Cosma Shalizi: The Singularity in Our Past Light-Cone: Wednesday Hoisted from Other People's Archives from November 28, 2010
The Singularity in Our Past Light-Cone: Attention conservation notice: Yet another semi-crank pet notion, nursed quietly for many years, now posted in the absence of new thoughts because reading The Half-Made World brought it back to mind.
The Singularity has happened; we call it "the industrial revolution" or "the long nineteenth century". It was over by the close of 1918 http://inversesquare.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/on-veterans-day/:
Exponential yet basically unpredictable growth of technology, rendering long-term extrapolation impossible (even when attempted by geniuses http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/future.html)? Check.
Massive, profoundly dis-orienting transformation in the life of humanity, extending to our ecology, mentality http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/reviews/flynn-beyond/ and social organization? Check http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/reviews/nations-and-nationalism/.
Annihilation of the age-old constraints of space and time? Check http://www.powells.com/partner/27627/biblio/9780674021693.
Embrace of the fusion of humanity and machines? Check http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/T4PM/futurist-manifesto.html.
Creation of vast, inhuman distributed systems of information-processing, communication http://www.powells.com/partner/27627/biblio/9780801846137 and control http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/reviews/beniger/, "the coldest of all cold monsters"? Check; we call them "the self-regulating market system" http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/hykKnw1.html and "modern bureaucracies" (public or private) http://www.powells.com/partner/27627/biblio/9780674940529, and they treat men and women, even those whose minds and bodies instantiate them, like straw dogs http://www.powells.com/partner/27627/biblio/9780807056431.
An implacable drive on the part of those networks to expand, to entrain more and more of the world within their own sphere? Check. ("Drive" is the best I can do; words like "agenda" or "purpose" are too anthropomorphic, and fail to acknowledge the radical novely and strangeness of these assemblages, which are not even intelligent, as we experience intelligence http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/reviews/cognition-in-the-wild/, yet ceaselessly calculating.)
Why, then, since the Singularity is so plainly, even intrusively, visible in our past, does science fiction persist in placing a pale mirage of it in our future? Perhaps: the owl of Minerva flies at dusk; and we are in the late afternoon, fitfully dreaming of the half-glimpsed events of the day, waiting for the stars to come out.