Many are aware of Ray Kurzweil’s idea of “The Singularity”, usually conceived as “That time when Humans and Machines become indistinguishable”, which is not exactly accurate. Kurzweil’s own subtitle of his book “The Singularity is Near” is “When Humans Transcend Biology”, which is a little different from the sort of “cyborgian” utopia/dystopia idea that such a claim as “indistinguishability” implies.
Kurzweil’s idea takes a bit of explaining to map out the trajectory of his idea. His starting with the way biological evolution works is really helpful. That computers are an extension of the human in the same way that other tools/efficiencies that are devised is a rather high-level view of the more “close-up” “down low” problem of the differences introduced by introducing “tools” of a “higher order” than mere “leverage” such as afforded by the plow or the wheel or the pulley. Software imposes a “master plan” on how a “solution” is determined by a computer, so even though Kurzweil seems spot on about the history of advances in computing power, and that it does “as much” in terms of activity as that of the human brain or brains, just what “software” is being applied to “do the thinking” or “deciding”? As I read Kurzweil compare the “amount of processing power” I am intrigued and excited, but remain unconvinced of what we do with that power; what are we going to “process”, and what “software” is going to present the “options and results”?
The Social is an area where I can be more animated and hopeful about a “Singularity” type experience actually taking place. It is that point at which “virtual relationships” (I dont like that word) ; better: “computer assisted communication” because there are certain “virtualities” in face to face social dynamics that happen as the various actors in a social situation are “presenting themselves” in a certain way, thus it can be said that all such relationships are “virtual”. And that certain barriers or inhibitions can be more easily crossed/bridged without certain social “negative” stimuli (such as the perceived social confrontation becoming intimidating enough to induce discomfort). NOne of this is to say there aren’t also certain important (and even crucial) elements also to be had that can almost always be obtained or experienced only in “meat space” or the “face to face”. Indeed, it is part of my present conclusions that the extensions provided by computer network communications to interactions with others will increase the motivations to take these interactions “live” and organize face to face opportunities. Network communications also allow us to “continue” some or many elements of the face to face (ftf) gatherings, having been “equipped” with some of the important personal cues and realities by those meetings in ftf.
In “Social interactions via computer”, we are not so much dealing with approximations/representations of Human vs machine and “telling them apart”. We are , instead, dealing with either textual or voice or video exchange of conversations from actual biological people; there is no “simulation” component regarding personhood. The striving to “improve” the experience is to sharpen the audio/video and keep the connection steady, and to add enhancements to the conversation in as many ways as deemed to be helpful (links, profile information about participants, etc.) . The “Singularity” points are what occurs as the online social experience becomes more ubiquitous and realistic.
That’s it for now, but I’ll be back to this a little later.