Quote of the Week: April 22

I'm going to make a strong statement-- I think Ray Kurzweil's "The Singularity is Near" was probably the most important book written in 2005. If you're at all curious about what sorts of- and what degree of- technology the future may hold, I suggest you pick it up. I think most readers of this blog would find it at least thought-provoking, and possibly world-changing. However, as I mentioned in my review, I do find it incomplete-- it gets at the economic, scientific, and technological aspects of technological change, but (in my opinion) gets the social, political, and human implications very wrong. As a hardcore geek, Kurzweil understands technology and has all sorts of thoughts on how he'd augment his body with advances in biotechnology and nanotechnology. But how geeks deal with technology is going to be a lot different than how the rest of the world- especially on the level of societies- does.

I'm convinced that the futurist community is really on to something and in fact has a type of wisdom about the future that the rest of society doesn't. For instance, I buy their argument that there is likely to be more technological and social change in the next twenty years than the last hundred, and I find Kurzweil's "law of accelerating returns" to be at once a simple yet awe-inspiring insight. But a community of technology geeks is really only prepared to offer half the story about the future, and until the insights of the futurist community really seep into public consciousness and "people geeks" join the discussion (define that as you will), that's how things will stand.

With that in mind, here's a quote from 10zenmonkeys.com's "Why Chicks Don't Dig the Singularity":
I think male geeks in the futurist community assume that human nature is the same as the nature of male geeks in the futurist community. And it’s kind of become a little religion; we have our own Rapture and our own eschatology and all that sort of stuff. But I think the idea of merging with machine intelligence is not appealing to lots of different kinds of people. And so when we talk about it, we talk as if this tiny sector of human experience –- and the kinds of enhancements male geeks want — is all that there is. But when you describe these kinds of things to most people, they’re not necessarily enthused. They’re more often afraid. So I think we need a clearer idea of what is universal in human needs to be able to explain The Singularity.


mike said...

in absolutely no relation to your post, is Microsoft attempting to corner the market in Africa? The one laptop per child project recently changed course with the design and cost of their machine, and many speculate that it will no longer run Linux, but a stripped-down version of XP (at $3-per for licensing). One article equated it to a tobacco company selling cigarettes cheaply to poor countries to create an addiction dependent on future projected profits. What do you think?

Mike said...

Ah! I think the one laptop per child project is going ahead as planned (with linux), but Microsoft is making loud noises about offering xp+office for $3 on donated computers. So, what you say may indeed happen in the future, but I don't think it's a done deal yet. It's an interesting theory. Might be something to it.

Personally, I think offering open source software with computers will do a lot to promote a homegrown software ecosystem, the existence of which which will help poor countries *far* more than just giving people usable computers. That's my two cents. :)