Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The singularity is now and coming at us quickly, including in the world of agriculture.

X-ray: NASA/U. of Sydney/G.Anderson et al; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech

One thing that keeps me going as a blogger is the sense that I am participating in something that is bigger than we yet know. Kurzweilian, if you will.
"Technological singularity refers to the hypothetical future emergence of greater-than human intelligence through technological means. Since the capabilities of such an intelligence would be difficult for an unaided human mind to comprehend, the occurrence of technological singularity is seen as an intellectual event horizon, beyond which the future becomes difficult to understand or predict. Nevertheless, proponents of the singularity typically anticipate such an event to precede an "intelligence explosion", wherein superintelligences design successive generations of increasingly powerful minds. The term was coined by science fiction writer Vernor Vinge, who argues that artificial intelligence, human biological enhancement or brain-computer interfaces could be possible causes for the singularity. The concept is popularized by futurists like Ray Kurzweil and widely expected by proponents to occur in the early to mid twenty first century."

---wikipedia's definition of technological singularity
You cannot predict technology, making it one of the future's biggest wildcards. If computers are capable of beating the world's champion chess players, why can't they surpass the best scientific minds alive today to problem-solve, especially if able to interact with sensory devices capable of knowing conditions in our real world?

It seems possible that the problems facing humankind could eventually be interpreted by computers spitting out solutions. Computers might provide the antidotes for the problems facing us: climate change, food security, environmental destruction, green energy development and peak oil, farming methods, population, and limits to growth. Computerized game playing may play a role in technological problem solving, too. For example, the war-game simulation, Oil ShockWave, uses former government officials, military leaders, and cabinet members which deal with sharply rising oil prices and the resulting political instability.

Countless notables amongst progressive thinkers have been predicting that a shift is near, or an awakening, a global human consciousness. Whenever I hear this idea, I think about the internet, that global consciousness is already here.

That is not to downplay the important non-technological side of human capacity which may also be evolving. There is the mystery of dreams predictive ability, more prevalent in some people and families. There is much that we do not understand on the level of minds, thinking, and inspiration. Our perceptions form our worlds, and our thinking creates our own reality. Art, poetry, and music help us to express the inexpressible while human language constrains or limits our thinking.

Some predict that we are near major physics breakthroughs, or highly significant astronomical discoveries. Surely, computing might play a role of discovery in these mathematical fields.

Already, genomic sequencing and gene technology has the potential to transform botanic agriculture, and may lead to meat tissue for consumption to be grown in laboratories. Imagine small, deep-rooted, perennial plants capable of producing food under a variety of stressful conditions and containing the nutrients necessary for human life. Robot-like machines are already being used to pick strawberries and other fruits and vegetables which we wouldn't have dreamed possible twenty years ago. Satellites are driving tractors and laptops are aiding efficient use of expensive fertilizer and seed inputs. Nanotechnology also has the potential to transform agriculture through techniques of delivery systems, fertilizers, pesticides, and more.

We live in the information age, a rapidly changing world where information and news is available for free online. Fewer professional journalists are getting paid to work, and yet we have more (free) information at our fingertips than ever before.

Most human beings alive on the planet today are now connected with one another through technology. Supposedly, five billion people have access to cell phones. Very recently, the G-20 came up with a plan to enhance small farmer's in the developing world with better economic success by utilizing a cell phone program enabling fair trade. This program would also better utilize the food being produced, resulting in less waste.

While all else is happening, we are experiencing and understanding that a new world order in economics is necessary, one which is not built upon growth at the expense of exploitation of our natural world. More economists are realizing the necessity of measuring happiness or well-being instead.

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI said, "To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, as my predecessor Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago."

More and more, global thinkers and leadership propose the establishment of world order solutions to our problems, because the problems which face humanity are global problems. And these thinkers and groups are treating humanity as a whole, as one. Today, we are all connected.

But, you say that I am overlooking the limits to growth. The solutions lie in our ability to do what is necessary with the smallest impact. Technology is doing more as it becomes smaller. Look at tablet computers and i-phones. Nanotechnology and the utilization of bacteria to do work for us make big things happen on the smaller scale.


"so we are looking at an era where computing will actually merge with the physical world" ---Pranav Mistry

If you've never heard of him, 30-year-old Pranav Mistry is at MIT from India. He has developed and made affordable through open-source, SixthSense technology. He wants its paradigm-shifting ability to interact between the physical world and the world of data to be available and open its possibilities to all. He thinks that by integrating the outer world with the technological world, we can free up humans from being confined to computer work stations. He compares his way of thinking to Leonardo da Vinci's.

In March of 2009, Pranav Mistry gave a TED talk which has now had nearly six million views and demonstrates his technology, including a newspaper which looks like it is straight out of a Harry Potter movie:

Or, here is a link to the TED talk.

What if we have all of the evidence that we need to be optimistic that our future has unlimited potential, and may be very much brighter than many today believe, due to technological advancements? Our ability to problem-solve may go beyond what we currently find imaginable.

For more see Pranav Mistry's website and SixthSense's website and wikipedia.