Whilst surfing over the weekend, I stumbled over a quote from sci-fi author Ken MacLeod. Now, I haven’t read any of MacLeod’s stuff for a couple of years, but this quote (apparently from his novel ‘The Cassini Division’) hit a chord with me.
(The technological singularity)…is the rapture for nerds.
Genius. I’ve been searching for a way of summing up my discontent with contemporary singularity theory, and all the time MacLeod had hit the nail right bang on the head.
For those of you not familiar with the concept of the rapture, it’s a fundamentalist Christian belief that at some point in the future Jesus will return to the earth and transport all true Christians up to heaven to leave in immortal, eternal peace with the Lord.
It’s the perfect get out clause. Belief in this happening means that Christians don’t have to deal with everything that challenges their world-view; homosexuality, the internet, women’s sexual liberation, stem-cell research, the pro-choice movement, rival religions, Darwin…all of this can be just dismissed as sin, and left to perish, when God comes down to save them.
What MacLeod is saying, is that for a large tract of the geek community, the singularity is filling the same role. It’s the perfect get out clause. Belief in this happening means that geeks don’t have to deal with everything that challenges their world-view; ecological break-down, global warming, digital rights management, the hypocrisy of being a corporate IT professional but hating anything not open-source, global poverty, the high price of oil, obesity and heart disease….all of this can be just dismissed as Luddite heresy, and left to perish, when the AI Gods rise up to save them….uploading their brains to immortal digital shells, using nanotechnology to clean up the environment, giving everyone fusion powered flying cars and lots of free cybersex with VR constructs of Kristen Bell.
Of course not all geeks think this way, just as not all Christians blindly believe in the rapture.
And me? In case you haven’t guessed already, I’m a fucking atheist.