Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Singularity on IEEE and Andrew Sullivan

The singularity, to oversimplify it somewhat, is the concept that science and technology are achieving such rapid exponential growth that there will come a time in the next few decades where this growth achieves such runaway speed that very little about what society is like beyond that point can be predicted. I discuss this and related topics in a little more detail in my presentation Sustainability or Apocalypse. Ray Kurzweil is one of the more famous authors to write about this. His most recent book is The Singularity is Near – by which he means around 2045.

The subject of the singularity has long been an esoteric topic of the futurist community, but lately it has been achieving some great public exposure. The IEEE Spectrum magazine, which is well respected for its covering of technology issues, has devoted the entire June 2008 issue to the Singularity. It is available online here. I started reading it recently and will comment on it in the coming days. There are now plans to make Kurzweil’s book The Singularity is Near into a movie. And the most recent appearance of the singularity in the popular press has been on Andrew Sullivan’s blog The Daily Dish, which is one of the most read political blogs on the web.

I have set up “Google Alerts” for both Singularity and Raymond Kurzweil, and there has been a definite increase in the frequency of references to these two topic across the web. By the way, “Google Alerts” are a great way to watch for new developments in any topic of interest. I highly recommend them.


Anonymous said...

I read Fantastic Voyage, The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Singularity is Near, and they changed my life. I even found some of his lectures on Itunes and I find myself impatiently awaiting his next book.

Recently read another incredible book that I can't recommend highly enough, especially to all of you who also love Ray Kurzweil's work. The book is ""My Stroke of Insight"" by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. I had heard Dr Taylor's talk on the TED dot com site and I have to say, it changed my world. It's spreading virally all over the internet and the book is now a NYTimes Bestseller, so I'm not the only one, but it is the most amazing talk, and the most impactful book I've read in years. (Dr T also was named to Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People and Oprah had her on her Soul Series last month and I hear they're making a movie about her story so you may already have heard of her)
If you haven't heard Dr Taylor's TEDTalk, that's an absolute must. The book is more and deeper and better, but start with the video (it's 18 minutes). Basically, her story is that she was a 37 yr old Harvard brain scientist who had a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. Because of her knowledge of how the brain works, and thanks to her amazingly loving and kind mother, she eventually fully recovered (and that part of the book detailing how she did it is inspirational).

There's a lot of learning and magic in the book, but the reason I so highly recommend My Stroke of Insight to this discussion, is because we have powerfully intelligent left brains that are rational, logical, sequential and grounded in detail and time, and then we have our kinesthetic right brains, where we experience intuition and peace and euphoria. Now that Kurzweil has got us taking all those vitamins and living our best ""Fantastic Voyage"" , the absolute necessity is that we read My Stroke of Insight and learn from Dr Taylor how to achieve balance between our right and left brains. Enjoy!

Mike Ignatowski said...

Thanks for the comments. I guess you can say that reading and thinking about the meaning of an exponential growth in technology that Kurzweil discusses has changed my life, or at least my view of humanity's future. I would also like to recommend "The Great Turning" by David Korten, for some profound thoughts about the future on a more social level.

I friend pointed me to Dr. Jill Talyor's talk on the TED site while ago ( I thought it was an absolutely incredible personal story, though I'm still not sure what to make her experiences with the right brain and how to apply it to my life. I certainly recommend watching it to everyone, and let me know what you think.

Mike Ignatowski