Futurisms: Critiquing the project to reengineer humanity

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Singularity is Near the New York Times

In case you missed it, the New York Times recently published a front-page (ask your parents) business-section article on the Singularity. The article is actually remarkably unremarkable. It narrowly explores Kurzweil and the Singularity University, but it's pretty credulous and uninformative. Science writer John Horgan more or less accurately characterizes it as an "enormous puff piece." It's notable mostly just because it's a lengthy piece in such a prominent venue; conferencegoers mentioned it frequently and with excitement at the recent H+ Summit at Harvard, just because it was a piece in the Times.

But there were a couple wonderful anecdotes in the article, such as:
One executive sullenly declines to participate in another robot design exercise because no one in his group will consider making a sexbot.
Daniel T. Barry, a Singularity University professor, gives a lecture about the falling cost of robotics technology and how these types of systems are close to entering the home. Dr. Barry, a former astronaut and “Survivor” contestant with an M.D. and a Ph. D., has put his ideas into action. He has a robot at home that can take a pizza from the delivery person, pay for it and carry it into the kitchen. “You have the robot say, ‘Take the 20 and leave the pizza on top of me,’” Dr. Barry says. “I get the pizza about a third of the time.”
Macaulay Culkin had better luck with this sort of thing in Home Alone with a VCR (ask your parents again).

And here's one that's just sad on several levels:
Sonia Arrison, a founder of Singularity University and the wife of one of Google’s first employees [and a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, and an H+ board member], spends her days writing a book about longevity, tentatively titled “100 Plus.” It outlines changes that people can expect as life expectancies increase, like 20-year marriages with sunset clauses.
Sunset indeed.


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