Articles & Reviews
Authored by RSF Research Staff
The Kurzweilian Singularity and Evolution of the Technigenome
Singularity – the state of being singular; Oneness.
The biological system is a natural form of technology. A simple examination of the nanobiology of the macromolecular system of any cell will attest to this – enzymes and structural proteins are veritable nanomachines, linked to the information processing network of DNA and plasma membranes. Far from being a primordial or rudimentary organic technology – we are discovering more and more the level of complexity and paragon technological sophistication of living systems, which as is being discovered, even includes non-trivial quantum mechanical phenomena once thought to only be possible in the highly specialized and controlled environment of the laboratory.
Reciprocally, soon our technologies will become living systems – particularly through nanotechnology (which is being accomplished through reverse engineering and hybridization with biomolecules, particularly DNA) and general artificial intelligence – machine sentience. Following this parallelization of biology with technology, we can examine how humanity as a technological supraorganism is undergoing a period of punctuated speciation – an evolutionary transformation of both our inner and outer world.
Humanity possesses a unique characteristic amongst our co-inhabitants of planet Earth, in that we utilize technology to record and transmit information to progeny beyond what is naturally transmitted by the molecular genome. This is a form of technological heredity – a technigenome. In his book, The Singularity is Near, Futurist Ray Kurzweil examines how the geometric (exponential) increase in human collective knowledge as well as the emergence of Strong Artificial Intelligence and advanced nanotechnological capabilities is seemingly leading to an inevitable point of fundamentally transforming the human species – The Kurzweilian Singularity – being nothing short of a form of technological transcendence beyond the putative limitations of the biological system.
Indeed, the human collective technigenome is undergoing punctuated evolution. This rapid adaptive radiation and expansion of our collective body of knowledge is fundamentally transforming human civilization. Since the behavior of each individual – from the structure of the belief system, worldview perspective, right down to the molecular biology – is directly influenced by the higher level dynamics of the macrosystem (civilization as a supraorganism) what it is to be human is fundamentally transforming as well. This is speciation. With selective impetus being more of a technological nature, as opposed to the supposed filters of natural selection. More specifically however, it is a change in the knowledge-base (technigenome), belief-system, and worldview of each individual – influencing the higher-level dynamics of the human collective body of knowledge, which in turn feeds back into each individual – forming the self-organizing feedback operation that is the causal genesis of this evolution. This is directed evolution – a species changing itself through its own actions.
Although the evolution, in that sense, is being driven by consciousness – it is not exactly being done with an awareness of this inevitable outcome, aside from a few forward thinking technological and scientific aficionados – such as the transhumanists of the Kurzweilian Singularity. Almost seemingly juxtaposed to this cybernetic trans-speciation, is the very same perspective by much of the spiritual community of the transformation of humanity – just instead of being technological in nature it is envisioned as being purely consciousness-driven, by increasing transpersonal connectivity. However, since it is being self-driven – by our collective actions – we then have the choice of exactly what direction of transformation we want to move in. By bringing awareness to the global state of humanity, the technologically-driven introspective transformation we are experiencing, and working together – we can coordinate our actions and channel the awesome power of our exponentially expanding knowledge-base in any direction we so choose. The question then is – where do we want to go?
Singularity or Bust
– The idea is not which systems contain consciousness, it is what structures are present to allow a particular form of consciousness to be expressed.
“The origin of consciousness reflects our place in the universe, the nature of our existence. Did consciousness evolve from complex computations among brain neurons, as most scientists assert? Or has consciousness, in some sense, been here all along, as spiritual approaches maintain?” ask Hameroff and Penrose.
There is a certain inculcated perspective that dominates our view of artificial sentience (strong artificial intelligence capable of adaptive responses – general AI – and, most importantly, containing self-directed action or stand-alone volition) – that we will ultimately destroy ourselves through our own creation. Interestingly, this view is harbored by proponents of technology (The Artilect War: Cosmists Vs. Terrans: A Bitter Controversy Concerning Whether Humanity Should Build Godlike Massively Intelligent Machines) as well as those more inclined to technophobia, who view AI as unnatural, and therefore something that is inherently harmful by the fact that it is synthetic. However, what seems to be missed in this perspective is that violence is a function of the level of ignorance. So how is it presumed that a system with “god-like” intelligence, whatever it’s constitution may be (like the Artillects for example), would be dangerous, or otherwise violent? When the observational and empirical data correlates nearly exactly with the antithesis of this theory of inevitable malevolence.
The spiritual nature cannot be ignored either. Generally, how violent are spiritual practitioners? Spirituality in this sense being the increase in ones awareness, through say meditation or cultivation of presence. Is not intelligence a measure of awareness? Again, when we are discussing the advent of a hyper-intelligent system through technological means (which is only superficially different from our own biomolecular technological system) what is the probability that this vast level of awareness would be inclined to violent or disharmonious action? It is quite possible that at this level of consciousness – which will probably be achieved by a technological interface with the structure and dynamics of spacetime itself – there is an inherent benevolence. As data to back this claim, I would simply point out the general harmony of the natural order (which we have suggested is the result of the underlying information network of spacetime) – which after all did engender the life-giving properties of our solar system, Earth, and ultimately the biosphere.
Furthermore, the advent of general strong AI will mean much more than just sentient robots and super artillects. It will mean an integration and unification of every aspect of our lives – a true singularity. Our consciousness will extend continuously into our homes, our buildings, our devices, vehicles (and the coming advanced modes of transportation – antigravity craft in particular), and our entire technological architecture will become an interactive and responsive environment – full consciousness immersion. Our cities will pulse with the flow of living consciousness – sentience. The macrostructure of our civilization will become a living system. At that point, information – and the energy to drive it all – will be free, ubiquitous, and limitless (in the technological sense, as energy and information is fundamentally ubiquitous and limitless already).
The following is a comment of the above article sent to me via email. I will post it here (keeping the sender anonymous) as the reflections are highly insightful and pertinent. My reply is provided as well following the comment.
It is encouraging for me to hear that you see what I am trying to convey — a living harmonious technology that is a natural extension of ourselves yet enables and facilitates ever greater evolution and development of our personal selves and civilization as a whole. I very much agree with you as well that the natural world is the original supreme technology of which we used to have a much closer connection — total consciousness immersion with the natural environment and ecosystem. Perhaps a technology that functions on these same principles will enable us to remember that once sacred and vital connection with nature that use to be much more prominent in our cultures and societies. Nature is the ultimate portal to higher levels of being, experience, and understanding — as such, living technologies and natural AI approach the same level of sublime intelligence and supreme sentience of the natural world.
Thank you again for your feedback and sharing your perspective on this, much appreciated :-)