THE SINGULARITY – WHAT IS IT?
The Singularity “is a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so fast and far-reaching that human existence on this planet will be irreversibly altered. People will combine our brain power – the knowledge, skills, and personality quirks that make us human – with our computer power in order to think, reason, communicate, and create in ways we can scarcely even contemplate today,” according to Ray Kurzweil, writing in the March-April 2006 issue of THE FUTURIST. In his various novels, Hugo Award winning science- fiction writer Vernor Vinge has portrayed the Singularity as a sudden explosion in human intelligence.
THE TECHNOLOGIES BEHIND THE SINGULARITY
1. Genetics. Our ability to manipulate the human genome will allow us to turn the expression of certain genetic traits on or off, resulting in longer life spans and fewer instances of congenital illness, according to biotech researchers such as Gregory Stock and Ian Wilmut. Some future watchers believe we may use genetic science to improve our brains and greatly enhance our physical performance as well. Aubrey de Grey, author of Ending Aging (St. Martin’s, 2007), has stated that genetic science could expand the human life span well beyond 150 years.
2. Nanotechnology. This refers to the manipulation of objects less than one-billionth of a meter in size, literally designing medicines and other products on the molecular level. Nanotechnology is confined mostly to materials science, but some doctors are finding medical applications. A research team from the University of Texas was able to send gold nanoparticles directly into tumors (in mice) and then irradiate the particles, releasing heat. This improved the mice’s response to radiation therapy. Robert Freitas, author of the Nanomedicine series, has stated that future nano-robotic therapies could make us stronger, smarter, and healthier than we are today by several orders of magnitude.
3. Artificial intell igence. Computer intelligence will surpass all biological (regular human) intelligence by the year 2030, according to Kurzweil. Long before then, people will incorporate computers into their biological functioning and thinking through cybernetic implants and nanodevices.
– Patrick Tucker
Originally published in THE FUTURIST, March-April 2010