10 Nov 2011

The Singularity (a layman’s view)

8 Comments | Posted on Thursday, November 10th, 2011 at 11:20 am Emerging Technology, The Singularity

Exponential.  If you could sum up the complex concept of The Singularity into a single word it would be that word, Exponential.  My introduction to The Singularity theory came from a TED video I watched some years ago that my father recommended featuring an eccentric genius by the name of Raymond Kurzweil.  Ray talked a lot about the exponential growth of technology and how Moore’s law allowed his company to time their innovative products launches well into the future.   He talked about a time in the not so distant future when we as a people will merge with the non-biological intelligence we have created and from that moment forward all bets are off.  It will be a time when technological progress will advance at an alarming rate leaving anyone who has not merged with the machine behind in a trail of dust.   This concept really got my whacked out brain thinking of the infinite possibilities that we may see in our lifetime.


I had questions for my new buddy Ray:

If and when The Singularity happens how would we ever know we’ve entered it?

What are the challenges humanity will face as we approach this radical transformation?

Is The Singularity inevitable and if so how can the average person prepare for it?

At what point in our “merge with the machines” do we lose what we think of today as our individuality?

What role will “Snooki” play in our robotopian future?


I plan on interviewing Ray for my web series In The Mix in the not so distant future so please send me any questions you would like to pose to him and I’ll incorporate as many as I can into my interview.  I’m also happy to start a discussion in the comments below about the theory of The Singularity and what it will mean for us and where we are headed.

written by
Luke A. Ryan
  • Jamaker2001

    Given the defects in the human emotional system, on full view now in the Republican primary, it would seem likely that any benefits of technological advances will accrue to the profit of the 1% and to the detriment of the majority. I would like to know how Ray Kurzweil foresees this issue playing out in the future.

  • Anonymous

    I thoroughly enjoyed The Singularity is Near and I’m a fully paid up member of the club! However, in his 2005 TED Talk which you link to he makes some rather bold predictions that didn’t come true:

    “By 2010, computers will disappear, they will be so small they’ll embedded in our clothing, in our environment, images will be written directly onto our retina, providing full immersion virtual reality, augmented real reality. We’ll be interacting with virtual personalities”

    It’s the beginning of 2012 now and these things certainly aren’t in the public domain! I’m sure they will be eventually but everything he predicts so confidently are still, at best, very much research projects.

    I’m sure this prediction haunts him and is wheeled out by his “opponents” however I haven’t heard him address it myself and I would be fascinated to know why he thinks his got it wrong here and if he has any further predictions? Although I will forgive him if he doesn’t want to commit to anything too specific again!

    • Beradii

      He has responded to this, though I believe he does stretch the truth to his credit, his predictions are not entirely off base. Though many of his predictions are more accurate than they seem at first glance.

      I have four computers in my home, three towers and a laptop. I haven’t fired up any of the towers since late 2009 and the lap top I only use on the rare occasion when my iPhone, iPad, or game system won’t do it for me. My wife only uses it when she has to stay home and still needs to do some work.

      Computers, in the form of smart phones and iPods, are very much fashion accessories, getting faceplates to match your outfit, or encrusting them with jewels. My wife has been using multiple cases for her iPhone to match her outfit since at least 2009, and I have two hats with digital tickers in it that display programmable messages, that I got for Christmas in that same year.

      Augmented reality screens, such as those shown in CES this year are not in the consumer market but have been around for military application for at least two years, and there has been video screen glasses available for the same price as a large screen tv for years.

      Now am I average when it comes to adopting tech? No I’m probably close to the “cutting edge” but that his predictions are close to accurate in my life means he’s only a few years off. I will admit his rebuttals sound much like back pedaling when you read them, because he points out that he does not use the term “ubiquitous” and that “common” does not mean “publicly available” but that being said he is still only off by five years at the most.

      • Anonymous

        Ooooooo, I think that’s a stretch too! :) He’s not far off though, like you say.

  • Anonymous

    Singularity is coming. Learn more today with a layman’s overview of the topic. Wikipedia has lots on the topic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singularity) and just in case you assume this is some “fringe science”, an episode topic from the Fox Television series “Fringe”; or the hip new way to describe your relationship status on Facebook, “Singularity” or “The Singularity”will impact your life. There is even a “Singularity University” (http://singularityu.org/) for those who know it all already.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Singularity_Is_Near#External_links http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2JJ23D

  • Tony Stender

    Why is war (apparently) necessary, even in this enlightened age of ours?

    Is language and it’s frailties the main cause?

    Since language is our only way to communicate our individual and unique life’s experiences and their resulting beliefs and differing world models.

    Speaking is explicit. While hearing, decoding, integrating, and extracting personal meaning from the generic results, are implicit and fraught with opportunities for errors.

    Then producing personal responses from these error prone codings and de-codings in order to respond.

    When these processes are viewed carefully and with great precision, it becomes obvious how tenuous the process actually is.
    Fortunately, errors can be winnowed from the system with sufficient dialog and willingness to seek true mutual understanding.

    But …. there is a general mis-understanding that people generally do understand the “explicit” meanings transmitted by the sender. This is an illusion of great proportions and serious implications, since it is generally an illusion.

    So, what is your understanding of the cause and solution for war in our times?

    The question seems silly almost when you consider how much more is accomplished with cooperation by comparison! Obviously this observation is incorrect.

    This seems to be a true puzzle to me.

    • Jamaker2001

      I don’t think war is about misunderstanding. I think it is about money. I have heard that the arms industry contributes far more to politicians than wall street does

  • http://www.LukeARyan.com Luke Ryan

    Thank you very much Tony, Jamaker, DSQ and Alex…I’ll be putting together my questions list for Ray and I really like the interesting discussions these questions bring about…fingers crossed I’ll be connecting with Ray for an interview soon.