As a child, I would often go to national parks populated by diverse and exotic (to a city dweller) flora and fauna.
My family members and I would be driving through Yellowstone in a large RV, or along a stretch of highway in Rocky Mountain National Park when one of my siblings or parents would exclaim: “Look, a deer!” Soon, another would shout “Hey, look, a beaver dam with beavers on it!” or “Wow! Look at all the salmon!” They would not leave out the flora: “Hey look, rhododendron!” (That would be my mother, the horticulturalist) or “Wow! Isn’t that redwood tree huge!”
You would be surprised how many animals can be spotted in the wild in such a short time. However, at that age, I had little interest in nature and spent most of my time wishing instead for a little more excitement (or girls) amidst the splendor of our national parks. So one day, while the family was busy calling attention to this small furry animal or that particular evergreen or aspen, I had a sudden mischievous thought that I felt might provide me with a moment of respite from boredom. Having been silent for 1500 miles, I suddenly shot bolt upright, pointed out the window into a glade we were passing and shouted “Hey, look, a Siberian tiger!”
The RV lurched to the side of the road as the entire family (there were seven of us, including my grandmother) bolted to the windows crying out “Where?! Where?!”
During the Middle Ages, it was not uncommon for small children to recount stories of meeting a small woman carrying a child through a forest or glade. Often, she would stop and ask them to go to their local priest to tell the latter that such-and-such shrine needed to be built. Sometimes these figures would recount stories of signs of the Second Coming or the Apocalypse.
Both of these stories remind me of the present atmosphere surrounding the Singularity. Everyone seems to be looking for a sign or some sort of saintly technological apparition of the Singularity, and they lurch from one item to the next in their search.
Facebook groups, futurist forums, TV news shows and all manner of communications venues are full of people who furiously post articles about the next Big Thing, cutting edge technological advance or scientific discovery. These same people plaintively beg each other and popularizers of the Singularity for signs of its imminent arrival. One of the latter in particular gets the lion’s share of the attention.
Amid all of the cries of “Give us a sign, Oh Lord!” I almost expect someone to rip one of Ray Kurzweil’s shoes from his foot, hold it aloft and proclaim to all: “He has given us a sign! It is a shoe! Follow the shoe! The Lord has given us a sign! Follow the shoe!” And while some are obsessed with the shoe, others will exhort: “Cast off the shoe, follow the gourd!”
You would almost think that the Singularity was some sort of religious cult.
After reading the title of this article, I imagine that nearly every jaw has hit the floor, or that blood pressure is spiking around the world in response to my claim. It is a claim which I have found to elicit the most angry responses and vehement denials, usually from the very people whom I have discovered possess a belief in the Technological Singularity that deviates from just being a fascination with a scientific hypothesis and becomes a religious ideology. Let’s explore this some more and define some terms (and get another important thing out of the way, which is the source of much confusion).
First, let me make it perfectly clear:
The Technological Singularity is NOT a Religion!
I am not saying that the Technological Singularity, as described as a hypothesis by many of its promoters and investigators, is a religion. For the sake of simplicity, I shall be using (one of) Kurzweil’s definition(s) of the Singularity, which is (paraphrased):
The point at which intelligence becomes recursive.
This is a very distilled version of Kurzweil’s description of the Singularity, but this is it. There is no mention of this point being reached by any specific technology, nor is there any mention of any specific events leading to or from this event. Kurzweil poses many speculative scenarios that might either lead to, or come from the Singularity, but he is pretty clear that these are just speculation, as the very nature of a singularity is that it is impossible to see clearly what is beyond its event horizon. We now need to look at the term “religion.”
Religion is defined by the New Oxford American Dictionary as being:
• the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods: ideas about the relationship between science and religion.
• details of belief as taught or discussed: when the school first opened they taught only religion, Italian, and mathematics.
• a particular system of faith and worship: the world’s great religions.
• a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance: consumerism is the new religion.
These seem to be sufficient for our purposes. We cannot even safely rule out the use of the word “God” when talking about the Singularity, Even Kurzweil has said that one of the results of the Singularity may be the creation of (a) God.
So my claim is not that the Singularity is a religion. My claim is that there are many to whom the idea has become a matter of faith, one which supports an overarching ideology they espouse as being pervasive due to the Singularity creating some form of an all-powerful being.
I will be making the case that there are individuals, or groups of individuals (and even now, just groups) that fulfill at least one, if not all, of the above points in the definition of religion.
