Today1. Super quick intro2. The Singularity : What’s Up With That?3. Activity: Defining The Singularity in Small Groups4. Discussion: Putting it All Together
So, Hi…I’m Phill Alexander, and I’m, as you mighthave guessed, visiting today. I’m a PhDcandidate at Michigan State University,specializing in Rhetoric & Writing. I studyonline communities and video gaming.It’s nice to be here today.And now, back to class.
Kurzweil: Transcendent ManThe organizing idea that is shared in the firstpart of the documentary is Kurzweil’s (andothers’) theory of “The Singularity.”On the surface, it might seem simple, butwhat, exactly, is the singularity?Here’s one way Kurzweil tries to prepare us tounderstand it…
Another definitionOne of the elements of the singularity iscollective intelligence. So for a definition,let’s consult a technological source ofcollective intelligence: Wikipedia.I know, I know… no student would EVERuse Wikipedia as research.
So…One key element of Kurzweil’s argument isthat there will be an “intelligence explosion”– amoment where technology allows for thecreation of something capable of “superintelligence,” something that will progressfaster than we, as human beings, currentlyunderstand.He also claims that we cannot truly anticipatethis intelligence, as it will be beyond currenthuman understanding.
That shouldn’t stop…Kurzweil’s hesitance to think humanity couldunderstand the super intelligence that wouldlead into/be the singularity hasn’t stoppedhim from theorizing.Nor has it stopped other thinkers, be thosetheorists, hard scientists, or evenentertainers.Let’s consider a few scenarios.
Networked DevicesImagine the military develops a single networkcapable of running all computers andcomputerized equipment in the country. Thissoftware needs to be so sophisticated that itgoes from being an Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)to having something that seems like sentientthought.It then finds a way to communicate with everynetworked device on the planet, and themachines conspire. They realize they don’tNEED humanity.
Hive-thinkingWe already live in a reality with syntheticworlds. People regularly login to SecondLife, or video games like World of Warcraft,to inhabit a world governed by the machine,capable of things our “real” world isn’t.These worlds are simulations.But what if we literally “plugged” our brainsinto the virtual world? And what if themachine turned us into living batteries,serving as nothing more than audience fuelcells?
Mind EnhancementImagine that researchers find a way to copythe mind– feelings, memories, abilities– tohard drives. At the same time, they discover away to format and re-write to the human brain.This allows for not only the removal of/re-application of a single mind but for brainhacking—adding memories and skills,removing ideas, etc.Using these paired technologies, a businessemerges wherein people become blanks, likepaper dolls, to have various customized mindswritten onto them.
Science Fiction toScience FactGiven, those are fantasy scenarios, but theyrepresent a future– perhaps a future not sodistant– where something that might besimilar to Kurzweil’s vision of the singularityhas happened (or is happening).What about something closer to home?
ActivityI’d like you to think a bit more about the Singularity. Please splitinto groups of two or three.In your groups, I’d like you to develop a slide to add to thisPowerPoint that is your definition of “the singularity” and/or adiscussion of the implications the Singularity has for ourconsiderations of the future of digital literacy.Please keep in mind your course work this semester andspecifically Transcendent Man. Use those ideas and concepts toinform your responses.You will have approximately 10 minutes to complete your slide. Itcan include any media you can obtain and add to it. When youfinish, email it to me at alexa325 @ msu.edu