The Singularity

Computer technology has grown in an exponential manner, and I would argue that the merging of humans and computers has been well underway since  the invention of the smart phones, tablets and smart watches. I would credit Steve Job's vision for Apple as the stepping stone by which all all became 'cyborgs', doing very little without access to technology, the internet or other machines. How comfortable do we truly feel when we leave our phone at home? Do we not have a nagging feeling something is not quite right?

The merging of man and machines is creating a different level of access to knowledge. Whereas previously the memorisation of facts played a large role in intellect and reasoning skills in most jobs, these days given the easy access to information via technology, our minds spend less time using cognitive capacity of memorising information, but more processing allocated to the analysis, interpretation and use of this information. Our working memory capacity, that is the ability to manipulate things in our minds, is less burdened with basic memory, allowing us the think and create far beyond previous capabilities. Our first greatest invention in regards to cognitive achievement was language, our second was writing, and our third was the invention of machines who could reduce rote processing, freeing our minds to be more creative. As we evolve as a species this creativity I would argue is fundamental to our humanity. It is argued by Ray Kurzweil, author of the book 'The Singularity is Near', that human intelligence is sufficiently above a critical theshhold for us to scale our own ability to unrestricted heights of creative power.

The 'Singularity' is defined as a period in which the pace of technology advances so fast that life will be irreversibly transformed. It is thought that biological evolution will merge with technological evolution. The brain whilst able to process things very fast, will one day seem incredibly slow compared to a basic computer (if not already). We have a certain amount of neurophysiological bandwidth that at this time is fixed, and will clearly be outdone by computers. Our brains are relatively slow, weak and subject to glitches, and whilst we can have periods of creativity, most human thought is mundane, rote and useless. The singularity will be the point that technological progress overtakes the human mind. There are many conjectures about what will occur at this point (most of our minds turning to The Matrix or The Terminator), however other people are more positive suggesting our path to surviving as more than a house pet to robot will be to overcome our neurophysiology and transcend the current physical limitations of our brain by merging with technology.

Whilst these ideas have been around for quite a while, they have gained sudden popularity thanks to Elon Musk and Neuralink. Whilst he is certainly not the first to talk of implanting electrodes in the human brain and creating brain-computer interfaces, he is clearly the first on any practical level to suggest that the applications can go beyond people with brain injury, dementia or other forms of cognitive deficits, tp being a natural part of evolution and a way to stay relevant in the face of artificial intelligence.