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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Singularitarianism
Posted: December 19, 2020 at 8:24 am
Technology was identified as the true official religion of the modern state more than seventy years ago by the late Christian anarchist philosopher Jacques Ellul. A remarkable man, and a leader of the French underground resistance who sheltered refugees from the Holocaust, Ellul survived a global catastrophe that was enabled by scientists and engineers only to find that these same technicians, these false priests, would rule the century. And how he loathed them. Particularly disquieting is the gap between the enormous power they wield and their critical ability, which must be estimated as null, he wrote.
If, as Ellul has it, technology is the state religion, Singularitarianism must be seen as its most extreme and fanatical sect. It is the Opus Dei of the postwar church of gadget worship. Ray Kurzweil may be the best-known prophet of this order, but he was not the first. The true father of Singularitarianism is a sci-fi author and retired mathematics professor from Wisconsin named Vernor Vinge. His earliest written exposition of the idea appeared in the January 1983 issue of Omni, an oddball science magazine founded by Kathy Keeton, once among the highest-paid strippers in Europe, according to her New York Times obituary, but better known for promoting quack cancer cures and for cofounding Penthouse with her husband, Bob Guccione. In this esteemed journal, amid articles on sea monkeys, apemen and living dinosaurs, Vinge forecast a looming technological singularity in which computer intelligence would exceed the comprehension of its human creators. The remarkable exponential growth curve of technological advancement was not about to level off, Vinge proclaimed, but rather to accelerate beyond all imagining. We will soon create intelligences greater than our own, Vinge wrote. Unlike later writers, he did not see this as necessarily a positive development for humanity. Physical extinction may not be the scariest possibility, he wrote. Think of the different ways we relate to animals. In other words, our new robot overlords might reduce humans to slaves, livestock, or, if were lucky, pets.
Like many creative types, Vinge lacked the business savvy to fully exploit the market potential of his ideas. That task fell to Ray Kurzweil. A consummate brand builder, Kurzweil turned Vinges frown upside-down and recast the Singularity as a great big cosmic party, to great commercial success. Douglas Hofstadter, the scientist and author, derided Kurzweils theses as a very bizarre mixture of ideas that are solid . . . with ideas that are crazy. Nevertheless, it was a winning formula. By 2011, Time magazine named Kurzweil one of the one hundred most influential people in the world and endorsed the Singularity sect in a cover story. While seemingly preposterous, the magazine declared, the prospect of super-intelligent immortal cyborgs deserved sober, careful evaluation.
Even though it sounds like science fiction, it isnt, no more than a weather forecast is science fiction. Its not a fringe idea; its a serious hypothesis about the future of life on Earth.
This is absurd. Science begins with doubt. Everything else is sales. And Kurzweil is more salesman than scientist. In his writing and speeches, he has recycled the same tired catchphrases and anecdotes again and again. His entire argument hangs on two magic words: Moores Law, the theory that computer processing power grows exponentially each year. The theory, which was first conceived of by Intel cofounder Gordon Moore (and later named after him), doubles, incidentally, as a kind of advertisement for Intel microchips. Moores Law also inspired Kurzweils own Law of Accelerating Returns, which encapsulates his belief that the pace of all technological innovation is, over time, exponential. Within decades, Kurzweil figures, the unstoppable evolution of gadgetry will bring about the Singularity and all it entails: unlimited energy, superhuman AI, literal immortality, the resurrection of the dead, and the destiny of the universe, namely, the awakening of all matter and energy.
Kurzweil may not be much of a scientist, but he is an entertaining guru. His fake-it-till-you-make-it approach seems in good fun, except when he uses it to bluff through life-or-death problems. Whats worse, powerful people take him seriously, because he is forever telling them what theyd like to hear and zealously defending the excesses of consumer capitalism. Like techno-utopians such as Peter Thiel, Kurzweil has long argued that corporate interests should be calling the shots in the new paradigms of the future. Such views are unsurprising coming from a longtime corporate executive and salesman. Fossil fuels wrecking the planet? No worries, Kurzweil declares. Well crack the problem of cold fusion soon, and nanobotsalways with the nanobots!will restore the ruined environment. As Americas fortunes and prospects faded through the aughts, Kurzweils sanguine reveries sold more copies than ever, and the author insisted that things were better than ever and soon to be even more amazing.
For every conceivable problem, there is a plan, and its always the same plan: Someone in the future will invent something to solve it. Kurzweil has delivered the one true American faith the people were always waiting for, and it turns out to be an absurdly optimistic form of business-friendly millenarianism, which could pass for a satirical caricature of the tech worship Jacques Ellul identified.
The trick will be to survive a few more decades, until the inventions of atom-scaled medical nanobots and digital backups of human consciousness. We have the means right now to live long enough to live forever, Kurzweil writes. But most baby boomers wont make it. This led to his other scammy obsession life extension. To help his own rapidly aging generation survive until the arrival of the technological tipping point when they might upload their memories and personalities to a Google cloud serveraround 2045, he figureshe promotes a program of diet, exercise, and unproven life-extending supplements. If all else fails to ward of the Reaper, one can always have ones body or brain frozen for later resuscitation, a process known as cryonics, which Kurzweil endorses as a last resort.
Kurzweils morbid obsession with disease and death led him into the depths of tech-abetted unconventional medicine, where many a Singularitarian followed. He received a diabetes diagnosis at age thirty-five. Displeased with insulin treatment, he set out to find a better way. The result was an idiosyncratic and ever-changing menu of herbal medicine, plus hundreds of daily nutritional supplements and a custom fitness regimen. The details are laid out in two books that Kurzweil co-wrote with his doctor, Terry Grossman: "Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever" and "Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever." The latter includes sixty-nine pages of recipes, including one for carrot salad sweetened with stevia, yum yum. Skeptic magazine slammed "Fantastic Voyage" as the triumph of hope over evidence and common sense and suggested that some of its advice might actually be harmful.
Kurzweil and Grossman shamelessly cashed in on their presumed authority by selling loosely regulated supplements to credulous consumers under the label of Ray and Terrys Longevity Productswhere science and nutrition meet. The authors website shills dubious formulations including an $86 Anti-Aging MultiPack that promises a one-month supply of smart nutrients. As proof of efficacy, Kurzweil offers himself. Although he is seventy at this writing, he has long claimed that his true biological age was twenty years younger. The lens suggests otherwise. In 2014, Kurzweil began sporting a new hairdolonger, straighter, and several shades darker than before. The sudden change worried some commenters on his website, kurzweilai.net. Was it a hairpiece? An unfortunate dye job? Or maybe Kurzweil had finally stumbled across a real miracle pill?
* * *
I am by no means the first to label Singularitarianism a new religion or a cult. Kurzweil himself has said the comparison was understandable, given the preoccupation with mortality. However, he rejects the argument that his sect is religious in nature, because he did not come to it as a spiritual seeker. Rather, Kurzweil writes, he became a Singularitarian as a result of practical eforts to make optimal tactical decisions in launching technology enterprises. Startups showed him the way!
