An idea of the future that seems to be becoming popular is that of the technological singularity. The singularity is the theoretical point at which humans and technology will become indistinguishable from one another. Two possible ways we might achieve these are either by somehow merging our consciousness with the Internet or by outfitting ourselves with android body parts, the most important of which would be the brain.
Entertaining the Notion
It may appear that such a singularity is the inevitable endpoint of the technological-advancement trajectory that humanity has been on for several thousand years. Over time we have integrated technology more and more intimately into our lives. As long as this trend continues, we’re bound to eventually reach a point of no return.
When you take this view, it appears that the current state of human life on Earth is a transitory phase. Right now technology is deeply interwoven into our lives, though we still can unplug from it and be 100% human at any time of our choosing. Instantaneous communication and data transmission (i.e. the Internet) has been around for only several decades; even then, it has been used by the masses for only about one decade. As such, we still are making sense of it. Communicating via technology is still messy and clunky and not as satisfying and communicating in person, but it is undeniably a major aspect of life in the present.
When you view this current point in time as a transitory phase on the road to the technological singularity, it’s clear that the next big step to take is to integrate technology into our bodies, such as by replacing our body parts with technological ones. Surely this is the natural course that evolution is to take.
Right now robotics is on the rise, too, and robots are bound to separate us from the mundane (and perhaps even the more enjoyable) aspects of physical life that much more.
The Rise of the Internet
I am of the opposite view. I do agree that we appear to be in a transitory phase right now. However, I disagree that the endpoint we’re headed towards is the technological singularity.
I do think that technology is playing an incredibly important role in the story of humanity right now. By creating a revolution in how we communicate, technology has also catalyzed a revolution in how we relate to one another.
Prior to the rise of the Internet, the media was rather Shakespearean, in that it was all about the “big” people (for Shakespeare, that was royalty). To be involved in the media you either had to be famous or work for a mass media corporation. The little people just sat back and watched. They couldn’t dream of being on TV or radio unless they did something really special or crazy.
Now, in 2016, the Internet has provided all of us with an equal playing field. This blog post can be freely viewed by any of the 1 billion+ people who have access to the Internet. I didn’t have to pay money, get permission, or do anything outlandish to make this possible: in fact, it’s rather easy to do.
Anyone can say anything to everyone now. As a result, a great many people who never would have “made it” on mass media have become popular and financially successful thanks to the Internet.
This equal playing field is just the tip of the iceberg. The Internet has also catalyzed a major rise in transparency. People talk about their personal lives out in the open, for anyone to see. Subjects that were once considered taboo or private are now discussed all over the place.
As we have seen in the 2016 election, even people who attempt to hide can have their secrets revealed by people who know and are willing to manipulate the relevant technology (i.e. hackers). It’s quite possible that soon we will all have instantaneous access to one another’s thoughts, and secrets of any kind will be a thing of the past. I can’t say I would have a problem with that.
Finally, information technology has also enabled people to connect who never would have met otherwise. It’s easier than ever now for us to find people who are like-minded and who we resonate incredibly well with. On the flipside, it’s also easier than ever to find people who are totally the opposite of us and who we would likely experience nothing but disharmony with.
It’s not so easy to settle for mediocre social circles and relationship partners anymore—not when the possibility of finding someone new and exciting constantly hangs overhead.
Overall, people can’t relate to one another in quite the same way that we did prior to the rise of the Internet. All of us are instantaneously and equally connected to each other, and there is not much we can hide. All the cards are on the table now: we can see everything about everyone.
That’s a lot of data. A lot of data. Prior to the Internet there was a far, far smaller amount of data available to humans—a much more manageable amount, for sure. Now we’re overwhelmed by data, and it’s causing our lives to speed up drastically.
Technology is for Our Growth
I think the primary task of humanity now is for all of us to relate to one another in a manner that is highly functional. That’s what this transitory phase is all about. That’s what the primary role of information technology is in our lives.
A big piece of humans relating to one another functionally is sharing information. As more and more of us share our knowledge public, the problem of a lack of information is becoming virtually obsolete. The issues of not knowing how to do something and not knowing what’s possible are quickly turning into invalid excuses. The only way a person could experience such problems now is due to a lack of their own will to seek out information that already exists publicly.
I see two major things happening here. The first is what I already said: transparent communication is resulting in us relating to one another differently than we have in the past. The second thing happening is that the free sharing of information will help us all to become our healthiest, most empowered selves, and we together will uncover and make use of abilities that we previously suppressed or simply didn’t know we had.
Wim Hof is a good example of this uncovering of abilities. Wim has made use of breathing techniques that have enabled him to withstand extreme physical conditions, such as cold, heat, and nutritional deprivation (including a lack of water: he ran a marathon in the desert without hydrating at all). Most of Wim’s fame, as well as the distribution of information about his experiences, has taken place via the Internet. Without the Internet it’s quite possible that Wim would be regarded by the few people who know him as an obscure middle-aged man who likes to take ice baths. But instead he is well-known, and he commands a great deal of respect.
If Wim figured out this, who’s to say that we don’t have even more abilities that lie dormant within us? I think that over the next several decades we are bound to unlock even more such abilities, largely thanks to the transparent communication and free sharing of information that are now prevalent in our world via the Internet.
That is why I think the technological singularity isn’t the endgame for us. I think that technology is largely a transitory tool that is helping us to re-discover ourselves and each other. Once we all have become so intimately connected with one another, and are growing rapidly via the constant sharing of information, we will all be so intelligent that our need for technology will decline. We won’t turn to the Internet anymore because we all will be so knowledgeable and supporting of one another that we’ll already have all that we need available to us in our local, physical environment.
In other words, I think the Internet’s role is to strengthen the connections between all humans and help us to grow until we reach the point where we have out-grown it. I imagine that the Internet will remain important to us for a long, long time, but after a certain point we won’t put quite as much attention on it as we do now.
Technology Serves Humanity
Overall, technology is incredibly useful, but it’s simply a tool that will help us to more fully realize our humanity. Technology is not a replacement for our humanity, and we are not going to become a new species whose bodies are comprised of more silicon atoms than carbon ones.
Technology is calling us now to make intelligent use of it and become the great beings that we really are. Technology is a great gift and an amazing opportunity that humanity has created for itself, in order to completely express itself. Let us continue to use technology deliberately and with gratitude.
P.S. If you are interested in the ideas I’ve discussed here, you might also be interested in my novel, The Growth of Our World. Part Two of the story envisions the sort of technologically-transcendent world we may very well have if we use technology wisely and for the purposes of our growth. The story also proposes some possible powers that humans will have as a result of freely sharing information with each other over the internet. Check it out! :)
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