The Singularity is, of course, conceived of as the time at which the artificial intelligences that we create become smarter than us. And then it makes itself even smarter and smarter still and yet smarter again and so forth… at an ever accelerating pace until it becomes incomprehensibly something other to our wormy little minds.
I have to be honest. I’m just not sure how seriously to take this. But Steal This Singularity has much more of a ring to it than “Steal This Future” or Steal This Transhumanity” (groan) or whatnot. And the way I see it, The Singularity has become a buzzword for the rad techno-future brought on by NBIC (Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno) or GNR (Genetics, Nanotech, and Robotics) or — to put it in more populist terms, the coming of the machine overlords.
Look, for example, at Singularity University. Here we have the establishment Singularitarians, all hooked up with NASA and Google and Cisco and Genentech. And how seriously did they take the Singularity label? Well, when Alex Lightman and I interviewed founder Peter Diamandis for h+, he made it clear that they were using the word for the same reason that I was: cool buzzword! That… and to make Ray Kurzweil happy. Ok. He didn’t blatantly say “cool-ass buzzword, dude!” He said: “to be clear, the university is not about The Singularity. It’s about the exponentially growing technologies and their effect on humanity… You know, we toyed with other terms… like Convergence University and others. But in homage to Ray…”
So, in equivalent homage to SU, I call this project Steal This Singularity and state straight up that it may or may not have jackshit to do with “The Singularity” depending on accidents, random moods and possible funding.
The question, then, may be asked, smarter-than-human AIs aside, does Steal This Singularity presume the rather technotopian possibilities promised by transhumanism, but believe that it will be necessary to steal it from the so-called 1%? Is that what I’m up to here? Well, maybe.
I’ll be featuring some straight up extreme tech pieces here from time to time, to remind us that there might, indeed, be something worth “stealing.” Nanotechnology, for example, arguably stumbles towards its excessive edenic potential (when 3d printers that can make you anything using sunlight and dirt grow on trees, literally).
There’s some evidence that hyperlongevity (in other words, extended health) could be fairly close at hand. Or, at least, Time magazine recently went googly-eyed for this possibility, as it’s wont to do.
There are more items about cyborg breakthroughs lately than you can shake Oscar Pistorius’s leg… or gun… at. And DARPA is working on the artificial brain, cryonic hyperlongevity and, of course, Zombie Pigs… I mean, if we can’t hack DARPA and make good magic with all their toys, we may as well spend the next few decades sniffing krokidil and waiting for the floods.
Anyway, convincing people that there may be a transhumanoid future worth stealing requires a whole other piece, which will be upcoming. But I don’t want this STS thing to be just for the technophiles. I want to also keep a space open under this banner for those who want to hold the current tech culture up to unalloyed ridicule; people who — when they hear some business nerd at Starbucks nattering on about his latest “disruptive innovation” — feel a profound urge to disrupt his ass.
In fact, I was torn between calling this project Steal This Singularity or Big Dada. A few months ago, I tweeted these two thoughts about Big Dada: “BIG DADA in which 1,000,000 people pledge to randomly disinform about habits, likes, purchases, opinions ad infinitum.” (Give the wrong Like/Stop a traffic spike/Your future dream is still a shopping scheme) And: “BIG DADA calls for the Qualified Life: To wit: We only qualify you as alive if you spend less than an hour a day keeping track of shit.”
Well then, more recently, no less an anti-tech culture guru than Evgeny Morozov tweeted: “A noble mission in search of a start-up: ‘to disorganize the world’s information and make it universally inaccessible and not very useful'” to which I responded… “Big Dada!” So yes, this Morozov fellow, who is the uber-critic of technophilia (not to mention, clearly, a twat) may have given Big Dada some definition, quite by accident. Big Dada, then, may be a comer, a subheader in STS’s overwhelming weltanschauung.
Which brings me (if only be attrition) to the Steal part of Steal This Singularity.
In 1971, a revolutionary prankster/celebrity named Abbie Hoffman, who had started the radical group the Yippies (Youth International Party) released Steal This Book, a manual for living on the fringes of a wealthy society by grabbing up some free shit from corporate powers while committing some Blows Against the Empire (another influence on this project, btw).
See, 1971 was the last year that the vanguard of the counterculture thought that they were going to make a total cultural and political psychedelic/anarchistic/left wing revolution before realizing… fuck it. Let’s campaign for McGovern.
But more to my point here and the milieu it attempts to speak to… true story… the Yippies started the phreakin’ “digital revolution!” To wit: The hacker culture started as the phone phreak culture. The phone phreak culture came out of the Steal This Book attitude about getting free shit from the detritus of corporate culture, in this case, the phone company. The first legendary phone phreak, John Draper aka Captain Crunch, who built the blue boxes, used to hang out at 9 Bleeker Street, NYC, Yippie headquarters. The first magazine that focused primarily on phone phreaking was YIPL (Youth International Party Line), which was started by Hoffman and “Al Bell.” In 1973, it transmorgified into TAP, which is more broadly remembered as the initiatory phone phreak periodical.
Phone phreaks were computer hackers. Draper famously noted that the phone system “is a computer.” From this milieu, the personal computer arose. Famously, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak funded the birth of the Apple by selling Blue Boxes So, you see, I stand on solid-if-hallucinatory historical ground today as I sound a Hoffmanesque note towards The Singularity Or Something Like It.
Steal This Singularity in Seven Parts & A Song
- Part One: Steal This Singularity Defined
- Part Two: Steal This Singularity? Yippie!
- Part Three: The More Things Change, The More You’ll Need to Save
- Part Four: The Worm Earns (or it can fuck off and die)
- Part Five: There’ll Be Pie in the Sky When You Don’t Die.. Or We Don’t Need no Steenkin’ Steal This Singularity
- Part Six: So What (or How Can I Help this Estimable if Weird Project?)
- Part Seven: A Special Naughty Hipster’s Steal This Singularity
- White Babbits: This Months Steal This Singularity Theme Song. Sing along with Grace Slick