Being a Singularitarian, Kurzweil claims, is not a matter of faith but one of understanding. This is a refrain Singularitarians share with Scientologists, for L. Ron Hubbard always marketed his doctrines as technology. This tic makes Singularitarians impossible to argue with. Because they believe that they have arrived at their beliefs scientifically, anyone who disputes their ludicrous conclusions must be irrational. If this sect did not have the ears of so many powerful men in business, politics, and military affairs, its leaders might seem clownish. But they are serious, dangerously so.
# # #
Corey Pein's new book, "Live Work Work Work Die: A Journey to the Savage Heart of Silicon Valley," is available now from Metropolitan Books. Read Salon's review here.
See the original post here:
Posted: November 23, 2019 at 12:01 pm
I have a four-foot-tall robot in my house that plays with my kids. Its name is Jethro.
Both my daughters, aged 5 and 9, are so enamored with Jethro that they have each asked to marry it. For fun, my wife and I put on mock weddings. Despite the robot being mainly for entertainment, its very basic artificial intelligence can perform thousands of functions, including dance and teach karate, which my kids love.
The most important thing Jethro has taught my kids is that its totally normal to have a walking, talking machine around the house that you can hang out with whenever you want to.
Given my daughters semi-regular use of smartphones and tablets, I have to wonder how this will affect them in the future. Will they have any fear of technologies like driverless cars? Will they take it for granted that machine intelligences and avatars on computers can be their best friends, or even their bosses?
Will marrying a super-intelligent robot in 20 years be a natural decision? Even though I love technology, Im not sure how I would feel about having a robot-in-law. But my kids might think nothing of it.
This is my story of transhumanism.
Courtesy of Zoltan Istvan
My transhumanism journey began in 2003 when I was reporting a story for National Geographic in Vietnams demilitarized zone and I almost stepped on a landmine.
I remember my guide roughly shoving me aside and pointing to the metal object half sticking out of the ground in front of me.
I stared at the device that would have completely blown my legs off had my boot tripped the mine. I had just turned 30. The experience left me shaken. And it kept haunting me.
That night as I lay tense and awake in my hotel room, I had the epiphany that has helped define the rest of my life: I decided that the most important thing in my existence was to fight for survival. To put it another way: My goal was to never die.
Because I was not religious, I immediately turned to the thing that gave meaning to my world: science and technology. I took a leap of faith and made a wager that day. I later called this (and even later, dedicated a book to it) the transhumanist wager.
The life extension business of transhumanism will be a $600 billion industry by 2025.
My idea for an immortality wager came from Pascals Wager, the famous bet that caught on in the 17th century that loosely argued it was better to believe in God than not to, because you would be granted an afterlife if there was indeed a God. My transhumanist wager was based in my belief that its better to dedicate our resources to science and technology to overcome death while were still aliveso we dont ever have to find out whether there is an afterlife or not. It turns out I wasnt alone in my passion to live indefinitely through science. A small social movement, mostly of academics and researchers, were tackling similar issues, starting organizations, and funding research.
Some of them called themselves transhumanists.
Fast-forward 16 years from my landmine incident, and transhumanism has grown way beyond its main mission of just overcoming death with science.
Now the movement is the de facto philosophy (maybe even the religion) of Silicon Valley. It encapsulates numerous futurist fields: singularitarianism, cyborgism, cryonics, genetic editing, robotics, AI, biohacking, and others.
Biohacking in particular has taken offthe practice of physically hacking ones body with science, changing and augmenting our physiology the same way computer hackers would infiltrate a mainframe.
Its pretty obvious why it has emerged as such a big trend: It attracts the youth.
Not surprisingly, worrying about death is something that older people usually do (and, apparently, those younger people who almost step on landmines). Most young people feel invincible. But tell young people they can take brain drugs called nootropics that make them super smart, or give them special eye drops that let them see in the dark, or give them a chip implant that enhances human ability (like the one I have), and a lot of young people will go for it.
In 2016, I ran for the US presidency as the Transhumanist Party nominee. To get support from younger biohackers, my team and I journeyed on the Immortality Busmy 38-foot coffin-shaped campaign busto Grindfest, the major annual biohacking meet-up in Tehachapi, California. In an old dentists chair in a garage, biohackers injected me with a horse syringe containing a small radio-frequency-identification implant that uses near-field communication technologythe same wireless frequency used in most smartphones. The tiny deviceits about the size of a grain of ricewas placed just under the skin in my hand. With my chip, I could start a car, pay with bitcoin, and open my front door with a lock reader.
Four years later, I still have the implant and use it almost every day. For surfers or joggers like myself, for example, its great because I dont have to carry keys around.
One thing I do have to navigate is how some religious people view me once they understand I have one. Evangelical Christians have told me that an implant is the mark of the beast, as in from the Bibles Book of Revelations.
Even though Im tagged by conspiracy theorists as a potential contender for the Antichrist, I cant think of any negatives in my own experiences to having a chip implant. But as my work in transhumanism has reached from the US Military to the World Bank to many of the worlds most well-known universities, my chip implant only exasperates this conspiracy.
While people often want to know what other things Ive done to my body, in reality becoming a cyborg is a lot less futuristic and drastic than people think.
For me and for the thousands of people around the world who have implants, its all about functionality. An implant simply makes our lives easier and more efficient. Mine also sends out pre-written text messages when peoples phones come within a few feet of me, which is a fun party trick.
But frankly, a lot of the most transformative technology is still being developed, and if youre healthy like me, theres really not much benefit in doing a lot of biohacking today.
I take nootropics for better brain memory, but theres no conclusive research I know of that it actually works yet. Ive done some brainwave therapy, sometimes called direct neurofeedback, or biofeedback, but I didnt see any lasting changes. I fly drones for fun, and of course I also have Jethro, our family robot.
For the most part, members of the disabled community are the ones who are truly benefiting from transhumanist technologies today. If you have an arm shot off in a war, its cyborg science that gives you a robot arm controlled by your neural system that allows you to grab a beer, play the piano, or shake someones hand again.
But much more dramatic technology is soon to come. And the hope is that it will be availableand accessibleto everyone.
I asked to be added to a volunteer list for an experiment that will place implants in peoples brains that would allow us to communicate telepathically, using AI. (Biohacking trials like this are secretive because they are coming under more intense legal scrutiny.)Im also looking into getting a facial recognition security system for my home. I might even get a pet dog robot; these have become incredibly sophisticated, have fur softer than the real thing (that doesnt shed all over your couch or trigger allergies) and can even act as security systems.
Beyond that, people are using stem cells to grow new teeth, genetic editing to create designer babies, and exoskeleton technology that will likely allow a human to run on water in the near future.
Most people generally focus on one aspect of transhumanism, like just biohacking, or just AI, or just brainwave-tech devices. But I like to try it all, embrace it all, and support it all. Whatever new transhumanist direction technology takes, I try to take it all in and embrace the innovation.
This multi-faceted approach has worked well in helping me build a bridge connecting the various industries and factions of the transhumanist movement. Its what inspired me to launch presidential and California gubernatorial campaigns on a transhumanist platform. Now Im embarking on a new campaign in 2020 for US president as a Republican, hoping to get conservatives to become more open-minded about the future.
The amount of money flowing into transhumanist projects is growing into many billions of dollars. The life extension business of transhumanism will be a $600 billion industry by 2025, according to Bank of America. This is no time for transhumanism to break apart into many different divisions, and its no time to butt heads. We need to unite in our aim to truly change the human being forever.
