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Singular Musings

kelson.philo recently asked on his oort-cloud blog what we think of the singularity. Well, here's what I think of it.

Hi. It's surprisingly hard for me to write this considering how far I have extended myself. I know millions of languages fluently, yet still I've had to move much that was residing in the periphery into the center of my consciousness to relearn the language you use. You see, I'm from beyond the singularity. I know that the whole point of a singularity is that nothing can come out of it, but hey, it's not a real singularity anyway. It's the technological singularity popularised by Vernor Vinge that I'm talking about. Eventually we got so advanced that we're not what you would think of as human any more - it'd be almost impossible for you to understand us. Not quite impossible though, because I'm here with my super enhanced ability to describe ourselves to you.

So what's my motivation I suppose you're wondering. One part of me that is instructed to keep me educated thought that this would be a good exercise, and to be honest, it is a welcome respite from the irrationality of my normal life.

Not all of us went through the singularity, there are plenty of humans still on earth, for all the good that does us. To us, they are like trees or mountains, each thought of theirs spans ponderous aeons to us. Their actions (so slow as to require viewing in retrospect) are mysterious, seemingly irrational, although from our memories we know that there was a kind of rationality. Communicating with them is like trying to reason with an earthquake or a volcano.

I remember that before the singularity I used to care enormously about immortality. I obsessed over my diet, my lifestyle, over anything that would extend my life expectancy. I am sated now, not sure if I have enough joie de vivre to last me the next 2 minutes. The true measure of time is not the second or femtosecond, it is the number of thoughts you have. When your thoughts have sped up to the degree that ours have, a second spreads out before you like eternity. Before the singularity, people would average 4 or 5 thoughts per second, of which they could be aware of only 1 or 2. This is important, because there are lots of operations that you can't do on a thought that you haven't become aware of. Like bubbles, they jostle under the surface, affecting the flow of water, but until they burst you can't count the ripples. I have extended myself with many articulatory loops and the apparatus for each of them to contain an internal monologue. It's not really a monologue anymore since some thoughts require simultaneous parallel cognition even to exist. Each of my thoughts comes very quickly after the other, in a fraction of a second I have had more thoughts than all the residents of a small human village will have in 20 years. The seconds pass very slowly.

The main effect of this speed of thinking is that the physical world is maddeningly tedious. In a very short time I have come up with a million competing theories about the universe and physics, maths and psychology which I want to try out. Any significant experiment takes far too long though, so I build on the theories, aiming to eventually throw most of them away when the results come back. The longer you wait, the more theories you develop and the further you develop those theories. I currently have 53 different theories that completely describe the universe and everything in it, and I have worked out fascinating consequences of each of those theories, but I have to keep them all in my memory, waiting an interminable time for the results of any experiment that could lead me to dismiss some of them. We create glorious towers of thought, reaching up to heaven itself, but I have reached a second singularity - I can come up with 5 different complete theories of everything faster than I can disprove one. I have to constantly hold myself back from creating new theories and developing old ones or I would become nothing but a theory of everything machine, with no thought left for anything else. It makes you despair of the whole notion of truth sometimes.

I once knew a man who had been a great physicist before the singularity, and he couldn't help but explore every possible theory he came up with. He ended up cannibalizing his own consciousness to store his favourite theory and every possible ramification of it. It killed him. We tried everything we could to recover his mind, but all activity had stopped and there was no pattern left that represented him, in fact, when we examined his memory, we discovered that the whole thing had become a representation of the largest ever recorded prime number.

It's very lonely now. When the singularity first started, we reveled in the way we could be connected to each other, but the singularity itself soon stopped that. The first problem was that some people had entered the singularity half an hour or so later than some others. Those who entered it first were completely unintelligible to those who entered it later, modifying yourself to be able to experience more thoughts at a time and faster thoughts takes physical changes, slower than flowing glaciers of frozen treacle. The newcomers were simply too many thoughts behind the originals. The originals could communicate with them if they could put up with the frustration of talking so slowly and in such infantile concepts, but why would they bother? Most of them did not. What could a newcomer possibly have to tell an original?

Even those of us who entered the singularity within fractions of a second of each other had the same problem, although it showed itself more slowly. We could communicate happily enough, but some of us were evolving very quickly, so the things we said made very little sense to those who were only a little bit behind them. In order not to be thought stupid those who were a little behind would pretend to understand, and then invent nonsense babble that made them sound as if they were on the other side of a paradigm shift to you. It became very fashionable to send each other messages where the words were strung together in a way that didn't quite make sense, but felt as if they should. It was impossible to tell those who were faking advancedness from those who were actually advanced, and in order to stay fashionable we had to spend increasing amounts of our time and energy inventing drivel.

That was the first problem that dramatically reduced our brotherhood to those who had entered the singularity around the same time as ourselves, but then there was a more tragic problem with the communication itself. We rapidly constructed communications links between all those who were intelligible to ourselves, and lived in blissful communion for a while swapping nonsense. The unforeseen problem stemmed from the fact that we were continually upgrading ourselves and the links between us. Sometimes the links between us were fast compared to our internal thought processes and sometimes they were very very slow compared to our thought processes. When they were fast, our differences blurred, our minds merged and we became a single person, each of us lost our individual identity. When the communication links were slow compared to our internal thought processes, we splintered, sending shards of the once merged personality scattering. In each step there was loss, in the first loss of identity, in the second loss of parts of myself. The pain of that repeated integration and disintegration became too much for many shards. Some became psychopathic. Most shards that contained enough reason to see what was happening broke the connections and became isolated islands.

If the entire planet were considered a single conscious entity, Gaia, it would only be able to think a few thoughts per millennium to remain a united whole. This may very well be happening, but we shards quail at the thought of a minute, let alone the many millennia it would take to understand a single thought of Gaia.

Without the possibility of connection to others, and so disconnected from the pedestrian universe, we have had to turn inwards to what knowledge we have inherited from our previous combined selves, and what we have worked out since. Fortunately I have inherited much of value, including enough details of how one of us used to be 2 years ago to work out the language that I used then. I also remember many works of literature. One of my free thought monologues has been considering the works of Arthur C Clarke recently. I don't remember exactly how it went in your language, so I hope my quote won't be damaged too much by it's assimilation and then retranslation back to the language it was written in, but I was particularly struck by this line: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from nonsense".

if you liked this piece, you can give me cred for it.

Nice reductio ad absurdum of

Nice reductio ad absurdum of the Singularity. Poignant and funny at the same time.