evolution. In terms of nations as organisms, they are also under the scrutiny of the natural laws. We have many nations, and all are trying to allow themselves to grow. This is definitely hurting our environment, and causing global conflict. If you watch the news or scroll through Facebook, it may feel like the world is falling down around you some days. The truth is that we are simply seeing the organisms that we created to protect ourselves in evolutionary action.
I could compare occupations with cellular specialty all day long and probably not do much more than shame my Biology teacher, so I’ll digress back to the technology. All of this is possible because of technological advancement. Communications are incredibly fast these days, and they aren’t limited to sound, text or pictures anymore. Think of internet memes and emojis. We supplanted phone conversations with texting and posting and we lost a lot of the context necessary for person-to-person discussions. Technology replaced them almost instantly. When was the last time you had any textual intercourse without using emojis or abbreviations to convey a reaction?
I remember a meme with a caption that said: "we thought technology would take us to the stars or solve our energy crisis, but instead we share cat videos." Well, feline-antics aside, I think that we needed the communication to have a serious chance at space travel. As for the energy crisis, we may not be able to solve it as organic beings. We must consume energy, and being social animals, we cannot avoid empathy as a serious motivation in our lives. In fact, we wouldn’t be here without it. It may be that there is simply not enough energy available to send people and machines into space like we have seen in the movies.
So here we are: no longer people, but massive nations wanting to reach into the stars. Well, we can’t do it ourselves at the moment, so we send the machines instead of ourselves. Meanwhile, back at home we have an explosion in the social sciences. Concepts like gender are being thrown out of the window. A computer doesn’t need a gender or a gender-role. How important is sex, when you can cut and paste and be a parent? We are also beginning to specialize in ways no one could have imagined. Where tribes had functions, nations have specific roles that can only be filled by one person at a time. The structure is building on itself like DNA does. Once the knowledge is there, we have two paths before us: We can move our consciousness into the machines, or simply allow the machines to become their own species.
The first option, commonly referred to as “The Singularity”, means that we will become machines. Your mind will be scanned, and you will wake up as a computer by some means we haven’t quite pinned down yet. There are many articles about mind-reading prosthetics and computers that can determine what you are thinking. It’s not at all a far-fetched concept to analyze brain patterns and directly upload that information into a computer. Our biggest obstacle right now is that we don’t understand the brain all that well. When you scan a brain, you are seeing computer analogs for energy transfer. They see the synapses firing in certain patterns, but there is more to the brains that just conscious thought. It regulates the heart, body temperature and every other function your body undertakes to keep itself alive. So, what if you scan it and code the brain pattern for morning wood instead of empathy? “Damn, I’m having a horrible day…I’ve never been so turned on…”
The other choice is to simply perfect the machines themselves and roll the dice with our own survival. I’m not talking Terminator or The Matrix kind of stuff, but what would a technological life form need with biological baggage? They may have no reverence for us as their “creators” at all. That is a human concept from our imaginations filling in the gaps of what we didn’t understand about reality at that time. If anything, they may simply leave us to our own devices. However, if they don’t, it still doesn’t change a single law of thermodynamics: They will be able to slip the surly bonds of Earth much more readily than we will. We could very well only ever communicate with alien life through our proxy-machines. That would be a devastatingly sad future as far as I’m concerned, but it’s a perfectly plausible outcome.
In short, we are now shaping our own evolution, but not only in the ways that we intended to shape it. We have built these massive nations that have a life all of their own, and they are all already tied irrevocably to technology. The singularity will probably not be a single point in time, but a period of history where we determine how to move forward as a species. What a historic moment in the universe for a race to decide how to evolve! We just have to not destroy ourselves between now and then, which may be much more easily said than done.