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Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Singularity

My comments on the Singularity are limited to this Time magazine February 2011 article. I recommend you read it, first. I have no reason to ridicule or otherwise dismiss as fantastic or foolish the plausibility of the Singularity: the moment, projected as 2045, when computers and technology (specifically, biotechnology and nanotechnology) will surpass human intelligence. I have neither the science nor the mathematics background to speak to this subject, but I am also neither alarmed nor concerned about the future and the Singularity. So, my comments on the Singularity are limited to my reading and understanding of this article. It features Ray Kurzweil as champion of the Singularity and as such I understand that unless there is an indication to the contrary the views expressed in the article, such as concerning death, represent Ray Kurzweil’s own views.

let’s talk

Kurzweil and his colleagues’ talk about the Singularity is not new. Yes, that statement flies in the face of precisely what is highly exalted by Ray Kurzweil and Singularitians. Specifically, it is the knowledge on which the Singularity, the veritable child conceived of technology to be birthed in the near future.

The transformation of humankind, circa 2045, into immortal cyborgs or something other than what was once recognized as human will mark the of the human era. (Vernor Vinge) Kurzweil brushes aside the controversy which the idea of significant changes to human longevity evokes in some people. Those are the people, according to Kurzweil, who have invested much personal effort in certain philosophies on the issues of life and death and to whom he defers dismissively:  I mean, that's the major reason we have religion. Really? As in, talk among yourselves about religion? This reply seems disingenuous because the reality is that the human experience of life and death do not occur on the basis of an individual’s knowledge, philosophy or religion. So, lets talk.

an open door

The quest for immortality, that coveted cache of the Singularity, does not concern itself with life, that wonderfully unique and extraordinary sentient experience of humans. Actually, the Singularitians’ quest is to bypass death through a download of consciousness unto hardware where, those who choose not to die, can live as immortal, functionally. I am not interested in scenarios of potential natural disasters which could possibly affect, incapacitate or destroy that hardware. What does interest me is that Kurzweil either unwittingly, dismissively, or mockingly, opens the door to religion. Although the term religion, given how it is commonly misunderstood and misused, is not a term which I prefer or care to use I can lay that aside as a matter of minor significance.

bypassing death

So, the Singularity purports to overcome or bypass death through the excellence of knowledge?  Kurzweil has done much work to measure and track the exponential pace of technological progress, present, future and backward to 1900. Given such thoroughness and his glib pronouncement about reverse-engineering the human brain and humans saturating all the matter in the universe in a few centuries why stop there? Why not apply a similar method to determine the cause of death?

Kurzweil’s mistaken view concerning the problem of death is, first, to cast (or at least intimate) death as a problem of old age and nothing more than an illness, and second, to solve that problem through some manipulation of DNA.

the first Singularity

Although I fully expect the ridicule and dismissal by Singularitians and others that would be no different than Singularitians themselves receive concerning the Singularity. The Singularity is not only inevitable but it is imminent, according to Kurzweil, and there’s really not much we can do about it. This is about where I would expect the ridicule, mockery and dismissal of Singularitians should kick in.

The truth is even the self-descriptor of the Singularity and Singularitian, as in singular, single or one, fails to distinguish it from the age-old story of mankind in the book of Genesis in the Bible, and _ the first Singularity. (see, Genesis chapter 3) That first Singularity also involved man and knowledge. Unfortunately, that first Singularity in the garden was not when man became immortal, but when he became mortal; that is, when he became like God. The pairing of man and technology, that is knowledge, by Singularitians is not only present in the biblical narrative, but the narrative relates the convergence of man and knowledge. There is nothing new under the sun, said Solomon.

knowledge and death

What was it that God declared made man like God? It was the knowledge of good and evil.

Even then, the desire of the woman and the man was not so much to be like God, but to be God: singular, one, capable of determining and controlling their own destiny.

