Recently I have run into this thing known as "the Singularity." To me it seems fishy: here are my reasons (for the moment; in the conversation where these ideas came up, the topic of discussion was immortality, which I abjure).
Every historical development in technology ever seen has been accompanied by unexpected "evil" effects.
To get to the heart of the matter immediately at hand, the advances of
modern medical science have come to us at the expense of iatrogenics. There is no such thing in history as an upside without a downside, a pro without a con.
importantly, when we come to consider systems as complex as the human
body (or any ecosystem whose existence requires the cooperation of
multitudes of cells and cycles), we have a species-wide tendency to
think reductively (trying to explain non-linear realities in terms of
linear causality, as though the reasons for a particular biological
phenomenon--like, say, schizophrenia--were unitary and constant for all
cases, such that my schizophrenia occurs because of the same generic
malfunctions that cause yours: research is showing that this idea is
simply bullshit; for a very good layman's discussion, see Matt Ridley's
chapter "The Madness of Causes" in his book The Agile Gene).
we build immortality, there is no guarantee that it would ever work for
the entire species. Inevitably, the price for making some people
immortal will be killing other people (when my immortality becomes your
mortality, or vice versa). In a best-case scenario, future generations
will be the one eating the bullet here (they will be eliminated, I
guess, until we find some other environment for immortal offspring to
colonize: Earth is not currently big enough to accomodate an infinite
crowd of immortals; if such a group appears, you can be sure that some
of them will begin living out the myth of that god-awful TV series
"Highlander"). And that is being ridiculously optimistic (i.e. assuming
that there are no untoward side-effects en route to the kind of
immortality naively imagined by guys like Ray Kurzweil). How is society
supposed to exist without death, seriously? If history is any guide, we
would become a bunch of petty, selfish bastards (think of the Olympians
in the Iliad and the Odyssey: they are basically immortal human beings,
and most readers agree they are douchebags).
am very skeptical of the Singularity. I doubt it will happen (since I
don't see death ever being defeated: from my viewpoint, death looks like
something permanent in the nature of life). But even if it does, I
would reject it (as something bad--Satan's plan, if you will). As an
atheist and a materialist, I choose death (which is what makes my life
enjoyable, meaningful, and worthwhile: if I were immortal, I would lose
my humanity, the heroic vulnerability that gives me integrity).
These ideas came up in the context of a discussion of Mormonism. (Some Mormons embrace the Singularity as an affirmation of their beliefs, e.g. the idea that we will eventually become gods and inhabit a glorified world.) Some see a great divide between Mormonism and the Singularity, but I don't. Here is why.
my mind, the value that Mormonism adds to this conversation is that it
reminds us how dumb we really are. The Singularity, in my mind, is just
a modern version of the same stupid ideas that found a home earlier in
Mormonism. Joseph Smith was a progressive in his time, a visionary who
wanted to marry naive human fantasies (like living forever or having
group orgies without any unpleasant repercussions) with practical
reality. He is one illustration of the weakness (or as Nassim Taleb
would say, the fragility) inherent in this kind of approach.
is bigger than us, even if we are all brilliant scientists (and we're
not). Cheating her is dumb. You can try it if you want, but I will
always bet against you (as I bet against Joseph Smith). I think history
will show the Singularity to be as silly as Mormonism, a piece of
twenty-first-century lunacy that future generations will shake their
heads over the same way I shake my head over early Mormons hieing to