Thanks to Veronica Belmont who tweeted about it, I red an interesting Newsweek article about Ray Kurzweil. This inventor and futurist believes that there will come a point in the future – he calls it the Singularity – when machines will be more intelligent than people and they will start making themselves better and better. All the material I came across: the Newsweek article, Ray Kurzweil’s answer and some other sources gave me the impression that Ray Kurzweil builds a master narrative that is problematic and dangerous in some respects.
The article presents Ray Kurzweil as writing a cultural script that shockingly doesn’t leave any room for choice. Merging with machines will be “the only way for us to keep up” (emphasis mine) with the new superintelligent machines. Scripting the future of human kind as a narrow path driven by technological evolution and leading to a pre-defined outcome strikes me as dangerous. In my opinion, we should take measures to ensure we all have a say in the direction our technologies’ evolution take and how we use them. I don’t think it escapes us completely. Singularity narratives, on the contrary, seem to draw an unalterable scheme in which human powers and responsibilities are lessened, presenting technology as a driving force.
The exponential acceleration of technological evolution is supposed to help us overcome issues such as climate change easily without having to worry too much. However, the reality of this trend is disputed. PZ Myers, among others, argues the graph Ray Kurzweil presents to back up his claim doesn’t work. Even if it does work, one can not look at the past and make claims about the future on the basis of trends with any level of certainty. One can certainly not use this prediction to justify inaction with regards to climate change.
More than ever, we must direct the use and development of technology according to our values and our common project for society. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to put technology in the driver’s seat and relinquish responsibility.