Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Threat of the Singularity, or Instapundit (Slightly) Redeems Himself

I have always considered Instapundit to be a shallow-thinking technomaniac on bioethics and other issues involving societal impacts of technology. Today, however, he manages to redeem himself a bit. In this entry discussing the Singularity, Glenn says this about its potential dangers:
The bigger danger won't be the creation of a godlike artificial intelligence. It will be the creation of many millions (and eventually billions) of individuals with powers that would have been until recently regarded as godlike, in the rather small space that humanity currently inhabits.

Exactly. The primary danger lies in access by one and all to powers of immense destruction -- powers that today are available, in weaker forms, only to a few governments. Even if the vast majority handle the ability to create weapons of global destruction on their tabletops responsibly, there will inevitably be a few who do not -- and a few is all it will take.

Glenn proceeds to give a typically techno-libertarian solution to the problem:
That problem will be reduced, however, if we expand beyond the earth beforehand. I certainly agree with Stephen Hawking that the alternative is extinction. But I think that we'll do it in time.

True, space colonization will help to ensure that, should an apocalyptic disaster occur, some of humanity will survive. This overlooks, however, what I fear will be the immediate means for dealing with the problem: totalitarian surveillance and control of society. The most direct solution is to make sure people do not have the secrecy that allows them to covertly create super-weapons, and to squelch any inclinations in them toward doing this in the first place. This would entail total, continuous surveillance of the population, and the "rehabilitation" of any who exhibit signs of criminal mindset. And it will be the very same Singularity that yields the technologies for surveillance and mind control that will make this possible.

As for Glenn, now if only we could get his rare, nominal squeak of allegiance to Christianity to inform his bioethics a little more, we might actually be getting somewhere...


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