John Shirley preaches on False Singularities

Posted by on December 9th, 2012

A machine that pollutes is only half invented

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John Shirley (who along with Richard Kadrey put the punk in cyberpunk) steps to the podium at TEDx Brussels and like Bill Hick’s dark little prophet, preaches the dystopic future, the dark euphoria of the coming decades. This talk is over a year old, but it resonates stronger than ever. This is not our future | how the world ends.

A Singular[ity] Dream

Posted by on June 30th, 2012

We don’t get occasion to post much poetry here. In fact, this might be the first.

A Singular[ity] Dream. by Kenji Wardenclyffe

I dream of a world of hyper sterility,
Glass and chrome, purified air.
Where the feeling of earth beneath our feet is a distant memory,
Where reality is cold and distant.

I dream of a world where blood doesn’t run,
Where servos replace cartilage,
And every breath we take is a simulation.

I dream of a world where our hearts pump black oil,
And emotion is binary shot through a wire,
Where we delete our fears and upload new tricks,
And mortality is a forgotten paradigm.

I dream of a world where our flesh is made of steel,
And our perception upgraded with new versions,
Hardware replaced wetware,
Immortality replaced death,
The natural forgotten,
And the only viruses we get are encoded in C++.

I dream of a world which is coming soon,
A world built of transhuman design.

I shall dream of this world one more time,
A world I shall never know.

Welcome to Life

Posted by on June 10th, 2012

Love this video by Tom Scott, rightly subtitled “The Singularity ruined by Lawyers”:

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via Mark Pesce

thoughts on the Transcendent Man

Posted by on April 7th, 2011

The Ray Kurzweil documentary, Transcendent Man, has been downloadable for a while now and is having selected screenings across the world. Prompted by Paul Raven’s review on Futurismic (and his appearance on the panel discussing the film in London, get down there locals!) I decided to give it a watch.

Firstly, to be clear, I’m not a Believer in the Singularity, and I feel that it’s these Believers that contribute to the frequent descriptions of it as a techno-religious cult. Indeed, the almost immediate impression you got from this Kurzweil love-fest was: There is only one God (Technology) and Ray Kurzweil is its Prophet. There’s A LOT of time dedicated to what seems to be the creation/promotion of a Cult of Personality around Ray (but this may well be my own sensitivities speaking, since I’ve dedicated a lot of time lately studying Mao Zedong) and far less given to those equally brilliant people, doing amazing work, with dissenting opinions (the clips with Kevin Warwick, always a favourite here, are particularly good.) But far be it for me to mount an aggressive campaign picking apart his arguments. Starting a War is the furthest thing from my mind. Instead, let me gently point out a few of flaws as I see them:

  1. Ray is focusing on Technological change to the complete exclusion of all other elements, be they Social, Political or Economical. I agree we’re in the midst of rapid change, but you must account for the intersection & feedback between all aspects of Human Society.
  2. Ray seems to have pinned his hopes on the eventual arrival of Friendly AIs (primarily to resurrect his dead father.) While I can sympathize with this desire, I think it’s foolish to imagine that should near-god-like AIs suddenly burst into existence that they will even remotely resemble Human Beings and have human concerns. This applies equally to the Doomsday scenarios, that The Machines Will Wipe Us Out! Why would they/it bother?? If anything, like in Vernor Vinge’s book Rainbow End, they might see us as a curiosity to be toyed with, but forget the Terminator-nightmare. That is just Humanity’s ego overstating it’s own anthropocentric importance.
  3. Finally, his whole theory is posited on the idea that all human biological evolution has ceased and it is within the sphere of technology and culture that evolution now takes place. This idea has been popular for a while, but like all scientific ideas, it represents just the current understanding (with its implicit statement of the Myth of Nature, the idea that Humans have left the Animal Kingdom.) Whereas current indications (see Are We Still Evolving?) hint that not only did we never stop evolving (because we are still Animals), but as a consequence of <rapid change = rapidly changing selection criteria> humanity might Naturally be about to make a Great Leap Forward.

Nonetheless, for all interested in Technological Change this documentary is well made and worth seeing, if only to focus your own viewpoints and sharpen your arguments.

Tangentially, I recently read Jonathan Hickman’s run on the Fantastic Four comic and Kurzweil seems oddly similar to the depiction of Reed Richards in these (especially in issue #579.) They’re both unquestioningly brilliant men trying to fix the world and in short: Solve Everything. However, intelligence and wisdom are two different things. (Weirdly enough, both had largely absent fathers too.) But enough conflating fact and fiction.

Fundamentally my bugbear with Singularitarianism is this: it discourages engaging with the Present, thinking that we can just lie back and let Technology Fix Everything. It seems focused on watching for the arrival of elements necessary to fulfill its predictions, rather than closely observing the present and trying to extrapolate from emerging trends, continuously updating your future-world-view. What worries me is that people viewing this documentary will think that everything will be just fine and they can safely adopt a passive role.

As I see it, the challenge we’re facing right now is making the Transition as gentle as possible. As I’ve said before, we’re already mid-Singularity, in that a one-way shift is happening. The world that lies on the other side will very much be the product of the choices we make right now and they require us all to be engaged in making and shaping them; but I am absolutely down for Total Life Forever.

Transcendent Man

Posted by on March 4th, 2011

Your Friday Afternoon Movie for this week…

…yes, I AM stealing the “Friday Afternoon Movie” from COILHOUSE - we’ll keep it between us, right?

Your Friday Afternoon Movie for today is: Transcendent Man: the Life and Ideas of Ray Kurzweil.  Long time readers will know that I’m not the world’s biggest cheerleader for Kurzweil, but this documentary is still very much worth a look, even if you’re a grumpy old creature like myself.  The film is 9 parts on youtube.

Interview with Kevin Warwick on

Posted by on August 13th, 2010

We kind of like Kevin Warwick a lot here. And for good reason, he is, like Tony Stark, using himself as a test-pilot for the future.

So, of course, we must post this interview with him over on

Most interesting is him further confirming that neuro-streaming will be the Next Big Thing, in Lifeblogging..

via Gizmodo

The Pixel Singularity

Posted by on July 29th, 2010

Today’s Diesel Sweeties: