Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near

I Stumbled upon this book after posting an article about Google (data) Clouds on some internet bulletin boards I frequent.

While I believe it is rather arrogant to think one can come up with a better design than biology that is pretty much the premise of this book.

No one would accuse Kurzweil of being mystical. Maybe I just don’t have a wide enough imagination but I can’t see how you could ever animate the chemical equivalent of a human being. Of course I don’t see how you get from a monkey to man either, without some kind of divine spark that is. But that’s just me. I do find it rather unsettling to think I’m just a handful of salt and a couple buckets of water though. Human conceit, sigh.

At first it appeared that Kurzweil was ignorant of human nature but he does address this at the end of the book. Apparently the progress of technology is so rampant that it will happily steamroller any human objection.

I think I am experiencing cognitive dissonance. On one hand I’m reading this book about how wonderful the future will be because of technology. On the other hand I am dealing with trying to get my kitchen floor heating thermostat repaired. Which is quickly turning into a task that is taking many more steps than I would have thought possible. And I am dealing with having an MP3 player jack installed in my car. Again something that is consuming much more time that I had budgeted for the job. Not to mention the fun (not!) of attempting to return some music CD’s to the (automated – gah!) library. I mean has this guy ever tried to work with a Microsoft software product? Come on!

Kurzweil is a cock eyed, psychotic optimist if he thinks that technology is going to make our future better. Already we are contracting newfangled diseases like adrenal burn out when trying to cope with the exponential pace of modern day life.

Because computation underlies the foundations of everything we care about, from the economy to human intellect and creativity,…

Umm, it does?

Kurzweil reminds me of a boss I used to have – Ian. I was in charge of automating some reporting. Ian would promise his higher ups some pie-in-the-sky unattainable data because he had heard from someone somewhere that it might just be possible — one day. Or that our competitors had such data about themselves. Of course our database was incomplete, inaccurate and poorly designed. It would never, could never produce such data on our company without a serious overhaul. And then he would expect me to deliver said data according to his unrealistic schedule. I would lie in my bed in the morning in that mystical dawn between slumber and waking and promise that today would be the day I would get along with Ian. We were both professionals and adults, how hard could it be? It never happened. Always within less than a minute of being in a room together we both would be yelling. It was curious. Back to the book.

Kurzweil seems to been a master delegator. He doesn’t quite know how it’s going to be done but he’s confident that some mastermind somewhere will come up with an answer to the problem. Bully for him. I’m just not confident about things unless I understand them fully. Only at that point would I be secure in making any kind of assertion about it.

Recently in the British news there was a story about a sprinter who was born without legs. He was fitted with ‘blades’ which actually help him to run faster than any human with normal legs. If technology is going to ‘make us better than biology’ I just find it really disturbing to think that humans will be redesigned to such a standard.

I see a whole new meaning to the word ‘nostalgia’ if at some point our biology is completely replaced by ‘better’ nano-engineered designed. Scary indeed.

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