Ray Kurzweil, a well-known futurist and luminary, says that the singularity is coming. The implications on our lives are astounding, and the spiritual implications are profound. The singularity, as it is called, refers to a moment in time of such profound impact that it’s hard to see beyond it.
In the physical world ‘singularity’ is used to refer to a black hole. A black hole has an event horizon so large that you really can’t see past it. You can only see that it’s coming, but due to the immensity of it you cannot see around or beyond it.
In this case singularity is used to define a time when we will be fully intertwined with machines so profoundly that the distinction will be difficult if not impossible, and it’s only 30 years away. The singularity is not an event so much as the culmination of thousands of developments over those 30 years which lead to that moment. The developments have already begun.
Baby Steps To the Singularity
Our dependence on technology and interaction with it is one of the first major steps. In many ways we have interlaced our intelligence with computers already. Googling an answer to a question is as second nature as trying to remember it. We have delegated many of our neurological activities to our devices.
There are even direct neurological interfaces to computers. There are handicapped people that are bed ridden and incapable of communicating through their own bodies that have been directly interfaced to computers. This direct interface enables them to interact with and experience the world in a way that they had lost. When asked if they felt these computer interfaces made them less human, the response was quite the opposite. These mechanical devices and communication means made them feel more human and connected again. The machines have become the humanizing element for them.
Wait, There Is More
The addition of electronics to our world is something we are well familiar with. It’s been slowly creeping up on us to the point that we have been softened to the approach. But the next major step is personal download. The ability to effectively copy a person through memory and pattern recognizers and effectively pull them into a computer’s memory.
I’ll stop here for a moment and let that sink in…
At this point of discussion I find my brain fragmenting into a million directions of thought and protest. Aren’t we more than our memories and neurons? If we understand the human brain enough would it even be possible to copy me? How do you protect your digital self from piracy? Would my digital self have a soul?
Regarding whether it’s possible to make a digital copy of me, and whether the human brain is that simple. The answer is in many ways,” just wait and see.” This is coming. Barring a cataclysm that destroys humanity and sets our technology back millennia, we are in fact headed in this direction. In some ways the path is incidental with the technological developments we are making. And in some ways, this path is very intentional. Ray Kurzweil has been hired by Google Inc. as their new director of engineering. His mandate is to make this happen to enable the creation of a mind. And once there is one, there will be more than one, and then there will be millions.
What Does This Mean to You?
As I mentioned at the beginning, the spiritual implications of this are profound.
One question that came to me when pondering this was about my digital self. When I have been copied into this system would the digital copy feel like me? Or would it feel like there was something profoundly fundamental to it’s existence missing, a soul. Would the digital me go insane when the memories of me existed in a world that didn’t have a soul. Would that lack cause a psychological snap?
Then the inverse question came to me. What if my digital self was fine and complete in its new existence? Would that then cause me, the real/original me, to have a traumatic epiphany that I am simply a bunch of memories and filters? And would I in some way snap?
Then of course I came up with the question of interface. Once a neurological interface was defined sophisticated enough to make my digital copy feel like it had a body and a sophisticated enough world existed around it that felt in many ways physical and human, how would it distinguish between its world and ours?
And that brought me to the next logical question. If I was already in a computer program, right now, how would I know?