For my paper, I’m doing choice A and examining Ray Kurzweil’s view of the transhuman and The Singularity. First, I will attempt to establish exactly what the Singularity is through its origins and different incarnations, culminating with Kurzweil’s theory. I intend to utilize several articles from academic journals whose authors (such as Katherine Hayles, Ben Goertzel, and Brooks Lahdon) examine Kurzweil and the idea of The Singularity with varying results and opinions. The well-known and respected Hayles seems generally dismissive of the idea and worries about individuals being “left behind” (a concern voiced earlier in the semester by Fukuymama). Other experts, however, consider The Singularity to be a positive theory/goal to work towards, and envision it helping all people, not just the extremely wealthy. Some of the smartest minds in the world agree — both Bill Gates and Google are supporters of Kurzweil. Although, many of the computing experts in the IEEE Spectrum magazine thought that Kurzweil’s predictions were way off and that a Singularity-like event is not likely to occur until the distant future. I will also specifically look at Kurzweil’s Singularity University to demonstrate how, even today, the Singularity is positively impacting the world. I will also examine both the good and the bad that can be gleaned from Kurzweil’s kooky efforts (250 pills a day!) to live forever. On one hand, he is encouraging others to be healthier, on the other hand though his efforts seem extreme, unnecessary, and even selfish.
In my paper I plan on acknowledging Hayles’ above concerns that she voices in her essay Aftershocks (as they are legitimate worries), and demonstrating how they are unlikely to be fulfilled. Ultimately, with this paper I wish to implore Hayles, and other detractors, to take part in the mission of the Singularity, or at least be able to acknowledge the good in it. As one of the leading voices on posthumanity (and humanity itself for that matter), I think that Hayles has a duty to reexamine the thinking behind the Singularity and see it for what it truly is: a vision of the posthuman that she herself wishes to emerge. At the end of How We Became Posthuman, Hayles states that “although some current versions of the posthuman point toward the antihuman and the apocalyptic, we can craft others that will be conducive to the long-range survival of human and of the other life-forms, biological and artificial, with whom we share the planet and ourselves,” a vision that seems very similar to that of the Singularity (291). Of course, I do not think that the Singularity is a perfect idea, turning it into a religion is very dangerous and it cannot be used as an excuse to ignore the problems of the present. Ultimately, I think the best approach to the Singularity (and therefore our future) is a cautious excitement about the future; a future that we cannot predict with any certainty, but that we must try to for our own well-being nevertheless. After all, as Kurzweil likes to say, we are a race “that seeks–and succeeds–in going beyond our limitations.”