Mainstreaming The Singularity

There've been big mediaspace rumblings recently, and even articles now on the entrance of transhumanism into the mainstream. Including but not limited to Kurzweil getting his face splashed on the cover of Time Magazine with a quick Singularity FAQ.

Personally, I think the Singularity, and more particularly Singularitarianism as a "movement" can go upload itself.

Is it time to really whip out the silicon crucifixes and start praying to Google? Are our new digital overlords Fortean manifestations, semiotic ghosts of our science fictional collective subconscious? Is it time to start investing in brain jacks or short-selling Silicon Valley koolaid-drinker real estate, soon to be vacant as the tomb at Golgotha after mass resurrection digital heaven/suicide?
Original Post
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Originally posted by Boogerhead:
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Originally posted by GreenRobot:
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Originally posted by Boogerhead:
I am going to laugh when the whole system implodes, leaving us with no more technology than fire.

You've read S.M. Stirling, yes? Big Grin


No,but I'll keep an eye oot.

Look for "Dies the Fire" - first novel of "The Change" series. I think you'd like it.
The creators of this simulation in which we live have made a singularity here, within this simulation, impossible, as part of the very design parameters of this simulation. It could be true so it must be. Like God. Or Jesus. Or a non-corrupt Republican Senator.
Posted this rant elsewhere but figured it was appropriate here.

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While transhumanism may still remain in the shallow banks of the mainstream, I do believe it passes the grandma test – that is, grandma’s digitally Antediluvian light cone of perception can be utilized as a fairly good litmus paper to dip into the mainstream consciousness; a pre-boomer high water mark to test whether a memeplex’s torrential ubiquity has truly flooded Moore’s Aquarium we’re swimming in, or if we’re just seeing our own transhumant reflections in our self-filtered echo chambers. Seeing as how my grandma – a septuagenarian who hasn’t ‘Booked her Hepburnian curled face or touchscreened a single angry avian in her life – just namedropped Kurzweil, then tree-bark dropped the most contempo issue of Time Magazine this morning “THE SINGULARITY IZ COMIN!!”, I think brother Danaylov’s suggestion of the mainstream is at least fractionally vindicated.

If the Mainstream (is there truly a mainstream anymore or just a disintermediated intractable swamp of personal #feeds?) and Brainstream media is to be believed, we’re in a perpetual race, a game, a final species-wide solitaire whose penultimate outcomes include two possible finite states: machine-ey geek wish-fulfillment in the arms of 89 virgins bikini clad gatling-katana wielding Draenor and certain destruction through a roulette wheel of assorted existential crises – climate, population, asymmetric nuclear/biological war, take your pick. It’s an arms race I’d guesstimate is as likely to acquire the sepia patina of future fatigue and mutually assured irrelevance as the time-desaturated dead-tree posters of moon-landing American starmen adorning NASA’s great whitewashed halls gone the color of brown dwarves, ‘earmarked’ for funding-slaughter, now being converted into IMAX theater multiplexes, that are now playing! Uber-Def 3D-ified VR re-mastered mashups of the Star Wars’ clone spinoff wars.

And transhumanists, cyberpunks don’t feel left out: Kurzweil’s hokey book-pushing star-vehicle will be embarrassing, like your dad shuttling you off to band practice “rocking” his 1976 AMC Pacer and trying to score hip cred with you by butting into your jam with his Bon Jovi keytar riffs. But wear your jacks on (or below) your sleeves. For an endless Hollywood procession of light sabery Tron kitschery regurgitation is in the green thanks to the Singularity’s synergistic exponential advancements in cinema tech and marketing in the film industry. Neuromancer staring a freshly un-cryo-ed prepubescent Justin 3Bieber in a romantic leading role against Lady Gaga’s bacon-jumpsuited Molly, rendered using algorithmically re-hashed music videos, fail clips and Charlie Bit My finger cut by a Joseph Kahn-emulating version of Watson. After critical success – five Netflix hearts by “critic engines” – the unwashed will find themselves praying to their iPad overlords as they are filmically raptured by a blockbusting Singulartiarian mythology pantheon, cyclically recycling through remakes of the Matrix, followed by some vaguely Strossian techno-thriller starring Liam Neeson, returning again to remakes of Neuromancer, taking a new Beiber out of the ice box. News articles featuring schlocky crypto-New-Age-ish visuals of wire-headed Bjork-bots undulating to canned tech-conference ambient music will rule the pages of main-ish-stream media, becoming shameless, self-absorbed, and repetitive as i09. Make no mistake, they will milk the juicy mythos-space of cyberspace dry, wring it like a Big Box store squeezing yen from the maltreated underclass of an authoritarian country to put Libya to shame. But when the day comes, let us not feign surprised, for All This Has Happened Before, it’s only the Matrix version X.0, or have we forgotten the ‘80s-90s beta Singularitarianisms slogan: “We’ll all be uploaded to CD ROMs in 5 years!”

