Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Singularity Is Over

So I've thought for a while. I even wrote a post with this title a couple months ago, which I couldn't quite get to congeal. But Cosma Shalizi gets it exactly right:

The Singularity has happened; we call it "the industrial revolution" or "the long nineteenth century". It was over by the close of 1918.

Exponential yet basically unpredictable growth of technology, rendering long-term extrapolation impossible (even when attempted by geniuses)? Check.

Massive, profoundly dis-orienting transformation in the life of humanity, extending to our ecology, mentality and social organization? Check.

Annihilation of the age-old constraints of space and time? Check.

Embrace of the fusion of humanity and machines? Check.

Creation of vast, inhuman distributed systems of information-processing, communication and control, "the coldest of all cold monsters"? Check; we call them "the self-regulating market system" and "modern bureaucracies" (public or private), and they treat men and women, even those whose minds and bodies instantiate them, like straw dogs.

An implacable drive on the part of those networks to expand, to entrain more and more of the world within their own sphere? Check.
"Capital" is more precise than "self-regulating market system," but otherwise I wouldn't change a word.

One should only add that despite the pieties about ever-accelerating change, the past half-century has, by any reasonable metric, seen a slower pace of technological innovation than any prior 50-year period since the end of the 18th century..

1 comment:

  1. In some sense, the industrial revolution is still happening, since many part of the world are still industrializing. In those part of the world (es:China) the rate of change is still very high.