The Singularity Needs You

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					By Jamais Cascio


The Singularity Needs You
Artificial intelligence, information
technology, and virtual reality will
radically change human existence in
the decades to come. One futurist
argues that the future is too important
to leave to the technologists alone.

                                                       YEWKEO / ISTOCKPHOTO.COM




                                                                                  J
                                                                                       onas Salk, creator of the world’s
                                                                                       first polio vaccine, famously said
                                                                                       that our greatest responsibility is
                                                                                  to be good ancestors. This is a partic-
                                                                                  ularly relevant idea for those of us
                                                                                  who take the future seriously. In our
                                                                                  work, in our policies, in our choices,
                                                                                  in the possibilities that we embrace
                                                                                  and those we don’t, our actions have
                                                                                  consequences. It is incumbent upon
                                                                                  us to ask if the consequences we’re
                                                                                  bringing about are desirable. So let’s
                                                                                  ask ourselves, are we being good an-
                                                                                  cestors?
                                                                                     It’s not an easy question to answer,
                                                                                  in part because the examination can
                                                                                  be an uncomfortable one. But this is-
                                                                                  sue of being a good ancestor be-
                                                                                  comes especially challenging when
                                                                                  we recognize that even small choices
                                                                                  matter. It’s not just the multibillion-
                                                                                  dollar projects and unmistakably
                                                                                  world-altering ideas that will change
                                                                                  the lives of our descendants. Some-
                                                                                  times, perhaps most of the time, pro-
                                                                                  found consequences can arise from
                                                                                  the most prosaic of topics.
                                                                                     Video games, camera phones,
                                                                                  Google Earth, and the myriad day-
                                                                                  to-day technologies that, individu-
                                                                                  ally, may attract momentary notice,
                                                                                  may also, in combination, offer us a
                                                                                  new way of grappling with a future
                                                                                  world that will be radically different
                                                                                  from our own. Today, many scien-
                                                                                  tists, researchers, computer program-
                                                                                  mers, culture watchers, and futurists
                                                                                  believe that in the next four decades
                                                                                  we will enter into a phase of sudden,
                                                                                  rapid, and unprecedented technolog-
                                                                                  ical progress, caused in part by the
                                                                                  ability of machines to improve them-
                                                                                  selves using artificial intelligence.

24   THE FUTURIST   November-December 2008   www.wfs.org
© 2008 World Future Society • 7910 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 450, Bethesda, MD 20814, U.S.A. • All rights reserved.

The Acceleration Studies Foundation        might unfold. First, we looked at
refers to this future period as the Sin-   how new and future technologies re-
                                  
				
DOCUMENT INFO
Description: Jonas Salk, creator of the world's first polio vaccine, famously said that their greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors. This is a particularly relevant idea for those of them who take the future seriously. In their work, in their policies, in their choices, in the possibilities that they embrace and those they don't, their actions have consequences. Today, many scientists, researchers, computer programmers, culture watchers, and futurists believe that in the next four decades people will enter into a phase of sudden, rapid, and unprecedented technological progress, caused in part by the ability of machines to improve themselves using artificial intelligence. How they shape some of the technologies that make up their daily lives could be critical to passing safely through the coming period of radical change. Software, like all technologies, is inherently political. Even the most disruptive technologies carry with them the legacies of past decisions and the culture and history of the societies that spawned them.
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