Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Singularity

I'm working on an article about the Singularity, the subject of a recent book by Ray Kurzweil. In a nutshell the singularity refers to the pace of technological development. The idea of Kurzweil and others is that computer processing power continues to double every 18 months or so (an exponential rate of growth), soon we will have built machines capable of surpassing human intelligence. When we reach that point, we will rapidly develop even better (and smarter) technology. The pace will be so brisk that we cannot quite comprehend the kinds of developments ahead of us. This crossover point is the singularity, sort of like the edge of a black hole. All the rules change. This brings the possiblity of hyperlong lives, if not outright immortality, not to mention numerous other powers. Ultimate happiness at last?

This gets me to my paper---extending the Tantalus analogy to the singularity. Even if we get these kinds of powers, will that put us in heaven with the gods? Won't we complain then as now? To someone who lived centuries ago, our lifestyle would appear utterly miraculous. Are we living blissfully with nothing to complain about?

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