Perhaps the technological singularity isn’t naked

Perhaps I’m stretching a metaphor too far, but most critics of Vinge’s technological singularity seem to treat it as a naked singularity. Proponents of the singularity suggest that as the rate of technological change approaches infinity, it becomes impossible to speculate about what lies in the future. Perhaps the rapture for nerds operates more like a black hole, with an event horizon affecting the predictability of the future.

This conjecture prompts at least one worthwhile corollary:

As Gregory Benford notes, the technological singularity would encounter “resistive terms” or “stay-behinds” (the latter term is Vinge’s), who for whatever reason don’t participate. So there would be observers of the event, outside whatever event horizon would exist.

Just as an external observer can never see another object pass the event horizon, the stay-behinds would see the enraptured approach their teleological apotheosis without ever seeing the latter ever reach their destination. Perhaps those outside the post-human preserve will see quite clearly where the enraptured are headed, even if the post-humans themselves do not.

Vinge says that as the singularity “involves an intellectual runaway, it will probably occur faster than any technical revolution seen so far.” Does time slow down for people falling into a black hole? Discussion on the Internet doesn’t reach consensus as to whether this is so. Perhaps even from the inside, the rapture will always seem to be just slightly in the future. A decade ago, I imagined that a terabyte of disk and a gigabyte of RAM would be enough for anything; today my guesses are a thousand times larger.

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