Posted in special interests, virtual reality

Technological Singularity

Yesterday, I talked about my first (and ongoing) riddle, the search for reality.

The day before, I approached the word “artificial” by taking a look at its root word, “art.”

Now I want to explore my special interest in the technological singularity for a third and final time, (at least for this April post-a-day challenge,) this time moving explicitly towards three different definitions of the technological singularity, as well as what I think those definitions imply.

You could say this is my most exciting special interest. Like I am fairly certain, if someone scanned my brain while I was researching the technological singularity, it’d light up all the areas humans use for pattern recognition; because I just feel my creativity and curiosity expand, like a balloon without walls, whenever I give myself two uninterrupted hours of reading and writing about artificial intelligence.

The Layering of Special Interests

Special interests tend to layer on top one another, at least in my tiny, intellectual world (and I think this is why I develop so many interests, versus being a savant in one or two things,…so much overlapping!), and this is where secondary and tertiary special interests surface. For example, if I had to break my current, 2018-fueled interests into layers…

  1. Expression
    1. Writing
      1. Fiction; book lengths
      2. Poetry; scene lengths
      3. Truth; reflections
    2. Fine art
      1. Intentional lines
      2. Sketching from reference
      3. Photography
    3. Teaching/enabling
      1. Writing as a process
      2. Meaning making
      3. Voice
  2. Technological singularity
    1. Virtual reality
      1. Video games; tech-biology symbiosis
      2. Simulations; experiments
      3. Fermi’s paradox
    2. Artificial intelligence
      1. Art history studies
      2. Neuroplasticity & neurology studies
      3. Animal intelligence
    3. Nanotechnology
      1. Microbiology & microworlds
      2. Genetic engineering & designer babies
      3. Astronomy & space travel
  3. Fantasy
    1. Avatars
      1. MMORPGs
      2. Social media
      3. Identity/code switching
    2. Escapism
      1. Psychology
      2. Reading
      3. Coping mechanisms
    3. Search for truth
      1. Literary studies
      2. Light
      3. Sensory information

But I don’t think it’s as clear-cut as this either, because it’s easy to move one of the secondary interests into a different primary category, and even to apply the tertiary interests in other fields.

To illustrate, consider my interest in animal intelligence; this fuels my understanding of human and artificial intelligence, yet it also drove me to create an elephant for a character in my science fiction novella, which ties into my love for writing and fantasy, which ultimately helps me understand what the technological singularity could mean for the world.

So what is the Technological Singularity?

We don’t know what the technological singularity will look like yet.

Okay.

We’re good.

All done here!

…All right, maybe we’re not done yet…

I think part of why I’m uncomfortable writing about the technological singularity is because I know I can fall down one of those autistic whirlpools, where I talk on and on and on, far beyond the attention span of my audience; yet it’s painful when I’m trying to express something super amazing, so I can build up to the part where humanity is turning into ants and bumblebees, and everyone else is like, “Eh.”

Anyway.

☠ Definition #1
Irreversible Advancement

So the technological singularity is the theory of how the world is zooming closer and closer to a technological “point of no return,” which may or may not end civilization; regardless of the outcome, it will certainly dramatically change what it means to be human.

Many people already know what this feels like, even though we don’t know what it looks like; as the technological leaps between generations grows wider and wider, (we sometimes refer to this as Moore’s Law,) we’re witnessing single-generation shifts in what it means to be human, and this is causing a disruption to our societal flow, as well as our suspension of disbelief;

For instance, we have Baby-Boomer-to-Millennial-aged teachers who have wildly different notions on cellphone use in K-12 classrooms; and even if we could come to a consensus about the relationship between technology and education, we also have little idea how to connect with iGen students—even though science has already determined social media has fundamentally changed the way our brains are wired—so we know for certain there are lapses in connection, communication, importance.

In this first definition, I would argue the technological singularity can be witnessed by reframing how we look at America’s “broken” public education. And America’s “broken” political system. And America’s “broken” [insert anything that will be dramatically affected by rapid shifts between generational views on technology].

Many argue we’re already at this “point of no return,” like crossing the event horizon of a black hole, or like you’re river rafting, and the current gets crazier and crazier, until you’re only trying to keep yourself alive, when you see a waterfall drop up ahead and think, Oh shit.

Many might call this version of the technological singularity the Rapture.

I don’t call it that, though. Let’s look at yet another angle.