Transhumanistsit doesnt matter what kind you arebelieve they can be more than just human. The word natural is not in our vocabulary. Theres only what transhumanists can do with the tools of science and technology they create. That is our great calling: to evolve the human being into something better than it is.
Because transhumanism has grown so broadly by now, not all transhumanists agree with me on substantially changing the human being. Some believe we should only use technology to eliminate suffering in our lives. Religious transhumanists believe we should use brain implants and virtual reality to improves our morality and religious behavior. Others tell me politics and transhumanism should never mix, and we must always keep science out of the hands of the government.
We need unity of some significant sort because as we grow at such a fast rate there are a lot of challenges ahead. For example, the conservative Christian Right wants to enact moratoriums against transhumanism. The anarcho-primativists, led by people like the primitivist philosopher and author John Zerzan (who I debated once at Stanford University), want to eliminate much technology and go back to a hunting-gathering lifestyle which they believe is more in tune with Earths original ecology. And finally, we must be careful that the so-called one percent doesnt take transhumanist technology and leave us all in the dust, by becoming gods themselves with radical tech and not sharing the benefits with humanity.
I personally believe the largest danger of the transhumanist era is the fact that within a few decades, we will have created super-intelligent AI. What if this new entity simply decides it doesnt like humans? If something is more sophisticated, powerful, intelligent, and resilient than humans, we will have a hard time stopping it if it wants to harm or eliminate us.
Whatever happens in the future, we must take greater care than we ever have before as our species enters the transhumanist age. For the first time, we are on the verge of transforming the physical structure of our bodies and our brains. And we are inventing machines that could end up being more intelligent and powerful than we are. This type of change requires that not only governments act together, but also cultures, religions, and humanity as a whole.
In the end, I believe that a lot more people will be on board with transhumanism than admit it. Nearly all of us want to eliminate disease, protect our families from death, and create a better path and purpose for science and technology.
But I also realize that this must be done ever so delicately, so as not to prematurely push our species into crisis with our unbridled arrogance. One day, we humans may look back and revel in how far our species has evolvedinto undying mammals, cyborgs, robots, and even pure living data. And the most important part will be to be able to look back and know we didnt destroy ourselves to get there.
Posted: May 26, 2017 at 3:54 am
Steve Bannon, President Trumps chief strategist, was removed from the National Security Council in early April. Among the Kremlinologists who watch the Trump White House, this has been interpreted as a setback for the man whose neo-reactionary philosophy provides the guiding principles of Trumpism: Islamophobia, misogyny, xenophobia, and excited anticipation of a new American revolution. But Bannons ousting has also been called a disguised promotion, as he is restored to his proper role of the mostly unseen puppet-master.
In the first part of this article in last months issue, I put Bannon in the context of the alt-right and drew the connections between him, Gamergate, Milo Yiannopoulos, 4chan and Alexander Dugin. Here I want to continue this profile of Bannon by looking at his political philosophy.
Bannon subscribes to an esoteric version of history known as the Fourth Turning. Developed by amateur historians William Strauss and Neil Howe in the 1990s, the Fourth Turning applies the logic of cyclical history to the United States. Each turning represents a distinctive atmosphere that dominates a generation. Or better yet, to borrow a phrase from True Detective, a psychosphere, encompassing the social field of possibilities.
In the first turning, following a period of crisis, the atmosphere is one of societal confidence built on a strong state and positively repressed individualism, known as The High. For Strauss and Howe, this period ran from the end of World War II to the Kennedy assassination in 1963. This is the era of the Greatest Generation and profound optimism in the American Dream.
This turning was followed by The Awakening, where the state-individual relation was inverted. Characterised by a dismantling of the social order and the pursuit of individual autonomy, it descended, over time, into generalised confusion as society splintered. It ran up until the 1980s, and was followed by The Unravelling where individualism became unfettered to such an extent that societal ties became exceptionally weak. Then follows the final stage, the one Bannon believes we are entering, of The Crisis, where conditions require a radical re-assertion of the collective.
One may wonder what the crisis was that shifted us into the Crisis. For Bannon the financial crisis of 2008 marked the moment when the individualism of the baby boomers was revealed in its full consequence: a stolen future. This is how he couches his vision when speaking to older conservative audiences, requiring that they own up to their failure and then pointing toward the rise, in line with Strauss and Howe, of a robust Millennial generation that will blast through the Crisis to get to the next High.
Bannon has in mind a quite specific segment of the Millennial generation: the pick-up artists, the meme-warriors of Twitter and 4chan, and the campus-touring Milo enthusiasts. It also includes the Chad nationalists, a group of norms who might not explicitly position themselves on the political spectrum, but tend to be on the right. Did Chad vote for Trump? Its implicit in his name, like some kind of metaphysical property. And it means Chads dad and his girlfriend and his fraternity did too.
These people will quietly act to maintain Americanism, but not necessarily in a militant way. The decision might not always be theirs, however, as central to Bannons vision is an existential confrontation with Islam that will radicalise the entire Millennial generation away from individualism and back toward statism, since only a strong state could win such a battle. For Bannon, there is a multi-faceted project to accomplish. The State in its current decadent baby-boomer form must be dismantled. Yet this deconstruction (his own term) is simply a prelude to a complete regeneration of the society to be accomplished through total war. On this point, we find ourselves hoping that Trumps personality will prove sufficiently resistant to Bannons apocalypticism. Some say it is General James Mad Dog Mattis, Secretary of Defense, who will be the greatest obstacle to Bannons vision. Surely this makes Mattis the worlds most unlikely dove.
Maybe you know all this. You have heard about Bannon the puppeteer and the raw onslaught the alt-right has engaged Western culture with. Yet the story is even murkier. Alongside the alt-right exists another position, neoreaction, and it as close as this spectrum has to a philosophical system. Trumpist populism and Bannonesque esotericism are no doubt in the ascendant, but they are always threatened by their innate anarchism. There is a sense that the game might implode, that equilibrium could be restored, that a counter-populist movement might render Trumps reign an aberration.
Neoreaction, in contrast, is content to abide its time. Developed by the elusive Curtis Yarvin, under the penname Mencius Moldbug, neoreaction binds a disdain for stagnated democratic politics with a cold formalist system of neo-monarchism. Given the inefficiencies of democracy, only a strong leader, fully free to implement a political programme, can steady the ship. Neoreaction sees itself as an antidote to the Whiggish misreading of history that traces a continuous record of human progress. Instead of the Enlightenment, neoreaction ushers in the Dark Enlightenment. The most consistent formulation of the Dark Enlightenment comes not from Moldbug, but from the British philosopher Nick Land. Land has a storied history, emerging as one of the most exciting Continental philosophers in the 1990s before abandoning academia and the west for a freelance writing career in Shanghai. Throughout, he served as an intellectual lightning rod for the hugely diverse spectrum of alt-right and neoreactionary ideas. This has involved him extolling the virtues of cryptocurrencies, human biodiversity, and singularitarianism (space prevents me from developing these), but his most important contribution, is his emphasis on the all-too-easily overlooked libertarian concept of exit.
