As The Singularity Approaches — The Aim Of Education Must Be — Awake, Find Oil For Your Lamp, Get Ready

As I report here, acknowledged genius Ray Kurzweil in “The Singularity is Near” has tracked the historical growth of technology and shows it to be an exponential curve. Kurweil says we are at the cusp of that curve, and scientific and technological progress from here on will take off like a rocket.

Shown are members of the landed gentry, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews (1748-49), by British artist Thomas Gainsborough. Mr. and Mrs. Andrews would not have been ready for the Singularity, nor anything else that would have rocked their comfortable world.

The amount of computer power that can be purchased for $1000 doubles every 11 months and, Kurzweil says this growth will continue so that by 2019, $1000 will buy a computer with the capacity of the human brain. He says by 2030 the process of “reverse engineering” the brain will be completed and by 2045 computers will design themselves to be billions of times more powerful than any human brain. Kurzweil’s amazing prediction is that within 35 years, computers will be billions of times more intelligent than humans, and with that intelligence, computers will have the capacity to create a heaven on earth solving all of the problems of the environment, creating untold wealth, showing how to create cheap and plentiful energy, and greatly extending, by hundreds of years, the lifetimes of humans.

Thirty-five years is but a flicker of time. The message proclaimed by Jesus 2000 years ago, “Wake up. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” has an amazing parallel to the message, “Wake up. The Singularity is near.” Both messages proclaim good news to those who have ears to hear, but both also proclaim a warning: You must wake up. You must become ready for this watershed event in human history. Jesus told the story of the approaching Bridegroom and warned, if you are not prepared to meet him, if there is no oil in your lamp, you will be lost, left behind.

In terms of the approaching Singularity, what does it mean to be prepared? What is at stake? What would it mean to be lost, left behind, the door of opportunity shut?

Suppose a group of people found a great treasure, how would they divide it? History shows there is always a “lion’s share” that goes to the most aggressive or most clever. We think of treasure as finite — whatever you take, means less for me — and so, throughout history, humanity has organized itself so that a dominant group will enslave a weaker group and will control the limited resources and treasure of the whole society. Old Europe created a system of “peerage” — dukes, earls, barons — and maintained a landed gentry of great privilege, while everyone else, in practical terms, were serfs and slaves.

But suppose there was unlimited wealth? Suppose society found a source of treasure that was never ending and that had the capacity to produce enough material goods to provide every member of the society generously, then what? In response to such a fantastic development, based on what is happening today, it seems unlikely that humanity will produce societies of harmony — utopias of enlightenment in which everyone would benefit — unless humanity itself changes to make itself worthy of the Singularity.

The approaching Singularity, with its capacity to produce immeasurable wealth, also will have the capacity to impose and maintain infinite repression. Humanity may devolve into an Orwellian nightmare. Will we be ready? If the purpose of education is to prepare individuals for the future, then, to meet the challenge of the coming Singularity, the front line must be education. We have such a short time, we must awake, we must become ready. We must work to find the answer to our biggest question:  What is the education that matters?

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