Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Curse of Paradise

Ezekiel's Vision by Raphael
People are interested in the Singularity.


Well, let's be clear. They really aren't interested in the Vingean Singularity. Vernor Vinge, who provided the  modern definition and popularization of the technological acceleration event that results in an inability to predict more than twenty minutes into the future, more than anything set this up as a literary gauntlet, flung down to writers as a challenge. "All bets are off", said Vinge, "so place your bets". Much as a challenge to himself more than anything. This Singularity is, I think, not the Singularity people are interested in. Vinge's Singularity is a little scary, not at all a sure thing, perhaps even an extinction event for humanity. A Strangelovian version of the happy ending.

They are more interested in the Kurzweilian Singularity. This is the version where Ray Kurzweil pins his hopes on a trickle down version of intelligence, where humanity's boat is floated with the rising tide, where people are transcended. This is Extropianism. Transhumanism. The wildly optimistic vision that we all, or at least some fortunate few, get to become angels and demons, gods, titans, mythical creatures, perhaps even the Godhead itself.

Another variant of this is hoping the aliens come visit. With a qualifier, of course, benevolent aliens. Ready to share their superior wisdom and technology. The ending of war, disease, poverty, hunger, want. The standard Star Trek Socialist Fantasy.

It is, in short, a diaper fetish.

Infantilism. Regression. Lolling about in the crib. Fed pap. Entertained with shiny things. Coddled. Swaddled. Bathed. Buttocks wiped. Perhaps even little bellies massaged so the very effort of pooping is made... effortless.

That is the reward of Paradise, is it not? The end of toil. The release of all care. Finally to rest. In sun dappled repose. With endless leisure. Supine grace. A return to the golden eternity of infancy.

Ah, but in real life, we know what happens when that happens. We fucking wither, weaken, and die.

True, stress and strife kill us off just as fast. But leisure and bed rest beget disgusting soft bodies and bedsores. Not good for us. Both as individuals and collectively.

A La-zee-boy future is sure to wipe us out as a species. We need challenges. We need problems.

If you really want a Singularity future, you better be ready for a Sisyphean one. To modify Camus' conclusion:

"One must imagine Frankenstein happy..."

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