In the 1970s and 1980s, libertarians became split over whether to enter representational politics. The entryist wing established the Libertarian Party in the United Sates as a means to introduce the idea of libertarianism into mainstream politics and out of obscurity; similar parties have cropped up in other countries. The American party was eventually bought out by the wealthy Koch Brothers, who pitched a bid for the presidency in 1980, but eventually gained a foothold in the Republican Party. Ron Paul long acted as the libertarian conscience in presidential debates, never expecting to win, but at least influencing the debate (the act is now performed by his son, Rand).
Yet not all libertarians believed that entryism was the best method. Rather than gain a voice in democratic politics they would seek an exit from it. This concept of exit over voice is expressed in numerous proposals: isolated communes, seasteading (living on ships at sea), space colonisation, and perhaps most successfully, by developing a digital frontier. Land in particular praises this cyber-libertarian politics for its pragmatic ability to implement exit.
The most successful cyber-libertarians have been the cypherpunks. Originally a small group of privacy-conscious hackers, the cypherpunks planted the seed for the development of a digital currency, known as Bitcoin, that has allowed a large number of libertarians to opt out, within constraints, from state-backed finance. Bitcoin also acted as the bedrock for the emergence of darknet marketplaces, such as the infamous Silk Road, where illicit goods could be traded outside the gaze of the state. There is no denying, however, that these new, ungovernable worlds are only proto-libertarian, in as much as they do not bleed out into the real world.
At least, thats how it seemed until just a couple years ago, when libertarians noticed a strange new phenomenon. Their word, exit, was entering the debate on the future of the European Union.
In a European context, the very concept of exit seems startling. And yet, that far more integrated union of states, the United States, has been haunted by the same concept, under the name of secession, almost since the very start. Since the Civil War of the 1860s, secessionism has taken the form of threats from the defeated South to dissolve the union. A more modern variation on the theme has been the possibility of Californian exit. The Californian strain, which blends technological religiosity and libertarianism elitism, has its spiritual capital in Silicon Valley.
Silicon Valley is also, of course, the natural territory of PayPal founder Peter Thiel. An ambitious, driven and preternaturally gifted entrepreneur, Thiel is the perfect embodiment of this culture. His contrarian streak ante-dates his relatively recent alliance with Trump. As far back as 1999, Thiel co-authored, with David O Sacks, The Diversity Myth, a book that may have seemed a little radical at the time, but would likely earn him a campus ban these days, if students were aware it existed. Lambasting the decline of the American university in a stew of gender politics, multicultural lip service and upended curricula, Thiel and Sacks portray the contemporary campus as a training ground for a new elite, recognisable to one another through their politically correct, stilted discourse. Politics is the natural home for such an elite, an arena where milquetoast personalities coast along through connections and survive primarily by causing as little disruption as possible. Thiel finds himself, therefore, within the recognisable orbit of alt-right concerns, especially those about campus indoctrination, political correctness and haughty elitism.
More than anything else, however, it is the almost pathological lack of political ambition on the part of humdrum, non-disruptive elitist politics that explains Thiels decision to plump for Trump. In the past Thiel, has explained his libertarianism as an escape from politics (exit) and the construction of non-political futures through technological means. The means are varied, but involve a triple bet on cyberspace, outer space and seasteading. Thiel has placed a number of such bets, but perhaps the most interesting, politically, are those on Bitcoin-related projects for instance, the creator of the rival digital currency Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin was a recipient of a Thiel Fellowship scholarship. Buterin is a mild fellow and rarely gets mixed up in politics, but Thiel is content to invest in projects developed by contentious figures, as with his financial support of Hulk Hogan in a suit against the muckraking website Gawker. Thiel is also an investor in Urbit, a super-nerdy take on having a personal server.
Who developed Urbit? None other than Curtis Yarvin/Mencius Moldbug, of neoreactionary fame. Thiel is not just betting on Trump. He is betting on a Moldbuggian outcome where the state is finally recognised for what it is a large company run by a CEO, but a special one since it is so powerful. With Trump installed CEO-King, Thiel seems himself as its CTO (Chief Technology Officer), for now. Bannon, as an ex-Goldman Sachs trader, is by no means immune to such a perspective, and he too has been linked to Moldbug, but it is Trump who plays the part so well, all gold furniture and court intrigue.
As in all kingdoms, it is the machinations of court politics that will ultimately settle the direction of the meta-religion of the nation. For what is most consequential about the alt-right is its annihilation of what Moldbug called the Cathedral. The Cathedral describes a media-academic-cultural consensus with conditions for belonging: members must ascribe to the progressivist religion and must accept dogmas from feminism, multiculturalism and trans-rights activism.
What will fill the vacuum left by the collapsing Cathedral? Bannon offers the Catholic option of the Fourth Turning where redemption can be achieved through submission to meta-historical destiny. Thiel offers Protestantism without progressivism, but one that is even less defined in terms of outcome, preferring instead that society develop a taste for the risky rewards of exit. And in the midst of this struggle for the soul sits Trump, the most irreligious of kings, the physical embodiment of the emptiness to be filled, with one pussy-grabbing hand on the nuclear button and the other wrapped around his golf-club sceptre. 100 days in, 1346 to go.
by Paul Eliot-Ennis
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Posted: March 6, 2017 at 3:03 pm
Singularitarianism is a moral philosophy based upon the belief that a technological singularity the technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence is possible, and advocating deliberate action to bring it into effect and ensure its safety. While many futurists and transhumanists speculate on the possibility and nature of this technological development (often referred to as the Singularity), Singularitarians believe it is not only possible, but desirable if, and only if, guided safely. Accordingly, they might sometimes "dedicate their lives" to acting in ways they believe will contribute to its safe implementation.
The term "singularitarian" was originally defined by Extropian Mark Plus in 1991 to mean "one who believes the concept of a Singularity". This term has since been redefined to mean "Singularity activist" or "friend of the Singularity"; that is, one who acts so as to bring about the Singularity.
Ray Kurzweil, the author of the book The Singularity is Near, defines a Singularitarian as someone "who understands the Singularity and who has reflected on its implications for his or her own life".
In his 2000 essay, "Singularitarian Principles", Eliezer Yudkowsky writes that there are four qualities that define a Singularitarian:
In July 2000 Eliezer Yudkowsky, Brian Atkins and Sabine Atkins founded the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence to work towards the creation of self-improving Friendly AI. The Singularity Institute's writings argue for the idea that an AI with the ability to improve upon its own design (Seed AI) would rapidly lead to superintelligence. Singularitarians believe that reaching the Singularity swiftly and safely is the best possible way to minimize net existential risk.
Many believe a technological singularity is possible without adopting Singularitarianism as a moral philosophy. Although the exact numbers are hard to quantify, Singularitarianism is presently a small movement. Other prominent Singularitarians include Ray Kurzweil and Nick Bostrom.
Often ridiculing the Singularity as "the Rapture for nerds", many critics have dismissed singularitarianism as a pseudoreligion of fringe science. However, some green anarchist militants have taken singularitarian rhetoric seriously enough to have called for violent direct action to stop the Singularity.
