Man, this could be anything. Press release is via Nanowerk News:
(Nanowerk News) The rise of superintelligent machines, the transfer of humans’ consciousness into computers, and the birth of machine consciousness are all points on the spectrum of the singularity. Between the fervent believers–the singularitarians–and the extreme skeptics lies a wide area of hotly debated theories and coolly pursued technologies.
The singularity debate is too rarely a real argument. There’s too much fixation on death avoidance. That’s a shame, because in the future, as computers become stupendously powerful and as electronics and other technologies begin to enhance and fuse with biology, life really is going to get more interesting.
To produce the special report in the June issue of IEEE Spectrum, the editors invited articles from half a dozen people who have worked on and written about subjects central to the singularity idea in all its loopy glory. They encompass not just hardware and wetware but also economics, consciousness, robotics, nanotechnology, and philosophy. With a few exceptions, these are people who are not on record as either embracing or rejecting singularity dogma.
“Introduction: Waiting for the Rapture” by Glenn Zorpette (email@example.com, 212-419-7580) One day a machine will blink into consciousness, and it will be humankind’s crowning achievement. But it’s just wishful thinking to believe that artificial consciousness could let people alive today escape death by uploading their minds.
“The Singularity: Who’s Who” by Paul Wallich (firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-419-7580) A scorecard of true believers, atheists, and agnostics.
“Economics of the Singularity” by Robin Hanson (email@example.com, 212-419-7562) Humans could find themselves out of work if machines of merely human intellect could be made cheap enough.
“Reverse Engineering the Brain” by Sally Adee (firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-419-7505) To David Adler, the human brain is just really advanced technology.
“Can Machines Be Conscious?” by Christof Koch and Giulio Tononi (email@example.com, 212-419-7551) Yes, someday–and here’s one way to determine if they are.
“Singular Simplicity” by Alfred Nordmann (firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-419-7562) The argument for technological fabulism rests on baseless extrapolations.
“Rupturing the Nanotech Rapture” by Richard A. L. Jones (email@example.com, 212-419-7920) Tiny robots that can fix all our bodily flaws sound lovely, but they violate the laws of physics.
“I, Rodney Brooks, Am a Robot” by Rodney Brooks (firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-419-7581) As our machines become more like us, we will become more like them.
“Signs of the Singularity” by Vernor Vinge (email@example.com, 212-419-7573) The science-fiction author who laid out his theory of the singularity 25 years ago answers the skeptics and tells you what to look for as the world slips closer to the edge.
Source: IEEE Spectrum
Sigh. Seems like a mash-up of sympathetic and contrarian views here. Accelerating Future reader Dr. Jones is taking this opportunity to rail against the notion of “tiny robots that can fix all our bodily flaws”. Fair enough, he tends to present actual arguments rather than the “you’re scaring our children!” hysteria of the late Dr. Smalley. But, he also has an axe to grind — Dr. Jones believes that discussion over MNT demoralizes those working in mainstream “nanotechnology”. Yes, he presents valid challenges to the workability of MNT, but MNT advocates (Dr. Freitas and Merkle) have responded in kind with even more engineering challenges that they themselves noticed. While both sides agree there are challenges, they disagree on whether or not these challenges are showstoppers.
The comparison between the singularity and religious rapture is an unfair smear. As Steven says,
But that image of a shared psychological flaw is itself so seductive that it has distorted peopleâ€™s view of what the singularity is about into a kind of geek-bible-wielding strawman â€” singularitarian ideas are assumed to parallel fundamentalist Christian ideas even where they donâ€™t, just because the comparison is apparently so much fun. â€œOh, look at those silly nerds, aping the awful fundies without even knowing it!â€
People who compare discussion about the possibly huge impact of emerging technologies to that of religious delusion are themselves falling victim to a seductive and oversimplified view of the reality. The press release pretends to be objective, but it’s completely not. Casually tossing off phrases like “singularity dogma” are just perpetuating this seductive but incorrect interpretation.
This press release insults all life extension advocates, confusing them with singularity advocates. For instance, the Methuselah Foundation, with over $10 million in funding, practices “death avoidance” — or what some might call “recognition of the horror of physical and mental deterioration prior to an unwanted death”. But the Methuselah Foundation and numerous “death avoiders” have little connection to discussions of the singularity, which focuses on the possibility of greater-than-human intelligence. Having a high IQ and living a long time are two different things. One contributer seems to be going after mind uploading.
The release says, “With a few exceptions, these are people who are not on record as either embracing or rejecting singularity dogma.” Well, Dr. Jones is against it, I would presume, and Dr. Vinge is for it, depending on what these people mean by “singularity dogma”. No one knows what “singularity dogma”, “singularity un-dogma”, or any other singularity-related word means because the term itself is useless unless carefully defined. Of course, this issue of IEET Spectrum, along with nearly every other mention of the singularity, makes it seem like there is a centralized agreement on the definition, when I’ve been pointing out for about a year now that the term “Singularity” has lost all meaning.