Personally I think Singularitarianism in particular is more often than not science fictional awe gone off into the deep end, floating derelict with space-dimensia somewhere between the Kuiper belt and Hale Bopp comet. It’s sense-of-wonder entertainment curdling over decades into nonsense-of-wonder, snowballing up with fragments of flimsy vaguely related pseudo evidence (a Googol-flops calculator is not any more AGI than an amoeba) and cyberspace junk into a terra-threatening near-Earth object passing ever closer each orbit. It’s a manifestation of the under-religious, over-educated strata of noosphere’s latent Messiah Complex. In the mass-secularized world where we have pervassive repression of the constellation of human psyche-needs once met via religion – appeasement of uncertainty, consolation for loss, Thanos, Deus as social worker/rehab — is it any wonder Singularitarianism has opened up like a relief well for the spiritual/existential God niches which the state and All Tomorrows Call of Duties fail to replace? The lidded pressure cooker of the human desire for metaphysical certainty, for life everlasting, for The Fountain, drinking from which we might be spared the unbearable ephemerality of loved beings. Infinite wireheaded happiness and joy, in unity with the Deus Ex Machina, forever and ever, Amen.

Singularitarianism suffers from the same myopic delusions of grandeur and human magnanimity as Marx’s communism. It’s hammered in again and again like an Apostles creed by the Singuvangelists such as Kurzweil, that we’re going to have all our Earthly primate problems solved, Deus Ex: the Omniscient Machine in its ineffable wisdom shall cure all our diseases, bring peace to all our intractable conflicts, scoop all our brains up into eternal life in the cloud, elevate us into eternal blissful joy where every potato chip tastes like a thousand orgasms, grant us said 89 Dark Elven virgins, give us the answer to every question, the meaning of life, the question who’s answer is 42, etc etc..

But guess what? We already have the resources, the wealth, to give every man woman child (and maybe every digitant cloud-based replica thereof!) a 1st world or near first world life style. Every bank-puppeted economist will sing to you the undying praises of the modern globalized free market and how thanks to business and technological innovation we’re many times better off than we were half a century ago. However, as any major non-Koch brohers funded study will tell you, as if you didn’t already know, the wealth gaps have been and are only growing into ever more impassible chasms, EVEN as the sum total of pie to go around is getting bigger. As the Barclay’s head honchos buy their fourth tropical island nation as their personal getaway, we’ve got half the planet still starving and grinding their cartilage to dust 14 hours a day for a dollar, and even in the Greatest Country on Earth we’re seeing steady decline or stagnation in living standards. Simply adding better tech to the equation does not equal better or more even distribution of that wealthier future to everyone. On the contrary, if the pattern continues, we should expect a Singularital heaven, a super-intelligence run orbital Villa Straylight on which only the long WASP procession of royalty clones shall remain, literally disconnected from the hell below.

The human desire to compete for wealth and status and prestige and its second-order effects within complex socio-political configurations are routinely glossed over by the platonic hallowed Shangrilah-ization that permeates much Singularitarian ethos. You can try to deny that desire to compete, like some communist states and flower-throwing communes and naïve Silicon Valley programmers, and believe that billions of years of psychological evolution are just going to go away, and we’ve all seen how the Soviet experiment turned out. Somebody will always come out on top, whether that’s 500 frat brother CEOs, a genocidal dictator, an authoritarian People’s Republic, and transhumanists/Singularitarians who prefer to leave that fundamental non-linear factor out of their perfect equations for their model worlds are making their own Procrustean Beds (and the similarly deadly beds of innocent and/or ignorant bystanders) not unlike the hordes of Gaussian Copula and “Great Moderation” flaunting economists who tried to fit the world to their theories and not vice versa. And we’ve all seen starkly and painfully how that 2008 economic Singularity worked out.