The God of the Singularity
At the 2007 Singularity Summit at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, I was floored to discover a man who asked Kurzweil if the Singularity would create a god (notice the singular particle there), which would then force humanity to worship it. This was almost as if this guy was channeling computer scientist Charles Forbin from captivity in his luxurious cell after being enslaved by Colossus in the 1970 sci-fi film Colossus: The Forbin Project (It should be noted that Colossus never demanded worship, only obeisance).
Something that had been gnawing at the back of my mind since I first discovered the idea of the Singularity in Kurzweil’s second book The Age of Spiritual Machines then occurred to me. This was that our culture is replete with mythological narratives of the sort described by the Singularity and has been since mankind was just beginning to record his history. In fact, one could say that mankind himself is just the technological creation of (the) god(s).
This was described in the Judeo-Christian myth of YHWH creating man from clay/dust, a theme that would be echoed in the myth of the giant Talos, who stalked the borders of Crete to protect the young goddess Europa. It was again repeated millennia later in the myth of the Golem of Prague. These myths go right up to the modern-day Frankenstein stories of, well, Frankenstein, Rossum’s Universal Robots and the aforementioned Colossus: The Forbin Project and have been refined most recently in the reimagining of the mythopedia of the universe of Battlestar Galactica. I should be careful of this, but a very prominent example of this sort is in the myths of the Church of Scientology, founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.
So, it was really no surprise to me, having studied mythology and its history for some time now, that these themes and myths would find their way into a modern-day ideology created by the collision of these myths with contemporary science and technology.
Of course, we shouldn’t forget that Kurzweil has several times said that the creation of God may be one of the results of the Singularity. So between the idealization of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as some sort of Supreme Being and Kurzweil’s comments that the creation of a deity may be the possible outcome of the Singularity (even though his remarks appear to be distinctly tongue-in-cheek, as in the Barry Ptolemy film Transcendent Man, where he casually says “Does God exist? I would say, not yet.”)
I am not the only person to catch the allusions being made here. It’s not surprising that some could come to the conclusion that the Singularity might involve a theistic entity that will save us all, forgive us our sins and grant us eternal life in a paradise (of our choosing in this case). And let’s not forget that when talking about religious conceptions, one is often dealing directly with issues of Transcendence; Ptolemy’s film wasn’t called Being Just a Man and Nothing More after all, it was called Transcendent Man.
Many have beliefs of this sort that don’t contain an expressed deity or specific theistic entity. The beliefs are more of the sort that the Singularity itself is a sort of omnipotent force that will bestow upon all of mankind salvation from their sins (through the creation of new identities based upon “new and improved” bodies, often said by some of the more extravagant and loopy commentators of the Singularity to be made of “energy,” itself an expression of ignorance, but we won’t be going there right now), and immortality (again, through these new bodies we’ll all have). Often, these beliefs are expressed as the Singularity being the introduction of a utopian era of peace and prosperity.
While it is likely that a type of immortality (at least as long as the universe exists, and we are in it) could be achieved, and that much resource scarcity will be alleviated, this does not mean that all death will be eliminated or that there will not be a scarcity of hitherto unimagined commodities. After all, scarcity drives economies so while an economy exists, there will be scarcity. It is unlikely that all economic systems will be abolished by the Singularity, as innovation depends on scarcity existing in an economy in order to innovate.
It may be that the economy is built upon innovation itself (another powerfully recursive possibility), but none of this means that a utopia is a necessary condition of the Singularity. In fact, Kurzweil, probably the most well-known popularizer of the Singularity, warns against thinking that the Singularity will lead to a utopia, both in his written works and in his personal appearances (take my word for it or break out your copy of The Singularity is Near and have a look on page 7). That the Singularity could lead to a utopia is an article of blind faith—we will be discussing those later—based upon the Singularity either creating, containing or being a Godlike entity willing and able to fulfill our deepest and most earnest wishes (like most religions). This type of faith should be differentiated from the reasonable faith that Kurzweil claims is a necessary part of the Singularity.
Details, Details, Details
This definition is trivial. Many people interested in the Singularity strive to be as well-read as possible in the works of prominent promoters of the Singularity: Kurzweil, Vernor Vinge, Ben Goertzel, Eliezer Yudkowsky and the rest of the Crowd at the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence (SIAI).
