Singularity: The New Religion.

5 Responses

  1. Steve Morris says:

    Interesting line of thought. I think that Kurzweil is predicting the singularity rather than advocating it (although he is clearly also in favour of it). What intrigues me is that whereas the vast majority of Christians reject everything that seems to threaten their belief system, you have accepted the SIngularity and assimilated it into your faith. Intriguing, and for me as an atheist further proof that humans create religious belief.

    I enjoyed your article, although I find the fatalism depressing. Why bother to try and better ourselves if we can never be free of sin? If God is going to destroy the world and then save us, what is the point of anything?

    • davemackey says:

      Steve – Thanks for the thoughtful response. You may be right about Kurzweil predicting rather than advocating, though I am fairly certain that many in the larger realm of technology/science are advocating and seeking to advance it, rather than just predicting…

      I’m not sure that I’d say I’ve assimilated the singularity into my faith, but the possibility of the singularity. That is, I don’t believe that if the singularity occurred it would necessarily disprove my faith. Along similar lines, if we were able to create humans without the use of sperm and egg and bring them to maturation and they began to live amongst us, I would not see this as necessarily destroying my faith either – though many Christians reject this as impossible due to God’s breath infusing humans with life and positing that these humans would lack such a soul and thus could not exist.

      As far as “creating religious belief” – I’d respond that we create all belief. As Brian Greene aptly notes in The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality, pg. ix, “And physicists such as myself are acutely aware that the reality we observe–matter evolving on the stage of space and time–may have little to do with reality, if any, that’s out there.”

      The question is not whether I create my religious belief – but whether we all do not create all our beliefs – thus, your atheistic beliefs as just as subjective as my religious beliefs. =) Or would you disagree?

      I am not suggesting that there is not objective truth (I believe there is) or that Christ is just a choice among many equivalently likely choices – but I am suggesting that everything we know or think we know requires a “leap of faith.”

      I’m not particularly happy with my own fatalism either…but I have not found an escape from it. That said, I don’t think that a fatalistic perspective requires us to give up trying and bettering ourselves. In all likelihood, if there is no God, the world will one day be destroyed apart from any action on mankind’s part (e.g. a meteor, a dying sun) and human life will cease to exist. If this is so – why aspire to better ourselves and free ourselves from sin? I am interested – for what reason do you seek to better yourself as an atheist?

      I hope none of this comes off as combative – I truly appreciate your comments and would love to hear more of your thoughts on these topics.

      Dave Mackey

  2. Steve Morris says:

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. I agree with everything you say. Belief is belief (“acceptance of a statement as true”) after all. Some philosophers argue that we can’t know anything and that all is subjective, and while that may be strictly true, if such a philosopher gets run over by a truck, the philosopher can deny the objective reality of the truck as much as he/she likes, but it doesn’t change the reality of the situation. As someone with a scientific background, I believe that there probably is a reality out there, even if our beliefs about it are created by ourselves and are subjective.

    As for, “why seek to better yourself as an atheist?” the alternative is not to bother, which has very limited appeal. I guess you would say the same as a Christian Pastor.

    I’m personally looking forward to the Singularity. I don’t think it will unfold exactly like Kurzweil believes (prediction has a very poor track record after all), but I think it will be just as “big” as he thinks. I think we are about to step over a threshold where *everything* changes. That’s a cause for optimism in fact.

    Enjoy your Sunday and keep blogging!

  3. Paul M. says:

    Dave, as always I appreciate your willingness to ask questions that challenge our conventional views. I haven’t read much about the Singularity myself, but find it an interesting concept and appreciate the efforts of those who are working towards it. However, while I appreciate the efforts towards the Singularity, I have my doubts about it’s successfulness.

    First of all, taking a look at human history, I don’t know that we are in that much better of a place today as a human race than we were a millenium ago. Though the progression of human thought and technology throughout history has made labor less difficult, food more accessible, education more common and accessible, etc. we still see starvation, slavery, genocide, and so many other atrocities being carried out by mankind. Prior to the great World Wars, many thought that education was what lay between mankind and a sort of utopia, but when the most educated nations on the planet committed such atrocities as the Holocaust, it became clear that more than education was needed.

    I think that this is where we will find the pursuit of technology will lead us. I stand behind all efforts to provide food to the hungry, homes to the homeless, education to the uneducated, jobs to the jobless, etc. and I believe that technology can be a powerful tool in making these goals achievable, but as we see around the world, deposing one brutal dictator often leads to an equal or worse man taking his place. I don’t mean that we should give up. As Abraham Lincoln wisely said “The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not deter me” (I don’t view these efforts as a failure, but merely as against odds which humans alone cannot overcome). I believe that humanity cannot be saved merely by being given more powerful tools. The problem lies within us.

    This is where my beliefs as a Christian play a big role in how I view the potential of the Singularity. To say that what makes us human is our ability to choose, or our ability to love is to simplify the complexity and beauty of humanity. To be human is to be more than these things, but it is not to be less than them. Though technology has the potential to limit violence and poor behavior (as you mentioned), I don’t believe it could do so without either destroying what we know as humanity altogether (making us something else entirely) or by imprisoning humanity in such as way as many would call tyranny. If we are nothing more than chemical reactions, and if we come from nothing more than random chance (i.e. evolution), then perhaps the Singularity is plausible. However, if this is the case, then there is no concrete basis for the goal of the Singularity in the first place, since it’s end goal has no concrete premise, and it will merely be a power play as Nietzsche asserted, by those seeking to control others.

    Ultimately, I believe the Bible presents the only plausible worldview that explains both human history, and the solution to the problem of evil within us and around us. God becoming man and sacrificing Himself to make our reconciliation to Himself possible, is the only means by which I can understand both the evil I see in the world, and the hope of salvation apart from the destruction of humanity. Since God offers a willful, but empowered return to the original perfection of humanity, He offers mankind both the freedom to choose, and the freedom to be transformed. Only by such a benevolent offer from an omnipotent being can mankind be saved. All other efforts will be, as you have posited, sabotaged by mankind himself.

    • davemackey says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful response…Unfortunately, it pushes me up against the unanswerable question which I oftentimes find myself encountering regarding freedom of the will. At a practical, personal, experiential level everyone experiences freedom of the will, but at a theoretical/philosophical level, freedom of the will seems like an illusion.
      For example, placing you or I into the same historical context, familial upbringing, social relationships, and underlying genetic and biological constraints – would we act any different than Ted Bundy or Adolf Hitler…and if so, why? What is intrinsically different about us than them?
      If we answer nothing and that we would do the same as them placed into that context, then it would seem that by changing the variables (genetics, context, relationships) one could change the outcome…If we answer something, how do we define that intangible something?
      These are questions I’ve beat my head against for years and have found no ready answers. I continue to pursue answers, but not desperately, instead choosing to fall at the foot of the cross and trust in the goodness of God.

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