Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Dangerous Idea

Recently over at the Speculist there was an article entitled “Lexicon for the Singularity-Aware.” I thought this post addressed an important issue that I would like to look further into. The article was concerned with the kind of negative P.R. that labeling those who are singularity aware as “singlaritarians” might generate. However there is a greater issue at hand.

What I have in mind is the larger problem of how the general public will perceive the concept of the singularity as that concept begins to proliferate among intellectuals and technologists and trickles down to become a common idea.

At this point in time, to the best of my knowledge, there are very few people out there who are actually aware of what the singularity is and who have internalized the ramifications thereof. This, however, will change. Every year that goes by in which we see the speed of technological evolution grow exponentially more people will become aware of the ramifications, and the more who become aware the more buzz there will be concerning the idea.

And herein lies the problem. Right now only a handful of people are aware of the singularity and simultaneously consider its supporters dangerous. Most of these people are either so intelligent that the man in the street does not understand the arguments being proposed (Francis Fukayama’s declaration that transhumanism is the most dangerous idea) or else the person is declared insane (Theodore Kaczinski). But as more people become aware of the singularity even more people will arise who do not understand, yet who agree that the idea is dangerous. And what’s more the idea IS DANGEROUS. This idea is perhaps the last idea. At least the last idea that Man qua Man may ever have. So for those who do not have an evo-devo world view and seek to conserve the beliefs and ways of the past, such as fundamentalists and neo-Luddites, the concept of the singularity and all of the ramifications that go along with it threaten to end their world – and indeed it will.

Of course there probably isn’t much that can be done to give the singularity idea a good name. It helps that it will probably be accepted and defended by the smartest people. But in all likelihood there will be a stigma attached to the singularity hypothesis that will not be removed until the singularity is neigh upon us.

See also this article by John Smart


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