Singularity Part II - Some Food for Thought
Awhile back I wrote about the possibility of technology advancing to the point where the Singularity (merging of the human mind and the computer) could become a reality. I don’t doubt that it might just happen in the foreseeable future. The Nat Geo channel series Year Million speculates what the human race might look like a million years from now. If we do “carry on” we will be so unrecognizable that we would hardly be called “human.” I personally think we won’t have to wait that long. It’s been posited (by Buckminster Fuller in 1982 - Knowledge Doubling Curve) that human knowledge doubled every century until the 19th. The pace began to accelerate from there. At the end of WWII it was doubling every 25 years. We are now at a pace where it is doubling every 12 months or so. Think about that - every year we double the incredible amount of accumulated knowledge. According to an article in the Boston Commons High Tech Network in 2015, medical knowledge will double every 73 days by 2020. To illustrate this think of a book that contained all of our knowledge in the year 1 CE. By1500 you would have needed 16,384 books. By 2009 that number would increase to 8.5 billion…with a B…volumes. My IPhone went into error mode after that, but you can see that we’ve come a fairly long way (and need quite the library).
So I really believe that the Singularity may not be that far off. Which triggered an observation: I was flipping through the cable channels and came upon a Star Wars episode. One with a city view and a lot of flying cars; Flying cars are a staple of SF movies - Think Blade Runner, The Jetsons, etc. We certainly may have flying cars and trucks before we achieve the melding of mind and machine but I wondered about a future which predicts hyperspace travel (another topic for another article). I’m convinced that we will hit the beginnings of the Singularity before we master quick interstellar travel. But back to flying cars…If we do hit the Singularity then why not simply upload your consciousness into the cloud and download at your destination into the body or mechanism of your choice. It’s an interesting concept. Do you want to explore the jungles of Sumatra? Download your consciousness into a drone and explore at your leisure. Need to be in a meeting across the globe? Just upload then download into the vessel of your choice. Think of it as a sort of Airbnb for your mind. If and when this becomes commonplace who needs a car? But hold on…If my predictions hold true there may be a split in the human race between those who can afford or wish to unburden their consciousness from their bodies and those who can’t afford or object to the leap. So perhaps the “have nots” and the “will nots” will need those flying cars.
That is if we don’t experience such a massive cultural upheaval that we end up destroying ourselves in some sort between two competing classifications of humanity. This brings me back to the Year Million and the fate of humanity in that far off future. I don’t think I will calculate how many volumes our book of knowledge would take up if we stick to the doubling curve and make it a further one million years. In a century or two knowledge just might double every minute or second, assuming knowledge isn’t finite. I would think that somewhere in that future we might have solved the conundrum of time travel. Perhaps our unrecognizable descendants have been visiting us and we are too primitive to be aware. Or maybe they’ve evolved to the point where they care nothing whatsoever about us. Or just maybe we didn’t make it that far.