Posted: March 5, 2017 at 4:06 pm
Technological utopianism (often called techno-utopianism or technoutopianism) is any ideology based on the premise that advances in science and technology will eventually bring about a utopia, or at least help to fulfil one or another utopian ideal. A techno-utopia is therefore a hypothetical ideal society, in which laws, government, and social conditions are solely operating for the benefit and well-being of all its citizens, set in the near- or far-future, when advanced science and technology will allow these ideal living standards to exist; for example, post-scarcity, transformations in human nature, the abolition of suffering and even the end of death. Technological utopianism is often connected with other discourses presenting technologies as agents of social and cultural change, such as technological determinism or media imaginaries.
Douglas Rushkoff, a leading theorist on technology and cyberculture claims that technology gives everyone a chance to voice their own opinions, fosters individualistic thinking, and dilutes hierarchy and power structures by giving the power to the people. He says that the whole world is in the middle of a new Renaissance, one that is centered on technology and self-expression. However, Rushkoff makes it clear that people dont live their lives behind a desk with their hands on a keyboard 
A tech-utopia does not disregard any problems that technology may cause, but strongly believes that technology allows mankind to make social, economic, political, and cultural advancements. Overall, Technological Utopianism views technologys impacts as extremely positive.
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, several ideologies and movements, such as the cyberdelic counterculture, the Californian Ideology, transhumanism, and singularitarianism, have emerged promoting a form of techno-utopia as a reachable goal. Cultural critic Imre Szeman argues technological utopianism is an irrational social narrative because there is no evidence to support it. He concludes that it shows the extent to which modern societies place faith in narratives of progress and technology overcoming things, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Karl Marx believed that science and democracy were the right and left hands of what he called the move from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom. He argued that advances in science helped delegitimize the rule of kings and the power of the Christian Church.
19th-century liberals, socialists, and republicans often embraced techno-utopianism. Radicals like Joseph Priestley pursued scientific investigation while advocating democracy. Robert Owen, Charles Fourier and Henri de Saint-Simon in the early 19th century inspired communalists with their visions of a future scientific and technological evolution of humanity using reason. Radicals seized on Darwinian evolution to validate the idea of social progress. Edward Bellamys socialist utopia in Looking Backward, which inspired hundreds of socialist clubs in the late 19th century United States and a national political party, was as highly technological as Bellamys imagination. For Bellamy and the Fabian Socialists, socialism was to be brought about as a painless corollary of industrial development.
Marx and Engels saw more pain and conflict involved, but agreed about the inevitable end. Marxists argued that the advance of technology laid the groundwork not only for the creation of a new society, with different property relations, but also for the emergence of new human beings reconnected to nature and themselves. At the top of the agenda for empowered proletarians was to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible. The 19th and early 20th century Left, from social democrats to communists, were focused on industrialization, economic development and the promotion of reason, science, and the idea of progress.
Some technological utopians promoted eugenics. Holding that in studies of families, such as the Jukes and Kallikaks, science had proven that many traits such as criminality and alcoholism were hereditary, many advocated the sterilization of those displaying negative traits. Forcible sterilization programs were implemented in several states in the United States.
H.G. Wells in works such as The Shape of Things to Come promoted technological utopianism.
The horrors of the 20th century - communist and fascist dictatorships, world wars - caused many to abandon optimism. The Holocaust, as Theodor Adorno underlined, seemed to shatter the ideal of Condorcet and other thinkers of the Enlightenment, which commonly equated scientific progress with social progress.
The Goliath of totalitarianism will be brought down by the David of the microchip.
A movement of techno-utopianism began to flourish again in the dot-com culture of the 1990s, particularly in the West Coast of the United States, especially based around Silicon Valley. The Californian Ideology was a set of beliefs combining bohemian and anti-authoritarian attitudes from the counterculture of the 1960s with techno-utopianism and support for libertarian economic policies. It was reflected in, reported on, and even actively promoted in the pages of Wired magazine, which was founded in San Francisco in 1993 and served for a number years as the "bible" of its adherents.
This form of techno-utopianism reflected a belief that technological change revolutionizes human affairs, and that digital technology in particular - of which the Internet was but a modest harbinger - would increase personal freedom by freeing the individual from the rigid embrace of bureaucratic big government. "Self-empowered knowledge workers" would render traditional hierarchies redundant; digital communications would allow them to escape the modern city, an "obsolete remnant of the industrial age".
Similar forms of "digital utopianism" has often entered in the political messages of party and social movements that point to the Web or more broadly to new media as harbingers of political and social change. Its adherents claim it transcended conventional "right/left" distinctions in politics by rendering politics obsolete. However, techno-utopianism disproportionately attracted adherents from the libertarian right end of the political spectrum. Therefore, techno-utopians often have a hostility toward government regulation and a belief in the superiority of the free market system. Prominent "oracles" of techno-utopianism included George Gilder and Kevin Kelly, an editor of Wired who also published several books.
During the late 1990s dot-com boom, when the speculative bubble gave rise to claims that an era of "permanent prosperity" had arrived, techno-utopianism flourished, typically among the small percentage of the population who were employees of Internet startups and/or owned large quantities of high-tech stocks. With the subsequent crash, many of these dot-com techno-utopians had to rein in some of their beliefs in the face of the clear return of traditional economic reality.
In the late 1990s and especially during the first decade of the 21st century, technorealism and techno-progressivism are stances that have risen among advocates of technological change as critical alternatives to techno-utopianism. However, technological utopianism persists in the 21st century as a result of new technological developments and their impact on society. For example, several technical journalists and social commentators, such as Mark Pesce, have interpreted the WikiLeaks phenomenon and the United States diplomatic cables leak in early December 2010 as a precursor to, or an incentive for, the creation of a techno-utopian transparent society.Cyber-utopianism, first coined by Evgeny Morozov, is another manifestation of this, in particular in relation to the Internet and social networking.
Bernard Gendron, a professor of philosophy at the University of WisconsinMilwaukee, defines the four principles of modern technological utopians in the late 20th and early 21st centuries as follows:
Rushkoff presents us with multiple claims that surround the basic principles of Technological Utopianism:
Critics claim that techno-utopianism's identification of social progress with scientific progress is a form of positivism and scientism. Critics of modern libertarian techno-utopianism point out that it tends to focus on "government interference" while dismissing the positive effects of the regulation of business. They also point out that it has little to say about the environmental impact of technology and that its ideas have little relevance for much of the rest of the world that are still relatively quite poor (see global digital divide).
In his 2010 study System Failure: Oil, Futurity, and the Anticipation of Disaster, Canada Research Chairholder in cultural studies Imre Szeman argues that technological utopianism is one of the social narratives that prevent people from acting on the knowledge they have concerning the effects of oil on the environment.
In a controversial article "Techno-Utopians are Mugged by Reality", Wall Street Journal explores the concept of the violation of free speech by shutting down social media to stop violence. As a result of British cities being looted consecutively, Prime British Minister David Cameron argued that the government should have the ability to shut down social media during crime sprees so that the situation could be contained. A poll was conducted to see if Twitter users would prefer to let the service be closed temporarily or keep it open so they can chat about the famous television show X-Factor. The end report showed that every Tweet opted for X-Factor. The negative social effects of technological utopia is that society is so addicted to technology that we simply can't be parted even for the greater good. While many Techno-Utopians would like to believe that digital technology is for the greater good, it can also be used negatively to bring harm to the public.