Just putting on the futurist cap a sec: the private sector is graciously accepting ( or hostile takeoverly stealing) the torch of space exploration from the decaying Gormenghast-like edifices of the Cold War forged relics of Gothic Hi-Tech (AKA NASA) as has been liberally pointed out. It follows that cyberspace and neurospace exploration, both requiring venture capital burn-rates vastly beyond the scope of any neo-hippy trust-funded proto-Google, will require massive capital flows, and will no doubt be helmed by our new CEO overlords and their 500 frat brother plutocracy banksterocracy friends as well. And if the Goldman Sachs of the world are saddled with making the Gnosis Machines… well, let’s just say they’re not exactly the apotheosis of human potential for Ghandian altruism. Do we really need to point out the Lovecraftish vampire squid in our collective room/credit cards/environments/fossil fuel conflicts/governmental bodies? Toxic waste in, toxic waste out. Any superintelligent silicon-based entity that’s going to spring forth from The Money is even LESS likely to give a shit about anyone but their creator’s well being. Yeah, we’ve got an uplink to Xanadu alright, a future superhighway / stairway to “heaven” paved with gravel crushed from the bones of the arthritic and tirelessly slaving subprime-debt laden, bargaining rightless, lower-caste Morlocks – that is, everyone other than the Ownership class –who support for eternity the blue bloods in their orbital palaces through endless bailouts, whips cracked by slavedriving managerial super-AIs.
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Originally posted by electricdragon/ madevilbeats:
Over-hyped nonsense. The future always seems to end up infinitely more clever than any of the predictions and at the same time utterly mundane.


Exactly. Shit never moves forwards all the time. Sometimes it goes sideways.

Plus, it's Time Magazine. There was a Family Guy cutaway gag about Time. It had a bunch of geriatric Time editors, each with an ear trumpet, sitting around a conference table: "I know! Let's do a story about computers!"

There was an article in it last year. Several thousands words in breathless amazement dedicated to the wonders of Pandora being able to pick what music you might like based on your prior listening...a concept that's about as novel and exciting to your average computer uses as the fucking wheel.
I think it's already happened.

I think it's the point at which we've got technology working now that we don't quite understand.

Like everybody worries about cookies, tracking cookies, ubercookies, but then folks make "device finger prints" and create user profiles from other data.


http://online.wsj.com/article/...646704100959546.html

That's more what it seems like to me.


It's things that are possible. Right now. That are unintended. Unknown even. It's as if big red Do Not Push buttons keep popping up like wack-a-moles unasked for.


Things are already going on out there that we are unaware of, and by the time we are aware they'll be something else.


Like websites. First blogging then FaceSpace + Blogging and then Twitter and then....it's a tool of political protest.

It was always possible to use it for that, and when folks finally did...it just worked. Nothing "new" happened.
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Originally posted by electricdragon/ madevilbeats:
Over-hyped nonsense. The future always seems to end up infinitely more clever than any of the predictions and at the same time utterly mundane.


Exactly. We tend, as humans, to assign extraordinary meaning to our place in history. Call it ego. No doubt people in all great periods of technological change felt the same. From Da Vinci to Carnegie they must have all felt that things were moving so fast they could hardly keep up. Let's also look at the track record of any self proclaimed 'futurist'. Remember, hover cars, moon colonies, or just about everything at epcot center that never came about? Or the shit nobody predicted at all? Even the homeless people in Tampa carry cell phones now, nobody predicted that, nor does it solve the homeless issue.

Marx's communism still has never seen the light of day. He wrote that capitalism is endlessly ingenious at creating new space and 'creative destruction' of old space to maintain itself. He felt that there would be a point when the system would run out of space to create profit in and would collapse of its own weight. It seems to have been even better at that than he suspected, and marxian critique remains just that, a critique of capitalism. Private space travel? The $424 million sitting at the bottom of the pacific today that was formerly a satellite and privately made booster rocket that failed (again!) to lift anything to orbit raises the question if corporations are the right vehicle to bring new technology to market when the costs are so high for failure. Perhaps it really is only governments that can take such losses in stride.

