Posts Tagged ‘ technology ’

A fanboy’s dream deferred

From Danger Room’s Spencer Ackerman: The Missile Defense Agency’s latest test of the lightsaber’s official progenitor failed.

As the article notes, however, Pentagon officials remain hopeful that smaller electric lasers are in the offing. There’s still a chance that we’ll have lightsabers in time for the Zombie Apocalypse.

God help us if we don’t.

After Years of Such Idle Contemplation …

… a fascination with the idea of “digital consciousness” can at last make for a meaningful reflection on humanity’s future prospects.

A recent article in the New York Times sheds some significant light on the Silicon Valley philosophical take on the “Singularity,” or the perfect connection between organic life and technology.

The rapid expansion of new technologies and innovations does not necessarily portend some sort of Singularity. This implies the connection between not only these developments, but everything in the Universe (i.e., another name for “God” or “Nature”). And that connection is in no way guaranteed by present human conditions. These developments may greatly enhance our everyday existence, but I suspect it will be in a piecemeal way, and by no means “progressing” towards anything in particular.

Even if such integrations were to occur as envisioned by Mr. Kurzweil, I do not believe we will go “beyond humanity” in a way that anyone can properly imagine. A team in Maryland recently created a new self-replicating bacteria species using a chemically-constructed genetic code inserted in a living cell, but even project lead Dr. J. Craig Venter readily admits that this does not amount to the creation of new life. For all the knowledge we are currently generating, we still do not understand the animus of life and are stuck using existing structures.

Technological evolution as biological evolution will be seen as a false prophesy in the fanciest of dressings … One of the greatest misunderstandings about Darwin’s original theories is that they implied some sort of improvement (or, in a more stripped-down version, simply a direction) over time. However, to consider a change an “improvement,” we must have some sort of standard to go by, which is inevitably a human construction. When we come to realize that true evolution is defined by chance and randomness, then the only intelligence actually guiding the universe is our own. In that scenario, would we be so willing to let scientists significantly alter our genetic makeup in the name of “progress”? It is religion couched in science, and serves only to cheapen both. Singularitarians of this stripe make a fatal error in importing the constructs of the human mind onto a phenomena, and then call that an underlying “truth” which exists independent of our minds (and ignore the fact that, without our minds, we wouldn’t be having this discussion about the future because it wouldn’t even be a potential reality!).

If we preserve ourselves, then we will not be a new “species,” per se. We may eliminate disease; we may enhance our physical abilities to Kryptonian levels; we may digitize our consciousness and download ourselves to cybernetic bodies and link our minds; but all of this will simply be variations and improvements on the general “human” theme. I even have a sneaking suspicion that, the more we learn about the cosmos as humans, the more fiercely shall we defend our existence (honor?) as such (though, I guess that’d mean we evolved into Klingons; better that then the Borg).

Regardless of what philosophical spin you put on it, I’m a big fan of such technological advances and have geeked out about certain examples on more than one occasion, and the idea to bring technological entreprenuers together in a place like Singularity University inspires the stuff of dreams. But it is not a cure-all for the human condition, and thus must be treated with as much skepticism as everything else, especially skepticism.