Other critics of a techno-utopia include the worry of the human element. Critics suggest that a techno-utopia may lessen human contact, leading to a distant society. Another concern is the amount of reliance society may place on their technologies in these techno-utopia settings. These criticisms are sometimes referred to as a technological anti-utopian view or a techno-dystopia.
Even today, the negative social effects of a technological utopia can be seen. Mediated communication such as phone calls, instant messaging and text messaging are steps towards a utopian world in which one can easily contact another regardless of time or location. However, mediated communication removes many aspects that are helpful in transferring messages. As it stands today, most text, email, and instant messages offer fewer nonverbal cues about the speakers feelings than do face-to-face encounters. This makes it so that mediated communication can easily be misconstrued and the intended message is not properly conveyed. With the absence of tone, body language, and environmental context, the chance of a misunderstanding is much higher, rendering the communication ineffective. In fact, mediated technology can be seen from a dystopian view because it can be detrimental to effective interpersonal communication. These criticisms would only apply to messages that are prone to misinterpretation as not every text based communication requires contextual cues. The limitations of lacking tone and body language in text based communication are likely to be mitigated by video and augmented reality versions of digital communication technologies.
Posted: February 28, 2017 at 7:59 pm
This essay was first published in the ArtSlant Prize 2016 Catalogue, on the occasion of theArtSlant Prize Shortlist exhibitionat SPRING/BREAK Art Show, from February 28March 6, 2016.Sterling Crispin is the ArtSlant Prize 2016 Third Prize winner.Other ArtSlant Prize 2016 catalogue essays:Brigitta Varadi & Tiffany Smith
What does the end, The End, look like? Is it a transcendent experience like the religious and singularitarians believe? Will humans transform into iridescent angels of ethereal nature, timeless in their march towards oneness? Will the end look like an episode of The Walking Dead? Like an episode of Doomsday Preppers? Will the remnants of society scrabble together the few resources left to find baseline survival the underlying truth of excess? Does the end resemble a person sitting in a concrete box buried underground swallowing baked beans out of a can, or do we become waves of energy, identifiable not by our body but by a collection of experiences and tropes traveling from host to host, like a Westworld protagonist?
It is hard to conceive of a greater tension between these two visions and yet they exist, in tandem, in our collective imaginations. To imagine civilization dwindling down to a couple thousand people, the Earth in environmental hell, taking global collapse to its conclusionits unimaginably terrible, says artist Sterling Crispin. But, he continues, take techno-optimism to its extreme, with humans living for hundreds of thousands of years, and its also kind of unimaginable.
Sterling Crispin explores the end. From a fascination with Buddhist conceptions of oneness and propelled by the rapid technological pace in the era of Moores Law, Crispin takes as his subject the hurtling hulk of humanity as it flies towards some kind of imagined or real conclusion. Transhumanism is on my mind a lot, he says.
Crispins materials are birthed in todays technology. Aluminum server frames, Alexa towers, emergency water filtration systems, canned food, Bitcoin miners, extruded plastics and resinsthese are the vocabulary of an end-times practice.
The singularity as a concept comes from a 1993 paperby mathematician Vernor Vinge in which he states: We are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. The precise cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater-than-human intelligence. The basic principle of singularitarianism is that, at a certain point, advancement will be out of human hands. Technology will be free to replicate and improve on its own. Futurist Ray Kurzweilbelieves that at this point a massive rupture in human culture, philosophy, and civilization will occur, characterized by the end of death and anthropocentric evolution. Kurzweils end is an apocalypse of a different sort. His is a moment of becoming and transcendence beyond the human.
Sterling Crispin, Self-Contained Investment Module and Contingency Package (Cloud-Enabled Modular Emergency-Enterprise Application Platform),2015. Courtesy of the artist
The globe just scored a hat trick of hottest years on record. The doomsday clock has begun ticking towards midnight again. Amidst the statistical evidence, markers of impending doom keep pinging us. The cries of apocryphal evangelists are beginning to ring true.
With each passing meteor, every seemingly-significant date on an ancient calendar that appears on our Julian calendar, throngs proclaim the end with rapturous fervency. But the end interrogated by Crispin is not fanciful. His work has a sincere immediacy: Trumps presidency and the collapse of civil society really gets you thinking about how fragile our whole global economy is and how loosely everything is held together. He goes on, Next month, some catastrophe could happen that could close down international shipping, close off the internet; millions of people could die because there wasnt enough food. Were just on the edge of this all of the time.
Never has the world been so interconnected. In 2015, $16 trillion (21% of GWP) in merchandise exchanged hands across the world. In 2013, one fifth of the average Americans diet was imported. This interdependence isnt trivial. As political forces around the world begin to pull back from the integrated system of globalized advanced capitalism, the connections holding it all together seem more tenuous than ever.
Crispins suite of four sculptures, N.A.N.O., B.I.O., I.N.F.O., C.O.G.N.O. (2015), serves as sentries. Each monolith is attached to an industry stock: N.A.N.O. comes with 100 shares of stock in a nanotechnology company, B.I.O., biotechnology, I.N.F.O., informatics, and C.O.G.N.O., cognitive research. If separated, these Gundam-like structures will track each other: a GPS display shows you where the other three horsemen are at all times. An emergency water purifier and food rations anchor the sculptures. N.A.N.O. et al. recall ancient statues guarding a crypt, protectors of humanity straight out of anime waiting for the right time to awaken and save the world. They reach towards the promises of advanced capital, zeroing in on the industries most likely to transform humanity via the singularity and save it from itself.
Sterling Crispin, N.A.N.O. , B.I.O. , I.N.F.O. , C.O.G.N.O., 2015. Courtesy of the artist
Of course, if that doesnt work out, theres always a jerrycan of clean water and some freeze-dried beef.
Self-Contained Investment Module and Contingency Package (2015), like N.A.N.O., is practical and sculptural. Inside an aluminum frame sits an ASIC Bitcoin mining tube, a Lifesaver Systems 4000 ultra-filtration water bottle, an emergency radio, Mayday emergency food rations, a knife, heirloom seeds, etc. The connections are barely waiting to be pieced together by the viewer: theyre all there, visible in the cube. Crispins work makes hard connections, direct metaphors, in his search for the aesthetic of the end. The metaphors I use are heavy-handed but rounded in the utility of their function in reality, relays the artist.
This frankness fights the obfuscating nature of reality. Are things really as dire as they seem? It is readily accepted that things will be okay; we tell ourselves the same often enough. But why is it so difficult to accept that things might not be okay? Is it so difficult to imagine that, shit, were fucked?
In some remote corner of the universe, flickering in the light of the countless solar systems into which it had been poured, there was once a planet on which clever animals invented cognition. It was the most arrogant and most mendacious minute in the history of the world; but a minute was all it was. After nature had drawn just a few more breaths the planet froze and the clever animals had to die.
There is something reflected in the gleaming aluminum, the candy-apple neon, and low hum of Self-Contained. An optimism, perhaps, that if we structure things just right, if we allow for recursive corrections, if we prepare and adjust, we wont be the ones responsible for bringing the short reign of humanity to an end. We might not be Nietzsches arrogant creatures doomed to death on a frozen, or in this case, scorched Earth. We may just be the ones that become whats next. Either way, be prepared.
Joel Kuennenis the Chief Operations Officer and a Senior Editor at ArtSlant.
