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Old 12-07-2012, 08:06 AM
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Ensign Steve Ensign Steve is offline
More of a "before rehab" friend
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Silicon Valley
Gender: Bender
Default Re: Ensign Steve waxes philosophical on the Singularity, a thrad by Ensign Steve

Post the second wherein I introduce my thesis, which is either totally mind-blowing, tediously obvious, or something in between

So the angle I've been playing around with the most recently, is that this event is not in the future anymore, that in fact it has already happened.

When I was in high school, my physics teacher tried very hard to impress on us that there was no such thing as The Big One, referring to the giant earthquake that was predicted to destroy California. He said we have "big ones" all the time, and they are devastating, and we recover from them, learn from them, and move on. That's the apocalyptical thinking again. We want things to happen in huge discrete events. The big one, the rapture, the singularity, the fiscal cliff.

When something big happens all at once, we remember it. Black Tuesday, Pearl Harbor, the JFK assassination, the Moon Landing, September 11. But for every Hurricane Katrina story you have, somebody else has an Ivan story or a Sandy story. There have been so many The Big Ones in California that I can't even remember which ones I experienced and which I just read about. Events that individually should actually be very big deals become less significant on repetition. Technological advancement is the same way, from the wheel and agriculture all the way up through the industrial revolution to today.

When Vernor Vinge proposed the term "Technological Singularity" in 1993, he described it like so:

It is a point where our old models must be discarded and a new reality rules. As we move closer to this point, it will loom vaster and vaster over human affairs till the notion becomes a commonplace. Yet when it finally happens it may still be a great surprise and a greater unknown.
Think about what your world was like in 1993. Personally, I didn't own my first computer until 1994. If your 1993 self could see you today, what would you think? Would you even be able to comprehend your job, your social relationships, your priorities, your possessions, or your passions?

This is the slideshow I was clicking through earlier this evening when I decided it was time to finally try to start banging some of this out:

2012 KPCB Internet Trends Year-End Update

Slides 27 - 58 contain a series of side by side "then and now" images about the way we do things differently than just a couple decades ago. I know that some of us have adopted technology into our lives in different degrees than others. Personally, I am fairly mind-blown that I no longer have any use for a dictionary, road maps, or a filing cabinet. I can't even remember the last time I walked into a bank. And kids these days (:shakecane:) don't even know what the hell a Dewey Decimal system is.

This insight pornographer coined the phrase "manufactured normalcy field" to describe some about how we can adopt these changes so gradually that stuff that was totally inconceivable to us just just a few years ago is now considered completely normal. There's tons of overlap with skeuomorphism, too, if you really want to go down the rabbit hole.

"But, Ensign Steve," I hear you thinking, "technological innovations happen all the time. Look how much the automobile changed our world. But the singularity is about artificial intelligence. Those apps are great and all, but machines are still dumb as hell. They're certainly not more intelligent than humans!"

You're absolutely right and it was very astute of you to bring it up. Part of me wants to calm down and just figure that this is part of getting older. I grew up never knowing how to use a loom or a butter churn, and I came out just fine. But there's other stuff, specific stuff, that I think makes the current stuff especially singular. I'm going to take a break before I dive into it.

Last edited by Ensign Steve; 12-07-2012 at 08:19 AM.
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