Time’s Person of the Year 2045

I’ve been posting on the Singularity hypothesis and have already alluded to this big story in Time Magazine.  It’s worth reading as perhaps a foretaste of an emerging secular religion, one that will solve all of our problems and bring us everlasting life.  A sample:

So if computers are getting so much faster, so incredibly fast, there might conceivably come a moment when they are capable of something comparable to human intelligence. Artificial intelligence. All that horsepower could be put in the service of emulating whatever it is our brains are doing when they create consciousness — not just doing arithmetic very quickly or composing piano music but also driving cars, writing books, making ethical decisions, appreciating fancy paintings, making witty observations at cocktail parties.

If you can swallow that idea, and [Raymond] Kurzweil and a lot of other very smart people can, then all bets are off. From that point on, there’s no reason to think computers would stop getting more powerful. They would keep on developing until they were far more intelligent than we are. Their rate of development would also continue to increase, because they would take over their own development from their slower-thinking human creators. Imagine a computer scientist that was itself a super-intelligent computer. It would work incredibly quickly. It could draw on huge amounts of data effortlessly. It wouldn’t even take breaks to play Farmville.

Probably. It’s impossible to predict the behavior of these smarter-than-human intelligences with which (with whom?) we might one day share the planet, because if you could, you’d be as smart as they would be. But there are a lot of theories about it. Maybe we’ll merge with them to become super-intelligent cyborgs, using computers to extend our intellectual abilities the same way that cars and planes extend our physical abilities. Maybe the artificial intelligences will help us treat the effects of old age and prolong our life spans indefinitely. Maybe we’ll scan our consciousnesses into computers and live inside them as software, forever, virtually. Maybe the computers will turn on humanity and annihilate us. The one thing all these theories have in common is the transformation of our species into something that is no longer recognizable as such to humanity circa 2011. This transformation has a name: the Singularity.

The difficult thing to keep sight of when you’re talking about the Singularity is that even though it sounds like science fiction, it isn’t, no more than a weather forecast is science fiction. It’s not a fringe idea; it’s a serious hypothesis about the future of life on Earth. There’s an intellectual gag reflex that kicks in anytime you try to swallow an idea that involves super-intelligent immortal cyborgs, but suppress it if you can, because while the Singularity appears to be, on the face of it, preposterous, it’s an idea that rewards sober, careful evaluation.

via Singularity: Kurzweil on 2045, When Humans, Machines Merge — Printout — TIME.

And the date this will come to pass, according to the prophets, is 2045.

Killer asteroid may interfere with Singularity

Wouldn’t that just be humanity’s luck?  An asteroid hits earth and wipes out the human race just 9 years before the Singularity comes to pass and we all would have been made immortal.

From AOL News:

Not to alarm you, but Russian scientists estimate Earth will be hit by an asteroid on April 13, 2036. Should we start packing our bags now? And where would we go?

In 2004, NASA suggested the possibility that the asteroid called Apophis, bigger than two football fields, might collide with our planet in 2029. Further computations changed their minds about that prediction.

And now, Russian figures give us a new date for a possible encounter with the giant rock from space.

“Technically, they’re correct — there is a chance in 2036″ that Apophis will hit Earth, Donald Yeomans, head of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program, told the Life’s Little Mysteries website.

But Yeomans added that the odds of this happening are only 1 in 250,000.

Last month, Leonid Sokolov of Russia’s St. Petersburg State University announced that “Apophis will approach Earth at a distance of 37,000 to 38,000 kilometers on April 13, 2029. Its likely collision with Earth may occur on April 13, 2036.” . . .

The Russian researchers theorize that the nearly 1,000-foot-diameter Apophis might pass through an area in space called a gravitational keyhole in its 2029 pass of Earth. This keyhole might alter the asteroid’s course and aim it for a more direct hit of our home planet.

Yeomans explains that NASA isn’t concerned about Apophis coming too close to us in 2029.

“We’ve already ruled out the possibility of it hitting at that time,” he said. “On the other hand, if it goes through what we call a keyhole during that close Earth encounter … then it will indeed be perturbed just right so that it will come back and smack Earth on April 13, 2036.”

via Russian Scientists Say Asteroid on Collision Course With Earth.

Then read  Time Magazine: 2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal

We are going to have to run a whole gauntlet of apocalypses.  First comes Rev. Camping’s prediction that the Rapture will happen on May 21 of this year (just three months left!).  The Mayans predicted that the world will end in 2012.  Then we have April 13, 2036 for the Asteroid.  And 2045 for the Singularity.  At least it’s not just Christians or semi-Christians who are making these kinds of predictions now.

