Another Criticism of the Likelihood of the Singularity

Annalee Newitz at io9 has a much simpler and more simply stated argument against the Singularity than my recent ramblings on the topic. In brief, singulo-utopians assume all the change will be for the better, not giving enough weight to the unexpected, the odd, the disruptive.

It’s not that we couldn’t anticipate these problems, and even generate some Plan B ideas for dealing with them. But it’s hard to plan for problems when our eyes are on Heaven – that place where finally, all our problems are solved and we live happily ever after. It’s a fantasy as old as recorded history, and unlike history, it never changes. Yet we still keep mistaking it for a perfect vision of the future. Each time a Singularity-level technology comes along, we pack our bags for paradise instead of thinking sensibly about how we can prevent the worst side-effects of this new technology from biting us in our angelic asses.

She never actually refutes the idea of a discontinuity in progress that nettles our predictive capabilities. Quite the opposite. To make her point, she sets up the development of penicillin as a historical inflection point, a Singularity like discontinuity. It’s a well chosen example as what initially history might have judged as an unalloyed benefit is seen as much as a disruption given the benefit of more time. Consider the rise of resistant super bugs. Even more apt, our belief in the infallible curative qualities of the drug has as much to do with its over-prescription and the resulting mutations as any other contributing factor.

Give the whole thing a read. I didn’t even mention her brilliant deflation of the rapt believers in the Singularity with…a potato chip.

Why the Singularity isn’t going to happen, io9

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *