I came across Ray Kurzweil’s article, The Law of Accelerating Returns, a few weeks ago. It was published in March 1, 2001 – pre 9/11 – so I’m a day late and a dollar short. But it’s still a good read.
His main point that our exponential rate of technological advancement is itself accelerating exponentially, and is worthy of thought. But here, I just want to put a finger on two secondary points he raises:
- Assuming nanotechnology, there will be a brief point when computers will be as smart as we are, around 2050, before soaring far higher than us.
- We have searched most of space, and have failed to find any Type III civilizations, at least one should have arisen over the last 10 billion years or so. This implies that there are no Type II civilizations, and thus no Type I civilizations. So, we are alone in the universe, so long as technological civilizations are concerned.
As far as projections go, Kurzweil’s isn’t too bad at all.
Now, let’s address the first question: should we fear the computer masters of the future?
I strongly doubt it, mainly because we are living in the slowly collapsing ruins of a command’n’control experiment of some really, really smart socialists, both hard and soft. If a bunch of above-the-law IQ 140 types couldn’t create an eternally static civilization – back when there were no faxes, no Internet, no networking, no hand-held camera-ready smartphones, no biowar, and no ever-cheaper range of weaponry both physical and digital – than it isn’t going to happen now. See Mises’ Socialism for details. (Or, if you are kinda lazy, spend 44 minutes watching the wonders of Soviet planning here.)
All this assumes that programs can be creative. Certainly, after a point, they will claim to be. Personally, though, I doubt it: at the end of the day, it’s all going to be about power and pleasure, just like the Compassionate Ones their minds will be modeled on.
“The Next Step of Evolution!”
“Superior in Every Way!”
Blah, blah, blah.
Nothing more than smoother lies and greater brutality, leading to a more swifter and greater failure than today’s fast-disintegrating welfare-warfare state is now undergoing.
If we are truly alone in the universe… what then?
The solid majority of Atheists will be pissed, as it implies that humans are special. This idea is hated, as it restricts the power of the State to do what it pleases when it pleases to any man, woman, or child it chooses to target “for the sake of the People.”
(Yes, the Compassionate Ones despise any sort of claim to human uniqueness, while ALSO basing their right to rule on the claim of the State to manifest the Will of the People. An idolatry of the mass of people on the one hand, and a profound contempt of the individual human being on the other.
Simple: the State must draw it’s right to rule from the masses, so as a collective it must be claimed to be a god, standing far above the law. (This helps to flatter the mass-man, as well.) On the other hand, all challengers to State Power must be condemned as completely worthless and evil, without any rights at all. The State represents Us: the individual challenger of the State, even millions of them, are all Enemies of the People, and need to be crushed, one by one.)
Most (but not all) Christians assume that they are alone in the universe, so not a big change for them.
Amusingly, if we assume a young universe, then the potential for a limitless number of alien civilizations will be restored. There simply isn’t enough time for radio waves to have passed through the immense void of space: there may well be a massive interstellar state, on the scale of the Ziru Sirka, with their nearest inhabited world a mere 300 light years or so distant.
This is deeply annoying to Christians, as it will bring about all sorts of difficult theological problems we’d rather avoid.
God, on the other hand, simply loves His quiet little jokes.
Frankly, I wouldn’t put it past Him…