Will Computers Take Over the World?


Friday, January 24, 2014

It’s been a trope in science fiction for years: someday the computers will become self-aware and take over. But in 1993, the computer scientist and science fiction author Vernor Vinge wrote a serious academic paper in which he predicted that we were only a few decades away from that scenario, which he named “The Singularity.”

In science fiction, this usually turns out badly for the human race, but Vinge and a large cadre of influential minds in computing say what happens will be beyond anything Hollywood can imagine. Vinge tells Kurt Andersen that we shouldn’t see it as us against them: we just need to merge our brains with computers. “A slightly more human-centric terminology would be, we use them simply as amplifications of our own intelligence.” After that, the Singularitarians believe, progress will jump at warp speed — we’ll be able to cure diseases and solve the vexing problems of human life. When our bodies fail, we’ll upload our minds and live forever.

Vinge’s prediction inspired a cottage industry of Silicon Valley gurus to create the Singularity University, where you can spend $12,000 a week to hear lectures from Google’s director of engineering Ray Kurzweil and others on how to prepare for your bio-tech upgrade to super brilliance. (Watch a lecture below.)

But Vinge’s optimism is a bit more nuanced. “In a way I regard the situation that we’re facing here as scary because it is sort of the radical end point of optimism,” he says. This defense against death might not be the Heaven we imagine. “It’s what happens if you sit down and think seriously about wanting the things that humans and the human condition has always cried out for the most over millennia,” he argues. “If you think seriously about overcoming some of those barriers, and what that would mean, that actually is scary.” 


Video: Ray Kurzweil at Singularity University

    Music Playlist
  1. The Moon Song
    Artist: Karen O
    Album: Her Soundtrack
    Label: Warner Brothers
  2. The Singularity
    Artist: Miracles of Modern Science
    Album: Meems
    Label: Miracles of Modern Science
    Purchase: Amazon


Vernor Vinge

Produced by:

Eric Molinsky

Comments [3]

Laura Vegan from New Hamsphire

The human race is turning out bad for the human race, the planet the human race is destroying, and every species on it that is being harmed by humans, the first and most arrogant of invasive species.
Our behaviors are taught, manufactured, and in my view, the epitome of pretense.

We are taught to dig our own graves, and laugh as we step in....

The real tragedy for those of us who can still think an original thought, is that the natural world has been so degraded from our habits. How do we calculate a species extinction after millions of years on earth?

Shame on us for our narcissistic actions. The biotech world is just another logical progression in the economic ideology. We've destroyed most of the natural world, killed every species possible, poisoned the food system, compromised children's health and future....Might as well capitalize on all of that by creating a synthetic world and make people, using venues such as this, to think it's really cool.

Jan. 27 2014 07:16 AM
Robert Thomas from Santa Clara

Ray Kurzweil has made significant achievements as Director of Gullible Media Attention to Ray Kurzweil.

Jan. 26 2014 04:39 AM

I think, I must agree that it is a bit scary if computers will literally take over the world. I guess, I agree with science fiction that it might turn out bad for human race. Whatever prediction scientists do have , i hope this won't affect us negatively.

Jan. 23 2014 11:48 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.