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In its essence, technology can be seen as our perpetually evolving attempt to extend our sensorimotor cortex into physical reality: From the earliest spears and boomerangs augmenting our arms, horses and carts our legs, and fire our environment, we’re now investigating and manipulating the fabric of that reality – including the very components of life itself. Moreover, this progression has not been linear, but instead follows an iterative curve of inflection points demarcating disruptive changes in dominant societal paradigms. Suggested by mathematician Vernor Vinge in his acclaimed science fiction novel True Names (1981) and introduced explicitly in his essay The Coming Technological Singularity (1993), the term was popularized by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil in The Singularity is Near (2005). The two even had a Singularity Chat in 2002.
While the Singularity is not to be confused with the astronomical description of an infinitesimal object of infinite density, it can be seen as a technological event horizon at which present models of the future may break down in the not-too-distant future when the accelerating rate of scientific discovery and technological innovation approaches a real-time asymptote. Beyond lies a future (be it utopian or dystopian) in which a key question emerges: Evolving at dramatically slower biological time scales, must Homo sapiens become Homo syntheticus in order to retain our position as the self-acclaimed crown of creation – or will that title be usurped by sentient Artificial Intelligence? The Singularity and all of its implications were recently addressed at Singularity Summit 2011 in New York City.
…continued in my two-part article at PhysOrg.com:
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