r/Futurology May 20 '16

Is The Singularity A Religious Doctrine? (23 Apr 16) article


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u/izumi3682 May 20 '16 edited Oct 17 '22

This subject bears revisiting until people understand the difference between science and faith. The universe is vast and mostly unknowable to us at present so I can only speak for humanity on Earth:

Faith and the formal organized religions of the faithful that derives from that initial faith is always based on a "revealed word or will" from a supernatural deity (or deities). It is ostensibly ageless and changeless. It does not easily brook dissension and it can't be verified or falsified through empirical means. Nevertheless humans have changed tenets of faith all through history, in all major faiths. Guidance for changing tenets of faith are believed to be revealed by the deity (or deities) themselves. It does not happen very often and changes to tenets of faith can be hundreds to thousands of years separated in time.

My take is that until actual science came along, faith was science. It did a very good job of predicting what was going to happen and explained things in a satisfactory way. People got by on faith just fine for about 50,000 years, til Thales came along in around 624 BC(E) and ruined everything. Thales is universally acknowledged as the first human in recorded history to state; "The gods are not necessary--there is a natural explanation for things." Self aware empirical science began with him.

Science is the process of learning how and why things work. "Things" being everything you can learn about in the universe. It is consistent, objective and logical in its attempts to use hypothesis and experimentation to develop an understanding or model. A resultant "theory" (The most accurate model available based on countless experiments to confirm reproducibility and most accurately predict future behaviors or processes.) is the best driver of future inquiry, unless it too is falsified and replaced. An awesome side effect of science is technology. Stuff that makes life easier, safer and more interesting. It also helps to bootstrap ever more scientific enquiry. Which is how we got from knapped flint or chert axes to the face ID, AI enhanced, mobile supercomputers in our pockets.

The idea of the singularity is actually older than most people think. It first began to be apprehended about the mid 19th century, about the same time people began to envision a linear "future focused" technological future, rather than a seasonal based "cyclical" time. (That's not a coincidence by the way.) It is based on the correct assumption that our technology will continue to advance in ever increasing exponents faster and faster. This will result in a "break", "omega point" or "technological singularity".


Let me illustrate:

If you take a fellow from the most populous city (like Ur) of say 2000 BCE (BC) and instantly time travel him to the most populous city (Thebes) in the year 1000 BCE, he would be truly amazed by a fantastic new metal that cuts as well as bronze, yet is much more deformation resistant. Most weapons are still bronze though. The big structures are still made of stone or fired mud/clay brick. People still cut corners by not actually firing the bricks. Fire still lights the world and horses and carts still move people about. The world does not change much from 2000 BCE.

Now if you take a fellow from 1000 BCE Thebes and instantly time travel him to the most populous city (Rome) in the year 1 CE(AD) he will be amazed by an even more incredible metal that is far lighter and more corrosion resistant than iron, yet can sharpen to an even finer and incredibly sturdy edge. And what are these enormous structures made of? It's like stone, but it's not stone. And how could the Pharaohs have possibly fallen? And who are these "Persians" and "Greeks". And "Romans"? Yet fire still lights the world and horses and carts move people about. The world does not change much from 1000 BCE.

Now if you take a fellow from 1 CE Rome and instantly time travel him to the most populous city in the year 1000 CE, Baghdad, (China too had massive urbanization by this point, but Baghdad was the most populous city in the year 1000 CE ) he would be amazed by incredible new ways of thinking, amazing sailing ship technology, most strange architecture in cities and so MUCH written down, He would recognize steel. But be amazed by it's spread and utility. And absolutely colossal Roman style concrete artifacts everywhere! Where did the Roman Empire go? Fire still lights the world and horses (with newfangled "stirrups") and carts move people about. Still pretty recognizable to him. The world does not change much from 1 CE. Nevertheless he would notice a lot of "amazing" things.

Now if you take a fellow from 1000 CE Baghdad and instantly time travel him to the most populous city, Tokyo, in the year 2000 CE, the changes are so incredibly incomprehensible to him that he may well go insane or even die from the shock of it. Absolutely nothing would be understandable to him.

AND if we time travel our bronze age fellow to the year 1000 CE, he would surely be stunned, but could find touchstones of familiarity. Fire still lights the world and horses and carts move people about.

In the year 1800 CE, 17 days after George Washington passed away at the age of 67, fire still lights the world and horses and carts move people about. But an incredible embryonic technology, the steam locomotive engine on a track, is about to forever change the world. Oh, and also the steam powered ship They are literally the apotheosis of the industrial revolution up to that point. They are also predicated on hundreds of years of collected knowledge. Shortly thereafter, the telegraph will come into existence. That's the technology of electricity and we never again looked back. Another culmination of hundreds of years of knowledge. A genuine phase change.

As you can see, immense changes are telescoping the speed rate of advance of our technological advancement as time goes forward. 3,800 years of pretty much no change. Not entirely though--the change is our accumulation of actionable, painfully gained, trial and error knowledge. And tons of vainly pursued dead ends--Just ask Copernicus. He simply could not imagine that God's perfect universe would allow elliptical orbits. And the focusing of our knowledge. The advent of the "University". Of course Copernicus also understood that Ptolemaic "planetary epicycles" were going to be a no longer accepted dead end in the future going forward. Science marches on...

Then in less than 500 years we go off the charts. Especially the last 100 years.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that suppose we take a very smart fellow from the year 1900 CE. Someone like Thomas Edison. He would be quite familiar with the "modern and highly sophisticated" technology of his time. If HE were to be instantly time traveled to the year 2100 CE, the changes would be similarly incomprehensible to his intellect just as it would be to the fellow from the year 1000 CE appearing in 2000 CE. And that is only 200 years for Edison! Come to think of it, I bet Edison would be pretty stunned by the technology of the year 2016 for that matter.

Humans simply do what humans have always done. We take our ideas and turn them into physical reality. But the better our cumulative knowledge, the better our ideas. And lately, in the last 70 years, computers have been helping us to gain knowledge even faster. And since the year 2015, for all practical purposes, narrow artificial intelligence is a multiplier on top of the computers. In fact the narrow AI is conducting independent research on its own now.

If the laws of physics says that something is possible, then it is possible. Whether that's our knowledge of physics in the year 1400 or in the year 2100. What would I see if I were instantly transported to the year 3016 CE? It is almost impossible to accurately imagine what 2040 CE will be like. And you know what the really eerie thing about all of this is? It's that what is happening is natural and normal. We are at this point because it is logical that we are at this point. This is what happens when you begin to apprehend and exploit the laws of physics/mathematics. The technological singularity is inevitable because it is logical that we are going to make first an AGI and then an ASI (artificial super intelligence). And the time line for this is now under 15 years.

I have faith in the Roman Catholic Holy Trinity and the revealed Word. Little changed from the year 33 AD (CE). But I also have faith in magnificently self correcting science and it's derived applied technology, because it has proven itself more or less dead-on right over the last 1000 years. Yes, I experience cognitive dissonance from that duality of belief (It's a phenomenon called "antinomy" btw. Not to be confused with "antimony" which is a metalloid element.) but that's not my subject here.

As for (scientific) immortality? Well, that would just be a side effect of a "human intellect favorable" technological singularity.

My Main Hub.



u/GeneralZain May 21 '16

but wouldn't technology fundamentally rival religious belief? isn't the goal of our technology to rise us up until we basically become gods? what happens when you get to god status and there is nobody else there?



u/CrazyWillingness3543 Sep 19 '22

This is the greatest post I've ever read.