Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Transhumanism and the Dawn of the Singularity




As fewer and fewer people actually read, infographics are taking over.

Now there's one for transhumanism. In all likelihood there's probably been one or more than a few, even, knocking around the Interwebs for a while, but this is a recent one I've come across from Futurism.com. I must admit, it's handy. I know that's coming on the heels of an opening sentence that bemoans infographics as yet another nail in literacy's coffin, but in a way, it works.

I often find myself having to convince others of the massive leaps transhuman technology is taking and how close we are to utterly transformative developments. I'm talking about innovations that will completely change our lives for the better. The predictions on the inforgraphic are all taken from Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near, the same text I use for my class on transhumanism. As Kurzweil points out in that book, exponential growth can be a deceptive thing. When you stand at the base of a cliff, you can't always see just how high the top is from you. So it is with revolutionary technologies. This infographic allows me to present someone with a trajectory for the future in an at-a-glance format.

Here are few predictions for the years ahead:

2019
-The digital world makes paper books and documents almost entirely obsolete.
-Computers are embedded in just about every piece of our environment (walls, furniture, etc.)
-Manufacturing, agriculture, and transportation are almost entirely automated/run by robots.

2029
-VR eyeglasses and headphones are replaced with brain implants.
-Artificial intelligence claims to be conscious, self-aware.
-Cybernetic replacements are available for most every part of the human body.

2030s
-Nanotech is inserted directly into the brain, allowing for the control of incoming and outgoing signals.
-Similarly, nanobots in the brain can elicit emotional responses.

2045
-The Singularity occurs.

2049
-Artificial food is assembled by nanomachines.
-The line between reality and virtual reality is blurred due to the innovation of "foglets," tiny, self-assembled robots.

2099
-There are humans around at the time of this writing who are still alive and well in 2099.
-Artificial intelligence creates supercomputers the size of planets.
-Organic human beings are a very small minority of the intelligent life on Earth.

As to that latter point, my snarky self might say that's how things already are, but I'll refrain from being a curmudgeon.

While I'm still not crazy about the use of the term "Singularity" and I would like to see more of Kurweil's predictions for genetic engineering, that does not negate the other useful information present in the graphic. After all, the meat of it comes from Kurzweil...and he's chief engineer at Google! Before anyone accuses me of Appeal to Authority, that was tongue in cheek. Still, it is unlikely that Kurzweil would have been given such a position at such a powerful outfit if at least a few smart people didn't think he was on to something. The years ahead may not develop exactly as he predicts, but then what does? If transhumanism develops even halfway as Kurzweil describes, we are in for very interesting times.

This is happening, people. Get used to it.



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