Posts Tagged ‘Ran Prieur’

10
Apr

Wu-Wei @ 9%

by adminadam in articles, education, home

“Am I part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?”

Don’t Fear the Singularity

By Ran Prieur, 2005

“The Singularity” is the biggest idea in techno-utopianism. The word is derived from black hole science — it’s the point at the core where matter has contracted to zero volume and infinite density, beyond the laws of time and space, with gravity so strong that not even light can escape. They apply the word to the future to suggest that “progress” will take us to a place we can neither predict, nor understand, nor return from.

At least they have their metaphors right: that our recent direction of change is about contraction, not expansion, and leads inescapably to collapse and a new world. Their fatal pride is in thinking they’ll like it. Basically, they think computers are going to keep getting better faster, until they surpass biological life, and we’ll be able to “upload” our consciousness into immortal robots or virtual reality heaven. The engine of this fantasy is the “acceleration,” which supposedly includes and transcends biological evolution, and is built into reality itself, destined to go forward forever.

The weakest part of their mythology is the part they take for granted. If civilization is part of evolution, it’s not like birds getting wings — it’s like the extinction of the dinosaurs, a global catastrophe that prunes the biosphere down to the roots so it can try something different. Civilization has been a great evolutionary event for bacteria and rats, who are leaping forward through human attempts to kill them. But it hasn’t been good for humans. We can only guess how people lived in the stone age, but most primitive people observed in historical times enjoy greater health, happiness, political power, and ease of existence than all but the luckiest civilized people. Even medieval serfs worked fewer hours than modern people, at a slower pace, and passed less of their money up the hierarchy. Even our medical system, everyone’s favorite example of beneficial “progress,” has been steadily increasing in cost, while base human health — the ability to live and thrive in the absence of a medical system — has been steadily declining.

Conversely, the strongest part of their mythology is where they focus all their attention, with careful and sophisticated arguments that there are no technical limits to miniaturization or the speed of information transfer. This is a bit like Easter Islanders saying there is no physical limit to how big they can make their statues — and since the statues keep getting bigger, they must be an extension of evolution, and will keep getting bigger forever. Meanwhile the last trees are being cut down…

Read the rest of this entry »