So, yeah, singularity or whatever I think you're right (at least I think that's what your saying TM) the meat will adapt and human emotion and greed will never fail. Perhaps capitalism will eventually outrun itself and be at a loss for new space to exploit but it seems pretty resilient so far, much more so than Marx dreamed it could be.
@Edit: I should qualify "Marx's communism" as, "The interpretation of Marx's communism practiced by actual communist countries such as those of the late Soviet Bloc, chiefly the Soviet Union". Looks like we'll have to travel forward in this terribly slow time machine known as reality to get real evidence on whether Marx's dream of "a classless and stateless society structured upon common ownership of the means of production" comes about, and proves successful when/if capitalism collapses. Smile

On the other hand, Marx does not merely critique; he does make his own predictions, practice his own brand of 19th century futurism; pure communism. This supposed idyllic "end state" that inevitably results from the development of technological productive forces to the point such that individuals no longer need to work because "The machines have gotten so freaking amazing and do all our jobs for us!" (sound familiar?) and suddenly classes are eliminated, the very state itself is tossed into the dustbin of history, and people live happily everafter in harmony as the triumphant "working class" lives in egalitarian heaven, free to prance through the fields in their eternal free time "read poetry to one another and practice archery in the afternoons".

Utopia as an *inevitable* result of development of technology. Honestly, I think Marx might have been the proto-Singularitarian. Guised of course in the sociopolitical millieu of his time.

There is an assumption that capitalism will collapse AND that this pure communism will arise in its place, rather than some capitalism 2.0 or Soviet-like authoritarian form of communism. Marx asks us (with a picket-sign in hand) to wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Kingdom of Communist heaven that is to arise as written in The Book of Marx after the Capitalist Armageddon at which point we the worker shall ascend. While that is possible, it's also possible that these super-machines will simply displace human workers, and not just low skill manufacturing jobs but top to bottom, armies of IBM Watsons eliminating whole swaths of the knowledge economy with brute-force natural-language processing -- goodbye healthcare, legal, tech support. These obsolesced majorities of humanity, fight tooth and nail for employment requiring ever more exclusive levels of education/skill in the dwindling areas of human potential not yet computer/machine-automated, become part of not a working class or even an underclass but a "useless class" whom the ownership class don't really care or empathize much with at all in their 100th floor Wall St. towers. The "useless class" no longer have bargaining rights because they have no leverage since they are no longer necessary for production; the oligarchs can get along just fine with their robot underlords, kthxbai. They become favela-fodder fighting for scraps in the streets, and the possibility of "revolution" vanishes. A future not distributed evenly, but a bigger and bigger pie eaten by fewer and fewer moguls and their family members. Not the end of but the return to feudalism This certainly seems to be the trend over the past forty or so years as we've seen massive gains in global productivity but simultaneously massive inequality. This is the wishful thinking, naivete and ignorance of human psychology and human history which I'm talking about. To think that just because we have the capacity to provide a good and equal standard of living for everyone, that it is *inevitable* that we would do such. People will find things to compete over, whether its territory, food, derivatives, marketshare, superpowerdom, people will find a way to be vermin, find ways to be horrible bastards even in the face of insurmountable good.

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editengine:

Perhaps it really is only governments that can take such losses in stride.


You're right. The corporate puppetmasters need a place to dump all their bad bets and toxic spacecraft assets. Good thing they've got a cum dumpster. (Government, AKA: Us)


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Originally posted by titanium wren:
89 virgins bikini clad gatling-katana wielding Draenor

Dear sir,

I would like to know more about the aforementioned Draenor.

They sound... interesting.


Is that so? Well I've got a lifetime subscription to World of Warcraft: Singularity! to sell ya... Smile
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Originally posted by editengine:
Exactly. *snip*


How one can become an expert in shit that hasn't (and will probably never) happen is beyond me, too. By 1999, according to some futurists back in the 50s, Sydney was supposed to be contained under giant plastic domes. This, of course, never happened, probably because we couldn't get enough sarin to fill them. Which is a prime example of some of the extremely narrow focus this stuff tends to have, especially when dealing with non-technical problems: does a city not expand? How can you look only fifty years into the future and not see beyond that?

It's a problem I have with a lot of this sort of conjecture, and with most science fiction (and I tend to view most futurists as sci-fi writers with poor writing skills): the human element is summarily ignored, existing only as a blank canvas or an organic MacGuffin.

I don't get how the singularity is meant to happened. It's only ever talked of as "We will merge with computers. The end." What about the countries or corporations who don't have the technology to do that? What if the first guy to merge with the AI and gain control of the entire intarwebs is a complete and utter nutjob ("nutjob" may well be a prerequisite)? We're talking basic techno-fascism, here. And do I really want to share my consciousness with twelve billion others who in all probability will be nerds and wankers? There's gonna be pushback. What if someone destroys the servers? We could've done great things with stem cells, were it not for the theists.

