Technological singularity: a hypothetical event occurring when technological progress becomes so rapid that it makes the future after the singularity qualitatively different and nearly impossible to predict. Most of us assume that this moment in time is still ahead of us. But is it really? Could it be that we have already experienced this magical event, and simply failed to notice it? After all, it is sometimes difficult to notice life changing events when they happen right under your nose – you end up taking them for granted.
Consider this for a second though: in 1969, ARPANET went live for the fist time. It was the first packet switched computer network which allowed for electronic communication on the large scale. It was the birth of the internet – the moment that changed everything. Since then we have been living in a world that was almost impossible to predict from events prior to that time.
Think about it. We gave up on space exploration and extraterrestrial colonization and turned inward creating a global network that changed the way we live, and the way we perceive things. It reduced works of art, books, movies and music to mere bytes – data that can be copied and transmitted freely by anyone with connection to the net. It challenged the very idea of copyright, and ownership of ideas. It revolutionized how we write software, allowing people to collaborate and publish their work for free, allowing individuals to compete on even footing with mega corporations. It became a tool for democracy: one that that gave oppressed nations a free speech outlet, and venue where they could organize themselves.
Could anyone in the 40’s or the 50’s predict that every child and teenager living in 2011 would have complete, uninhibited access to the entirety of combined human knowledge and culture via their phone from almost anywhere in the world? Most likely not. And isn’t that what singularity is supposed to be about?
Perhaps it has already happened and we missed it? We are currently living on the steep slope of exponential change riding the wave of new into an unknown future. Perhaps there is another singularity moment awaiting us there.
I guess it is a matter of how you define it. Does any paradigm-shifting, life changing technological revolution count as technological singularity? Or do we need to pick a specific one? And if we do, how do we know when it has happened? Will we even notice?
I have this funny notion that few hundred years from now we will all reconvene as virtual uploads in some vast simulated space running inside the massive Matrioshka brain that will now exist where our solar system used to be. We will sit around as immortal, vastly more intelligent software ghosts and have this exact same conversation – still waiting for the god-damned singularity to happen and whisk us away into the super-future.