Off The Cloud and Into Beyond 
Part II
February 2013             David Skinner

Last month we took a quick jaunt through man’s early evolution from the stone age to our current information age, from our trek ‘out of Africa’ to giant computer server farms all networking in what is iconically called “The Cloud”, from making simple tools living in small family groups, to now, vast social networks that connect nearly everyone to everything in just 200,000 years.


To simplify and demonstrate that fact and how such a phenomenal change was possible, we relied upon the video demonstration of Ray Kurzweil [found here] to explain how the exponential law – n2 – commonly called Moore’s Law could be responsible for such rapid advancements in evolution, what Kurzweil calls a Paradigm Shift!


That ended Part I, but it was just the beginning of our story. It continues now and gets ever more intriguing! I invite you to stay connected. It’s a spectacular ride through the probable, the possible and the . . . . unimaginable! 



All Science is Fiction - Until It’s Not


Let me introduce you to Kevin Kelly, Exec Editor of Wired Magazine and former editor/publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog. An authoritative voice that makes some startling statements in his TED video presentation “How Technology Evolves”.


Startling, because he provides provocative examples of current trends in technology that parallel and possibly challenge evolution as we know it - as Darwin taught it, and in his case, made more potent for who he is and what he has accomplished. You should not take his words lightly and certainly not his vision!  [To view this TED video in its entirety go here!]


"Technology is anything that doesn’t work yet." — Kevin Kelly


“What Does Technology Want?” . . . Kelly Asks


Kelley’s premise of his video is that technology acts like it has or at least wants a life of its own or at the very least - play an important role in evolution. In a somewhat simplified way, “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck then . . .   He points to the fact that like all life forms technology exhibits the same evolutionary trends of:

 

  • Ubiquity – Life exists everywhere on the planet.
  • Diversity – It fills every possible niche in a unique fashion.
  • Specialization – Moves from a general to a more specialized purpose.
  • Complexity – Advances from the simple to being ever more complex.
  • Socialization – Trends toward coalescing with others, similar and varied.

 

Scientists have classified the different life forms since the days of Linnaeus as the “Six Kingdoms of Life” (Wikipedia Link), but here Kelly suggests technology as a possible seventh - the “Kingdom of Technology”. 

 

  1. Bacteria
  2. Protozoa                     
  3. Chromista
  4. Plantae
  5. Fungi
  6. Animalia
  7. Technologia

 

 


When we look back from whence we came, we marvel at the technologies we enjoy today -- genetics and the human genome, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence and robotics from factory floors to outer space. It’s not hard to imagine that technology may well be the driver of evolution and not the human species after all.

 

“What does technology want”, Kelley surmises, “To be a player in the Infinite Game of Life. A game played with no end in mind versus a Finite Game played to win.” Since the cosmic beginnings of the Big Bang, technology has been the definer, enabler and the medium of this game. “It’s your assignment in life”, he says to the audience, “to discover your assignment”.

 

The Singularity Point 


This is where we get into the weeds of predicting the future; we enter a fray of controversy so let’s return the podium to Ray Kurzweil and his futuristic predictions of “What is to come”. 


Remember from Part One, Mr. Kurzweil’s thesis was that Moore’s Law represented a “paradigm shift” as the speed and complexity of technological change increases at an exponential rate – ‘n2; doubling in ever shorter periods of time. There will be a point in the future, he predicts, where this accelerating rate overtakes man’s capacity to evolve and rule. He calls this the “Point of Technological Singularity”. He proposes the year of 2045 as the most likely time for this to happen. Most of you will be there to witness it if he’s right. (Link to more in Wikipedia)


His best option in the panoplies of outcomes is a symbiotic one of mutual benefit between man and technology. Mankind gains the immense capacity of intelligence and enhancement of life offered by the advancement of those technologies – the human genome, nano science and robotics and many others, while machines gain a soul and a sense of moral value in return. He has gone so far as to predict this mutual cooperation allows man to live forever in a new kingdom of shared goals and experiences – The Kingdom of Man and Machine. You might equate it as - m2.


Predictably there are opponents of his views and certainly universal astonishment at the possibilities. Yet Kurzweil’s arguments and plentiful writings [To view his Amazon page click here], through it all, gives substance to his predictive talents as well as the sheer history that purports it.  

 

Whether you are a believer in Kelley’s ideas or Kurzweil’s predictions, a denier or a doubter, you are a living part of “Into Beyond”. If you prefer to think of this as a Creator’s “Grand Plan” rather than scientific evolution, that’s all right too. Because science is all fiction until it’s not!  

 

For some quick links on the subject go [Here - "Are We Living Inside a Computer Simulation?" ] and [Here - "Human Enhancement Technologies Alarming"]. They offer other outcomes, warnings and wonderings about the future. 


Meanwhile I’ll get to work on Part III, “What Does Man Want From Technology?”. 


Here's a YouTube interview with Ray Kurzweil discussing The Singularity.