Monday, January 28, 2013

Singularity is coming...?

So we've been in class for almost a month now, and during that time we've had some solid discussion. A good portion of this discussion has been dedicated to technology and it's affect on our society, and during these conversations, one name has come up constantly; Ray Kurzweil.

Last semester, I took Webster Newbold's English Intro to Digital Literacy Class and we learned aboutRay Kurzweil and his crazy idea of "singularity." Basically, this mad scientist believes that if technology continues to advance at the rate it has been, eventually man and machine will become one. This will eventually lead to human flesh, blood, and brain becoming obsolete in a new, completely artificial world. 

I'm paraphrasing, and a little biased (because I think Kurzweil is completely off his nut), but I'm curious as to what my classmates think about Kurzweil and his plans for the future of mankind? If my (poor) description of singularity didn't do the job for you, here's a few videos featuring Kurzweil himself explaining it. 


  1. Okay, so I first googled his name and found

    "Ray was the principal inventor of the first CCD flatbed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition."

    At first I was like, "That's impressive!" Then, I watched that first video, and now I'm like,
    "Wow, this guy is kinda crazy." It seems like he's talking about science fiction at times. However, with the amount of engineering and scientific achievements he's earned,I can see why he'd be afraid of 'singularity. After all, if you're an inventor of something others didn't think could be possible, what other things could your scientific and creative mind come up with? threats for bio-hazardous warfare could be a possible fictional thought. Yet, what are the boundaries between fictional and reality when you've already created something that was once thought of as impossible due to the lack of resources and technology?

  2. I don't think the idea of the "singularity" is all that far-fetched. Kurzweil does a nice job of explaining the exponential leaps that technology has and will continue to make into the future. I think that the merging of human consciousness and machinery is really only a matter of time. Technology is our legacy, and may very well end up being a deciding factor in the literal evolution of the human race.

  3. I also took Newbold's 213 class last semester, and I've tended to be a bit protective of Kurzweil since. From my experience, many people are quick to react to his views by calling him a madman, crazy, a nut, and any other number of things, but I don't think he deserves it. This is a man who has invented a significant number of advanced machines and made some accurate predictions. I'm convinced that he knows more about technology and biology than myself or anyone I've ever met, and probably more than everyone I have yet to meet, and still, so many of us are so quick to discount him just because the things he is saying are unlike anything we've ever heard before. I've even heard a few people become angry, defensive, and derogatory toward Kurzweil, just for stating his views. This stuff scares people, keeps them from having an open mind. I remember, when watching "Transcendent Man," the documentary about Kurzweil, that he was asked what he thought of those who called him nasty names, and he replied by saying that he understood why what he was saying could be frightening. He would be frightened too if he didn't have so much exposure to the concept. He's a patient man, and I think he deserves that patience in return.

    As for his theories, why should the singularity be so unbelievable? The trends are right there before our eyes. They've been happening for ages. With the invention of language, man made a giant leap and everything changed, the same with the invention of writing, and numerous other things. Why can the next leap not be the fusion of man with machine? It seems all too plausible to me, considering the ways we use technology, to provide us instant information. We continue to make this more available and quicker and easier to use, so why would we, as a society, not eventually just make it a part of ourselves, the ultimate convenience? What with all that is being done already to simulate human intelligence, I don't see Kurzweil's timeline to be too incredibly out there.

    Let us not crucify a man for telling us what is on his mind and looking to better the world.

  4. I agree that I don't think the idea of "singularity" is that crazy or unrealistic of an idea; however, I hope I never live to see that day. I think the idea of man and machine merging is scary. If you think about it, we have been trying to define intelligence for how long? Who says his definition is the right one? I cannot imagine people putting all of their faith and trust in this guy to merge the human race with machines. I agree with the professor in The Transcendent Man-pursuing Singularity would cause a massive world war between people who want it and people who want to stop it.

  5. I think the reason many people react with hostility towards Kurzweil is because of fear. This is a normal human reaction to change (it took a long time for people to admit that climate change is real...yesterday it was 60 degrees and today it's snowing and below 20 degrees). We need to get used to the idea that technology is going to continue to become a bigger part of our lives and instead of only focusing on irrational Terminatoresque visions of the future, we should think about how we can use technology to improve society. Kurzweil seems to be doing just this by taking precautions against abusing technology for unjustified means.

  6. This is the kind of stuff that drives me to study Computer Science. Computers are already shaping the world we live in. Technological singularity seems inevitable at this point. Computers are evolving at an exponential rate. Or brains? Not so much.

    We're already attached to our computers. We rely on our phones and our laptops daily. Despite how much time we spend with our digital devices, the majority of us have no idea how they work. When we learn a new software interface, are we actually learning how to use it, or are we the ones being programmed by it?

    Check out this video by Douglas Rushkoff. He explains how programmers are shaping our reality in this digital age. Singularity and the very future itself is in the hands of those who program.

    Unless Skynet happens. Then nevermind.

  7. I'm not so sure about "man and machine becoming one." Sounds pretty trippy to me. However, we've done things that was never thought to have occurred. I would say anything is possible. It's okay to keep an open mind to what the future has to offer. However, as humans, we fear our own mortality; that will never change. We fear becoming our own creators whether it's for religious means or because it's an eerie subject, touchy even.

    To say the world of humans will become completely artificial is not such a distant thought. I think it relies on for what means will this new era of artificial development do for us as a race. Will it end death? Will it end fear of death? They are classic questions people will always want to solve. But, I also think as people want to find the solid answer they also fear the ultimate knowledge. We will keep improving and changing as a society, but as far as truly melting those two concepts together, it worries far to many people right now.

  8. Kurzweil isn't too far off his nut. When singularity occurs, humans will be able to relax, while cyborgs are out doing the work. I mean, of course a few humans will have to manage these robots, but life will be about relaxation. Actually, no. I don't like the idea. The melding will more than likely occur as humans discover better and faster technology.

  9. Honestly when I took Newbold's class last semester with you and we watched the documentary on Kurzweil I thought what he had to say was interesting (the opposite reaction than that of most of our class if I remember correctly). I mean here is a man talking about doing the things I read about in novels in actual reality. These ideas are intriguing for a reason to be present in novels, movies or whatever, so why can't they be pursued in real life? Because the audience already has a preconceived idea of what will happen if anything that Kurzweil is suggesting happens and it’s not good ideas.

    I know a few others have said this, but I think it is worth mentioning again and that is that fear runs how we would react to someone with outlandish ideas like Kurzweil. For me a lot of what he says in the first video you posted makes sense to me logically because at the rate at which technology is advancing, anything seems possible. Do I agree with everything Kurzweil talks about? Not necessarily, but what he theorizes gives me a lot to think about.

  10. Well, I think that this is impossible as well. I think we will hinder many of our abilities as humans by relying on technology (i.e intuition, imagination & patience). But a robot replacing a human? Even if robots were starting to "rule" the world - wouldn't there be some sort of human vs robot war? Also, how much is too much? When will humans be satisfied with the technology that we have. In general, I think technology will get out of hand - but not to the extent where robots replace humans.