Monday, August 19, 2013

Technology and The Singularity

One trade mark of the human species is not only our ability to create technology, but to have that technology evolve and progress through time. That is, we not only make tools, our tools refine over time, improving themselves and merging with other tools. If we take the broad definition of technology as anything which a person creates or utilizes to further an end, then we can see how this technological progress follows a pattern: the removing of steps between the initiation and the completion of an end. An end is just any goal or task a person wishes to complete. Therefore in this sense, technological progression is that which helps removes the steps or shorten the procedure in the furthering of an end. Tools are the objects or skills themselves that are utilized in this process.

To understand how technological progression is the production of tools or skills which remove steps towards goals, some examples are useful. Some of the first tools humans utilized were stone axes. At first the tools were sharp but uneven. The next tool to come along worked on the original idea, and improved it by adding straighter edges. This addition helps one cut better, thereby removing the steps in order to complete the task of cutting. Therefore a pattern is seen, a tool emerges to help facilitate a task- like cutting- and as time goes on, the the tools are refined by the usefulness in removing the steps toward an end. Another kind of progression technology can go through is the merging of tools. This is best exemplified by today's smart cell phone. This device is an amalgamation of many different tools like a camera, mp3 player, web browser, etc. Therefore, not only do tools progress, they merge- helping remove the steps from multiple ends at once.

Considering this point of view, a question arises: would there be some point in time where our technology effectively removes all steps between initiation and completion of an end? Can technology become so efficient so as to remove any time between the thought of a goal and its attainment? Can all technology converge into a single tool that can do it all? Would this be the singularity the trans-humanists hope for? This is the idea that humans and technology will merge, causing an effect so novel, it is incomprehensible to think about at this time. I feel this potential state is exactly the point of us achieving the fully optimized technology explained above. The time in which out tools will remove all steps between us and our goals, we will reach a singular state where all things are instantaneous. This must be the singularity: the state where all goals are instantly accomplished through technology.

If humans do reach this point, what is left for them to do? If technology cuts all the time down and coalesces into single tool, then how would we act? What would happen to our desires and hopes? This is what makes the singularity so incomprehensible. We are so defined by our pursuits of goals, that if all was immediately attainable, our identity must cease and recreate itself. Much or maybe all of what we do now would be unnecessary. Perhaps this progression would go backward when people start to miss the delayed response of working toward a goal. Maybe some would regress toward tools which add more steps, thereby adding a sense of meaning for those who felt they lost it all with the lack of steps towards goals. Or would these people be deluding themselves by denying a life of possible perpetual bliss? It's hard to say for sure whether or not this progress in technology will prove to be ultimately satisfying for humans. It could either become a trap or a blessing.

Is the logical conclusion of technology a single tool which does helps towards any end instantaneously? Is this what would make the singularity incomprehensible to us now? As of now we cannot know for certain what it will bring, but what ever may come, it is enviable.