 Moores Law holds that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles every two years. This law has been extrapolated to include the exponential rate of computational and technological advancement more broadly.
 Vernor Vinge, The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era (paper presented at the VISION-21 Symposium sponsored by NASA Lewis Research Center and the Ohio Aerospace Institute, March 30-31, 1993).
 Kurzweil, it should be noted, is driven to defeat death so that he may resurrect his father who died early on in Kurzweils life. How human is that?!
 Its difficult to ignore humor when discussing the end. One cannot approach nothingness without being a bit glib.
 Friedrich Nietzsche, On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense, Trans. Ronald Spiers. 1873.
(Image at top: Sterling Crispin, Self-Contained Investment Module and Contingency Package (Cloud-Enabled Modular Emergency-Enterprise Application Platform) (detail), 2015. Courtesy of the artist)
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Posted: January 14, 2017 at 8:56 pm
Ray Kurzweil is a genius. One of the greatest hucksters of the age. Thats the only way I can explain how his nonsense gets so much press and has such a following. Now he has the cover of Time magazine, and an article called 2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal. It certainly couldnt be taken seriously anywhere else; once again, Kurzweil wiggles his fingers and mumbles a few catchphrases and upchucks a remarkable prediction, that in 35 years (a number dredged out of his compendium of biased estimates), Man (one, a few, many? How? He doesnt know) will finally achieve immortality (seems to me youd need to wait a few years beyond that goal to know if it was true). Now weve even got a name for the Kurzweil delusion: Singularitarianism.
Theres room inside Singularitarianism for considerable diversity of opinion about what the Singularity means and when and how it will or wont happen. But Singularitarians share a worldview. They think in terms of deep time, they believe in the power of technology to shape history, they have little interest in the conventional wisdom about anything, and they cannot believe youre walking around living your life and watching TV as if the artificial-intelligence revolution were not about to erupt and change absolutely everything. They have no fear of sounding ridiculous; your ordinary citizens distaste for apparently absurd ideas is just an example of irrational bias, and Singularitarians have no truck with irrationality. When you enter their mind-space you pass through an extreme gradient in worldview, a hard ontological shear that separates Singularitarians from the common run of humanity. Expect turbulence.
Wow. Sounds just like the Raelians, or Hercolubians, or Scientologists, or any of the modern New Age pseudosciences that appropriate a bit of jargon and blow it up into a huge mythology. Nice hyperbole there, though. Too bad the whole movement is empty of evidence.
One of the things I do really despise about the Kurzweil approach is their dishonest management of critics, and Kurzweil is the master. He loves to tell everyone whats wrong with his critics, but he doesnt actually address the criticisms.
Take the question of whether computers can replicate the biochemical complexity of an organic brain. Kurzweil yields no ground there whatsoever. He does not see any fundamental difference between flesh and silicon that would prevent the latter from thinking. He defies biologists to come up with a neurological mechanism that could not be modeled or at least matched in power and flexibility by software running on a computer. He refuses to fall on his knees before the mystery of the human brain. Generally speaking, he says, the core of a disagreement Ill have with a critic is, theyll say, Oh, Kurzweil is underestimating the complexity of reverse-engineering of the human brain or the complexity of biology. But I dont believe Im underestimating the challenge. I think theyre underestimating the power of exponential growth.
This is wrong. For instance, I think reverse-engineering the general principles of a human brain might well be doable in a few or several decades, and I do suspect that well be able to do things in ten years, 20 years, a century that I cant even imagine. I dont find Kurzweil silly because Im blind to the power of exponential growth, but because:
Kurzweil hasnt demonstrated that there is exponential growth at play here. Ive read his absurd book, and his data is phony and fudged to fit his conclusion. He cheerfully makes stuff up or drops data that goes against his desires to invent these ridiculous charts.
Im not claiming he underestimates the complexity of the brain, Im saying he doesnt understand biology, period. Handwaving is not enough if hes going to make fairly specific claims of immortality in 35 years, there had better be some understanding of the path that will be taken.
There is a vast difference between grasping a principle and implementing the specifics. If we understand how the brain works, if we can create a computer simulation that replicates and improves upon the function of our brain, that does not in any way imply that my identity and experiences can be translated into the digital realm. Again, Kurzweil doesnt have even a hint of a path that can be taken to do that, so he has no basis for making the prediction.
Smooth curves that climb upward into infinity can exist in mathematics (although Kurzweils predictions dont live in state of rigor that would justify calling them mathematical), but they dont work in the real world. There are limits. Weve been building better and more powerful power plants for aircraft for a century, but they havent gotten to a size and efficiency to allow me to fly off with a personal jetpack. I have no reason to expect that they will, either.
While I dont doubt that science will advance rapidly, I also expect that the directions it takes will be unpredictable. Kurzweil confuses engineering, where you build something to fit a predetermined set of specifications, with science, in which you follow the evidence wherever it leads. Look at the so-called war on cancer: it isnt won, no one expects that it will be, but what it has accomplished is to provide limited success in improving health and quality of life, extending survival times, and developing new tools for earlier diagnosis thats reality, and understanding reality is achieved incrementally, not by sudden surges in technology independent of human effort. It also generates unexpected spinoffs in deeper knowledge about cell cycles, signaling, gene regulation, etc. The problems get more interesting and diverse, and its awfully silly of one non-biologist in 2011 to try to predict what surprises will pop out.
Kurzweil is a typical technocrat with limited breadth of knowledge. Imagine what happens IF we actually converge on some kind of immortality. Who gets it? If its restricted, what makes Kurzweil think he, and not Senator Dumbbum who controls federal spending on health, or Tycoon Greedo the trillionaire, gets it? How would the world react if such a capability were available, and they (or their dying mother, or their sick child) dont have access? What if its cheap and easy, and everyone gets it? Kurzweil is talking about a technology that would almost certainly destroy every human society on the planet, and he treats it as blithely as the prospect of getting new options for his cell phone. In case he hadnt noticed, human sociology and politics shows no sign of being on an exponential trend towards greater wisdom. Yeah, expect turbulence.
Hes guilty of a very weird form of reductionism that considers a human life can be reduced to patterns in a computer. I have no stock in spiritualism or dualism, but we are very much a product of our crude and messy biology we percieve the world through imprecise chemical reactions, our brains send signals by shuffling ions in salt water, our attitudes and reactions are shaped by chemicals secreted by glands in our guts. Replicating the lightning while ignoring the clouds and rain and pressure changes will not give you a copy of the storm. It will give you something different, which would be interesting still, but its not the same.
Kurzweil shows other signs of kookery. Two hundred pills a day? Weekly intravenous transfusions? Drinking alkalized water because hes afraid of acidosis? The man is an intelligent engineer, but hes also an obsessive crackpot.
