Comcast Jingles the Singularity

As if I wasn't already worried enough about the negative sociological effects of approaching the Singularity, Comcast comes out with these:





For those who don't know anything about it, "The Singularity" is a theoretical point in the near future at which, depending upon your definition, our technological inventions will surpass us in intelligence, we will be thoroughly integrated into our surrounding technology and it into us, or we will experience a quantum leap in technological advances so unlike anything that we have seen before that it will transform our very understanding of what it means to be human.

Poke around at the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, Ray Kurzweil's site, or the Acceleration Watch. If you're interested, you can become a full blown Transhumanist as you work towards a Transhuman future.

Or just Google it on your hand-held wireless device using hands-free voice recognition software while your car parallel parks itself.

There is a huge part of me that wants to to form some sort of Christian Neo-Luddite movement in response to this - start smashing Bluetooth devices in the streets or something. Or sometimes I want to do what Wendell Berry did - move away from it all and bide the end on some self-sustaining farm in the upper South, growing beets organically and killing chickens with an ax ground at a human powered wheel.

On the other hand, leading advocates of continuing down this technological path as far as we can will counter, "Which medical advances that we already have would you roll the clock back on?"

And that's a tough question. Every critique of rapidly developing technology faces that huge intellectual hurdle. Which cure would you deny humanity? Which technology? Which advantage? And why?

So ... can we just accept technological progress towards functional immortality? Towards a point at which we move beyond the restraints of biological existence? Should we?

If you could download your neural net into a non-biological humanoid ... would you?

What was once science fiction can no longer be so easily dismissed. How do you think about technological advancement and the future?

If you have some time and you haven't already done so, read what Sun Microsystems founder Bill Joy had to say about some of these problems in an article for Wired magazine.

Thanks to my sister Jodi at Highchair Theology for putting me on to the jingles.

7 comments:

The Six of Us said...

I didn't follow all of the links so I probably cannot comment to a full extent, but your post brings these commercials to an even more frightening level. Well, not frightening...I guess just sobering.
As you mentioned, there are great technological advances made; however, that does not mean that one can argue in defense of the antisocial, mind numbing aspects of this "singularity." It is a fine line. (?)

Andrea send a video I will have to pass on following this conversation on education and growing technology. It has made me consider what I want my children's place in this world to be. There are also commercials with children doing things on the computer (photo editing...etc) which adults struggle with and, at the end, they say "I am four and a half...and I am a pc." It makes me glad that Jake still has no concept of what a computer is. He will...but not now.

So are there those who are actively pursuing "singularity" or is the term a negative one?

Okay...I am off to browse some of your links now. I am not sure how much time I have before the kids wake up and my internet fast resumes!

JPB said...

Yes, there are those who advocate the Singularity.

Raymond Kurzweil is trying to keep himself alive until it happens (He has pedicted 2045) so he can get in on immortality.

And this guy may be nuts, but it's a different kind of nuts than those peoeple who dressed up in black clothes and wore Nike high tops while they waited for the space ship behind the Hale-Bopp comet.

Kurzweil thinks it will soon be possible to preserve the consciousness in a machine, or for the consciousness to be so absorbed into or permeated by a techonological environment as to achieve functional immortality.

JPB said...

Yes, there are those who advocate the Singularity.

Raymond Kurzweil is trying to keep himself alive until it happens (He has pedicted 2045) so he can get in on immortality.

And this guy may be nuts, but it's a different kind of nuts than those peoeple who dressed up in black clothes and wore Nike high tops while they waited for the space ship behind the Hale-Bopp comet.

Kurzweil thinks it will soon be possible to preserve the consciousness in a machine, or for the consciousness to be so absorbed into or permeated by a techonological environment as to achieve functional immortality.

Janine the Bean said...

This is truly scary. I didn't follow all the links either as I gave myself 15 minutes to be on the net this morning.

I'll perhaps come back and comment later.

Those videos from Andrea were definitely alarming Jodi. I need to take the time to watch the second one in full.

I agree Jon. It's a different kind of scary.

Ever make you long for days without technology? Or at least technology as it is coming to expression as part of who we "are"?

There are days when I wish it could all just go away. I'm in the process of really re-thinking internet and computer use.

Are we all doing that in some way for Lent?

Janine the Bean said...

Okay...so I commented without reading your full post and asked questions that you had already answered.

There is a huge appeal to the Wendel Berry lifestyle for me. There truly is. I wish that technology wasn't so darn distracting...and dangerous. While MANY good and worthy things have happened due to technological advances, a world of hurt has also occurred.

For me, the main pieces of technology that I use are the computer and cell phone.

Now, I have to admit, I love e-mail and blogs, searching for recipes online, getting help for photography, etc.

BUT...could these things not still be achieved without a computer?

I guess for me it comes down to thinking about my own personal life. How much do I want it to rule my life?

Now, I certainly thank God for medical advances. I'm amazed at how far our country has come in just 100 years.

But the thought of a human being transcended by a piece of technology without a soul? Scary. I don't want my "self" to live here contained in a code, contained in a humanoid.

I think that preserving that part of me which is not to be preserved (my earthly mind and function) seems...wrong. Is it not our soul that we want to last forever?

I think as Christians we really need to think about our dependence on technology and how it glorifies, or doesn't glorify Christ.

Gah! This is all too much for me. I'm going out to plant my peas.

CAUGHTNOTTAUGHT said...

Love the videos but don't believe in it. Technological advance is always disappointing. Where are my hover-shoes? Where? Once I can set my laser printer to stun, I'll reconsider.

And we're not surfing the electronic superhighway, we're typing indoors on a sunny day with the curtains pulled. We used to have lots of questions to which there was no answer. Now, thanks to the net, there's a ton of answers but no questions.

Bottom line: "Automatic" just means "When it breaks, you can't fix it." Computers are just like people: they do everything except think.

michelle said...

Which medical advance would I turn the clock back on? I spend a lot of my back burners cycling on this question. More than God revealing why He did not form a corpus callosum in Chloe's brain, I would like to hear His thoughts on all her medical treatments. What Does He think about her tubes: G tube implant in her belly for feeding in health crises, tubes in her ears, the nose cannula tubes delivering oxygen to her right now as I type and as she smiles her sparkley smile and scatters muffin bits about herself and the floor (though not willing to taste even a crumb, the rascal :)?

What does He think about the DNA and E. coli derived growth hormone replacement shots we give her every night, both about how this medical technology was developed and about the cost (about $25 a night last time I figured)? What does He think about the cost in general of her medical care?

We watched Star trek: Insurrection last week during Chloe's hospital stay - interesting in relation to this (movie about an advanced tech. culture that abandonned tech.) Speaking of Star Trek, cool episode I think of in which a planet is saved through Geordi's visor technology, a tech. that never was implemented on that planet because they did not support the lives of disabled persons (like blind Geordi).

Sometimes I look at Chloe and think of Solomon saying there was nothing new under the sun. Chloe and her peers who live now by means of recent medical advances, they are to me something new under the sun. Maybe they are the fifth element :).