“Oh hey”, you think “Nice singularity podcast, bros! But what is The Singularity and why should I care?”
We’re glad you asked, enthusiastic friend.
The Singularity, first of all, is awesome.
It’s a concept that’s gaining more and more attention all the time. We can see it at work every time a new and disruptive technology comes around and shifts our entire society (think the PC, the Internet, smart phones, YouTube, etc.) Every day it’s becoming increasingly more apparent that new technology like self-driving cars, augmented reality, renewable energy, 3-D printing, Artificial Intelligence, and a host of other new technologies are poised to change our world in profound ways. While many of these technologies are cutting edge, the concept of The Singularity, and that we should be concerned about advances in technology, isn’t necessarily new.
Progression of technology is something that has concerned people for a long time. Ask Ned Ludd. A Luddite is “a person opposed to increased industrialization or new technology”. To be concerned with increasingly powerful technology, however, doesn’t have to mean being opposed to it.
We here at Singularity Bros are cautiously optimistic about new technology and the impacts that these new techs and new ideas will have on our society.
The term “The Singularity” has been around for decades and has many definitions. So many, in fact, that an article by Socrates of the incredibly amazing Singularity 1 on 1 podcast (seriously, check him out) lists 17 (!) different definitions of The Singularity. In the first half of the 20th century, way before smartphones, the Internet, or even anything that today we would recognize as computers, John Von Neumann said “the ever accelerating progress of technology … gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.”
This answer to “what is the Singularity” is the one that we are rolling with. We reserve the right to change our mind on this when we inevitably realize that we are silly people.
So, friend, to answer your question again of “what is The Singularity?” our answer is this: The Singularity is the idea that technological progress is advancing rapidly. More rapidly all the time. We can’t fully comprehend all the ways in which this progress will affect our society, lives and world. In fact, this progress of technology will have such a huge impact that it’s impossible to know what’s on the other side.
What we can do is try to guide this progress through conversation and raising awareness so that each step towards this new and unknowable future is one that is taken seriously and given the reflection that it deserves. For now that means that we Singularity Bros are going to talk about it and sound like goofballs at least half of the time.
Ok, we get it. Sort of. Why should we care about the Singularity?
Ok, yeah! This is a much more interesting and fun question than “what is The Singularity?” Why should you care? Why should anyone?
We like to think of ourselves, we Singularity Bros, as Singularity minded. This means that we try to understand our world, our future, our ethics, our environment, and society with the realization that our very humanity will likely be challenged by increasing technology.
So we might pick a technology, like self-driving cars, for example and try to imagine what type of impact that technology could have:
No longer will people drive themselves. This means a drastic reduction in automobile accidents (a complete elimination of drunk driving, texting while driving, falling asleep behind the wheel, etc.) That saves lives! Saving lives is great!
Commute times can be productive now! We can read, watch videos, sleep or play with our kids. Traffic will be reduced. There’ll be no need for parking lots. Tons of space in cities can be freed up that was once used as parking! Cool!
In fact, why will we even need to own a car? If self-driving cars are the norm then we can just call a car using our smart phone, Uber style, to pick us up whenever we need it, day or night. This means no more car payments! No more ownership of cars and huge reduction in how much we have to spend commuting.
Wait a second, what about all those Uber drivers? What about their jobs? What about taxi drivers or truck drivers? Now that companies can have drivers that never need a break, never need a vacation or even a wage, their profits will soar while huge numbers of people will be out of work. How will we pay for our fancy driverless Ubers then? Won’t this create even more financial inequality? How can we make sure that we as a society enjoy the vast number of benefits of self-driving cars without being out on the street?
See how this works? That’s just one technology. By taking it seriously we realized the huge benefits and the thousands of lives that can be saved. But we also saw that people could be out of jobs and we realize that the crazy amount of money going to the people that own these fleets of robot cars will have a huge impact on our society. We can start to think about putting programs in place to minimize this impact on workers or start coming up with other ways to employ people.
Again, this is just one new, disruptive technology in a sea of new technologies. This same thought experiment can be done with any new, emerging tech. Not only can be done, but should be done. It would not be fun to be caught with our pants down and the rate at which these techs move compared to how fast our society can intelligently react means we have to be loud about our concerns.
Wait, that sounds cool but now I’m scared. Should I be excited about The Singularity or scared of it?
The answer to this is…both.
We, however, are more excited than scared. We envision a future where people work less, only on things that matter, and that make the world better. We envision a world without drudgery. A world without needless deaths or disease. A world in which poverty is totally eliminated, where all of our basic needs are met. A world where survival isn’t a struggle and we can all expand our intellects, our compassion, and have deeply fulfilling lives.
But to get there we have to get people talking! We have to make people realize that these ideas aren’t science fiction and that they are happening now. And rapidly! To do that we need to have the conversations. The more we can try to understand what we want out of these new techs, the better our positions will be when confronted with them.
There is no aspect of our society that will be left untouched by these new technologies and that has been true since the hand axe. Think about how much the printing press changed the world. We are on the verge of having a printing press level event occur monthly. If we have any hope of guiding the impacts of these new techs and having the world be a better place we need to talk about it. Now!
Join us in the conversation and start having your own!