As always, when approaching the singularity (as a concept) I will link to Dresden. It took me about three readthroughs to really understand the whole of the Hob story arc, but it’s pretty incredible, and some of the ideas expressed are magic (or science, depending on your outlook).
Anyway, I’m pretty sure the point (for us) is simply that in order for the machines to take over and actually rule us, there’s going to have to be some completely game changing occurrence, either in the fields of AI, nano-technology, cybernetics or who knows what.
By the time that’s happened (and a lot of geeks are fairly confident it will) we won’t even know what to make of it, so guess work is kinda useless.
Until the leap happens the machines will continue to keep us docile for our corporate consumer-industrial complex masters.
So just lie back and think of kittens.
Practically speaking, we’ve not got much to worry about. I suspect we won’t notice or won’t care by the time it happens. The Ennui race is, ironically, much more competitive than the space race these days.
And it’s just a coin toss between whether it’s the robots that trasncend to Godhood first or us.
There is a good chance that by the time it happens, we won’t even be able to tell the difference. We’ll all be mixed species. With the internet in our arms and nanomachines in our veins.
It certainly looks apocalyptic over the horizon, but it might not be as bad as you think.
I think it all depends on how well we come to terms with our nature and start to actually think about the ramifications of our actions.
Basically, we’re talking about the potential for unlimited power. Nanotechnology, essentially tiny robots or viruses that can alter matter at an elemental level, would give us the ability to turn any substance into any other substance. It’s literal alchemy. You could turn lead into gold, or, more usefully turn waste carbon emissions into food stuffs or clean water. It’s ultimate power.
In a way, all of the expressions of the singularity consist of that. A sudden ability to shape the world.
The nano-alchemy is the most obviously terrifying/wonderful.
And it expresses best the potential dangers. Basically, you need to think about who would trust with complete control over the basic substance of matter. You? The person sitting next to you? The neighbourhood watch? The government? The army? The multinationals? Big pharmaceutical?
And of those people you would trust, do you think they are likely to be the ones in control of this technology?
Even if it doesn’t become a propriety technology of some vile business baron, general or dictator, would an open source freely editable universe be particularly stable?
Do you really want a world where every molecule has a willy drawn on it?
Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if the machines were in charge.
At least there’d be some logic somewhere.
Illustration by Adam.