Thirty years ago, I had a dream. I dreamed that computer technology improved exponentially until computers became a trillion times more intelligent than any human could be. Instead of destroying the human race, these computers set out to help the humans who had created them.
Computers figured out newer and better ways to solve everyday problems and improve upon ideas and inventions that were destroying the earth and the minds and bodies of the humans they wanted to help.
It started with implants that would allow the human brain to interface with the computer intelligence and improve within a framework of neurons. But the computers began to see that improving within the faulty lattice of the human brain and body was futile and figured out a way for us to download our consciousness — what makes us human — into a network where we could all interact together as if we were living and breathing on earth.
The computers knew that the human psyche couldn’t handle the disconnect of no longer breathing, tasting, feeling, and seeing with our eyes, so they built a world or a matrix, but I wouldn’t use that word to describe it until Neo fought the agents onscreen in 1999.
Within this environment, the work to improve each human package continued, solving problems like mental illness, autism, dementia, and all other forms of diseases of the mind that couldn’t be solved while our minds existed within the prison of the human brain.
With technology, humans were able to evolve into a new realm of existence and occur as quantum impulses that could travel anywhere in the universe instantaneously.
This event describes a technological singularity, or what some would call the “Rapture of the Nerds,” but I wouldn’t know that minds much more intelligent than mine had conceived this reality long ago.
The Reality of The Singularity
“The technological singularity — also, simply, the singularity — is a hypothetical point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable changes to human civilization.” — Wikipedia
It used to be, according to Moore’s Law, that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles every two years. So we could estimate future computing power based on this rule. Still, there was also the law of accelerating returns to take into consideration, that the “pace of technological progress — especially information technology — speeds up exponentially over time because there is a common force driving it forward. Being exponential, as it turns out, is all about evolution.”
Technology evolves as new technologies build on the backs of previous generations, and the growth accelerates.
“The first computers were designed on paper and assembled by hand. Today, they are designed on computer workstations with the computers themselves working out many details of the next generation’s design, and are then produced in fully automated factories with only limited human intervention.” — Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity Is Near
Technology will keep improving, and innovations like quantum computing will take the computer or artificial intelligence to a level where it no longer requires human intervention to improve. It will innovate for itself until it achieves consciousness, limitless intellect, and the power to make crucial decisions by itself.
The technology will become so advanced that people will first interface with the intelligence then download their whole consciousness into a computer, finally achieving immortality of a sort.
But, in the minds of many, this progression is not inevitable. One of my heroes, Jaron Lanier, virtual reality pioneer and technology thought leader, thinks “it’s still just a thought experiment — not a reality or even a virtual-reality hot ticket to immortality. It’s a surreality.”
So even though thinkers like myself are writing stories that predict a tech-utopia, it is not a given, and thousands of other possibilities could occur instead.
But what if?
Can Limitless Technology Cure Mental Illness and Disease?
To consider if an advanced enough computer could download your consciousness, or you could interface with it through some form of implant and affect change upon the failings of the mind, we have to step back into the realm of science fiction again.
So far, scientists have been unable to create a medical or pharmaceutical cure for mental illness and the various diseases of the mind like dementia, and they have only been able to provide prophylactics that almost work on the symptoms.
What if an advanced enough computer could take the impulses of a mind, or could even change the nature of DNA to cure the demons that infect the mind of people like me?
I have a stake in this game. I have fought and come to terms with severe mental illness, only through a lifetime of hard work and medication. But I am not cured by any means, and my sick but intelligent mind is constantly coming up with ideas and realities where the failings of our brains do not limit us.
And, although I think in circles on the advice and ideas of pioneers like Paul Allen, Jeff Hawkins, John Holland, Jaron Lanier, and Gordon Moore, I am nowhere closer to knowing if the singularity is plausible enough that I could put hope in a future where I am not fighting my mind for control of my life.
For now, I have the dream of a younger man to keep me afloat and the knowledge that one day, computer technology will advance past the point that any human ever could, and it would find a way to cure and rearrange minds that are not optimal like mine.
We have to keep studying and learning about the good that technology could do, and not listen to the naysayers who say that artificial intelligence will turn against us and destroy humanity. We have to turn away from the religions who seek our indoctrination and speak out against using technology to aid the evolution of humankind because it goes against their idea that only a god can create perfection.
Humans can hope, and for those of us who battle our minds, we look forward to a day when we are not controlled by impulses and the influence of a less than optimal mind.
We can hope.