The Singularity will give you everlasting life

A new religion is born.  The concept of the “singularity” used to be a dream of technology, the notion that exponentially-growing computing power would reach a point at which machines would become more intelligent than human beings.  But now the hypothetical Singularity is being invested with religious significance:  It will give you eternal life.

The Singularity, promised by futurist Ray Kurzweil, has accelerated interest in an entirely new field known as Transhumanism, giving hope to deep-pocketed Baby Boomers that they will be able to live forever. Watching Kurzweil’s fascinating documentary film – Transcendent Man (now finally available on Netflix) – you can get a glimpse of what is possible due to the accelerating pace of technological change in fields ranging from genetics to nanotechnology. At some point, the line between “man” and “machine” blurs, as intelligence increases exponentially.

The concept of the Singularity is singularly fascinating since it confirms so much of what appears to be happening around us. Next-generation technologies appear on schedule, seemingly every few months, and popular culture is full of examples of Baby Boomers who are healthier and living longer than ever before. The cultural zeitgeist is right, too: The Baby Boomers are the first generation that is receptive to, rather than threatened by, the pace of technological change.

Perhaps not surprisingly, themes from the Singularity are finding their way from the world of science and technology into the cultural mainstream. At the World Science Festival in New York City, for example, one of the major themes at the event was human longevity and the possibility that we can reverse the human aging process. Just two months ago, at the first-ever Transhumanism Meets Design conference, held at the Parsons School in New York City, speakers joined in from fields such as neuroscience and artificial intelligence to discuss the impact of technology on human potential.

How will all this play out? Will the Singularity be as elusive as the Fountain of Youth? Will we ever see the day when FDA-approved ads for bio-engineered pills promise us the ability to live forever?

via The men and women who want to live forever – Ideas@Innovations – The Washington Post.

The religion of transhumanism!  Doesn’t it resonate with our times?  A religion based solely upon technology–which can already do so many signs and wonders–and that will make no moral demands and require no spiritual beliefs.  Its notion that flesh will become obsolete and its trust in the virtual realm tie in nicely to our gnostic tradition.  Prediction:  Watch for attempts to Christianize the Singularity, as well as attempts to transhumanize the church.

Couch rebels

Is today’s information technology a revolutionary force or the opiate of the people?  The verdict is mixed in the Middle East uprisings:

Two years ago, Iranian activists used social media sites as engines to organize massive anti-government demonstrations. But now, activists say, the limitless freedoms available online are proving to be a distraction from real-world dissent.

Instead of marching in the streets, the same doctors, artists and students who led the demonstrations in 2009 are playing Internet games such as FarmVille, peeking at remarkably candid photographs posted online by friends and confining their political debates to social media sites such as Facebook, where dissent has proved less risky.

Online, Iranians now brazenly show the parts of their lives that they used to keep secret from the state and others. Pictures of illegal underground parties, platinum blond girls without headscarves and couples frolicking on the holiday beaches of Turkey, are all over Iranian social media.

In 2009, Iranians used social media to coordinate protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s contested election victory. Now, some activists say online tools are becoming a distraction from real-world dissent.

“We have become couch rebels, avoiding the dangers that real changes bring,” said a 39-old Iranian artist who spends most days juggling between two laptops and 1,300 online friends. “Our world online is like an endless party with no rules, and that keeps us very busy.”

The artist insisted that she be identified only by her first name, Jinoos, to avoid government retaliation. She said she had attended a demonstration in February but, on returning home, found that all of her friends had remained online, posting news about the protest from the safety of their homes.

via In Iran, ‘couch rebels’ prefer Facebook – The Washington Post.

End of the professional/personal divide

An article on how the Navy has been sacking commanding officers for personal misconduct ends with a striking quotation:

The Navy has fired a dozen commanding officers this year, a near-record rate, with the bulk getting the ax for offenses related to sex, alcohol or other forms of personal misconduct.

The terminations, which follow a similar spike in firings last year, have shaken the upper ranks of the Navy, which has long invested enormous responsibility in its commanding officers and prides itself on a tradition of carefully cultivating captains and admirals.

Over the past 18 months, the Navy has sacked nine commanding officers for sexual harassment or inappropriate personal relationships. Three others were fired for alcohol-related offenses, and two on unspecified charges of personal misconduct. Combined, they account for roughly half of the 29 commanding officers relieved during that period.

Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, called the increase in firings “bothersome” but said the Navy was duty-bound to uphold strict behavioral standards, even when commanders are off-duty. He attributed the rise in part to the revolution in communications and technology, which has made it easier for sailors and their families to snoop on one another and then instantly spread the word — even from once-isolated ships at sea.

