The Singularity is Nearer
Feb. 09, 2024. 7 min. read.
Will the Singularity arrive imminently or slip beyond our grasp? Explore the projections, pondering the timing and implications of humanity's technological convergence.
The Singularity is Nearer
The Singularity will usher in the flourishing of a peaceful, decentralized, and super-intelligent civilization that will extend across the multi-dimensional universe.Ines Gav
The term “Singularity” originates from mathematics. When X approaches zero from right to left, 1/X or Y approaches infinity. Such a mathematical function doesn’t actually reach an infinite value because dividing by zero is mathematically “undefined” and impossible to calculate. Still, the value of Y exceeds any possible finite limit and approaches infinity as X approaches zero. Later, the term “Singularity” was adopted by astrophysics. If a massive star undergoes a supernova explosion, its remnant eventually collapses to a point of seemingly zero volume and infinite density, creating a “Singularity” at its center. The famous black holes. It was named “black hole” when it was believed that light couldn’t escape from the star once it reached infinite density. A rupture in the fabric of space-time.
According to Kurzweil, in “The Singularity Is Near,” the first recorded use of the term “Singularity” regarding the progressive awakening of technology was by John von Neumann in the early 21st century. Vernor Vinge in the ’80s began talking about an “intelligence explosion” and a “technological Singularity.” The moment when the upward curve of technology development accelerates, and we lose sight of it. Or we watch it explode from the living room window, rising from our armchairs and reaching out for black glasses. There won’t be, from a mathematical point of view, any rupture, no discontinuity. Still, part of the concept of the “Singularity” is accompanied by the idea of a break and rupture that we will feel from our non-optimized human perspective. The “Singularity,” according to Kurzweil, will feel like a sort of explosion for our biological brains. The curve will gain such speed that we won’t be able to keep track, and eventually, when we decide to let it go, we’ll look up to discover that AGI was already far, so far that we can barely glimpse it.
I am a techno-optimist, eagerly awaiting the advent of the Singularity mainly because I believe that if we, who are usually quite foolish, haven’t destroyed ourselves yet, no intelligence, no matter how general, and especially not a superintelligence, will find it in any way useful to destroy human civilization. There would be, I believe, no gain for any superintelligence in destroying us. Any problems arising from human presence on Earth could be offset by the importance of preserving the human biological heritage. That’s what Kurzweil says in “The Singularity Is Near” — that the Artificial Superintelligence (ASI) will take care of us to preserve the DNA code, human genetics, and turn us into something like boutique pieces in a living museum.
But that’s just one part of it. On the other hand, another thing I believe, and Kurzweil also says in “The Singularity Is Near,” is that as the Singularity blossoms and develops to its full potential, humans will accompany the developments, and the digital and the biological will dissolve into a super-intelligent computational whole. So, I don’t believe in something like machines versus humans. Perhaps that’s a dialectical axis we should start dismantling to think about the Singularity in a more objective way. As technology escalates, the entire human civilization will, as it always has, because there is something that maybe we need to start internalizing, that there’s nothing more human than the ASI. Or, to put it another way, if we achieve the ASI, it will be only human, and perhaps that is the most complex or difficult thing to swallow.
The optimization of biology is undoubtedly one of the most disruptive and controversial points in the book. Perhaps because it is one of the first concepts that Kurzweil develops and is at the narrative avant-garde, resisting the first onslaughts of impatient readers and attacking the collective imagination on the front line. But the idea of the digitization of human biology and transforming ourselves into super-machines seemed to me like an original approach and perhaps more friendly to a massive audience. One thing is to think that we will be dominated or even taken care of by super-machines, another very different is that we will be the super-machines, right?
Becoming super-humans who can dispense with individuation will challenge the notion of identity and ego. The individual bearing free will, Man as the center of the Universe, will joyfully dissolve like an evening wave in the foam of megabytes networks and inter-neuronal connections. Or in the water of a superintelligent mitochondrion, as Vernor Vinge says, “But the post-Singularity world does fit in with the broader tradition of change and cooperation that began a long time ago (perhaps even before the emergence of biological life),” The Coming Technological Singularity, Vernor Vinge. Either way, the techno-optimistic future seems to be about interdependence and the cooperation of the structure, something that, in one way or another, is already happening with the development of blockchain and decentralized communities.
The Singularity will bring about a kind of decentralized Renaissance. The liberation from repetitive tasks and material abundance will allow us to dedicate ourselves to human connections and emotions. To all activities of the spirit. The Singularity will not only be human; undoubtedly, it will make us more human. Relating to beings without ego will make us less egocentric, and we will be able to connect with each other in a healthier way. We might even dissolve into each other if we wish. The Singularity will not only not mean the destruction of humanity but quite the opposite; it will undoubtedly super-humanize us and bring about the flourishing of a peaceful, decentralized, and super-intelligent human civilization that will extend across the multi-dimensional universe. It is likely that the same thing will happen with the concept of the black hole, which was initially believed that light could not escape from infinite density, and then they discovered that not only could it escape; the black hole was surrounded by a luminous and dazzling crown of light.
Twenty years have passed since Raymond Kurzweil published “The Singularity Is Near.” So, the Singularity is closer, or it should be, and no matter how techno-optimistic we are, the Era of Singularities continues to terrify us at times. But, in one of the first chapters, Kurzweil wonders what it means to be a Singularitarian. “A Singularitarian is someone who understands the Singularity and has reflected on its meaning for their own life,” he says. Beyond whether we believe that the Singularity is the very cornucopia of abundance, the gateway to the horn of the goat Amalthea, or the staging of the last act of Titus Andronicus, a scenario covered and irrigated with bleeding bodies, what makes us Singularitarians is having devoted some time to putting our heads into these matters. Being brave enough to dare to ask ourselves certain things. Why not, after all? Why not imagine a future where there is no disease, cruelty, suffering, and death? Why not dream of eternal life, of the light at the end of the tunnel?
“I did not come to this perspective as a result of seeking an alternative to customary faith. The origin of my quest to understand technological trends was practical: an attempt to time my inventions and make optimal tactical decisions when launching technological companies. Over time, this modeling of technology took on a life of its own and led me to formulate a theory of the evolution of technology. From there, there was no great leap to reflect on the impact of these crucial changes on social and cultural institutions and on my own life. So, while being a Singularitarian is not a matter of faith but of understanding, reflecting on the scientific trends that I have discussed in this book inevitably generates new perspectives on the issues that traditional religions have tried to address: the nature of mortality and immortality, the purpose of our lives, and intelligence in the universe,” The Singularity Is Near, Raymond Kurzweil.
The Singularity will come sooner or later. I have the feeling it will be something like an accident, a mistake. Something like someone playing and randomly combining algorithms, and suddenly BOOM. I don’t think it will be a soundly explosion. The Singularity might be silent like a bomb underwater. Probably, we won’t hear it, not even notice it. A small glitch in an accidental equation, and something is triggered in a line of code forever.