The Singularity Is Here… For Some Of Us
Is the Future already upon us, but we just don’t see it for what it is? We already have an augmented lifestyle, don’t we?
Boiling it down, the Singularity is most often referred to as a time when technology will advance to the point where it will be impossible for the unimproved biological human to keep up with the changes.
Recently, however, I was thinking of all the changes that have happened in the world in the thirty-two years I’ve been on it. It seems to me that the world is completely different now than it was when I was a child. I recently came across this article and it opened my eyes to a few things. In fact, it brought in to focus a thought I had some time ago. Could the Singularity have already happened? How would we know?Some believe that the Singularity will be a time when our computers and other devices merge with the biological, making us cyborgs and/or immortal beings. Yet the gradual omnipresence of technology has led to us never being far from a device that will keep us in constant contact with everyone. We are glued to our smartphones, netbooks, desktops, internet-ready Blu-Ray players and other things.
What about those who don’t have the technology obsession? What about people who are unable or unwilling to keep abreast of the specs of upcoming phones, cars, computers, etc.?
He makes up for his lack of knowledge on the topic by laughing off how people like myself “love (our) toys” and that we are addicted to our electronics in a similar fashion to alcoholics and drug abusers. But he does seem to want to be better connected and often remarks how things have moved so quickly that he just doesn’t understand it.
My parents are another example. They have their flat, widescreen HDTV, their desktop computer with which they answer emails, watch YouTube videos and check news headlines. They think they are pretty up to date. When I tell them about 3DTV, Hulu, Netflix, smartphones, RSS news feeds, Twitter, Facebook and the like, they look at me as if I am a strange visitor from another planet.
Recently, my mother admitted that when I talk to her about new or upcoming technologies, her brain tends to shut me off. She goes into “nod and smile” mode to humor me. She tells me she is fine with what she has and has no real need to get anything new. So I got her a Nook for Mother’s Day. She loves it. At first she seemed skeptical, noting how she loved her paper books, and thinking that e-readers were just a fad. Now she says that she can’t imagine not having it. She cites the convenience, cost and the relatively unknown feature of ordering library books on it as being the reason why she will never go back to Books 1.0.
For that reason I ask the question, “Has the Singularity already happened?” The 20th century was a time of great change and advancement. We saw humans fly for the first time, and scarcely 50 years later, we were planting flags on the moon. We went from telegraphs and telephones to wireless communication and the internet. At some point in there, did we pass a point that we can definitively look back on and point to as the Singularity? The 21st century is moving exponentially faster, and change is coming much more swiftly.
With our smartphones, we have all the information in the world literally at our fingertips and we can integrate it into our lives. We already have an augmented lifestyle, don’t we?
My phone awakens me, then reads the news to me (specifically in the subjects I am most interested in), then tells me my calendar for the day, with reminders. My Twitter sends me a constant feed, as does my Facebook. As I write, I am able to get references, articles, news, reviews, commentary, critiques and anything else about any subject I need, instantly. When I talk to people, I can see them face-to-face in real time. My smartphone has completely changed my lifestyle, and I know that there are already better models on the market, though mine is less than a year old.
Therefore, I would like to argue that the Singularity happened with the rise of the smartphone. Before you write a scathing disapproval of this, I’m not sure if I believe it myself. Remember, this series is called “The Casual Transhuman,” and is meant to introduce these concepts back and forth between the hardcore transhumanists and the peopel who are less familiar with these ideas. But I want to open people to the idea that this concept that many people are looking forward to, a major technological breakthrough, may actually be a thing of the past.
This article first appeared at www.ieet.org on July 4, 2012 and also at http://tjl2080.blogspot.com/2012/07/singularity-is-here-for-some-of-us.html