Thursday’s Big Idea
Today's Big Idea: The Singularity
The Singularity is a concept that has gained enormous currency in Silicon Valley. Several decades from now, the story goes, man will effectively merge with machine. This is seen not so much as a bold prediction but an inevitability. And the benefits will be historic. We will be able to solve problems that once seemed insurmountable. The exponential growth of computing power will create a future of abundance. We will live forever, in one form or another.
This messianic view of technology, however, needs to be checked in a number of ways. Critics like Jaron Lanier, for instance, have found in this movement the characteristics of a cult. Moreover, faith in the religion of technology, Lanier says, is fundamentally dehumanizing: "we think of people more and more as computers, just as we think of computers as people."
A further objection, raised by Daniel Altman on Big Think today, is one of economics. If we take it as an article of faith that technology will solve all of our problems, then aren't we encouraging ourselves to sit idly by and wait for the rapture? That is not a healthy mindset, Altman argues, particularly for young people. Whether or not the singularity is near, blind faith that things will simply be better in the future will not get us there, Altman argues. Hard work will.