Oh, well. Ill make my own predictions. Magazines will continue to praise Kurzweils techno-religion in sporadic bursts, and followers will continue to gullibly accept what he says because it is what they wish would happen. Kurzweil will die while brain-uploading and immortality are still vague dreams; he will be frozen in liquid nitrogen, which will so thoroughly disrupt his cells that even if we discover how to cure whatever kills him, there will be no hope of recovering the mind and personality of Kurzweil from the scrambled chaos of his dead brain. 2045 will come, and those of us who are alive to see it, will look back and realize it is very, very different from what life was like in 2011, and also very different from what we expected life to be like. At some point, I expect artificial intelligences to be part of our culture, if we persist; theyll work in radically different ways than human brains, and they will revolutionize society, but I have no way of guessing how. Ray Kurzweil will be forgotten, mostly, but records of the existence of a strange shaman of the circuitry from the late 20th and early 21st century will be tucked away in whatever the future databases are like, and people and machines will sometimes stumble across them and laugh or zotigrate and say, How quaint and amusing!, or whatever the equivalent in the frangitwidian language of the trans-entity circumsolar ansible network might be.
And thatll be kinda cool. I wish I could live to see it.
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Posted: December 14, 2016 at 11:54 pm
Singularitarianism is a movement defined by the belief that a technological singularitythe creation of superintelligencewill likely happen in the medium future, and that deliberate action ought to be taken to ensure that the Singularity benefits humans.
Singularitarians are distinguished from other futurists who speculate on a technological singularity by their belief that the Singularity is not only possible, but desirable if guided prudently. Accordingly, they might sometimes dedicate their lives to acting in ways they believe will contribute to its rapid yet safe realization.
Time magazine describes the worldview of Singularitarians by saying that they think in terms of deep time, they believe in the power of technology to shape history, they have little interest in the conventional wisdom about anything, and they cannot believe youre walking around living your life and watching TV as if the artificial-intelligence revolution were not about to erupt and change absolutely everything.
Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, author of the 2005 book The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, defines a Singularitarian as someone who understands the Singularity and who has reflected on its implications for his or her own life; he estimates the Singularity will occur around 2045.
Singularitarianism coalesced into a coherent ideology in 2000 when artificial intelligence (AI) researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote The Singularitarian Principles, in which he stated that a Singularitarian believes that the singularity is a secular, non-mystical event which is possible and beneficial to the world and is worked towards by its adherents.
In June 2000 Yudkowsky, with the support of Internet entrepreneurs Brian Atkins and Sabine Atkins, founded the Machine Intelligence Research Institute to work towards the creation of self-improving Friendly AI. MIRIs writings argue for the idea that an AI with the ability to improve upon its own design (Seed AI) would rapidly lead to superintelligence. These Singularitarians believe that reaching the Singularity swiftly and safely is the best possible way to minimize net existential risk.
Many people believe a technological singularity is possible without adopting Singularitarianism as a moral philosophy. Although the exact numbers are hard to quantify, Singularitarianism is a small movement, which includes transhumanist philosopher Nick Bostrom. Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, who predicts that the Singularity will occur circa 2045, greatly contributed to popularizing Singularitarianism with his 2005 book The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology .
What, then, is the Singularity? Its a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed. Although neither utopian or dystopian, this epoch will transform the concepts we rely on to give meaning to our lives, from our business models to the cycle of human life, including death itself. Understanding the Singularity will alter our perspective on the significance of our past and the ramifications for our future. To truly understand it inherently changes ones view of life in general and ones particular life. I regard someone who understands the Singularity and who has reflected on its implications for his or her own life as a singularitarian.
With the support of NASA, Google and a broad range of technology forecasters and technocapitalists, the Singularity University opened in June 2009 at the NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley with the goal of preparing the next generation of leaders to address the challenges of accelerating change.
In July 2009, many prominent Singularitarians participated in a conference organized by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) to discuss the potential impact of robots and computers and the impact of the hypothetical possibility that they could become self-sufficient and able to make their own decisions. They discussed the possibility and the extent to which computers and robots might be able to acquire any level of autonomy, and to what degree they could use such abilities to possibly pose any threat or hazard (i.e., cybernetic revolt). They noted that some machines have acquired various forms of semi-autonomy, including being able to find power sources on their own and being able to independently choose targets to attack with weapons. They warned that some computer viruses can evade elimination and have achieved cockroach intelligence. They asserted that self-awareness as depicted in science fiction is probably unlikely, but that there were other potential hazards and pitfalls. Some experts and academics have questioned the use of robots for military combat, especially when such robots are given some degree of autonomous functions. The President of the AAAI has commissioned a study to look at this issue.
Science journalist John Horgan has likened singularitarianism to a religion:
Lets face it. The singularity is a religious rather than a scientific vision. The science-fiction writer Ken MacLeod has dubbed it the rapture for nerds, an allusion to the end-time, when Jesus whisks the faithful to heaven and leaves us sinners behind. Such yearning for transcendence, whether spiritual or technological, is all too understandable. Both as individuals and as a species, we face deadly serious problems, including terrorism, nuclear proliferation, overpopulation, poverty, famine, environmental degradation, climate change, resource depletion, and AIDS. Engineers and scientists should be helping us face the worlds problems and find solutions to them, rather than indulging in escapist, pseudoscientific fantasies like the singularity.
Kurzweil rejects this categorization, stating that his predictions about the singularity are driven by the data that increases in computational technology have been exponential in the past.
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Posted: September 20, 2016 at 7:10 pm
Wikipedia has an article about
Singularitarianism refers to attitudes or beliefs favoring a technological singularity.
The term was coined by Mark Plus, then given a more specific meaning by Eliezer Yudkowsky in his Singularitarian principles. "Singularitarianism", early on, referred to an principled activist stance aimed at creating a singularity for the benefit of humanity as a whole, and in particular to the movement surrounding the Machine Intelligence Research Institute.
The term has since sometimes been used differently, without it implying the specific principles listed by Yudkowsky. For example, Ray Kurzweil's book "The Singularity Is Near" contains a chapter titled "Ich bin ein Singularitarian", in which Kurzweil describes his own vision for technology improving the world. Others have used the term to refer to people with an impact on the Singularity and to "expanding one's mental faculties by merging with technology". Others have used "Singularitarian" to refer to anyone who predicts a technological singularity will happen.
Yudkowsky has (perhaps facetiously) suggested that those adhering to the original activist stance relabel themselves the "Elder Singularitarians".
Posted: July 29, 2016 at 3:10 am
Welcome to /r/Singularitiarianism
A subreddit devoted to the social, political, and technological movement defined by the belief that deliberate action ought to be taken to ensure that an Intelligence Explosion benefits human civilization.
The theory of Singularitarianism is that our human species is an infant waiting to be born. An infant that is unaware of an outside world beyond the womb. The hope, purpose, and meaning in the creation of greater-than-human intelligence is our will to be born. The birth of humanity, the birth of the infant, is the evolution of the intelligence of our man and machine civilization.
Singularitarianism is a non-religious, decentralized futurist and transhumanist movement. Singularitarianism is faith in scientific skepticism and admiration for the biological phenomenon of human intelligence. From this biological intelligence comes the awe, responsibility, and capability of creating non-biological machine intelligence.
The Singularity places a horizon across humanity's understanding because we are still discovering the scientific nature of our own intelligence. Not until we understand and improve upon the biological heritage of our intelligence can we begin to understand the meaning of superintelligence. Ultimately, this reverence for universal forms of intelligence and sentience is our safeguard against mysticism, fanaticism, and ideology. Understanding and improving intelligence is simultaneously our greatest imperative and our guiding principle. This movement does not believe in God- but that simply man is a bridge and not an end- that instead we can become the Gods themselves. The human future(s) are infinite.
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