Monday, July 12, 2010

Is Technology Blaspheme?

I came across this video about a month ago and since then it has been causing some interesting synaptic associations in my brain and I have reached a point where I need to air them out to make more sense of it all.


In this video Jaron Lanier frames the theory of the coming Singularity, a prediction by Ray Kurzweil, as a new religion made possible only by our own technological advances.

Click here for part 2

If you are not familiar with Kurzweil's Singularity prediction take a few minutes and let him explain it to you:

This notion of technology and religion has had me thinking of a few other parallels. First, lets consider some key attributes most western religions ascribe to God. Primarily, according to most monotheistic religions God is omnipresent and omnipotent. In other words, God knows all and can do anything. Consider the internet and how we have been increasingly giving it eyes to see and ears to hear. First it was motors, then it was transistors, later it was microchips, today it is sensors that are propagating through the technosphere giving what Kevin Kelly refers to as the One Machine the ability to have senses. Whats more, we have been deploying these sensors and feeding the data they collect through mobile technologies that most of us carry with us.

So, we have over a billion computers currently networked to create the Internet and now it has the ability to sense much of what is around it. It is predicted that soon we will have enough microchips networked as part of this "One Machine" to equal or surpass the number of neurons in the human brain. Already the number of links between websites surpasses the number of synapses in the human brain.

Kevin Kelly also presents technology as the seventh kingdom of life:

If I follow this line of thought, through building this "One Machine" and giving it the ability to sense it's surroundings we have essentially created a synthetic life form within this 7th Kingdom with god-like omnipresence. And, since "The Machine is Us" (to quote Mike Wesch) we draw closer through our use of the psudo-omnipresent machine to the ability as a species to be psudo-omnipotent.

Juxtapose this with the latest development by Craig Venter's research team where they were able to create actual synthetic life forms in the lab with their own programmed DNA and imagine the convergence of the technological with the biological:

It is usually explained that Apple Computers took their company name after Newton's Apple but perhaps it was really Eve's apple that was the inspiration. After all, in that Biblical story Eve's apple represented forbidden knowledge and by taking a bite Adam and Eve would be able to know what God knows. Or perhaps it was both. The bite out of the apple in Apple Computer's later logo suggests that this Biblical reference theory might hold water.

Of course, why limit the analogy and parallels to Judeo-Christian theology? The company Promethean is a little bit more explicit about their namesake naming their company after the Greek god Prometheus who is credited with bringing technology (fire) to people on Earth.

So, what does this all mean? I don't know. Is this a new religion? I don't know. What I do know is every day I pass an Amish farm on my way to work as a technology integration specialist and every time I do it causes me to ponder these kinds of thoughts. Perhaps we have constructed the most incredible golden calf.
Or maybe not.

1 comment:

Mrs. Tenkely said...

Interesting. I have to think on this one a while. I don't know what conclusion I have come to after watching those clips. Certainly there are a lot of parallels, and there are people who treat their technology as a religion.