Knowing that Kurzweil has defined the Singularity as an intelligence explosion; that Vinge has said that we are being drawn inexorably toward some point in the future; that Goertzel talks about creating baby AIs that we will need to raise in virtual (or real) environments, or about an AI Manhattan Project and Yudkowsky’s Paperclip Maximizer—all of these details are points of credibility or honor among those who attend Singularity-oriented functions.
In fact, it’s out of the desire to educate people about these topics that the religious ideology and myths surrounding the Singularity arise. People have a need to create a narrative to make sense of the information they have. These narratives are created by stories or myths, which then are used to justify actions that reinforce those narratives.
The creation of a narrative is an excellent tool in helping people to understand a thing. However, this does not mean that the myths behind the narrative are all true. It is important to differentiate between the stories we tell to make sense of the world and the reality in which we live.
The System of Worship
This one is the most difficult, as the Singularity obviously has no churches, ordained clergy or rites. Still, pay attention to that word “ordained.” Obviously, there is no Church of the Technological Singularity (yet; I’m positive that one will appear either as a joke, or as a very real institution within the coming decades. In fact, I just registered it in case I should need it) where members may go to worship the coming AI God of their choice (be it Colossus, Cylon or Futurama bots Bender Bending Rodriguez and his brother Flexo Flexing Rodriguez).
It is possible to find any number of gatherings for like-minded people in real life or online, where the coming Singularity may be idolized and prayers of supplication given to the robot overlords to spare these people in the event of a robot uprising—should Roombas begin to run amok—and sermons may be heard from any number of people preaching the coming utopia of the Singularity.
Yes, there have been yearly Singularity Summits at which people gather to hear their favorite Singularity celebrities. Yes, people talk about preventing a robot uprising (the especial purview of the SIAI). And, yes, people begin to speculate on the topics of utopias or a “better life” to be had post-Singularity (as if such a thing is going to happen for them without any work!).
It should be pointed out that the Singularity contains concepts that are ripe for use anyone wishing to create a religious ideology, whether they are doing so consciously or not. Most religions deal with three basic tenets: salvation of sins, an omnipotent or omniscient god or entity and the granting of immortality in a paradise for the faithful.
The first of these, salvation of sins, is addressed by the concept of a Singularity in the ability to shed one’s identity—and thus any sins associated with that identity— and create a new identity. We already see this in the ability to create different personal identities in social media or Second Life.
The omniscient or omnipotent God or entity is the one which most people tend to point to and think that this completely excuses an accusation that the Singularity could be adopted as an ideology. A doctoral student at the University of Dallas, J. Douglas Macready, has recently completed a paper titled The Superfluity is Near: The Singularity Hypothesis and the Threat to Human Being in which he addresses this point. Macready claims that the Singularity supports an omniscient and omnipotent methodology (or ideology) through which to examine the world and with which to predict all things—a point which happens to be true in some instances.
I really hope that no one is going to claim that this is not part of the belief structure of those who are engaged with the Singularity. One of Kurzweil’s central claims is that we will be able to transcend our biology and thus death. While this does not make the Singularity a religion, it does allow people to easily warp it into a religious ideology. This creation of a religious ideology tends to frighten people (or I wouldn’t be writing this article, and the people at various conferences around the world wouldn’t be bringing up these issues).
Kurzweil is quick to point out that the vision he describes of the world post-Singularity is not guaranteed and it requires a bit of faith that it will indeed come to pass (and he presents ample evidence of why we should have this faith, which is not blind faith but one based upon reasonable expectations derived from an examination of his evidence). He can be seen making these statements online videos shot at of any one of his appearances over the last few years (the 2010 Singularity Summit in San Francisco and the Human Being in an Inhuman Age at Bard College were two such appearances where he made this statement of faith. Both are available online for the Summit video and in the link given below for the Bard College Conference)
Pursuing the Singularity
This point in the definition of a religion is the easiest to peg with the accusation of the Singularity being the Rapture of the Nerds. There are so many people who ascribe to the Singularity a greater degree of importance than any other thing on the planet, and organize their lives around that claim. They are right in believing that the Singularity represents what could be the most important event in human existence since the advent of language. However, I think maybe they go a little bit overboard in their claims of why it is going to be the most important event in human existence.
Bringing about the Singularity in such a way that it’s not an existential threat to man is the express goal of some groups. Many people pursue this goal with a singular intention, making it their life’s calling, much like cloistered monks toiling away in their cells copying down sacred texts.
