Ideas on the Singularity

Sorry, for a lack of posts. I promised a second part to Nature, Wonder and Technology, and it will come at some point. I am just having trouble with the actual writing aspect.

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Image used under Creative Commons – (joshfrench on Flickr)

The Singularity: A paradigm breaking moment in history where everything completely changes in an unpredictable way. The agricultural, feudal and industrial revolutions are all complete social upheavals, new worlds born from nowhere, completely transforming the world we reside in. The next Singularity will probably come from our technologies, just like it always has. We might be able to predict what the catalyst will be, but we cannot predict the world that we will come out into with any reliable accuracy. Most commonly, Strong AI is seen to be that catalyst. Briefly, Strong AI is I-Robot style Artificial Intelligence. It is humanity’s mechanical birthing, the creation of consciousness without biological sex. It is the ascension of humans into the gods that we worship. While not an answer to death, anymore than having a child is a true answer to death, it would be a testament to our curiousity, and desire to understand ourselves and the universe. From there, Futurists would say that we have no idea what will happen next. Some futurists think that this will leads to Global Catastrophe if not handles carefully. Others think we should just boldly go as always. Here is the thing though: I think futurists are wrong.

What will cause the singularity is not going to be (at least initially) the creation of Strong AI. I think where the next paradigm breaking moment will occur, will be where it has always occurred. That is, in the redistribution of resources: Post-Scarcity. Post-Scarcity economics is an economic system, whereby everything we know about economics completely breaks down, burned in the rubble of our human consciousness. Economics relies on one main truth: resources are finite. Things have value, because we need them (I’m using need very loosely). When resources are scarce, people fight over them, they now have value. When we live in a world where everything is fairly Post-Scarcity (more on this in a minute) we no longer need to fight over food and water, or even have surplus food or water! Marx talks about the need for a redistribution for the means of production, because resources are scarce and should therefore be shared by everyone to actualize their human potential. Communism, however, is an old solution to an old problem. A Post-Scarcity society, a world where everyone can literally access anything always, is a new world, one that does not exist.

Now, when we talk about Post-Scarcity, I have to point out a clear distinction. From my understanding, true Post-Scarcity is impossible, because we will always need energy to be able to convert it into matter, but as our energy collection gets better, this will be less and less of a problem. Jason Silva says that the US could power itself entirely on solar using under 2% of the U.S. total landmass, and that is with current technology. Solar technology is getting increasingly better, with plans to build solar panels in space to increase absorption in the near future.

Sounds like crazy science fiction I know, Conscious Computers and resources for everyone. Here’s the thing: we are currently moving towards these things in our society. We are building printers, that can manifest anything that we want. The technology has recently become exponentially cheaper and better, totally in line with Moore’s Law. You can build your own 3D printers, and then print parts for other people’s 3D printers. We are even in the works of 3D printing food, like the replicator in Star Trek, or printing chemical compounds for medicine. We have the capacity to build indoor gardens in our houses, and people are currently working on building techno-Utopias that allow us to actualize our capacities. This is what Marx wanted, but he was 200 years too early to see the feedback loop we are in with our machines! I Fucking Love Science, even just made a post on how we are currently working on converting light into matter. Once we can convert energy into matter succinctly, and as we continue to work against the problems in our world, social and environmental, we will move closer and closer to Post-Scarcity.

What happens after we achieve Post-Scarcity is anyone’s guess.

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