Technological Singularity as apocalyptic religious phenomena

io 0.0.1 beta: graphic representation of generative process
Noted cyberpunk author and general critic of all things technocultural, Bruce Sterling has caused a minor storm by telling us that the Technological Singularity is “just not happening” and that “all the symptoms [of the Singularity] are absent” [via io9…].

In the midst of Sterling’s general critique of the Oracles of The Singularity, for me the need for skepticism in regards The Singularity are encapsulated at the end of his piece:

…As a Pope once remarked, “Be not afraid.” We’re getting what Vinge predicted would happen without a Singularity, which is “a glut of technical riches never properly absorbed.” There’s all kinds of mayhem in that junkyard, but the AI Rapture isn’t lurking in there. It’s no more to be fretted about than a landing of Martian tripods. [Read the rest…]

No one, despite the pretty charts, has observed or measured the Singularity as empirical phenomena, nor has anyone demonstrated, as did physicists with another kind of singularity, what the parameters of the unknowable are. And, with a singularity, we are talking about the demonstrably unknowable, not simply the unknown.

Similar to lazy Artificial Intelligence arguments hinging on the dogma of speed, size and complexity, the assertion of the coming Singularity is an apocalyptic religious phenomena: a pseudo-science masquerading as empirical prediction. No one has demonstrated that cultural, social phenomena can be charted on a simple cartesian grid, and no one has demonstrated the validity of pronouncing upon such charts except as an act of faith. The fact that the Oracles of The Singularity see an apocalyptic vision says more about the culture space the Oracles are embedded in (shared as it is with doom-sayers of many persuasions) than about the nature of technological and cultural change.

…which, of course, makes both the Technological Singularity as narrative, and the evangelical selling of that narrative, just as interesting from a culture-arts practitioners’ POV 😉

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