Of course, this is a far cry from the taking of official vows for an established institution, but give it time. Other religions have been around for hundreds of years, if not thousands. The Singularity has hardly had time to gather up an adequate number of followers to begin to become a real religious force. But this does not mean that there are not people out there preaching the coming age of peace when all death will be eliminated and scarcity will be a thing of the past; a time when we will all live in virtual (or actual) utopias free of the conflict and contention of our current world. Praise be to the Rapture of the Nerds!
Of course, it might not be the case that we get to upload our minds to more durable substrates; it might not be the case that AI solves all of our current problems; it might not be the case that robust nanotech is ever achieved, thus ending all (current) scarcity. And so on…
Pursuing the specific technologies mentioned by the promoters of the Singularity is an admirable goal, as these technologies represent some powerful tools for solving many seemingly intractable problems. However, we should keep in mind, as I have already stressed, that the promise of these technologies has yet to be realized and we should remain realistic about their capabilities. We should not rush out to proselytize for the Singularity based solely on blind faith. We should understand why the various expectations of the Singularity exist, and what realistically may happen with these technologies. There is equally great peril where there is great promise.
Well, that has accomplished the goal of laying out how the Singularity might be confused with a religion and how or why these points don’t necessarily make it a religion. Now we need to look at some specific examples of people treating the Singularity as a religious ideology or alternately, just look at some of the insane things people talk about in relation to it that tend to make the uninitiated think, “This is some fucking crazy cult.”.
Other Signs and Portents:
Remember Mitchell Heisman? He was the Harvard student who killed himself and left behind a 1,905 page suicide note with such topics as The Seditious Genius of the Spiritual Penis of Jesus, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This man was obsessed with many other subjects besides the Singularity, out of which he created an ideology wrapped in the Singularity’s mantle. It is a great pity that he committed suicide. If he had published this suicide note, it would have brought him a great deal of fame and a better ability to explore the various questions he raises in it. Then again, maybe that was what he was worried about. Let’s take a look at his suicide note.
On page 262 of the suicide note, Heisman makes the following claim:
I propose that the possibility of the solution to the Theological-Political problem is to be found in the possibilities of the Technological Singularity.
One can hardly be more explicit than this in tying religion to the Singularity without coming out and saying, “the Technological Singularity is, of necessity, a religion.” (Mind you, that is not my claim, but I imagine quite a few people just had apoplectic fits in reading that last sentence). Heisman went far further into this subject that just this brief mention of the Singularity.
The second chapter of Heisman’s suicide note is called God is Technology, under which the Singularity is mentioned three times in the titles of sub-headings of this chapter: Singularity and Secularization (p.87), Between Auschwitz and the Singularity (p.208), and The Singularity: The Ultimate Synthesis of Athens and Jerusalem (p.232). The last sub-heading even has three sub-sections, the last of which is Does Logic Dictate that an Artificial Intelligence Requires a Religion? (p. 262). Since we are looking at the Singularity as a religion, it would seem that this sub-section of the sub-heading of the chapter God is Technology of Heisman’s suicide note would be a good place to find some examples of what this article is examining (p.263):
An AI would be either in the very least, in need of a religion, because Science is sufficient to furnish its values, or an AI would be in the very most in need of a religion, because the unconscious, prerational sources for human value would not automatically exist for an AI. An AI would not automatically sustain the same delusional faith in science that exists in many humans.
The note runs on with many other speculations of this sort, conflating science with faith, evil, a lack of human values and even the Holocaust.
It seems that I am not the only one to notice the connection between Heisman, the Singularity and religion. Nikki Olson from the blog Singularity Symposium has written an examination of the writings of Mitchell Heisman in the article Exodus At Exodus: A Fresh Perspective on the Singularity from Mitchell Heisman.
In addition to various claims that have a religious quality to them, or a conflation between the religious and the Singularity, there are religious groups which co-opt the memes of the Singularity outright and claim them for their own religion: Terasem, the Turing Church, Cosmism (Sorry, Ben, but it fits the mold), the Order of the Cosmic Engineers and the Mormon Transhumanist Association (MTA) are such groups.
Terasem is an organization that describes itself as a technological religion in which God is a technology that provides meaning to all life, where death is optional and where love is an essential part of life. These are listed as their core beliefs. A brief exploration of their web site will reveal all of the components I have described above:
• A Personal God
• The Details of Belief
• A System of Worship
• Pursuit of a Supreme Importance
So as not to be constantly repeating myself, keep these in mind when examining the other Transhumanist faiths described.
