The "Singularity" has been defined many different ways. The primary
and original definition, as invented by Vernor Vinge, is that the Singularity
is the fundamental discontinuity in history created by the technological
invention of smarter-than-human intelligence. Other definitions have
included a time of exponentially faster technological progress (even faster
than now, that is), or the positive-feedback effect created by enhanced
intelligences working out improved methods of intelligence enhancement.
The core idea remains the same: There is a massive discontinuity
approaching, a Singularity, within human history. This has to do
with the rise of smarter-than-human intelligence, the ability of technology
to alter human nature, the final conquest of material reality through nanotech,
or some other fundamental change in the rules.
A Singularitarian believes that the Singularity is possible, that the
Singularity is a good thing, and that we should help make it happen (see
The "Singularity" is a natural, non-mystical, technologically triggered
event. We, the Singularitarians, are allied in the purpose of bringing
about a natural event through natural means, not sitting in a circle chanting
over a computer. There are thousands, perhaps millions, of stories
and prophecies and rituals that allegedly involve something that could
theoretically be described as "greater-than-human intelligence".
What distinguishes the Singularitarians is that we want to bring about
a natural event, working through ultratechnologies such as AI or nanotech,
without relying on mystical means or morally valent effects.
The principle of Globalism is a subtle distinction that marks the difference
between the terms "Singularitarian" and "posthumanist". It's possible
to want to bring about an event that would qualify as a "Singularity" without
being a "Singularitarian". Someone who thinks that the first uploadee
will win all the marbles and leave the rest of humanity out in the cold,
and who wants to personally be that first upload, is trying to bring about
an event that would qualify as the Singularity... but she (1) is not a Singularitarian. A posthumanist, but not
Perhaps the best analogy is to "liberty" and "libertarian". Being
a "libertarian" doesn't mean that you advocate liberty only for yourself,
but for a society. You can be a libertarian from first moral principles,
or as a matter of pragmatism, or because your astrologer told you to.
Motivations have nothing to do with the definition, which is simply
that a libertarian is someone who advocates liberty for everyone.
Someone who advocates liberty only for himself could as easily be in favor
of autocracy, theocracy, monarchy, dictatorship... just about anything,
Similarly, although the Singularity is simply the creation of greater-than-human
intelligence, the "Singularity" in "Singularitarian" is the Singularity
as seen from the perspective of the vast majority of humanity. It's
the event seen from a global perspective, just like the "liberty"
in "libertarian" is global. If you don't advocate global liberty,
you aren't a libertarian. If you don't advocate global Singularity,
if you just advocate a personal, private Singularity, then you're not a
The Singularity holds out the possibility of winning the Grand Prize, the
true Utopia, the best-of-all-possible-worlds - not just freedom from pain
and stress or a sterile round of endless physical pleasures, but the prospect
of endless growth for every human being - growth in mind, in intelligence,
in strength of personality; life without bound, without end; experiencing
everything we've dreamed of experiencing, becoming everything we've
ever dreamed of being; not for a billion years, or ten-to-the-billionth
years, but forever... or perhaps embarking together on some still
greater adventure of which we cannot even conceive. That's the Apotheosis.
If any utopia, any destiny, any happy ending is possible for the human
species, it lies in the Singularity.
There is no evil I have to accept because "there's nothing I
can do about it". There is no abused child, no oppressed
peasant, no starving beggar, no crack-addicted infant, nocancer
patient, literally no one that I cannot look squarely in the eye.
I'm working to save everybody, heal the planet, solve
the problems of the world.
The Singularity belongs to humanity. It's our task as a species.
I think the best analogy is to an infant waiting to be born. If
infants were aware, before their birth, it would undoubtedly take courage
to journey down the birth canal without knowing what lay on the other side
- without knowing if anything at all lay on the other side. But we
can't stay in the womb forever, and if we could, it'd be pointless.
It would take courage for a newborn to step into a future that was new,
and strange, and unfamiliar - but the real world is out here. Or
in the case of the Singularity, out there.
At this point, nobody really knows what happens after the Singularity
- but whatever happens, it was the whole point of having a human
species in the first place.
At the heart of an appreciation of the Singularity lies an appreciation
of intelligence. The Singularity places a horizon across our understanding
because we can't predict what someone smarter than us is going to do; if
we could, we'd be that smart ourselves. Intelligence isn't just the
ability to come up with complex solutions to complex problems; it's the
ability to see the shortcuts, the simple and obvious-in-retrospect solutions
to complex problems - even emotional or philosophical problems. Intelligence
isn't just high-speed thinking, perfect memories, or other party tricks;
intelligence is also wisdom, and self-awareness, and other things that
extend into every aspect of mind and personality.
It's transhuman intelligence that lies at the heart of the Singularity,
but we respect intelligence on the human scale as well. This respect
for intelligence is our shield against being blinded by ideology, one of
the primary safeguards that prevents Singularitarianism from turning into
just another banal fanaticism. Cloudy thinking in the service of
the Singularity wouldn't be a virtue; it'd be another dreary manifestation
of the same old human stupidity that we're trying to get away from.
Of course, it's not just enough to make a commitment to intelligence.
You have to back it up with the ability to perceive intelligence, and to
distinguish it from stupidity. That high art is a topic for some
Independence means regarding the Singularity as a personal goal.
The desire to create the Singularity is not dependent on the existence,
assistance, permission, or encouragement of other Singularitarians.
If every other Singularitarian on the planet died in a tragic trucking
accident, the last remaining Singularitarian would continue trying to make
the Singularity happen.
A Singularitarian is a friend of the Singularity - not a friend of Singularitarianism,
or the Singularity meme, or some Singularitarian leader. We defend
the Singularity itself. Nothing less.
Even though some of us may have different opinions about the wisdom of
certain technologies - I'm not very fond of nanotech, and I know of at
least one transhumanist who's strongly against AI - we still don't believe
in the suppression of technology. Partially this is because the intellectual
heritage of Singularitarianism derives from transhumanism, the scientific
community, the science-fictional community, the computing community, technophiles,
and other groups which despise the concept of legally enforced technophobia.
Trying to suppress technologies tends not to work.
If I can try to suppress nanotech, someone else can try to suppress AI,
so we'll all be better off nobody resorts to fisticuffs.
Any attempt to regulate one technology sets a trend.
And then there's just general niceness.
Nonsuppression - or rather, the non-initiation of suppression - helps maintain
cooperation among technophiles, so it's an auxiliary ethic.
The first virtue is curiosity. A burning itch to know is higher than a solemn vow to pursue truth. To feel the burning itch of curiosity requires both that you be ignorant, and that you desire to relinquish your ignorance. Read More