I do not believe in The Singularity.
Those of us who spend too much time on the internet, and the blogosphere in particular, cannot avoid excited talk of the upcoming Singularity, where man and machine merge into something more than just men and their peripherals. It is not really a moment, more a stretch of time when telling apart 'manmade' from 'computer made' will become less and less easy, where Turing Test-defeating machines are possible and easy to manufacture, if indeed they do not already manufacture themselves. The Singularity is simultaneously hoped for and worked towards.
If there is one thing that it lacks, it might be humanity, but really, it has humanity built in. Literally.
The problem is this: exponential progression is impossible when attempted by men. Predictions of the year 2000 had steam horses and rigid airships and other things similarly advanced, flying through the aether to Mars and beyond, perhaps to land on Jupiter. These are linear predictions, the kind that Kurzweil tells us is not only impractical, but worthless.
I would suggest that men working towards a future of the Singularity are laboring under the same misbeliefs. I think that Kurzweil moves his predictions closer, unbeliveably close, in hopes of circumventing this lack of imagination, but in the end his predictions are still functionally worthless. Take his prediction of a Turing Test capable machine: we know what that means, from a technological standpoint, but remember that years ago it was discovered that the simplest of looped response scripts can be incredibly convincing...this does not show limitation in the techology, but it does demonstrate the critical failure point of any predictions, namely that while we understand the technology, the mechanics of humanity continue to elude us.
This is where I think that Kurzweil's predictions suffer. He predicts artificial blood that increases oxygen carrying capacity by thousands of percent or more, while I suggest that what REALLY may happen is something completely different, unpredictably different. Artificial blood is the hyper-advanced airship, and whatever happens for real is the Concorde, because not only might new uses come up but other challenges may evolve that were literally unthinkable ten years before. Remember the idea of videophones? Who even thinks about those any more? We have devices that carry video, often shockingly high-def video, and phones that can transmit that in realtime--but we don't have videophones because we don't want them! Who wants an unavoidable video connection; voice is one thing but getting a midnight call on a videophone is quite another.
Basically, I think that Kurzweil is thinking like an SF author, a possibly misguided, probably genius, and certainly prolific SF author. He is taking what he knows, and adjusting it to what he predicts. While others publish novels, however, he publishes the predictions in non-fiction form. Same thing, different presentation--and who gets taken seriously? All negativity about his ideas aside, I think that he is on to something, and something big, but it's not something that is unique to him.
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