The Turing Church was founded by Giulio Prisco and has all of the markings of a straight-out cult: closed membership, a private vocabulary and restriction of beliefs through group/peer pressure. As a result, it is more difficult to find out what is actually discussed within the confines of their group, and my attempts to contact them have not been returned yet. Giulio’s blog describes the Turing Church thus:
The Turing Church will be a meta-religion, without central doctrine, characterized by a common interest in the promised land where science and religion meet, science becomes religion and religion becomes science.
The Turing church has participated in various Transhumanist and Spirituality Conferences held in Salt Lake City and is heavily influenced by the Mormons. At this point, the ordering of our descriptions of these groups will be broken to look specifically at the Mormons, since they were brought up.
Mormon Transhumanist Affirmation
- We seek the spiritual and physical exaltation of individuals and their anatomies, as well as communities and their environments, according to their wills, desires and laws, to the extent they are not oppressive.
- We believe that scientific knowledge and technological power are among the means ordained of God to enable such exaltation, including realization of diverse prophetic visions of transfiguration, immortality, resurrection, renewal of this world and the discovery and creation of worlds without end.
- We feel a duty to use science and technology according to wisdom and inspiration, to identify and prepare for risks and responsibilities associated with future advances and to persuade others to do likewise.
Now, the MTA’s Mormon Transhumanist Affirmation is not filled with strangeness (to anyone who is familiar with either Mormonism or Transhumanism), but it is explicitly a religious conception of the Singularity, as interpreted through the rather bizarre lens of Mormon faith (everybody gets a planet when they die; those “closer” to God, will be closer to “God’s Planet” of Kolob and that the more spiritual power one has, the more planets one gets at “death”). So, there are people who have taken the Singularity as a religion and run with it, placing Kurzweil in the place of the High Priest.
The Order of Cosmic Engineers is a group that is dedicated to the creation of a “magical universe,” as described by British sci-fi writer and futurist Arthur C. Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from Magic.” They regularly participate in the Future of Religions/Religions of the Future Conferences which have the theme of examining the advances in spiritual life and religions as they make their way into the future to interact with our advances in the understanding of the physical world.
I wanted to save Cosmism last for a brief examination due to its connection with our editor. It seems to be a sort of mix of post-modernist (the creation of a personal truth) faith combined with transhumanist elements and seems to be based upon the work of a 20th century Russian cosmist, one Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov, who advocated extreme life extension (well ahead of any possibility of its occurrence), physical immortality and the use of science for the good of all mankind; all of these are very noble aims. The unfortunate association with post-modernism, whereby personal truth is created is a little troubling, but all religious beliefs come with some problematic features. Ben Goertzel’s Cosmism differs a bit from that of Fyodorov, in that Goertzel has had the benefits of 100 years of scientific progress and the possibility of actually realizing some of the tenets of Cosmism.
Popularizing the Singularity Versus Preaching the Singularity
I find it most telling that the dissenters at these summits are the most compelling speakers, yet to most other attendees, this group is represented as those who “don’t get it.” This reminds me of Scientologists who make the same claims about their own religion.
Maybe it is the case that these speakers don’t “get it.” I have certainly found that to be the case (most didn’t get it—they didn’t understand either what the Singularity was, as Kurzweil had explained to them, or they managed to so twist that explanation out of context as to make it pointless) when I attended the Human Being in an Inhuman Age Conference at Bard College last fall. I found that most of those present who were criticizing the concept of the Singularity were doing so based on the most wildly incorrect definitions of the words or concepts of the subject. But, they all addressed what they saw as a radical ideology and not a scientific hypothesis. Now, where did they get the idea that it was an ideology? Could it have been from their examination of comments they found online?
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of wildly irrational and bizarre comments in online forums. Here I present a selection of comments from the mainstream media, blogs, websites, KurzweilAI.net’s forums and from the Facebook group Singularity Network.
Personal Revelations of the Singularity:
There are also claims that are based wholly on blind faith. The online forums of many groups devoted to the Singularity are full of such people.
