Bring on the 'Singularity' by Janet Brazill
It helps when one finds a book that can dispel the sense of impending doom surrounding those discouraged with the current state of the world. Ray Kurzweil's book, "The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology," offers new hope for the human race, now bogged down in the mire of religion.
The war in Iraq, reduced to a clash of sectarian interests, demonstrates the disastrous effects of religious fanaticism. Americans may scorn the beliefs of young Muslim suicide bombers who are willing to sacrifice their lives for fanciful rewards promised in the afterlife, but America has its own radicals. According to Sam Harris, writing in Newsweek magazine, 44 percent of Americans are confident that Jesus will return to Earth sometime in the next 50 years, and they hope to "be raptured into the stratosphere by Jesus so that they can safely enjoy a sacred genocide that will inaugurate the end of human history."
Many believe our president, himself a born-again Christian, bases his policies on this vision, hoping to bring about the battle of Armageddon, the clash of cultures that will trigger the Rapture.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, Muslim zealots insist that civil laws be based on the Shi'a interpretation of the Koran, while Christians attempt to enforce Biblical law in the United States.
Between Muslim extremism and Christian fundamentalism, much of the world is regressing at a shocking rate.
But there may be hope. While religion tries to stop the trains of Progress, determined to turn all trains back to the ignorance of past ages, there is an express whizzing by on a separate line, too fast and too powerful to be stopped!
The destination is the "Singularity," described by Kurzweil as an expansion of human intelligence through merger with non-biological forms. Based on developments in genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics, he sets the timetable for this event as early as the year 2045, and insists that the non-biological intelligence created will be one billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today. He provides much technical data to back up his claims and projects possibilities that seem incredible by today's standards.
One key to this accomplishment will be study of the human brain, which has had billions of years of evolutionary trial and error to build its high level of intelligence. The author shows that scientists are quickly acquiring the tools to develop detailed models of human cognition and will soon be able to reverse engineer the brain, to understand how it works. These principles can then be modified and refined to apply to computational technologies that will be far more powerful than the electro-chemical processing that takes place in biological neurons.
Because the required knowledge for all this is available worldwide through the Internet and other technologies, this anticipated event is inevitable at some point in time, even if temporarily sidetracked. This is reassuring, considering that in the past, religious fanatics destroyed threats to their beliefs by burning the library at Alexandria and silencing scientists during the Inquisition. Modern science has now outdated, if not religious fanatics, at least their ability to destroy the knowledge of their time.
Our world has the choice of using modern technology to wage wars between primitive ideas of gods or using technology to create an earthly paradise of unimaginable marvels.