Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Singularity, Shmingularity

Ray Kurzweil is the latest in a long line of very smart people who've staked their vaunted reputations on the proselytization of a very dumb idea. In his case, it's the notion of Singularity, which says that we will soon reach a point of technological sophistication where we'll be able to port our thoughts, memories, and consciousness to machines, and live (wince) forever.

While it may one day be possible to port memories and other brain-stored information (for an extra $200, they'll purge specific data points - ex-girlfriends, bad meals, Dick Cheney interviews), that stuff's flotsam, not consciousness. We are not the sum of our memories and our fleeting thoughts and urges. If you pile those things in a heap, the sum is not who you are. Nor is it alive or self-aware.

Keep up a meditation practice for a few years (a good one, like this one) and you'll discover that consciousness is beyond those things; it's an unchanging intelligent presence.

A stockpile of one's mental belongings will be just as inertly useless to Kurzweil's fabled transition as those buried personal belongings were to the dead Pharaohs.

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