The definition of the term “singularity” varies depending on discipline. For instance, a singularity can be a location where the curvature of space-time becomes infinite and therefore ceases to have any meaning, at least in a measurable sense based on the laws of physics. In this context, there might not be such a thing as “before the beginning of time,” which makes for great dinner party conversation but probably won’t affect us one way or another for quite a while, if ever.
On the other hand, the “technological singularity” is imminent, and it will transform our experience of reality. Scientist and author Vernor Vinge describes it as a moment within the next thirty years when “we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence.” Vinge says this can happen in four ways: computers become conscious and superhumanly intelligent; they create massive networks to augment their capabilities; humans interact with computers in such a way that they, too, develop seemingly superhuman intelligence; humans use biological science to enhance human intelligence.
Since hyper-intelligent computer consciousness could develop the ability to render humans obsolete — and one must wonder why it would choose not to — humans should start implementing strategies right now to counter this problem. As Vinge and others suggest, one way is through transhumanism, or improving our biological construct through technological enhancement. This might happen with gene therapy (trading out bad genes for good ones — imagine living a relatively healthy life at 120 years old), nanotechnology (imagine a microchip placed in your hippocampus, or memory organ, that would facilitate an increase of, say, 50 IQ points), uploading consciousness into virtual reality (going from biological to digital reality until a new biological host is found), and so on. We might even have to develop hive-mind global networks to compete with or effectively interact with computer consciousness.
The next few generations will take for granted the implementation of all these strategies regardless of how dystopian many in our current generation might find them. In fact, not preparing for the technological singularity would represent a form of gross negligence that could lead to humanity’s extinction or, at the very least, a slave status with which no one would be very happy. We are now a species that will soon be able to direct its own evolution with some facility, and it’s worth remembering that nearly all major technological innovations capable of significantly improving human existence have been applied to daily life, usually in the face of initial resistance from superstitious or retrograde thinkers. Think of the lightning rod. As Brian Cox suggests, “We are the cosmos made conscious,” but we will soon have fierce competition in this regard. We should prepare to meet this inevitable challenge in order to avoid a worst-case scenario.