Singularities as Child’s Play

Dystopian literature is mostly about the unintended consequences of technological change.  Cory Doctorow expands on this theme related to technological singularities on Boing Boing:

Indeed, it seems to me that in literature, the Singularity’s role is to serve as a straw-man for critiquing technology as a one-sided panacea.

Fair enough. Literature and drama are all about conflicts and Man vs. Technology is at least one of the primary conflicts of the modern age.

Heaven stuffBut why is it that we are drawn to this notion of some kind of transcendent mechanism that alleviates us of the struggles of everyday existence? It’s a central theme of Hinduism (get off the wheel of existence), Buddhism (existence is void; free the mind of your very desire of it), Christianity and Islam (post-life existence is better and more perfect). I think it arises from the same predisposition for magical thinking combined with hope that is part of imaginative play among children. In play, the child creates an imagined and utopian existence where their alter egos typically overcome all obstacles. There are a few sex differences that are part conditioning and likely partly biological, but the patterns are remarkably utopian in terms of the dispositions of the children’s play avatars.

The translation of this into adult formulations of heavens filled with inchoate goodness and light (or many virgins), or even an emptiness that defies ordinary characterization, is just an extension of this urge to play. In a technological world, singularities are the secular equivalent, but with the additional propellant of observed technological change that surrounds all of us.

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