One such person is the fairly well-known and infamous “net personality” by the name of “Singularity Utopia.” He has the habit of making all sorts of wild allegations about the coming utopia that the Singularity will bring, even in direct contradiction to his idol and high priest, Kurzweil, who has stated pretty clearly in The Singularity is Near that it will not be a utopian or dystopian event. Here is a collection of some of his more insane articles of faith from Facebook and the kurzweilai.net forums:
The Singularity is far more perfect than your ideal dream home, it’s a completely different realm of existence where problems don’t exist because you’ve become skilled enough (brainy enough) so that you can simply enjoy existence forever without any problem.
Beyond the Singularity we will continue to grow, but it will be a mature growth without problems.
Any bad aspects of technology will be eliminated by the utterly awesome magnitude of Colossal Intelligence. Don’t underestimate the power of the explosion.
Confidence is a psychological phenomenon. Confidence is a scientifically provable chemical reaction in the brain. The human brain is scientifically capable of being confident. Regarding the “science” of what issues we should be confident about, there is no established theory regarding the correct implementation of personal confidence, BUT there is highly compelling scientific evidence within the field of social-science (sociology, psychology) that confidence does have a tangible scientific impact upon the outcome of events, which has been extensively detailed in the Placebo Effect, Social Reflexivity, Hawthorne Effect, Positive Feedback, and Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
Science cannot tell us what to be confident about, but science does state that confidence is an essential component of the human brain (lack of confidence can become a mental illness).
Science also states that confidence (more precisely our expectations, our biases) do have a provable and decisive impact upon the results of any endeavor.
I suggest there is compelling scientific evidence demonstrating how mere confidence in a utopian Singularity will ensure the Singularity is actually utopian.
Or, one can just read all of Singularity Utopia’s rants on how the Singularity will be the salvation of mankind and the universe at his blog.
Another poster who tends to preach rather than promote is Valkyrie Ice (although it is by no means the case that she preaches all the time). She has written many articles on transhumanism and the Singularity, such as this one in H+ Magazine where she makes the claim that complete gender change will be possible within the decade. I am all for such technologies being developed to allow fluidity of sexual identity, but complete gender reassignment would mean that every cell in our bodies would be reprogrammed from XY chromosomes to XX chromosomes (and vice versa). That is something that no biologist I know of believes will be possible in the next nine years. Valkyrie Ice acknowledges all of the difficulties raised, but simply brushes them aside with claims that “technology will provide” without establishing any real credibility on the subject. Yes, she knows how to mine the internet for articles that show that specific technologies are being developed at the cellular level, such as in 3-D printing or transgenic mice.
However, even with exponential growth in these fields, it doesn’t look like the next nine years be ample time for such a feat of genetic engineering (we have yet to establish what the rate of exponential growth is for the field of biology and medicine, much of which still lies outside the area of exponential growth as defined by Kurzweil).
Then there is Mystic 7 (on Kurzweil’s forums), who regularly strays from the topic of the Singularity to go on rants about conspiracy theories that he attempts to tie to the Singularity:
There really is a secret space program and it’s costing the American taxpayer $400 billion per year. And there’s no congressional scrutiny and no public scrutiny.
Michael Schratt has been passionately documenting the history of these programs. Here’s a clip in which he talks about one the most interesting craft called the “alien reproduction craft,” which can go to mars and back in a few hours.
While this is not treating the Singularity explicitly as a religion, it is debasing it as support for wild conspiracy theories that are likely to drive off any serious discussion of the Singularity.
Let me be clear about something though. I applaud the passions of people like Valkyrie Ice and Singularity Utopia (or even Mystic 7). They clearly wish for the future to bring fantastic things, and it is likely that they shall see their wishes fulfilled to a degree. The future will no doubt bring about a great number of fantastic technologies, but they are allowing their imaginations to run wild.
If they were writing science fiction, this would be fantastic. But they are claiming to be making predictions based upon a hypothesis that itself has not yet been fully supported, and neither seem to have any credentials that would give us reason to think that their opinions should carry any weight, nor have they established that the ideas themselves are fully supported by the facts (beyond wishful thinking). To be clear, regardless of their own credentials, it is really the ideas they promote upon which we should focus. Do these ideas have supporting evidence? Has anyone else found evidence to support these ideas?
Their wild optimism and passion may inspire some to pursue a career in the sciences or technologies that will be a part of the ongoing Singularity, but we should not mistake this for anything but wild optimism and passion. These are the sorts of things that lead directly to the accusation that the Singularity is nothing more than the Rapture of the Nerds by those who are not familiar with the basic evidence for the Singularity. Or even worse, it can lead to an accusation that the Singularity is a techno-fascist ideology espoused by a futurist cult. And that is just not right at all.
