Apocalypse means “revelation” in Greek, literally “lifting the veil.” Apocalyptic literature (such as Revelations) eventually gave way to the word “apocalypse” as we use it now, because of the subject matter of these apocalypses. Now the “apocalypse” connotes the end of the world.
Many people will point out that “end of the world” is inaccurate, that it is more accurately a change in the world order. For many Christians, the apocalypse is connected to the second coming of Jesus, and the ushering in of an age of darkness followed by Armageddon, the victory of the kingdom of God, and heaven on earth. This all begins with the rapture, when all good Christians transcend their mortal bodies and are lifted up to heaven to meet Christ. Apocalypse also has a more negative tone in more mainstream circles, connected with phrases such as “robot apocalypse.”
I’m not sure where to begin with all of this. I suppose I should point out what most of you know, that there is not a single time in human history when some people have not thought that the end of the world would come in their lifetime. Some times this is more of a current than others, notably in the time of Jesus, when most people were pretty sure that a messiah was about to come and the world would end. Sure enough, a bunch of messiahs came, and the followers of one of them slowly took hold of the world over the next 2 millenia.
The human capacity to continually expect the Apocalypse is quite extraordinary, considering how much we’ve been let down. I say this, yet nevertheless I am blogging about a future point in our lifetime when the world order will forever be changed; when we will transcend our mortal bodies and be one with God. The singularity has been parodied by some as a “Rapture for nerds“.
I don’t want to dwell on this too much, I think it’s obvious that I would defend myself by talking about how we have science now, and all of these graphs, and Moore’s Law. I acknowledge that Apocalypticism is a known problem in human psychology, but I think I have more than human psychology working in my favor.
What I would rather dwell on is this notion of a robot apocalypse. This is still a fear which some people have, one which I would hope to have ameliorated with my previous posts in this blog. Nevertheless, I will address this fear outright, once and for all. Let’s begin:
Computers do exactly what they are programmed to do. If I tell a robot to heal someone, it will heal. If I tell it to kill, it will kill, and it won’t care about either of these things unless I tell it to. The whole Terminator scenario with Skynet becoming self-aware and perceiving man as a threat is pretty ludacris. Our intelligences are indistinguishable from eachother: it’s not man or machine, it’s man and machine. an intelligence superior to ours wouldn’t see us as a threat, as we are a vital part of that intelligence. We have a tendency to project our own inferior human psychology onto our robot friends; our aggression, existentialism, and fear. Let go of that urge.
I will admit that there are some possible scenarios for a human existential crisis. Perhaps we will create a robot that continually makes laptops from the matter around it, and just let it go free until it reorganizes all of the matter on earth (including us) into laptops. perhaps we will create a system to heal the environmental damage done to earth, give it too much freedom, and watch in horror as it removes us from the ecosystem.
Other apocalyptic problems will surface in the future, for instance when nuclear technology becomes child-play to us, and everyone has the intelligence to wield nuclear power. We can only hope that by the time we are each capable of making nuclear weapons we will be smart enough not to use them.
So yeah, there are risks, but I don’t fear them. Why? because I have faith in God, in the human superconsciousness, in the oneness that encompasses all of us. I believe that the singularity will unite us allow us to coordinate ourselves through these difficulties in ways we cannot imagine. Just as I maintain my existence and choose not to commit suicide, so will the human race.
update: for more on the fear and the apocalypse: