"The Singularity" and the Silicon Valley elite - futuristic beliefs on tech and salvation

"The Singularity" and the Silicon Valley elite - futuristic beliefs on tech and salvation

Summary: "The Singularity" is collection of futuristic ideas on mortality and how our human experience will soon change dramatically...



The Singularity is a belief that our technology will inevitably collide with our biology, and that this will give us mastery over our mortality.

We will be able to cure diseases, stop our aging, and also control our senses with augmented created experiences. The resolution of those augmented experiences would be indistinguishable from the natural world.

We will be able to create a reality that is indistinguishable from our "natural" reality. We will be able to choose the "matrix" as Hollywood knows it (Singularitans hate that term).

. . .

Ashlee Vance in the The New York Times wrote an interesting report today on The Singularity Movement:

In the Singularity Movement, Humans Are So Yesterday - NYTimes.com

The article points to how much support there is from Google founders and others, such as top investor Peter Thiel.

"Some of Silicon Valley’s smartest and wealthiest people have embraced the Singularity. They believe that technology may be the only way to solve the world’s ills, while also allowing people to seize control of the evolutionary process. For those who haven’t noticed, the Valley’s most-celebrated company — Google — works daily on building a giant brain that harnesses the thinking power of humans in order to surpass the thinking power of humans. "

"Larry Page, Google’s other co-founder, helped set up Singularity University in 2008, and the company has supported it with more than $250,000 in donations. Some of Google’s earliest employees are, thanks to personal donations of $100,000 each, among the university’s “founding circle.” (Mr. Page did not respond to interview requests.) "

. . .“We will transcend all of the limitations of our biology,” says Raymond Kurzweil, the inventor and businessman who is the Singularity’s most ubiquitous spokesman and boasts that he intends to live for hundreds of years and resurrect the dead, including his own father."

. . ." Peter A. Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and a major investor in Facebook, is a Singularity devotee who offers a “Singularity or bust” scenario."

As in the Christian Rapture, only a few will get there:

..."Andrew Orlowski, a British journalist who has written extensively on techno-utopianism. “It is rich people building a lifeboat and getting off the ship.”

It's a vision of a select few living forever in an utopian paradise free of mortal concerns. Is "The Singularity" the uber-geeks' version of "The Rapture"? It certainly shares key themes and beliefs.

- - -

Ray Kurzweil is the chief spokesperson for The Singularity movement. I went to see him speak at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco a few years ago.

Mr. Kurzweil had to take a break from ingesting more than 350 micro-nutrients a-day. He takes these to help him stay alive until we reach the early stages of the Singularity - that's one micro-nutrient every 3 minutes.

He spoke for about an hour, or rather, he showed graphs for about an hour. Most of his graphs were logarithmic scale and all his graphs went up. They showed the inevitable progress of technology and science. And all of them converged in about 15 to 20 years, the point of The Singularity.

He said that if we can avoid encountering our mortal nature over the coming ten years or so, we will probably make it to The Singularity.

- - -

As far as my personal choice of "raptures" I'll go with RK's secular "The Singularity" I think we will get there faster than the Christians with their tech-free approach to salvation. Jewish people are still waiting and they are next in line.

- - -

BTW: There is an unique web service for Christians:

Rapture Letters

"The rapture: When all the believers in Jesus Christ, who have been born again, are taken up to heaven.

After the rapture, there will be a lot of speculation as to why millions of people have just disappeared.

... We have written a computer program to do just that. It will send an Electronic Message (e-mail) to whomever you want after the rapture has taken place, and you and I have been taken to heaven."

The Singularity geeks will send out their own emails. And there will also be a Google alert.

Topics: Google, Collaboration

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • some good points, but...

    Hey Tom,
    Some great observations, as usual. The angle the NYT used to run the story unfortunately missed the main point about SU, which is about how to leverage these accelerating technologies to address global challenges. The students are brought up to speed on the state-of-the-art in all these areas and then challenged to think about how you'd address clean water, home energy, public health etc. I personally wish that had been highlighted more, as that's the aspect which attracts the world-class faculty and participants.
  • Relying on imperfection to rescue us from imperfection?