The King’s Speech

We finally saw the multiple-Oscar nominee The King’s Speech.  What a great movie!  I had expected in this account of King George VI and his speech therapist a light-hearted and humorous ‘enry ‘iggens My Fair Lady story in reverse.  But it was so much more than that, an in-depth character study of the king’s second son, so dominated by his royal father and tormented by his shallow elder brother that he suffers from a major speech impediment, a problem with stuttering that is deadly when, as a royal, you have to make speeches all the time.

But then his brother , now King Edward, abdicates the throne so that he can marry his floozy American girlfriend (something not allowed for the head of the Church of England since she had been divorced, and more than once).  Now Bertie is King George VI, just as World War II is breaking out.  (His eldest daughter is Princess and later-to-be Queen Elizabeth.)In a time of radio demagogues such as Hitler, the King of England must hold the nation and the Empire together, largely by means of radio broadcasts.  But he freezes and stammers when he has to speak in public.  His Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue, has to not only teach him to speak fluently, but, in doing so, he must help him get to the root of his royal neuroses.

The movie is absolutely compelling.  Not just for its speech therapy but as a political tale and a glimpse into the unique pressures and miseries of royalty.  No explosions, nobody got killed, no sex scenes, some therapeutic bad language, and lots of brilliant performances.  I saw a whole slew of Masterpiece Theater veterans, including an elderly and barely-recognizable Anthony Andrews (remember when he was the young rake on the good production of Brideshead Revisited?) and a Derek Jacobi, who, now that he is actually old, looks just like the cosmetically-produced old Emperor that he played in the final episodes of I, Claudius. But the performances of Colin Firth as King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as Logue just killed.

Humans tie with computer in Jeopardy

The computer could not defeat humanity in Jeopardy, at least in the first round.  They tied.  The showdown between “Watson,” a specially-programmed computer from IBM, and Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter will continue on Tuesday and Wednesday.  The show is syndicated and is usually on at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Man matches machine in Jeopardy! showdown • The Register.

So even if Watson wins, will that mean that computers have a greater mental capacity than human beings?  I would say not at all.  The human mind is infinitely more than logic and information retrieval.  Calculation like that takes up only a miniscule part of our consciousness.  There are also feeling and perception and memory and fantasy and moral reactions and personality and will.

HT:  Webmonk

Adult culture

Picking up from the music posts last weekend. . . .

Country music draws from the world of adults:  marriage, family, work, church, but also alcoholism, adultery, divorce.  (Country music is not intrinsically more wholesome, though.  It is very frank about sex–premarital, extramarital, but also marital–and is full of bad examples.)

The other popular musical genres–indeed, virtually all of pop culture, including television and the movies–draws from the world of young people:  dating, singleness, play, undefined spirituality, drugs, premarital sex, romantic love, fantasy.  (Notice that on television, virtually everyone even in ostensibly realistic dramas–NCIS, Law & Order, Bones, etc.–is single.)

It was not always this way.  The blues draws on the adult world.  Folk music.  Jazz.  Standards.  The American Songbook.  Classical music back when it was contemporary was made by adults for adults.

It is surely one of the oddest of our current cultural dysfunctions that our popular art and entertainment are largely made for young people.  To be sure, adults own the studios, run the industry, and make most of the money.  But the content and the target audience are largely oriented to adolescent children and single people in their lower 20′s.

One might say that this is just economics, that the entertainment biz caters to whoever will spend money on the product.  But adults, who have far more disposable income than those just starting out, do buy music and other kinds of entertainment.  But they  buy either what the young people are listening to or watching, or the music, styles, and artists they enjoyed when they were adolescents!

Whatever happened to adult culture?

Romantic love and marriage

For St. Valentine’s Day. . . .

Did you realize that romantic love, as it blossomed during the Middle Ages, was originally nearly always outside marriage (e.g., Dante and Beatrice) and often adulterous (e.g., Lancelot and Guinivere)?

And did you realize that romantic love was brought into marriage, both as a precursor and as a fruition, by the Reformation?

See C. S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1958), pp. 13-15, , and  Justin Taylor, “Martin Luther’s Reform of Marriage,” in Sex and the Supremacy of Christ ed. John Piper and Justin Taylor (Wheaton, IL:  Crossway Books, 2005), pp. 239ff.


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