One of Ray Kurzweil‘s more provocative theses from The Singularity is Near is that the singularity will clean up all the environmental mess from the past centuries, those slagheaps of our reliance on fossil fuels and dirty industry. Postscarcity means that the sins of the father will no longer be visited on the sons, daughters, cousins, etc. As much as I can understand that Kurzweil is not coming from a position of optimism, but rather what he interprets as a logical inevitability of technological development (albeit with the Law of Increasing Returns taking a very questionable central role), I find it on some levels offensive. A little game I like to play with myself when bored is “Reasons the Singularity is will never happen” (my current favourite is ‘Athlone‘…), but when not being glib and doubting Kurzweil’s technoeschatology, I have other genuine difficulties.
If the singularity will erase our environmental misdeeds, what then of our historical transgressions? What of, for example, the disappeared in Chile? Will nanobots be released into the desert, combing through clay and dirt and sand in their millions, billions, to find the bones of those murdered by a fascistic regime supported and guided by corrupt governments elsewhere? Will they coordinate with swarms of satellites in space to locate the mass graves? Will they send results to labs for analysis where bodies have been crushed under caterpillar tracks of bulldozers into a gravel of mixed bones from hundreds of different bodies? Will this bring solace to the families? Will it give us the strength to finally confront our history at last, not only here, but regarding civil wars and genocide and failures of international solidarity everywhere? Now that such magnificent technologies will interrupt the entropy of forgetting, if not actually reverse it, will we have the moral expanse to confront this? This is not an attempt to rhetorically refute (if such a thing were possible, which it is not) Kurzweil, or those who consider technology as a route to improvement, and development. But, how do we become posthuman when it is easily argued that we have not even come close to becoming human? If we have an ideal, and that is loosely held to be the singularity, the ideology of technologists, then what are we being coordinated towards?