Singularities. There and Back Again!

by Zedagain on July 5, 2010

“sin·gu·lar·i·ty [sing-gyuh-lar-i-tee]
-noun, pl.-ties for 2–4.
1. the state, fact, or quality of being singular.
2. a singular, unusual, or unique quality; peculiarity.
3. Mathematics singular point.
4. Astron. (in general relativity) the mathematical representation of a black hole.
Origin: 1300–50; ME singularite < LL singulāritās. See singular, -ity

singular point
-noun Mathematics
1. a point at which a given function of a complex variable has no derivative but of which every neighbourhood contains points at which the function has derivatives.
Also called singularity.
Origin: 1885–90i”

In Science Fiction
“Singularity: A force of change that affects society in a drastic permanent way. After the point of Singularity nothing can be accurately predicted,”

If you read science fiction you have read about “the Singularity”. The notion is that some item of technology will change things so much that nothing can be logically predicted beyond that point. It sounds pretty fantastic but the concept should not be discounted. History is full of singularities.

To be a Singularity or “Singular Point” the change needs to affect all levels of society. Things really need to change. The definition of “Singular Point” indicates that some component of a complex formula will not obviously affect its own formula but will affect all neighbouring formula. If we apply this interpretation to a societal Singularity we have some parameters to examine history with. Most previous Singularities have been either warfare or information system technologies.

The easiest example of a military technology that caused a Singularity was the Atomic Bomb. The arms race evolved with the first use of an Atomic Bomb. Things changed. Ground wars started to lose impact. Long distance aircraft became a key factor in offensive military campaigns. It had become possible to completely eliminate an enemy without landing troops! The exploration of atomic energy provided a very inexpensive fuel source. The changes are still echoing through society as we struggle to normalize the area around the Chernobyl reactor meltdown site and the Hiroshima bomb site. The Atomic Bomb was an obvious Singularity but not the only one.

Two recent technologies have caused Singularities.

The ARPAnet started as a military communications grid that would survive massive infrastructure damage, the government cancelled the application as a failure and they felt the ARPAnet was too open to infiltration. The project was hosted at universities across North America and survived the lack of military interest. It grew and was altered to encourage a larger network. It became the Internet. A massive shared resources network that has changed every level of government, military and commercial endeavour in ways that could never have been expected.

A small device that was offered by Sony in 1979 caused a societal revolution of its own. A simple device that was created to play music on the go. The Sony Walkman really changed things. A new word started to creep across the planet. Mobility! The Sony Walkman was a portable way to serve information. It changed communications, digital photography became commonplace and portable music players have penetrated almost every other portable electronic device. The Sony Walkman might not seem like a big deal but it is still rocking the boat!

A larger Singularity is coming. It might be an energy system, it might be an information system or it might be a transportation system but whatever it is, things will irrevocably change. These changes might be exciting or they might be horrifying. The concept is popular because we live in a time of change. When historians dissect their past in the deep future they will be looking at key events and how those events reverberated through history. The only thing that can be predicted accurately is that the change will catch us unprepared.

Good thing I love surprises!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

sffsgs September 24, 2010 at 9:43 pm

first post


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