From: Paul Hughes (email@example.com)
Date: Sun Mar 14 2004 - 18:05:55 MST
Based on some readings I've done recently I've come
acress a new context to understand the singulairty.
I think it can be stated without much argument that
the history of our universe has been a continuous
ingression of intelligence into matter. From lesser
complexity to greater complexity. If this is not
apparent, then I suggest reading either Stephen
Wolfram’s or Stuart Kaufmann’s work.
Even though this acceleration of intelligence seems
continuous there is at least a few punctuated periods
of more rapid acceleration. I think the singularity
represents a punctuated rupture with at least one
historical precedent - the birth of language, the jump
from genetic to epi-genetic information transfer.
Until Modern Humans emerged on the scene, all
evolution was happening via DNA information transfer –
a very slow glacial process of evolution. At some
point in Homo sapiens evolution we developed symbolic
Here is some snippits about the Singularity (a bit
long but interesting) from Mark Pesce, inventor of
The thing that separates us from the Neanderthal isn’t
brain size, or brute strength, but a symbolic
In order to have symbols, you need to have a
consciousness capable of symbolic manipulation, that
is to say a linguistic consciousness. While
paleoanthropologists believe that the Neanderthal had
some very basic linguistic capabilities, it is
believed that these abilities were very limited –
perhaps similar in nature to those of a year-old
child, capable of identifying objects or actions, but
What we see with homo sapiens is that this linguistic
ability overflowed into the entirety of consciousness.
The first benefit of this was the emergence of what we
understand as language: nearly every human being has
an innate capability to take a few symbols and
manipulate them infinitely.
For example, although few of us ever use more than
about 2000 English words, we can describe just about
anything with those words, because we can
instantaneously recombine them in any sensible order
to create new forms of expression.
For 4 billion years, DNA was the recording mechanism
of history, the memory of biology. As soon as we
developed language, we no longer needed the slower
form of DNA for memory; we could use the much faster
form of language, which produced with it a deep sense
of memory within the individual – since the linguistic
symbols could be contained within the human mind.
Since we became a symbol-manipulating species, our
forward evolution, in DNA terms, has come to a dead
stop. (This has recently been proposed by reputable
scientists.) However, our linguistic capabilities
allow us to perform acts of memory much faster than
DNA, probably at least 10 million times faster!
So, suddenly, homo sapiens is not just a biological
entity working within the matrix of DNA and its slow
historical recording, but now bursts through and
starts processing its interactions within the
environment 10 million times faster than ever before.
For all of evolutionary time, information had to
travel the slow route through biology – through the
bios - before it would be coded into our DNA. Now we
had this additional process – which we call the logos,
the Word – which was a completely new thing, and not
something that the bios had any time prepare for.
>From its first recognizable moment, humanity
demonstrates an entirely new relationship between bios
and logos. Information, freed from its need to be
embedded in the slow, dense vehicle of our DNA, speeds
However – and this is the second most important point
I want to make today – the logos has its own
teleology, its own entelechy, its own drive to some
We assume that we are masters of language, of word and
The situation is exactly reversed. We are not in
control of words, they control us.
Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins got it entirely
right when he invented the concept of “memes,” which
can be thought of as the linguistic equivalent of
genes. Rather than being part of the bios, memes are
the carriers of the logos.
OK, so we’ve covered the emergence of the bios, some 4
billion years ago, and the emergence of the logos,
perhaps as much as 150 thousand years ago.
We, as a species, have been driven by memes for the
last hundred thousand years, and this has forced us
further and further away from any direct connection
with the natural world.
We’re being hollowed-out by our memes. That is to say
that our interiority, which is an artifact of the
slow, quiet progression of the bios, is rapidly
The modern conception of interiority is really a
creation of the Enlightenment in Western Europe, and
was only noted by philosophers as it was beginning to
So here’s the central point of what I wanted say: the
singularity is absolutely inevitable, and absolutely
meaningless. The closest analogy we could make would
be the whine of feedback you get when you place a
microphone too close to an amplifier. The screech
drowns everything else out, just as what we are – as
individuals and culture – are being replaced by a
rising form of activity dedicated to a single goal:
making a clear path for the transmission of the logos.
We’re improving the fidelity of meme swapping until it
asymptotically approaches its theoretical limits.
The transmission of facts and ideas is already
becoming instantaneous, and the speed of the
development of novelty followed. When ideas move
faster, there’s a greater capacity for them to
interact, to produce concrescence.
The history of the 20th century could accurately be
described as a series of advancements in
communication, beginning with radio and ending with
the Internet, each technology successively colonizing
the world, and each more rapidly than the technology
Technological artifacts are concretized language; that
is, any technology is a bit of language that has been
turned into a physical object.
The first technology that was turned into a physical
object was the linguistic technology itself. Writing
is the first real technology of importance, because it
freed linguistics from their oral substrate, and made
the carrier medium much more durable. We have an idea
of history from 3500 BCE forward because of the
invention of writing, which has created a continuity
All other technologies, are, each in their way, the
descendants of writing. Writing was the
exteriorization of our drive to communicate.
We’ve seen the linguistic acceleration of DNA as
codes, and the linguistic acceleration of
communication as telecommunication, but we’re only now
on the threshold of the acceleration of technology.
Things may look as though they’re going fast now, but
this is nothing – literally, absolutely nothing – next
to what’s about to happen, because (and now we have
precedent for it) we’re about to see a technological
acceleration on a similar order to the acceleration we
saw when the logos separated from the bios. In this
case, techne, our ability, is about to be freed from
logos, our ability to describe it.
What do I mean when I say this?
There’s an emerging science, known as nanotechnology,
which will, before the next few years have passed by,
give us a very fine-grained control over the material
With nanotechnology we should be able to precisely
design molecules to order, for whatever purpose we
This is the coming linguistic revolution in
technology, because, at this point, the entire fabric
of the material world becomes linguistically pliable.
Anything you see, anywhere, animate, or inanimate,
will have within it the capacity to be entirely
transformed by a rearrangement of its atoms into
another form, a form which obeys the dictates of
It’s very hard for us to conceptualize such a world,
and I have continuously been forced to draw on the
metaphors of world of magic for any near analogies.
It will be as if we have acquired the ability to cast
spells upon the material world to achieve particular
This isn’t to say that we’re about to acquire the
omnipotence we normally ascribe to God, but that our
abilities will be so far beyond anything we’re
familiar with today that we have no language to
conceptualize them. No language at all.
And that search for a language to describe the world
we’re entering is, I think, the grand project of the
present civilization. We know that something new is
So we have three waves, biological, linguistic, and
technological, which are rapidly moving to
concrescence, and on their way, as they interact,
produce such a tsunami of novelty as has never before
been experienced in the history of this planet.
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