A few days ago I posted an interview with Ray Kurzweil on Facebook with the caption “I’m sure this guy is probably dangerous, but I can’t help but find him interesting. :-)” Mr. Kurzweil is an inventor, author and futurist. He’s popular for his thoughts regarding the technological singularity, transhumanism and his often accurate predictions about the future. He’s also popular for his myriad of inventions. I first learned about Mr. Kurzweil and the above, several years back when I started listening to a podcast on futurism and science fiction called The Future and You and was instantly attracted to these. I’ve noticed that, more and more, we live in a problem-focused world instead of a solution-focused world. That’s what attracts me to areas that seem more solution-focused, particularly when they use technology. It was unfair of me to call Mr. Kurvweil dangerous, even in jest. The truth is that transhumanism aims to solve problems that are dangerous to solve. That doesn’t mean that ideas shouldn’t be cautiously explored that try.
The Technological Singularity and Transhumanism
The technological singularity involves the occurrence of a technological superintelligence that is too complex for humans to understand, maintain or predict without themselves being augmented by technology. That’s where transhumanism comes in. It involves the notion that we will merge with computers, and will belong to a technological shared consciousness of sorts. We’ve already merged to a lesser degree. I walk around with between 1 and 4 devices on me at all times, and am in constant communication with the technological shared consciousness of the internet. However, if you start to talk nanotechnology and bionics? Let’s just say I can’t get there yet. I’m personally more comfortable being a separate entity from my devices for now.
There are a lot of scary scenarios surrounding the above. Imagine what a computer virus could do to you if you had some sort of neural implant that connects you psychically to your computer. Or, imagine what kinds of crazy new health conditions could occur with microscopic computers in your blood stream. Also, imagine what happens to society if technology gets to the point where, very abruptly, people can suddenly live for hundreds of years. Lastly, imagine what happens when a super-intelligent computer becomes self-aware and classifies humanity as a virus. I’ve been both blessed and cursed with an active imagination, so I have imagined these things.
That all being said, I’m going to continue to watch these ideas and let some of them inspire me moving forward. For now, I believe that humans have already merged with technology, and are able to use it to augment their cognition as well as to communicate and collaborate with each other. I, also, believe that AI has some great applications both for business (i.e. predictive analytics) and personal (i.e. intelligent tutoring) use. Lastly, I believe social media is the next step in giving us a technological shared consciousness. And, while I have nothing against sharing cat pictures with social media, I believe it can be used for more focused and productive endeavors as well.
- What about the Singularity and Transhumanism interests you?
- What scares you about these things?
- What do you think the next steps are in terms of humanities relationship to technology?
- How can we keep our humanity as we merge further an further with technology?