The Book No One Read – Issue 17: Big Bangs

I remember well the first time my certainty of a bright future evaporated, when my confidence in the panacea of technological progress was shaken. It was in 2007, on a warm September evening in San Francisco, where I was relaxing in a cheap motel room after two days covering The Singularity Summit, an annual gathering of scientists, technologists, and entrepreneurs discussing the future obsolescence of human beings.

In math, a “singularity” is a function that takes on an infinite value, usually to the detriment of an equation’s sense and sensibility. In physics, the term usually refers to a region of infinite density and infinitely curved space, something thought to exist inside black holes and at the very beginning of the Big Bang. In the rather different parlance of Silicon Valley, “The Singularity” is an inexorably-approaching event in which humans ride an accelerating wave of technological progress to somehow create superior artificial intellects—intellects which with predictable unpredictability then explosively make further disruptive innovations so powerful and profound that our civilization, our species, and perhaps even our entire planet are rapidly transformed into some scarcely imaginable state. Not long after The Singularity’s arrival, argue its proponents, humanity’s dominion over the Earth will…
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