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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Kurzweil's Cult

Robert Geraci writes on the growing influence of the singularity movement:
Will robots become massively intelligent? Will human beings become highly intelligent cyborgs or upload our minds fully into machines and thereby live forever? Whether they are correct is probably less important than the fact that the faithful who believe they are has a growing membership. Singularity University had more than 1200 applications for its first nine-week graduate class in 2009 (40 students were accepted). Public policy leaders and corporate officers have attended executive classes and funding has come from major tech companies such as Google and Nokia. Press surrounding the university has been positive, including even an encouraging review from the Chronicle of Higher Education, which suggests that traditional universities have much to learn from SU’s curriculum.

What we see is the emergence of a genuine religious tradition. Is it new? Not exactly: faith in technology to produce transcendent human conditions is centuries old. But this manifestation, whether it be under the label of transhumanism, Singularitarianism, or (as I’ve called it) Apocalyptic AI, has a cultural cachet that goes far and allows it to separate itself from other religious visions.
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At April 11, 2011 at 7:42 PM , Blogger Anthony F. said...

I have always found the notion of singularity to be fascinating. While I see why some people are horrified or disturbed by the idea, I find it amazing to think that we are already able to describe what singularity could be like. We may be decades, even centuries from singularity being achievable, but we are nevertheless able to envision the concept in clear terms.

I think several of the themes common in singularity discourse are prominent in the media we've discussed in class, especially in Neuromancer and eXistenZ. To what extent are we allowed to merge with machines? And is there really that much of a difference between AI and human intelligence? Singularity necessitates that human consciousness be merged with machines, so proponents of the idea obviously don't see a huge distinction between the two.

Also, since singularity involves the merging of all humanity into one central hub (at least, that's how I understand it), the concept is another great example of how cyberculture attempts to incorporate the masses and not one subset of people, although cyberculture itself is experienced by only a segment of the global populace.


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