It leads me to believe that a lot of this stuff is greatly influenced by some deep-seated nerd neuroses. Social ostracism, desire to fit in, inability to relate to others, all that stuff. "I don't see why there'd be any problems with my theory. It's technically sound," and that is supposed to be that. The end. There's a million things that can go wrong, and all the lab work in the world won't help ya with half of them. You're not gonna convince the shareholders that this thing doesn't ever need to turn a profit because after it's done no one will have any need for profit, because we'll all be one big nerdish hive mind with no desires, other than the next Starcraft patch and some furry porn. You're not gonna convince the government that this'll be great, because some other company treated the politicians to a better fund raising banquet - and fuck me, don't a shared conscious sound just like Communism to you?

No grasp of the bigger picture.

No wonder they're transhumanists.
oh god I sometimes wish so hard I were a posthuman, exocortex-enhanced cyborg AI thing.

Working as a computer science major for several years has bashed that out of me, and I am now a cynical, burnt out husk of my former optimistic self.

Fucking machine won't do what I want it to; only what I tell it to.
I'm somewhat autistic, too (to the point of being a stereotype ಠ_ಠ). Good god do I wish humans people were more tractable to systematizing. Cannot tell you how disappointed I have been to realize that much of economics is pure astrological/numerological BS.

(necro theading)

 

I consider myself a transhumanist (I think). Well, kinda sorta. As much as I can dedicate myself to a particular ideology (which isn't much). Well, any ideology besides excessive skepticism to the point of nihilism...

 

Why I call myself a transhumanist is that I think "just because it is, does not mean it should be". I am *very* opposed to the naturalistic fallacy. I think of, e.g., birth control as being a major step in transhumanist tech. Birth control is certainly more important than some stupid app du jour that your typical Silicon Valley dweller (archetypal transhumanist, alas) is thinking up.

 

Adam Greenfield is very critical of transhumanists. Greenfield seems to consider Nick "Xenosystems" Land to be the typical transhumanist. The sorta Aspergery "sees people as things" sociopathy of e.g. Elliot Rodger.

 

My Aspergery transhumanism is prepared for the opposite, however, of seeing things as people.

 

I dunno.

 

Anyway, sorry to:

 

thread-necromancy-thread-necromancy-demotivational-poster-1271554886

 

(/necro threading)

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Alternatively, I totally fantasize about moving to a shack in remote Montana. (Mailing bombs to tech nerds may or may not be involved )

 

Thing is, that style of hermitage is only possible due to being able to scavenge tech from society: Stone Age humans had to be in their few-hundred strong community to survive.

Originally Posted by xen0phile:

Alternatively, I totally fantasize about moving to a shack in remote Montana. (Mailing bombs to tech nerds may or may not be involved )

 

Thing is, that style of hermitage is only possible due to being able to scavenge tech from society: Stone Age humans had to be in their few-hundred strong community to survive.

Just moved to Wyoming, purportedly one of the farthest locations from an Interstate Highway in CONUS.

 

Interestingly enough, the tech salvage out here is as good as anywhere else I've been.

From Colin Milburn's "Nanovision" [2007]:

"[N]anotechnology has depended throughout its history on a symbiotic relationship with science fiction. Nanotechnology’s scientific theories, laboratory instruments, and research programs are inextricable from speculative visions, hyperbolic rhetoric, and fictional narratives... "

"Real" science and science fiction form a speculative feedback loop, each informing and drawing inspiration from the other,  a relationship formulated by Milburn as “Science (fiction).”

So on the one hand we have Vinge's contribution of the Technological Singularity to the SF discourse which no-one can ignore,  and on the other we have the ever-tightening speculative feedback loop between SF and "real" science.  More and more "real" science and SF are drinking from the same punchbowl. And in the eye of the storm - stirring the pot - we have Transhumanist techno-fetishist cults bent on ushering in the Singularity producing hyperbolic discourse which further blurs the line between the literary and the literal.  That Kurzweil gets mainstream media coverage shows the extent of the Transhumanist infiltration of the Inverted Totalitarian Technocracy that is Late Capitalism.   A major Transhumanist victory - dumping the contents of the punchbowl into the main reservoir.

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