Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Rapture For Nerds

After leaving a comment in Digital Warfighter's blog, I thought I should weigh in on this in my own little slice of the Net. There's been a lot of buzz in the tech circles about a book called The Singularity is Near. I haven't read it and don't plan to read it, but if I read the summaries right, here's what it says: there will come in the near future a point where we all become cyborgs. We'll all have machinery and super-intelligent computers wired into us and become immortal geniuses the likes of which the world has never seen. Turns out he's not the first to propose this. Thanks to Wikipedia, there's good info on the Technological Singularity, what Ken MacLeod called "the Rapture for nerds."

Personally, I think that's a good description because they are both as likely to happen. The people who argue it's inevitable use the same argument that cryogenics companies use; "it's bound to happen sometime!" But here are the facts. Let's set aside the fact that human beings don't understand sentience in our own brains, much less in artificial ones. On a more practical level, I'm doubtful of its "inevitability" simply because I know so many people who don't even own a computer in the year 2005, much less would stand in line to have one wired into their brains. Could we all be turned into cyborgs? Sure, given enough time, say thousands of years, but my first question would be "will the time come when it's cheaper and easier than NOT being turned into a cyborg?" Then maybe it'll take off. But even then I imagine my grandmother saying "They want to what? Put a calculator in my head? Turn me into a claymore?" They'll be walking around with their eyes blinking '12:00.' And what if just when computer-brain technology becomes cheap and easy, they come up with something better? That's like someone in 1940 predicting we'll all have vacuum tubes implanted in our chests in the future.

The fact is that only the most die-hard geeks and nerds sit around dreaming of having computers in their heads. Most people are just getting used to carrying around a cell-phone. It's not gonna happen, because people don't want it. Period.
Categories: science


Louis said...

I know so many people who don't even own a computer in the year 2005

Do you live amongst the Amish?

I'd seriously recommend you read the book, he easily refutes your arguments.

Monkey Migraine said...

Actually I live in Arizona. And I don't know how he can refute the fact that right now there are people who don't own computers. Check the rural areas of China, South Africa, and India. It might be hard for you to believe, but there are even places that don't have indoor plumbing. Anyway, I'm actually from the year 203,404 and we gave up that whole antiquated "computer" thing back in 2014 when they invented quandophlyns. You 21st-century humans are so cute.

Monkey Migraine said...

Okay, let me try that again...he gave a serious comment, I should take a stab at one, too. I didn't think anyone would read my comments on that book and take it seriously. Obviously louis is not a regular reader of my blog.

Louis, I'm sure the author does refute my arguments, but so what? I'm not a scientist and never pretended to be. Smarter people than I am are working on the debate as to whether or not we'll all be turned into cyborgs. I'm too busy trying to figure out how to fill my car's gas tank for less than twenty bucks to worry about whether my children's children's children will have IBM stamped on their foreheads.

What I was really writing about was the funny image I had of all these geeks sitting around, trembling with anticipation at the idea of having a hard drive and wireless modems in their heads. They desperately want someone to tell them it'll happen, and jump on the first person to convincingly tell them their dreams will come true. I just wanted to give them a tap on the shoulder and say, "Uh, guys? You do realize that when the technology first becomes available it'll cost ten billion dollars and be banned in sixteen countries, right? Real life isn't like the movies." And the fact that 99% of the population has no need or interest in getting wired up to computers.

glomgold said...

I've still been meaning to read Ray Kurzweil's other book "Age of Spiritual Machines". You're right, I find it funny people would eagerly anticipate having electronics implanted in them, aside from people with health problems like heart issues or partial paralysis. I assume the time will come when forms of man-made technology will be available for implantation (there's been talk about medical ID chips slipped under the skin), though it seems more likely it'd be along the lines of organically-based devices rather than silicon. Or I may be talking bullshit, I have no idea but I don't think it'd be a good thing regardless.

Mauricem said...

It's not going to happen simply because we're sitting here talking about whether it whould happen or not.
If it's that huge a leap of logic to make for us now, at what point will it seem obvious? We shouldn't have to sit around saying, "Would it be good idea to rewire my entire body to become a robot?" It should be, "Would it be a good idea NOT to rewire my entire body to be a robot?"
Glomgold makes a good point though. The number of problems we have producing using current technology with medical medical devices now (ex. pacemakers) I don't know if I'd trust my entire bodily function to machines.
Now if their talking about just having a mechanical leg or heart that's one thing, but entire cyborg bodies? No way. Never happen.
Ironically enough the movie "AI" was based on this postulation. Hence, the future world that David finds himself in populated by machines. And look how silly that movie was.

Mauricem said...

As for Louis comment: "Sixty-eight percent of American adults, or about 137 million people, use the internet, up from 63% one year ago. Thirty-two percent of American adults, or about 65 million people, do not go online, and it is not always by choice. Those who are currently offline have had varying levels of exposure to the online world. One in five American adults say they have never used the internet or email and do not live in an internet-connected household..."
PEW INTERNET RESEARCH "Digital Divisions" 10/5/2005

I know he'll never read this comment, but don't be so elitist Louis.

Monkey Migraine said...

I'm not even opposed to the concept. Sure, we'll definitely be developing new technology to replace damaged limbs and organs. Yes, I think we're headed towards implants that allow humans to access computers. But will we all end up having them? Doubtful. And I think futurism is a pointless exercise. Trying to predict hundreds of years in the future is impossible. We can't even accurately predict the weather forty-eight hours in advance.