The main character of this short is the final survivor of his kind in the war between humans and robots. The film is nicely shot and touching, but I’m including it mainly because of the last line of voiceover. How soon could that be true for both sides in the battle? Will it ever be?
Tag Archives: singularity
This is Ray Kurzweil’s expansion of ideas from his book, veering off into a virtual reality/augmented reality science fiction plot. The movie is surprisingly cheesy and the quality of this upload isn’t ideal, but it’s still interesting. Some of the film was shot in Second Life, though of course this was a few years ago and the scenes are not representative of that world today.
Update Feb 26 — Well, it lasted for a day and a half before it was pulled for a copyright claim. Hope you got to see it!
…because the chances that you’ll be able to upload it by 2045 are slim to none, according to Ramez Naam in the essay The Singularity is Further Than it Appears, posted on the Institute for Emerging Ethics & Technology website. He first touches on the hard takeoff described by Vernor Vinge in 1993, that is, the point when smarter-than-human machines can build machines smarter than themselves in an even shorter amount of time than they were created. Then, Naam analyzes our current Kurzweilian notion of singularity through the creation of digital minds. There are three main issues he cites that impede progress:
- No one’s really sure how to do it.
- There’s a huge lack of incentive.
- There are ethical issues.
It’s a lazy Saturday in my part of the world, I just finished watching some silly episodes of Top Gear and I’m poorly suited for deep thoughts, but I’ll be coming back to this later, especially Vinge’s twenty-one year old The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era.
Next month, the movie Transcendence hits theatres. The trailer below seems to give the major plot points: in a future where technology is omnipresent, a radical protest group called RIFT attacks the creators of that technology, resulting in the death of a scientist played by Johnny Depp. Before he dies, his consciousness is uploaded and that sentience combined with the existing network turns into a Bigass Problem. Technology is scary.
Not sure if I’ll see this in the theatre, but I’m intrigued to see how realistic the treatment of technology is, beyond the obvious science fiction bits. The monitor with glowing green ASCII text seen when Depp’s consciousness appears could be straight out of Wargames, so that’s a little disappointing. Since this seems to be a mad scientist monster movie, I won’t expect a lot of subtlety in the portrayal of the uploaded consciousness.
We’ve hit a point in our connection with daily tech that I expect an acceleration of movies like this. It’s been a long time since the first Terminator movie threatened us with the idea of global network gone rogue and technology has become far more ubiquitous. The Transcendence website has a collection of RIFT posters and they’re envisioned well, only a short step beyond today. In fact, I’m sure I’ve seen the scene below in real life but with less interpersonal interaction.
If you have been following transhumanist thinkers or prophets of the singularity (Ray Kurzweil et al), the ambitious 2045 Initiative may be familiar to you. Its lofty goal is to accelerate us from being consumers who do nothing more than maintain the status quo (the dismissive view of humanity today, as seen in the video above) into an enlightened, post-flesh society capable of traveling the stars. The project is making news this week because of a vision that’s right up my alley: porting human consciousness into avatars.
Dmitry Itskov is the founding father of this movement, and he envisions a time in the very near future — about 10 years from now — where a human brain can be transplanted into a robot. The next step would be to port consciousness itself into an artificial brain, free from the constraints and decay of the flesh.
The non-cynical side of me looks at the amazing advances we’ve made in cybernetics and the ridiculously short timeframe in which the Internet and mobile technology have transformed our lives and says, “Meh. It could happen. Faster please.” Not that I’ll ever have the money to be an early adopter of this sort of technology, but I’m in the generation where it might just be possible to extend my life; not indefinitely, but much longer than the span I’m likely to have naturally.
However, as someone with a background in anthropology and technology, I’m skeptical. There are some Big Thoughts that I’m still chewing on, so I’ll start by sharing some of the little ones. First, I believe that the consciousness one would have by porting only a brain is less than human, so that step of the path seems like an error (though I’m not ruling out the possibility that we’ll be able to find and capture human consciousness someday). Is someone human without a body, anyway? And if so, why does the avatar need to be so anthropomorphic? He talks about the robots getting input from their five senses; he seems to see the avatars as reproductions of the human body for a long time to come, and it isn’t until the final phase that Itskov’s vision has avatars that can take any shape. (Personally, I believe that we are very attached to idealistic human forms and that those would make the easiest adjustment for us, but if we’re talking about transhumanism, let’s get on with it!)
If I can’t get my cell phone to go through a day without recharging and my three-year old laptop is already obsolete, I’m nervous about a vision of society that is entirely reliant on technology. The divide between visionaries and daily life seems to be exceptionally great right now. Perhaps that has always been the case. It’s exciting to see stories about cybernetic advances, yet at the same time I need to wait weeks to get insurance approval for a standard medical test; high-tech options that I read about are no more real than unicorns to me. Even if the cybernetic, biotech, and nanotech portions of the 2045 initiative were to proceed on schedule, there are a web of support systems that would lag behind.
Then there’s the inherent elitism of this vision, which disregards third world people from the descriptions of consumerist society onward. Who will be making the decisions about who gets ported into potential immortality? Just the super-rich? Just those deemed worthy by… whom? Apparently Itskov believes it’s for everyone, eventually. To quote this article from Digital Trends, “The era of neo-humanity is for everyone, rich and poor alike. It will simply be the rich who have access to the life-altering technology first, as a reward for helping finance the mission.”
Lewis Black touched upon the question of who should be immortal in his “Back in Black” segment on last night’s The Daily Show. “Who decided this crappy generation is the one that deserves to live forever? If this avatar technology existed 80 years ago, there’d be a bunch of giant blue racists running around…. To me, the fact that we all eventually drop dead is not a bug, it’s a feature! It’s the only way we rid our society of old assholes!”
The 2045 video bugs me for its naivete and the attitude of disgust it has toward people today, but I respect some of the scientists, engineers, philosophers, and other thinkers who are working on related ideas. I can get very excited and hopeful about all of this, too, despite my skepticism. The Global Future 2045 International Congress takes place this weekend, and if you’re interested in some of the futurists involved, you can check out their videos on the conference website.