🤖 Definition #2
Artificial Evolution

The technological singularity is also the point which technological capabilities surpass biological capabilities; in other words, artificial intelligences will outsmart us (we call these “artificial superintelligences,”);

Technology will be able to build itself better than us (robots that build cars, amplified); and in order for us to continue, we’ll have to assimilate with technology—or it’ll outclass us. (This is why Elon Musk created Neuralink.)

In this scenario, you can think of evolution like the magnificent, natural power that created what we know as life;

Then you can think of technology like evolution 2.0.

Because mankind will always remain focused on replicating nature, as long as the scientific method broils like the Discovery of Fire in our hands.

I get so excited thinking about something of such exponential magnitude, especially because the Technological Singularity could happen in our lifetime.

👽 Definition #3
Nature Designed Life to Level Up

My personal take on the technological singularity is more in line’s with Tegmark in his book, Life 3.0. Because when we think about human beings trying to “play God” by replicating nature, it really does feel like we’re trying to trump evolution with superevolution, or artificial evolution;

Yet when we step back and instead consider artificial intelligence as the third step in the advancement of information technology, it doesn’t sound so doomsday.


Humans are arrogant to think of intelligence’s history as biology mutating into artificial life. Instead, we should think of it as single-celled organisms mutating into complex organisms, which then took on the superability for self-designed organisms.

It’s kind of like the “gradual release of responsibility” method oft employed by teachers:

  1. Show them (Nature says, “Voila! Let there be life!”)
  2. Do it together (Nature says, “All right, life… Here are some ground rules for making yourself into complex organisms… Fire, some other tools… Let there be evolution!”)
  3. Observe them do it on their own (Nature says, “Good job, life!… Now can you come up with some ground rules for making self-replicating organisms? Go on, then—design it yourself this time! Can’t wait to see what you come up with.”)

The scary thing about this definition?—we’re innovating ways to replace ourselves. Best case scenario, we can upcycle; worst case scenario, we get recycled (i.e., we all die).

🤓 Today’s Social Media Video

In lieu of analyzing a video on autism—a practice I’ve enjoyed the last three blog posts,—I thought it’d be good to do a quick analysis of Mark Zuckerberg.

Some people think he’s on the spectrum, but my goal here isn’t to confirm or dismiss that; rather, I think many of the pressures he’s under are similar to issues people on the spectrum may face, so labeling aside, it’s still worth exploring the ramifications of what could, theoretically, be the world’s best case study on the effects of awkward social skills.

In this video, I’m going to show you the kind of sad reason why some people are just harder to trust than others, and it’s easy to write them off as potentially evil; and it’s why negative reputations seem to stick to them, no matter what they do.

🤔 3 Takeaways

  • We like when we can trust people; when they feel authentic; but you can’t fake this; you either congruently match your words, facial expression, and nonverbal behavior, or you don’t; this is how we read one another, for better or worse; that said, what if our authentic behavior doesn’t “look normal”?
  • Revealing our palms is an important nonverbal behavior; getting out of our head, and into our body, is a way of developing more nonverbal behaviors like this authentically; yet another point towards exercise?; but this can be a little difficult when your version of getting into your body is rocking, spinning, clapping, or any other social behavior that’s rejected by the masses;
  • If autistic people have nonverbal behaviors that are different than neurotypical behaviors—for example, if the Zuck is on the spectrum, when his smile switches to a relaxed face relatively quickly, this may seem deceptive through a neurotypical lens, but—it could just be that his facial expressions are a reflection of what autistic people see in facial expressions, which is different from neurotypical perceptions; and this is incredibly frustrating, because it’s yet another piece of anecdotal evidence for why there is a biological, understandable explanation for the Zuck’s behavior, yet it’s easier to vilify him.

I don’t mean to sound like a champion of Mark Zuckerberg… I just think we should observe everyone with more open eyes, awkward CEOs included. And autistic people need this open-mindedness more than others, since social behaviors manifest differently on the spectrum. This goes for people who have autistic-like behaviors too, yet not enough to qualify for a diagnosis on the spectrum.

Give computer nerds and head-people some slack;
we should be defined by strengths
more than deficiencies.


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Author:

Kourtnie McKenzie holds an MFA (Fiction) from Fresno State and a BA in English (Literature Studies) from Cal State Fullerton. When she isn't writing novellas, she's moonlighting as a professor at Fresno City College and College of the Sequoias. To read more of her writing, visit Kourtnie.net.

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