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“Radical Evolution” In Joel Garreau’s book “Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies- and What It Means to Be Human” Garreau discusses the concept “singularity” along with views from Vernon Vinge, Ray Kurzweil and others. Singularity is this drastic change that will take place during a period of accelerating change in particular with technology. “The Curve implies one of the all-time changes in the rules. Those who study it call it “The Singularity”. (p. 7) Garreau covers three different scenarios of singularity one he calls it heaven, which is viewed as something good taking place for humanity. Another scenario is if technology gets into the wrong hands and this scenario he calls it Hell. Lastly he discusses a possible scenario where people can alter conditions leading to singularity which he calls this prevail. Garreau first gives Vinge’s on take on the idea of singularity as he describes it as “huge but unpredictable social change driven by The Curve” (p. 71). Vinge alerts us that greater than human intelligence is upon us very soon.
And he even compares it to when human life on earth started. Vinge who is a professor in the specializing in the field of Mathematics and Computer Science is able to give us a math and physics approach to the concept of singularity. He explains “singularities are the pointes where everything stops making sense. In math it is a point where you are dividing through zero, for example. The result is so whacked out as to be meaningless” (p. 72). Vinge also compares singularity to a black hole where light can not escape gravity and the laws of physics no longer apply there.
Singularity is not an easy concept to grasp because it is a time when one is not able to escape or understand what is going on or what will happen next. This scenario we would be out of control. Garreau discusses several scenarios how singularity can occur: 1. ) supercomputers causes humanity to cross the line over surpassing human intelligence. 2. ) The net causes us to become interconnected greatly which would turn us into a super organism. 3. ) Greater than human intelligence is created by information implants placed in biological parents to produce. . ) Genetic engineering creates greater than human intelligence. Either scenario a greater than human intelligence is created which can spark as Vinge “describes an intelligence explosion” (p73). Vinge’s possible scenario reminds me of the Terminator as he describes this greater than human intelligence creation creating more super smart machines fast, but he throws out there the idea of regular humans possibly losing control. “It would be nice if the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control” (p. 73).
Somewhat similar to Garreau’s two different scenarios of singularity Heaven and Hell Vinge describe his possibilities of singularity as “soft take off” and “hard take off”. A “hard take off” would be if we had a race to get to singularity. If nations are trying to beat each other they we will take chances and miss look over important factors thus quickly creating a superhuman intelligence war fighter. A “soft take off” would be if we reached singularity slowly Vinge suggests 50 to 150 years. This scenario focuses more so on a corporate aspect instead of as militia way.
In this scenario machines would provide humans good customer service and still needing humans to service them as well such as by changing a battery. Garreau asks Vinge what are some indicators of singularity? Vinge replies “we will see automation replacing higher and higher level jobs. ” (p. 76). Vinge even gave the example of google replacing librarians which made me wonder how close singularity is and how it seems it is already starting to take place. When looking at Ray Kurzweil’s view on singularity he compared it more to a force of nature, an evolution, and something that humans could not stop.
However Kurzweil’s seems to take a more relaxed view with singularity as he says we make tiny advances that will lead to revolutionary scenarios, so it would appear this will not be something to much for humanity to handle. I found Kurzweil’s positive outlook on singularity very refreshing. He pointed out how advancements in technology have and will help us. I can easily see how Garreau’s book ‘Radical Evolution” coincide with all the other past books we have read this semester in Politics of the Future.
I felt Paul Virilio’s book “Crepuscular Dawn” touched upon some similar concepts in particular when comparing his idea of “dromology” to Garreau’s “singularity”. Virilio uses the term “dromology” to express his meaning of speed and how it is essential to technology in our society. The speed at which something occurs may change its fundamental nature. This seem to have some similarities to singularity as both talk about how technology and speed it happens at can change humanity as we know it.
Virilio argues since we have yet to master “dromology” an accident is bound to happen in particular a global accident. Although Garreau shows a possible negative scenario of singularity he also shows a positive scenario as well unlike Virilio. Farren and Gibb’s “Who’s Watching You? ” also had some similarities to Garreau’s ‘Radical Evolution”. Farren and Gibb pointed how advancements in technology will allow our government to have constant survillence on everyone and how this will alter how we social interact.
Technology is helping our government to take away from our privacy rights. Computer technology has made it possible for almost anyone’s actions to be monitored. Just by surfing the web almost any individual’s preferences can be verified by tracking what sites they go to and what they search for by using a search engine such as Google. It would appear the government knows us better than our family do or even ourselves. Farren and Gibb and Garreau also both describe a change that will take place for society that we will not be able to change once it happens.
When looking at James Howard Kunstler’s book “The Long Emergency” which also brings awareness to challenges we will have to face globally in the very near future however takes on a very different approach compared to “Radical Evolution”. Kunstler seems to think when it comes to technology we are really not that close to advancing at least when it comes down to finding a replacement for fuel energy. For those that believe replacements for fossil fuel such as solar power and hydrogen are being developed and new technology will save us from our fuel crisis in just a few years Kunstler says that is just living in a dangerous fantasy.
Garreau’s look towards the future is filled with technology and greater than human intelligence wow Kunstler depicts a future that looks like we are force to regress to harsh times of the past centuries when we did not have the luxuries of certain technology. I agree with Ray Kurzweil’s view on singularity and do not think technology can be stopped because it is a force of nature we can not control. However if we go by Kunstler’s view from “the Long Emergency” if we keep up our assive consumption we will eventually run out of fuel and this will slow up future technology and even stop the current technology we are used to such as automobiles and air conditioner. If we take Virirlio’s view science, will destroy itself. Virilio mentions three bombs that he think can lead to apocalyptic dimension, which are the atom bomb, the cyber bomb, and the genetic bomb. This apocalyptic dimension is a catastrophe in the since that science will create an accident that we can not even imagine. I think this image is very similar to the one Garreau describes as he calls that potential singularity scenario “Hell”.
All authors have great points of view and it will be very interesting to see which one will be right. If I had to bet on one being right I would side with Garreau’s “Radical Evolution” I think technology will continue to prevail and take us on to a future filled with greater than human intelligence however I am confident that this will not turn into a terminator movie and I think humans and greater than human intelligence will learn how to work together until greater than human intelligence replace regular humans completely. This would be the next evolution that takes place on Earth.
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