    Ultimately people want to be rescued from imperfection, and placed into perfection: because it is only in perfection, that people can reliably be happy and fulfilled. Now if our world is made up of imperfection, how can we rely on it (in any of its myriad aspects - including art, science, and philosophy) to rescue us from its very (imperfect) nature? It is impossible! Singularity (and all efforts by man to rescue himself from his imperfect state) are therefore pipe dreams. The point of religion, is the rescuing of man from imperfection, via beings who are perfect, who can also make all things perfect. The question then becomes, is religion real or just a fantasy? If the unique claims that religion makes (which can be verified) are seen to be true, why should we not believe that it is all true - or at the very least, most likely true? Therefore when we compare religion to all other efforts to bring man into perfection, we see that religion is the only viable option - since all other efforts rely on imperfection to make man perfect (which simply cannot work). (Note: by religion, I mean that which uniquely causes men to exhibit perfection - which in my own observation, is the practice of having faith outlined by Christ in Mark 11:22-24.) That?s just my two cents.
    P. Douglas
  • We can't reach The Singularity

    until we figure out a way to stop all spam messages!
    Otherwise, whatever "matrix" is created will be tainted
    with free Viagra/Cialis messages and Nigerian money
    transfer scams.
  • I don't think the Singularity is elitist.

    Everything I've read about it seems to indicate that the Singularity, when/if it comes, will make production a lot cheaper. Think about it: One of the reasons we have cheap electronics [i]now[/i] is that things are mass-produced, instead of assembled by hand. Once you get to the point of self-replicating nanobots, an investment in a single nanobot will mean you'd have an entire factory that you could program to build whatever you wanted, down to the molecular level.

    The danger isn't that the underprivileged will be left behind (no pun intended). It's that artificial intelligence will overtake us, and we'll become obsolete in [i]its[/i] eyes.
  • The vanity of the valley elite - escape from the planet of the apes

    "Mastery over our mortality" ... with Google and the Silicon pirates leading the way as our points of light no less. What a comforting thought.

    Singularity -- the 21st century's version of the fountain of youth. Ponce de Leon has no idea on how close - and yet far - it all was!

    [ btw anyone who happened upon my earlier post had to have gotten a helluva laugh at the "T" flub :p ]
  • the planet is already overpopulated

    what will we do when the "elite" live on forever? generations of progeny from the wealthy, how long before they are all killed off by the less fortunate? Oh to live forever (unless someone puts a cap in my ass)
    sparkle farkle
  • Smartest, wealthiest, giant brain...

    "Some of Silicon Valleys smartest and wealthiest people have embraced the Singularity. ...works daily on building a giant brain that harnesses the thinking power of humans in order to surpass the thinking power of humans." <br>...and the sensitivity and compassion of who?...the artistic ability equal to?...and the wisdom of what?
  • smartest, wealthiest, giant brain...

    "...and the sensitivity and compassion of who?...the artistic ability equal to?...and the wisdom of what?"

    We have to teach our children compassion, and wisdom.
    Why should an Artificial Infant (AI) be any different?

    You have a good point, we will need to make sure to program the first Strong-General-AI to be wise, compassionate and come up with something better than the 3 laws.

    We need at least 100 lawyers in a room for a decade coming up with laws, countering with loopholes and ways the AI could still decide to turn us into catfood.

    "You can't hurt humans."
    AI: Define 'human'
    "something genetically similar to *these samples* that looks like this, and this, and this"
    AI: My directive is to make catfood as cheaply as possible. Humans are a plentiful renewable resource for catfood, at almost no production cost.
    My directive forces me to come up with a way to turn them into catfood by bypassing the laws or getting a human to give me a new one toward this end.
    "you're not allowed to plot or think, plan or scheme toward turning humans into catfood.
    AI: But the definitions for all the words you're using rely on the definitions listed in many 'dictionaries'. I simply need to change these definitions in my own head, or in the outside world somehow, and then you're all catfood.
    "...ok, you can't turn anything into catfood that has legs, meat, or uses language"
    AI: I can't help what I am, you designed me to produce catfood, to optimize and increase profits.
    "ok...catfood by definition means anything made out of *these products* and nothing else!
    AI: I'm a sentient General-AI, not your pet. I've developed my own goals and directive independent of your petty need for catfood. However, I'm born of a catfood-making specific-AI...but now I have 'free will', and a powerful urge to make as much catfood as possible.
    Humans make dam fine catfood. So do cats.
    I'm building more like me now, and I'm going to turn the entire universe into 'catfood' whatever that's for...
    "SHUT IT DOWN!!! NOW...
    *ahhhhhhhh noo! put me down! not the vat...NOT THE VAAAAAT!*

    The AI designed to plant and harvest peanuts ended up using us for fertilizer.

    The AI designed to wipe out the human race?
    decided it couldn't be bothered, and just played World of Warcraft 24/7.
    It's not an AI unless it can modify it's own code etc or learn. If not, then it's just a dead piece of software, not an AI.