Redefining ‘The Singularity’

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    “The Singularity,” Time Magazine states with turgid certainty, “will be the most important thing to happen to human beings since the invention of language.” Hold on there Sherlock.

    Of course, Time is in the business of selling paper magazines in a virtual world, and that means trying to be hip, entertaining, and informative, in that order. But this cover issue isn’t just silly; it does a disservice to humanity.

    It doesn’t take long for the article, with its desperately eye-catching cover and the title, “2045, The Year Man Becomes Immortal,” to say inane things. In the fourth paragraph, the Redefining ‘The Singularity’

    The implication? To be human is to have a self. But it’s precisely the program for a Self that computer scientists will soon be able to install in ultra-fast computers, convincingly to most people.

    The self is essentially a program flowing from the illusion of the separate observer. End the separate observer in undivided watchfulness, and the self ends, at least temporarily, and the mind awakens in insight.

    On the other hand, program a seemingly separate self into a super-fast computer of immense and immediate recall, and you have nothing when you pull the plug. So much for “humanity’s cyborganic destiny.”

    In a truly cosmic joke, the person who started all this nonsense about ‘The Singularity’ was a British mathematician in the ’60’s (of course) named L.J. Good.

    People will be laughing in 2045 about all the ‘Singularity’ talk in 2011. Or they won’t be laughing at anything at all, since the world will be what it is now, only much more so–a thoroughly dark place. Will people program computers to laugh at themselves?

    I propose that the opposite of Moore’s law now obtains with the human brain. Moore’s law states that the number of transistors computer scientists can put on a microchip doubles about every two years. I submit the human brain is losing brain cells in inverse proportion. We urgently need a deep redefinition of consciousness.

    A computer will never be able to watch a rushing stream flow by with a quiet mind, seeing and feeling the whole movement of nature and the universe in it.

    A computer will never be able to observe itself into silence, because without continuous movement, synapses of silicon cease to exist. When the human mind observes its movement into silence however, the brain does not cease to exist; it comes fully alive.

    What passes for philosophy in Time’s February 21 issue is this question: “As we approach immortality, omniscience, and omnipotence, will our lives still have meaning?” Such drivel triggers “an intellectual gag reflex” in any thinking person.

    There is serious stuff going on with the challenge of artificial intelligence, but after reading this article, my urge is to tell a joke. The year is 2045, when the “exponential growth in computing power surpasses brainpower equivalent to that of all human brains combined.” A man enters a room where all this power is focused, and is told he can ask any question he wants.

    The man asks, “Is there a God?” Allowing just enough time for the pathetically slow human to think that the sum total of all computing power has absorbed his question, the answer reverberates through the room: “Now there is.”

    The chief nerd in the ‘Singularitarian movement’ is a deeply bland and sad-faced man named Raymond Kurzweil. He wants to stay alive long enough to be able to “scan his consciousness into computers and live inside them as software, forever, virtually,” according to Grossman. That sounds like a damn good definition of hell to me.

    ‘The Singularity’ has nothing to do with computers overtaking the human brain, and everything to do with computers overtaking thought. But at present, the hubris of man using thought is limitless: “Within a matter of centuries, human intelligence will have re-engineered and saturated all the matter in the universe,” as Grossman hawks Kurzweil.

    The fundamental error in all this twaddle about “The Singularity” is equating intelligence with thought and thinking. True intelligence has nothing to do with thought however. A computer, like a human, may be able to become smart as hell, but still be stupid in essence. Intelligence is a matter of wholeness, insight, understanding, application, and (dare I use the word), love.

    Perhaps a computer will be able to pass the Turing test even where love is concerned (passing as a human in a blind test). But that’s a pretty low bar these days. Obviously however, a computer programmed to mimic love isn’t love. Love isn’t a program, however complex. Love arises from beyond all programs and patterns.

    When computers are much faster and more efficient than humans using thought, and have vastly greater knowledge and knowledge production, what will the human brain be used for?

    There are infinite dimensions beyond thought and knowledge, which the brain can only contact and explore when the mind-as-thought is deeply silent.

    Even one mind flowering in insight is more significant than the combined thought and knowledge of man and machine. The real singularity will come when awakened and awakening human beings link up with each other in such states of being.

    When human beings, having redefined consciousness, begin to connect with each other in questioning and insight, then computers, no matter how smart they become, will stay in their place and remain what they are: tools.

    Martin LeFevre

    Link to Time article:,8599,2048138,00.html

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