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Why We Can’t Help But Look Backwards As the New Technology Emerges

Excerpts from Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology and Glenn Reynolds's An Army of Davids.

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February 19, 2013 - 9:00 am

An excerpt from the first chapter:

From my perspective, the Singularity has many faces. It represents the nearly vertical phase of exponential growth that occurs when the rate is so extreme that technology appears to be expanding at infinite speed. Of course, from a mathematical perspective, there is no discontinuity, no rupture, and the growth rates remain finite, although extraordinarily large. But from our currently limited framework, this imminent event appears to be an acute and abrupt break in the continuity of progress. I emphasize the word “currently” because one of the salient implications of the Singularity will be a change in the nature of our ability to understand. We will become vastly smarter as we merge with our technology.

Can the pace of technological progress continue to speed up indefinitely? Isn’t there a point at which humans are unable to think fast enough to keep up? For unenhanced humans, clearly so. But what would 1,000 scientists, each 1,000 times more intelligent than human scientists today, and each operating 1,000 times faster than contemporary humans (because the information processing in their primarily nonbiological brains is faster) accomplish? One chronological year would be like a millennium for them.27 What would they come up with?

Well, for one thing, they would come up with technology to become even more intelligent (because their intelligence is no longer of fixed capacity). They would change their own thought processes to enable them to think even faster.

When scientists become a million times more intelligent and operate a million times faster, an hour would result in a century of progress (in today’s terms).

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Nancy Kress's Sleepless trilogy is somewhat of the anti-Kurzweil. We do see a form of singularity happen, in the ability of some humans to exist completely without sleep. Soon though we get a stratified society of people who can't understand each other, and the brainiest of them all decide one day to guide the human race in a way we might not all like.

Heck, we haven't even successfully processed the creation of birth control yet. I wonder if we'll end up like S.M. Stirling's books out of sheer exhaustion from accelerating progress.
1 year ago
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Garbage in,garbage out. No matter how fast you go,there you are.
1 year ago
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