The rate at which technology is changing our world--not just on a global level like space travel and instant worldwide communications but on the level of what we choose to wear, where we live, and what we eat--is staggeringly fast and getting faster all the time. The rate of change has become so fast that a concept that started off sounding like science fiction has become a widely expected outcome in the near future - a singularity referred to as The Spike.
At that point of singularity, the cumulative changes on all fronts will affect the existence of humanity as a species and cause a leap of evolution into a new state of being.
On the other side of that divide, intelligence will be freed from the constraints of the flesh; machines will achieve a level of intelligence in excess of our own and boundless in its ultimate potential; engineering will take place at the level of molecular reconstruction, which will allow everything from food to building materials to be assembled as needed from microscopic components rather than grown or manufactured; we'll all become effectively immortal by either digitizing and uploading our minds into organic machines or by transforming our bodies into illness-free, undecaying exemplars of permanent health and vitality.
The results of all these changes will be unimaginable social dislocation, a complete restructuring of human society and a great leap forward into a dazzlingly transcendent future that even SF writers have been too timid to imagine.
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Is technological change advancing so rapidly that we can no longer chart its progress? Are we careening ever closer to the point that scientists have dubbed "the singularity," the moment when the pace of innovation will lead to changes so profound that attempting to envision the future becomes an impossible dream? According to Broderick (The Last Mortal Generation; Theory and Its Discontents), the answer is a resounding and enthusiastic yes. As he points out, the rate of scientific change has increased ("spiked") with exponential rapidity over the past 500 years; everyday machines such as personal computers already have microprocessing capacities that far surpass anything originally predicted when they were first invented. Virtual reality applications are routinely used in the operating room, while cloning has entered our world with astonishing speed. So why not, in the extremely near future, "smart paint" that changes color on command and converts light to electricity when no one is in the room? Some of the changes anticipated by Broderick include science-fiction staples such as uploading and copying one's consciousness; freezing terminally ill bodies for revival in the more medically sophisticated future; and so-called "Santa Claus machines," which can build almost anything "washing machines or teacups or automobiles or starships" out of highly abundant, naturally occurring materials. Broderick's freewheeling analysis of the "spike" a phenomenon already dubiously questioned, he admits, in otherwise sympathetic scientific circles may help bring this debate to a more mainstream audience, although his writing, despite its conversational tone, may still have too specialized a scientific and technological vocabulary for the average general reader.