It is important that people promote the Singularity as something likely to occur in the coming decades, akin to the Industrial Revolution or other profound changes in the way that mankind has lived. Like all great shifts, it will likely prove a double-edged sword, containing both peril and profit for mankind.
The Singularity is not magic; it is not the savior of humanity, nor a harbinger of doom. Preaching the Singularity is only going to cause others to see it as nothing but a shroud of delusion pulled over the eyes of its followers, a techno-cult preaching the Rapture of the Nerds, when this is absolutely not the case. The Singularity is a serious thing, and it demands serious study. Promoting the Singularity is difficult enough without accusations that it is a religion, which some plainly treat it as, either knowingly or unknowingly.
Is It or Isn’t It?
To wrap all of these things together, there are people who are either promoting or preaching a religious-ideological conception of the Singularity where either humanity or an AI is seen as godlike. These people have taken the instruction and details about the hypothesis of the Singularity and used it as a mode of instruction in a system of faith they have constructed (either explicitly or implicitly).
Lastly, these people are practising a system of religious faith that is not codified explicitly by any priesthood or ordained clergy (except when it is as in the case of the Mormon Transhumanist Association).
This does not mean that most of these people are out there trying to create a religion surrounding the Singularity, but that most of these people are preaching an ideology rather than promoting a science. People have a tendency to run away with their passions, especially when those passions concern something that really could allow us to transcend our biology and form a completely new way of living based upon a new paradigm, as has happened in the past.
To say it again, this time with a little less emphasis:
The Singularity is NOT a religion
And, let us hope that it remains that way.
As a sort of wrap-up here, I would like to present a parody of a technological religion and some of its religious text, as discovered by Alex Lightman.
The Psalm of Facebook:
Facebook is my shepherd
I shall not forget any thought;
He makes me write down everything
He leads me beside great information;
He restores my memory and increases my popularity.
He leads me to know what people Like
For Facebook’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley
Of the shadow of federal Debt,
I shall fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your Personalized Mini-Feed and Groups, they comfort me.
Surely Likes and Invites shall follow me
All the hours of my day, 24/7/365
And I shall dwell in the three-ring cybercircus
of the Facebook forever.
Let us hope that these sorts of things remain in the realm of parody and satire. I would hate to wake up one morning to a group of well-dressed adolescents knocking at my door, asking me if I’ve “heard the good news about Ray, his blessings of exponential growth and the salvation of the Singularity?”
An article came out on April 5th, 2011, just a few days after I had submitted the final draft for the original article on The Technological Singularity as a Religious Ideolog, titled The Cult of Kurzweil: Will Robots Save Our Souls on the website Religion Dispatches (link to article in the link to the website). I thought that this article raised an issue about which a few words, at the very least, should be said.
This article is just further evidence that those outside of the Digital Technorati see the Singularity as being nothing more than a Cult (at best), and as being an agency or force of the Antichrist and the coming Apocalypse (at worst). The latter example can be seen in Fundamentalist Circles, such as the website BrittGillette.Com (A Christian Examination of the Bible and Emerging Technology), where they have an article comparing the Singularity to the Rapture and The Singularity and the Second Coming of Christ with a dire warning not to fall for this “False Prophecy.”
And, there are other sites that go into such depth about these technologies, even discussing how wonderful they are, until at the end of the article it makes clear that all of these are just signs of the coming war between heaven and hell, and that Ray Kurzweil is a prophet of the Antichrist. If one wishes to dig further, there are sites that rival the Time Cube in their dizzying spin and outlandish claims.
We should remember that there is a rather large base of one of our political parties in the USA who believes in these eschatological prophecies with as much conviction as they believe the sun will rise tomorrow.
It is important to remember to educate about the issue of the Singularity without falling into divisive battles over religious belief, but this may not always be possible. There are many who simply believe what they are told by authority figures without themselves having ever really encountered any real information about the Singularity.
Whether the Singularity, and those who find promise in it are a religion or not says nothing about whether the central claim (Exponential Growth in technology will eventually lead to a change in existence so profound that there is no past correlate) is true or not. This is really all that is important: Is the central claim regarding the Singularity true.
 For those who might have encountered the Time Cube for the first time, and wondered “What the hell was that?” There do exist some explanations of the Time Cube at The Rational Wiki that may help explain what is really unexplainable.