This is nothing less and no different than the Singularitian Kurzweil’s expectations of the Singularity of the future. However, the concept (that is the desire of the woman for what she saw before her eyes) and reality (that is, the convergence of man and knowledge) in the first Singularity in the garden did not result in immortality. It marked the beginning of the end, of death in the entirety of creation. This same demise is reflected throughout the universe. Things, both for man and his world, are not getting better. The are in deterioration and decline. The inception of death, in the simplest terms by way of an analogy, involved the convergence of the fruit (hardware) followed by knowledge (software) which transformed the woman and the man. Pressing that analogy further, even the casual computer user knows that software can be corrupted through willful or negligent changes which affect the original software. Even more, there are viruses which can cause physical damage to computer hardware. Yet, it is the nature of man to boast his genius and knowledge as being far greater and superior than all previous generations and master of his destiny, whether in the garden of Eden or in 2045,  _ or so he thinks.

escape

Singularitians may well snicker on hearing that disobedience was the root, or cause of death; but the somber nagging reality of death persists. The Singularity as an answer to death is merely to stretch and push back the parameters of death farther out. The inevitable and imminent occurrence much like Kurzweil states about the Singularity is no less true of death. Kurzweil’s hard, calculated response on the inevitableness of the Singularity holds equally true of death. Death came about as the result of defiance to the One who knows good and evil. It is not surprising that the Singulartians’ escape from death should be through knowledge, because knowledge was what opened the door for death to come into the world for the ruin and destruction of man.

technospeak

Is a record of antiquity to be rejected merely because it is not new, definitely not hi-tech or in the familiar shape of manufactured products or shrouded in the vernacular of technospeak? Especially, when that record relates the vital relationship between knowledge and death? The irony is that the Singularitians’ enlightened, knowledge-filled, linear, chemical, animal brain does not seem to acknowledge the omnipresence of both death and knowledge in the universe. Downloading one’s consciousness unto some hardware does not alter that reality. The notion of escaping death is as mistaken as the notion in the garden that the man and woman would not die.

The newness of technology and technospeak is as much an allure today as a fruit was for Eve. The relative newness of knowledge is the gauge by which some, such as Singularitians, value intelligence. There is no room, no place for what is old, whether it is knowledge or technology. Others value the size; bigger equals more intelligent. I am reminded of the line by a character in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek: “Size is not a measure of intelligence.” (Spock) Even Stephen Hawking when sounding the alarm about alien visitors to Earth, friendly or hostile, says they will arrive in enormously large ships.

conclusion: reversing the first Singularity

The first Singularity in the garden of Eden resulted in death when man acquired the knowledge of good and evil through something as seemingly harmless and innocuous as a fruit. (You may amuse yourself as you wish as to that fruit. It is one of those matters of small significance for myself.) So, whatever prospects of reversing the effects of that first Singularity must necessarily address, both, knowledge and death and why it continues to affect man.

There is something to be said for Ray Kurzweil’s audacious claims about the Singularity. It is not a little secret. It is not obscure. It is plain. Those who have an open-mind to it as well as those who are close-mind to it have heard it. He has proclaimed it and promoted it aggressively. All of which has yet to be fulfilled.

Jesus made audacious claims concerning his death, burial and resurrection. It was not a little secret. His claims were not obscure. They were plain. Those claims were heard by friend and foe alike. He proclaimed and promoted this message aggressively. He fulfilled it.

This, not the death or the burial, but the resurrection of Jesus is the reversal of the first Singularity. The resurrection is not merely an escape or avoidance of death, but a triumph and defeat over death; a transformation from the perishable and corruptible to the imperishable and incorruptible. The resurrection revealed the Creator, giver and sustainer of life who took on the form, that is, the outward appearance of man in order to lay down his life and take it up again. Thereby, his resurrection was a declaration that death has no power over him. (Is the resurrection any less plausible than the Singularitians’ vision of immortality on hand-made hardware?) This was the God of the knowledge of good and evil who came into the world two thousand years ago.

And, like those claims he made and fulfilled two thousand years ago, he has declared he will come again at an undisclosed time.

(I refer adherents of the Torah as well as unbelievers who cannot fathom the idea of the sacrifice of Jesus to read: Human Sacrifice at Moriah and Egypt)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will still live, even if he dies. 26  Whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11)

But this I confess to you, that after the Way, which they call a sect, so I serve the God of our fathers, believing all things which are according to the law, and which are written in the prophets; 15 having hope toward God, which these also themselves look for, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. (Acts 24)

 Behold, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable body must become imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable body will have become imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then what is written will happen: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Death, where is your sting?
Hades,§ where is your victory?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (I Corinthians 15)

Inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this, judgment, 28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, without sin, to those who are eagerly waiting for him for salvation. (Hebrews 9)

“Behold, I come quickly. My reward is with me, to repay to each man according to his work. 13  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. 14  Blessed are those who do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city. 15  Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. 16  I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify these things to you for the assemblies. I am the root and the offspring of David; the Bright and Morning Star.” (Revelation 24)


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