Re: Questions about the Singularity

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Fri Sep 07 2001 - 01:31:38 MDT

Mark Walker wrote:
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Waldemar Ingdahl wrote:
> "I' ve been pondering some questions about the concept of singularity and
> its meaning in transhumanist philosophy.
> Certainly the term is a bit difficult to trace sometimes, since it comes
> from Teilhard de Chardins thoughts of the Omega- point (now that is a
> shaaaky fellow, but more on TDC some other time) and also from the tiplerite
> tradition, but I have seen also less "mystical" definitions of the term.
> Also, not all of us think that a singularity is possible- but is it
> desireable as a philosophical concept to be present in the discourse?
> I ask my self: isn't the concept of a singularity the last grasp of
> Christian escathologism?

No. And this question is really tired in many respects.

> That the concept of an unlimited development became a far too great leap,
> that you had to invent an end time?

Leading question with nothing in evidence to suggest any such
thing. The Singularity is not an End. Perhaps the end of the
beginning. :-)

> A time after which progress would be so immense that discussion of it would
> be pointless, often with the discussion falling down into an abstract
> paradise.

It doesn't fall into paradise. It falls beyond a technological
event horizon. It could go in directions that are paradisical
compared to now (but probably don't feel that way from inside
them at all). But it well may not. It is impossible to say but
some of us believe, that it may be somewhat possible to
influence which general way it turns out or at least increase
the odds of happier outcomes.

> But hasn't the introduction of escathology also introduced the concept of
> immanentism in transhumanism, with all its perils?

There was no escathology as such. There is a danger of thinking
the Singularity is simply inevitable from here and thus that
there isn't a great deal of work to be done. But getting there
and doing so without killing off humanity or large segments
thereof, much less having there be somewhat happy to the extent
we can make it so, certainly requires work. If we all sit on
our laurels it is much more likely that pre-Singularity we will
invent just enough with poor enough ability to wisely order our
affairs that we will destroy ourselves.

> Virtue is achieved through action, actions that may be very, very, very much
> more complex than ours- but there is still action required to achieve
> virtue.


> The Omega- point seen as inert, thus it is not virtuous.

It is not inert at all. It is vibrant possibility that we can
reach if we are wise and industrious enough.

> Thus the Omega point is not a state of Eudaimonia.
> Could there also be a danger that the discourse about the concept of an
> Omega point damages transhumanist philosophy today? Sometimes when I listen
> to discussions about a possible Omega point I get very afraid.
> It takes us out in very deep waters indeed, speaking about things we have
> very little knowledge of.

There is reason to be afraid. So what do you do out of your

> An indeed unknown future, that is very far ahead, while neglecting the path
> to it?

Who is neglecting the path to it?

> The truth is out there, but it is damned hard to reach."
> I agree with Anders that you seem to run together the concepts of Omega
> point and singularity--and the concept of singularity is often used
> ambigously. But nevertheless, perhaps you might say something about how you
> conceive of 'eudaimonia'.

The Singularity doesn't require saying a lot about the
perfectability of individual humans (or posthumans). However, I
agree that the abilities we will possess and many of the
decisions along the road to Singularity require a great deal of
serious ethical thought and development.

As far as producing happiness, happiness is a somewhat slippery
concept. At the really "happy" end of what is possible I
picture all human beings being able to live long enough (with
backups, longevity treatments, uploads, whatever) and with such
an outstanding degree of freedom to get to choose how far they
will develop and in what directions and to decide what they wish
to do, learn and be. I cannot think of anything offhand that
would produce more potential for happiness than creating and
living such a possibility for oneself and all humans and other

> The
> philosophical life is attainable only be a few humans and indeed is
> unintelligible to the mass of humanity, "the many". That the philosophical
> life will remain unknowable to the many certainly seems to have the same
> epistemological slant as some understandings of the singularity.

Given time and technology enough it is understandable by all who
wish or will wish eventually to understand what of it can be
understood. Aristotle is limited by the perspective of inborn
capabilities and a fixed short lifespan. There is no need for
these to be permanent limits even well before Singularity. Thus
there is no need to divide humans into those who get it and
those who never will.

>The unmoved
> mover is not Christian, so so much for your "companions in guilt" argument.
> Indeed, one might think of the unmoved mover as the country cousin of the
> Omega point. Perhaps you could help by saying what you think the content of
> "human flourishing" is. As Aristotle points out, there are many theories on
> this, when people are poor they say it consists in having wealth, when they
> are sick it consists in health, and so on. How do you concieve of the
> relation between virtues and human flourishing? How should we invoke
> Aristotle name if we give up what many commentators call his metaphysical
> biology?

Why invoke anyone's name in particular?

- samantha

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