“The divide between our private and professional lives is essentially gone,” Roughead said in an interview. “People can engage in the debate — does it really matter what a commanding officer does in their personal life? We believe it does, because it gets right to the issue of integrity and personal conduct and trust and the ability to enforce standards.”

via Navy has spike in commanding-officer firings, most for personal misconduct – The Washington Post.

It has been something of a mystery why Rep. Anthony Weiner was forced to resign for his social media postings, while President Clinton with his actual as opposed to virtual adultery was re-elected.  Perhaps this is the answer.  Our technology has evolved to the point that there is no longer a boundary between one’s private and public lives.  Not just when it comes to misbehavior but in other areas as well:  Computers and cell phones enable people to work and do business at home as well as at the office.  People are always on their cell phones, sometimes dealing with business while at a ball game or a family gathering, and sometimes dealing with family issues at work.  But it isn’t just work. . . .

Could it be a healthy development that we are becoming less compartmentalized?  At least when moral behavior and holding people accountable are concerned?

The Honorable Anthony Weiner

So Congressional Representative Anthony Weiner, D-NY, now admits that he twittered the lewd photo and has been lying about it.  And now it turns out the congressman has been sexting and exposing himself to other women.

See Anthony Weiner admits he sent photo, but won’t resign – The Fix – The Washington Post.

I refuse to make any of the obvious jokes and bawdy wordplay.  I find the whole episode repellant, but it seems telling for the degradation of our politicians and the way our brilliant technology is being used for such base, degrading purposes.

I don’t have anything else to say about this.  If you do, go ahead.  But don’t be base and degrading yourself.

Will technology replace schools?

Stephen Pearstein profiles Sal Kahn, who teaches math via YouTube videos, making the case that online technology may soon make traditional schools obsolete:

If education moves to a teaching model in which students learn through online tutorials, exercises and evaluations created by a handful of the best educators in the world, then how many teachers will we need preparing lesson plans and delivering lectures and grading quizzes and tests? Surely we’ll need some for one-on-one tutoring, or to run small group discussions, or teach things that can’t or shouldn’t be taught online. Despite assurances to the contrary, however, there’s likely to be fewer than we have now — fewer but better-paid with more interesting jobs — just as has happened in nearly every other industry that has gone through a similar transformation.

The disruption doesn’t stop there. If students are allowed to progress through each subject at their own pace, they won’t be second-graders or sixth-graders any longer, since at any time they are likely to be at different grades in different subjects. Indeed, the whole notion of a 45-minute “class,” or the six-hour “school day,” or even the August through June school “calendar” — the entire framework of the educational experience — will become somewhat irrelevant. And as Khan loves to point out, grading will suddenly become simple: Everyone gets an A in every course, with the only question being how long it takes each student to earn it.

Given these implications, you can understand why the education establishment has been in no hurry to embrace a digital future. The battles over standardized testing and adoption of common national standards were just the warm-up. Now that the opposition to them has been largely overcome, capital and creative talent will pour in to develop both the hardware and the software of the new education technology.

Over the next decade, look for teaching to be transformed from an art into something much closer to a science, look for learning to become highly individualized, and look for education to go from being a cottage industry to one that takes full advantage of the economies of scale and scope. And as in every other industry, look for quality to go up and cost to go down.

via Steven Pearlstein: Mark them tardy to the revolution – The Washington Post.

The corollary is that schools would be replaced with homeschooling!  But don’t working parents want someplace to park their kids for the day?  That reason alone will is likely to keep schools alive, even after they are obsolete.

I do think that human-to-human teaching is much superior to mechanical instruction, but some online teaching–such as  my daughter’s Latin classes for homeschoolers are real time, with genuine teacher-to-student and student-to-student interaction–whereas many of our progressive schools have become mechanistic and dehumanizing.

What do you think about this?  What could it mean, say, for Christian and parochial schools?

HT:  Jackie

Emergency cell phone messages from the president

Does anyone see anything wrong with this?

A new national alert system is set to begin in New York City that will alert the public to emergencies via cell phones.

It’s called the Personal Localized Alert Network or PLAN. Presidential and local emergency messages as well as Amber Alerts would appear on cell phones equipped with special chips and software.

The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency said the system would also warn about terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

“The lessons that were reinforced on 9/11 is the importance of getting clear and accurate information to the public during a crisis,” New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Verizon and AT&T, the nation’s largest cell phone carriers, are already on board. Consumers would be able to opt out of all but those presidential messages.

via National Emergency Alert System Set To Launch In NYC « CBS New York.

It sounds like a good idea.  So why does it FEEL wrong?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X