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

TCLP 2010-10-06 Monologue: The Singularity

This is a feature cast, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro, an update on last month’s finances for the podcast.

The hacker word of the week this week is firebottle.

The feature this week is a monologue on an idea I find fascinating and yet at the same time of which I am skeptical, the technological singularity. In the feature I mention the history of the idea, the Omega Point, “Accelerando” by Charlie Stross, True Names by Cory Doctorow and Ben Rosenbaum, the Ware Tetralogy by Rudy Rucker, my review of Rucker’s more recent duology, the “Eclipse Two” anthology containing David Moles story, “The Singularity is Near” by Ray Kurzweil, the Singularity University, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, my Inner Chapter on why programming is hard, Gordon Moore’s criticism of the singularity, other criticisms, Rudy Rucker’s response to the ideal of simulating the earth, and “Diaspora” by Greg Egan.


View the detailed show notes online. You can grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

feeds | grep links > Pirate Bay in Parliament, Futures Other than the Singularity, Facebook Adds Facial Recognition, and More