The Future Is Coming: Find Something To Hold Onto
There exists an idea, in the minds of an increasingly large portion of the global population, that humanity’s progress has reached a milestone of greater importance than all others combined. Mankind is in a position, technologically and evolutionarily, to allow us all to bask in the wonderment of being part of a society that can and will create anything it can imagine. The term, “science fiction,” may be a misnomer much sooner than anyone had ever anticipated. Though this may be a frightening proposition for some, others have allowed their imaginations to ponder the reality that exists just beyond our grasp, in a place that Vernor Vinge calls, “The Singularity.”
In Vinge’s paper, “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era,” he starts off by letting us know that we’re not far from a future, when our technology will surpass us in its ability to invent and produce better technology. This event will be quickly followed by the debut of technologies that are better than a human in every way, which could be scary if that technology decides it has no use for us. Eric Drexler posited that these machines could operate under a set of pre-programmed rules or physical confinement that would safeguard humanity from becoming a slave workforce for our machine counterparts—or worse. These safety measures could save us from being seen as a plague to their mode of existence.
With as much hope as these rules can give us, a machine that can build a better machine, will be replaced by another more powerful machine. The exponential progression of this technological evolution will sweep past us faster than we can keep up. It will not be long before our technology has become millions of times more capable than the most brilliant human minds. When something is that smart, Vinge asks, how will we ever hope to contain it?
Though the implications of our new future may seem grim, it is important that we arm ourselves with the knowledge of what is coming, lest we fall to our own creation. It is impossible to overstress the immensity of the change we will see over the course of the next few years. As these technologies develop, we must be prepared to deal with all possible scenarios. We must be thorough and fast because the singularity is coming whether we like it or not.
Primary Source: Vinge, V. (1993). The coming technological singularity: How to survive in the post-human era. Vernor Vinge, Retrieved from http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/vinge/misc/singularity.html