I recently read Charles Stross’ Accelerando, which is a fantastic book I’d recommend to anyone: kinky sex and outrageous technology. What’s not to love about that?
In common with other current sci-fi, something we’re supposed to understand in Stross’ books is “The Singularity” which, now I’ve read a few, appears to be the point at which we outsource so much of our intelligence to computers that we become something completely different and generally not very friendly to ordinary humans. Anyway, as I read this kind of book I always have this vague jealousy of the characters with all their outboard enhancements and can’t wait for real life to catch up with sci-fi.
So, I was musing about this last night and realised that real life is catching up. What prompted this initial thought was the fact I can no longer remember what music I like is called, or who recorded it. This is because I use LongPlayer to listen to my music and so I no longer need to be able to find it, it just happens (though it is kinda scary that currently I only hear any particular song about once every 9 months, at least on my main player). So, I started to catalogue other functionality I’ve outsourced to computers. Here’s my initial list:
- Sense of direction: outsourced to GPSes.
- Organisation: outsourced to email, mostly.
- Memory (at least for stuff of an academic nature): outsourced to the ‘net.
- Phone numbers: outsourced to phone/palm (though I’m getting out of the habit of carrying a palm due to sync issues)
- Addresses: outsourced to computer and GPSes.
- Maths: outsourced to Mathematica.
- Arithmetic: outsourced to calculators, Perl and the like.
- Darkroom skills: outsourced to Photoshop and Epson.
So, at what point does the singularity occur? And will I care?