This is an idea popular among radical technophiles about which I feel quite a bit of skepticism myself. It contemplates (or, perhaps more to the point, pines after) the possibility that humanity confronts a looming sudden radical in fact total technological transformation of society, usually via the arrival of postbiological "super"-intelligence, or some other superlative technology.
Such views tend to overestimate the smooth function of technology while underestimating the extent to which the vicissitudes of technological development are easily as responsive to interminable and unpredictable political, cultural, and social contestation as they are to the more readily intelligible and comfortably linear accumulations of useful knowledge and inventions that preoccupy the attention of the technophiles for whom the idea of "singularity" seems most appealing in the first place.
Of course, this is a discussion about which I have already endlessly fulminated all over this blog, and them as wants to know more can always dip into the rich creamy anti-singularitiarian filling available from the archives.
But, anyway, the reason I mention all of this at all is because the author of the column, Alex Beam, uses the word "outsiders" to frame an exchange between Bill Gates and Kurzweil on the "religious implications" of his view in a way that utterly creeped me out. The exchange itself is utterly commonplace: A techie transcendentalizing his tools? Unheard of!
Here's the quote:
Raised as a Unitarian, Kurzweil realizes that outsiders seize on the spiritual dimension of the Singularity. In his book, he reprints a private exchange with Bill Gates on this subject:
Bill Gates: "So, is there a God in this religion?
Ray Kurzweil: "Not yet, but there will be.... Ultimately the Universe will become saturated with intelligence. It will 'wake up,' be conscious and sublimely
intelligent. That's about as close to God as I can imagine."
Okay, just who are the "outsiders" here? Non-Unitarians? Non-techies? Non-atheists? Non elites? What might the significance be to those to whom the assignment of the designation "outsider" is made once all these singularitarian transcendentalizing forces are getting set in motion, I wonder? And how did Beam happen to hit on just that word in talking about this passage in particular? Was it just an "accident," a slip of the tongue, a cigar being utterly cigaresque, or what? Ah, well, there's your nice dose of paranoia for the day. Back to dissertatin'.