February 1, 2013

The Singularity is Near So 20th Century?

Joichi Ito, the recently appointed head of the MIT Media Lab, is not a fan:
"I'm on the other side of the singularity guys. I don't think immortality is a good thing," Ito said. People who think about maximizing efficiency "don't think about the ecological, social-network effects. In the future, every science invention we do should be at least neutral," and preferably positive.

"When you introduce immortality, you have to think about what does it do to the system. At the Media Lab, our design principle is not to make the world more efficient, but making the system more resilient, more robust."
The Precautionary Principle is an indicator of civilizational stasis. Who decides whether an invention is at least neutral? Unfortunately, do-it-yourself biotech may make despotism even more inevitable than it seems today.

In very grudging defense of Ray Kurzweil, I note that the Singularity should happen spontaneously, not be a decision made by elitist big shots ("you introduce immortality"). In that view, whether or not it's a good idea is beside the point.

A skeptic might wonder whether Joichi Ito, as he continues to age, will decide that immortality should be offered to a few individuals who are essential to humanity's continued progress. People like...Joichi Ito? Afaic, in principle, such technology should be available to all or to none.

(The Media Lab used to be Kurzweil's personal stomping grounds. Maybe the attitude of the new administration played a role in his decision to work for Google. However, IMO the primary driver was, shall we say, the lack of Kurzweil-denominated IPOs in recent years. And in Mountain View he can be close to so-called Singularity University, at which he holds the title of chancellor.)

NB: I have not checked out the Media Lab since Ito took over. The foregoing critical take is based on an a single hyperlink.

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