Thursday, 9 February 2012

David Brin's Singularity Denigration

I was recently reading a blog-post by David Brin, posted here and at other locations regarding the "Difference Between Science Fiction and Fantasy." David refers to the Singularity in pejorative terms therefore I feel obliged to conduct an intellectual investigation to analyse his meaning.

David Brin wrote:

I agree that the nerdy-techno "singularity" is - at root - just a modern manifestation of magical-transcendentalism.

I therefore wonder how exactly David defines "magical-transcendentalism"? To help me better understand his viewpoint I wonder if this video regarding a mechanical heart is magical-transcendentalism? To our forbears a heart unable to beat, made of non-biological matter, would probably seem very magical, maybe most people would be horrified by such witchcraft if they viewed such technology with a mindset from only 100 years ago. David's views are tantamount to being anti-science because he eschews logic .

A mechanical heart certainly does allow us to transcend biological limitations, and it is magical in a certain sense, for people with an up-to-date cutting-edge technological perspective, because it highlights the magic, the awe, the wonder of sentient, self-aware, human ingenuity; but the term "magical-transcendentalism" seems to be pejorative phrase potentially verging on ad hominem, ignoratio elenchi, or an associational fallacy.

A quick search of Google regarding "magical-transcendentalism" produced this page, which states: "The essence of Transcendentalism is belief in spiritual beings greater than oneself or states of spiritual being superior to that which currently one enjoys." Magic is the supernatural control of matter and reality; but this magic does not describe the Singularity because the Singularity is grounded in very real science and technology. The Singularity is not about spirituality.

Ironically when people equate the Singularity with spirituality or Transcendentalism, they are making a leap of faith which does not tally with the actuality of what the Singularity is. Erroneous and pejorative perceptions exhibited by some people regarding what the Singularity is could actually be deemed fantasy perceptions.

David also mentions how the Singularity has been deemed Rapture of the Nerds, but merely by reiterating an unfounded statement this does not make an unfounded statement true. The phrase "Rapture of the Nerds" is pure slander devoid of logical thinking. Such statements are fallacious, they are logical fallacies, but supposed intellectuals such as David seem oblivious regarding ad hominem, ignoratio elenchi, or the association fallacy modality of commentary. Merely by associating the Singularity with Christianity (Rapture) or being a nerd (nerds are generally unpopular people with substandard social skills thus they are not cool), it is wrongly assumed this fallacious association invalidates the Singularity premise. Sadly some people are influenced by smears therefore I try to correct Singularity-smearing whenever I discover it. I have written extensively about the Rapture slander but unfortunately the insults continue.     

Hopefully David can clarify the meaning regarding his "magical-transcendentalism" assertion.

Update - David Brin has responded:

Singularity Utopia, your blog offers no way to respond with comments, alas so I must do it here.   [Bold link added by SU]

You clearly evade the whole meaning of my post in order to release outrage. DId I not elsewhere in the post speak repeatedly of the importance of progress and openness of the science fiction attitude toward change? Anyone who even briefly imagined I might think otherwise should pause and KNOW that they had a false impression to re-examine.

I am talking there about PERSONALITY... a desperate will to BELIEVE one's way into a better world. That personality has always been with us, a transcendentalist will to transcend this imperfect plane.

For most of human history, one could only imagine it happening religiously or philosophically, so that's where transcendentalists go. And it is STILL where they go... when they cannot do tech or science. Hence the complete takeover of one of our major political parties by mystics... (and the cynical oligarchs who control them.)

Now there is another option, when a transcendentalist CAN do tech. To shift from God or Enlightenment to notions of singularity science.

Note, I say nothing about whether this approach will fail! In fact, at some level, I think it will work... though slower and more unevenly than guys like you think. THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ISSUE!

The issue is the personality that rushes to embrace belief in an incantation to transcend. Whether or not you happen to be right, this time, you are part of a long, long tradition.

Here is my response to David's response:

David. Sorry about the comments being disabled on my blog, this is due to time and energy constraints, but you are welcome to comment on my G+ post if you desire:

It is true that I was outraged by your comments but I am sorry if you felt I was avoiding the whole meaning of your post.

The issue of personality types desperate to "believe" is not applicable to the Singularity in my opinion. Many people have believed in a better world throughout history and sometimes those beliefs can seem impossible, such as the belief in the feasibility of organ transplants, the beliefs of the Suffragettes, Rosa Parks, or the dream of Martin Luther King, or the desire to put a man on the Moon, or many other examples of confidence which inspired many other achievements and inventions. Apple would call those people "The Crazy Ones". Some scientists believe they can cure cancer, and no doubt due to their beliefs they will one day find cures. Via a desire to make the world a better place heart transplants have been made possible and more recently mechanical hearts have been successfully used. Humans do impossible things: we transcend our limitations. Instead of "belief" I would use the word confidence.

I am an atheist therefore this is the reason I object strongly to your assertion that confidence, which has arisen via deep logical analysis of available data, regarding the likelihood Singularity, is comparable to religiosity, magic, transcendentalism, or the Rapture. I resent how an unjust usage of religiously terminology is often undertaken to smear, invalidate, or denigrate an ideology. I prefer logical debate to smearing. I resent how people want to fit everything into religious terminology. I resent how people often want to thoughtlessly rubbish the idea of the Singularity, which you may or may not have been doing.

So for the record I have not rushed to embrace anything. I only support the idea of the Singularity because after very careful deliberation I deem it to be very valid, very likely. I do desperately want to make the world a better place but my desperation doesn't blind me to the truth of logic and rationality. I would never sacrifice logic or rationality for the sake of appeasing my desperation. I am a deeply intellectual person of high integrity regarding my intellectualism, thus your implication that my desperation has triumphed over my intellect is very insulting. I would happily commit suicide rather than sacrifice my intellect, but luckily I live in a age where my intellect can flourish; we live in age where the Singularity will very likely happen, we live in an age where desperation can realistically be overcome. It could be argued that I am deluded, thus if I was alive 100 years ago I may also have thought the Singularity was due to happen in my lifetime; but I'm certain all the scientific and technological indicators do corroborate my viewpoint. I suppose only time will tell. At worst I could be wrong but merely being wrong about an issue does not mean the person with the wrong ideas was engaging in magical transcendentalism.

# Blog visitors since 2010:

Archive History ▼

S. 2045 |