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Old 12-07-2012, 06:04 AM
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Ensign Steve Ensign Steve is offline
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Default Re: Ensign Steve waxes philosophical on the Singularity, a thrad by Ensign Steve

Post the first a little bit of background

There's a great introduction to what the hell I mean when I say "the singularity" at this link:

IO9: What Is The Singularity And Will You Live To See It?

Basically, the singularity refers to a theoretical point in the future when artificial intelligence created by humans becomes so intelligent that we can no longer control or even comprehend it. The word "singularity" is borrowed from astrophysics, and has to do with the event horizon around a black hole. It's something like how since no light or information can escape from the gravity of a black hole, we are not able to observe, measure, or perceive anything on the other side of the event horizon (IANAPhysicist, btw). Similarly, since the artificial intelligence will be beyond our comprehension, it is impossible for us to predict anything about our future after the singularity.

It is a concept that has been played around with a lot in science fiction, like The Terminator, The Matrix, and Battlestar Galactica, just to name a few. Pretty much any time the machines rise up and enslave humanity, that's the singularity. In Terminator, they gave it a date. Judgement Day was August 29, 1997. In Battlestar Galactica, it has a sort of BC/AD connotation to it, where it marks the end of one era and the beginning of another. I think it does, anyway, I didn't actually watch BSG, but I loved Caprica.

Here's an article that explores the singularity as the rapture of the nerds, which I think is dead on. A lot of us (nerds) don't believe in the Rapture of the Bible, or the Mayans, or anything supernatural. This gives us something natural (as opposed to supernatural, not as opposed to artificial) that we can believe in without compromising our naturalistic worldview. I think there's something profoundly human about apocalyptic thinking.

(mini-hedge: I'm fairly aware that my point of view on this one is not universal, and this is one of those assumptions I was worried about where I project my perspective on everybody and call it "profoundly human" when I'm probably in the minority. After all, it is the most schizoid among us that tend to be the most apocalyptical, from the foil-hatted homeless man to your average Rapture Ready member.)

This is the part where I'm suddenly relieved that I already banged out my whole "death as the great equalizer" diatribe, because that just saved me from one hell of a tangent. But the short version is that it would take a lot of the sting out of my death if I knew that also everybody else was going to die too and not just move on without me. Sick, I know, but the rapture types have been crowing about that shit for millennia.

Okay, I think that's almost enough background. There are other, less apocalyptic versions of the theory as well, like everybody turning themselves into cyborgs or variations on humans and the AI living in harmony or what have you. The entire point of it is that, by definition, we can't predict what will happen. That's what makes it so fun to explore in fiction.
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