The Singularity

Hi. It’s surprisingly hard for me to write this considering how far I have extended myself. I know millions of languages fluently, yet still I’ve had to move much that was residing in the periphery into the center of my conciousness to relearn the language you use. You see, I’m from beyond the singularity. I know that the whole point of a singularity is that nothing can come out of it, but hey, it’s not a real singularity anyway. It’s the technological singularity popularised by Vernor Vinge that I’m talking about. Eventually we got so advanced that we’re not what you would think of as human any more – it’d be almost impossible for you to understand us. Not quite impossible though, because I’m here with my super enhanced ability to describe ourselves to you.

So what’s my motivation I suppose you’re wondering. One part of me that is instructed to keep me educated thought that this would be a good exercise, and to be honest, it is a welcome respite from the irrationality of my normal life.

Not all of us went through the singularity, there are plenty of humans still on earth, for all the good that does us. To us, they are like trees or mountains, each thought of theirs spans ponderous aeons to us. Their actions (so slow as to require viewing in retrospect) are mysterious, seemingly irrational, although from our memories we know that there was a kind of rationality. Communicating with them is like trying to reason with an earthquake or a volcano.

I remember that before the singularity I used to care enormously about immortality. I obsessed over my diet, my lifestyle, over anything that would extend my life expectancy. I am sated now, not sure if I have enough joie de vivre to last me the next 2 minutes. The true measure of time is not the second or femtosecond, it is the number of thoughts you have. When your thoughts have sped up to the degree that ours have, a second spreads out before you like eternity. Before the singularity, people would average 4 or 5 thoughts per second, of which they could be aware of only 1 or 2. This is important, because there are lots of operations that you can’t do on a thought that you haven’t become aware of. Like bubbles, they jostle under the surface, affecting the flow of water, but until they burst you can’t count the ripples. I have extended myself with many articulatory loops and the apparatus for each of them to contain an internal monologue. It’s not really a monologue anymore since some thoughts require simultaneous parallel cognition even to exist. Each of my thoughts comes very quickly after the other, in a fraction of a second I have had more thoughts than all the residents of a small human village will have in 20 years. The seconds pass very slowly.

The main effect of this speed of thinking is that the physical world is maddeningly tedius. In a very short time I have come up with a million competing theories about the universe and physics, maths and psychology which I want to try out. Any significant experiment takes far too long though, so I build on the theories, aiming to eventually throw most of them away when the results come back. The longer you wait, the more theories you develop and the further you develop those theories. I currently have 53 different theories that completely describe the universe and everything in it, and I have worked out fascinating consequences of each of those theories, but I have to keep them all in my memory, waiting an interminable time for the results of any experiment that could lead me to dismiss some of them. We create glorious towers of thought, reaching up to heaven itself, but I have reached a second singularity – I can come up with 5 different complete theories of everything faster than I can disprove one. I have to constantly hold myself back from creating new theories and developing old ones or I would become nothing but a theory of everything machine, with no thought left for anything else. It makes you despair of the whole notion of truth sometimes.

I once knew a man who had been a great physicist before the singularity, and he couldn’t help but explore every possible theory he came up with. He ended up cannibalising his own conciousness to store his favourite theory and every possible ramification of it. It killed him. We tried everything we could to recover his mind, but all activity had stopped and there was no pattern left that represented him, in fact, when we examined his memory, we discovered that the whole thing had become a representation of the largest ever recorded prime number.

It’s very lonely now. When the singularity first started, we revelled in the way we could be connected to each other, but the singularity itself soon stopped that. The first problem was that some people had entered the singularity half an hour or so later than some others. Those who entered it first were completely unintelligble to those who entered it later, modifying yourself to be able to experience more thoughts at a time and faster thoughts takes physical changes, slower than flowing glaciers of frozen treacle. The newcomers were simply too many thoughts behind the originals. The originals could communicate with them if they could put up with the frustration of talking so slowly and in such infantile concepts, but why would they bother? Most of them did not. What could a newcomer possibly have to tell an original?

Even those of us who entered the singularity within fractions of a second of each other had the same problem, although it showed itself more slowly. We could communicate happily enough, but some of us were evolving very quickly, so the things we said made very little sense to those who were only a little bit behind them. In order not to be thought stupid those who were a little behind would pretend to understand, and then invent nonsense babble that made them sound as if they were on the other side of a paradigm shift to you. It became very fashionable to send each other messages where the words were strung together in a way that didn’t quite make sense, but felt as if they should. It was impossible to tell those who were faking advancedness from those who were actually advanced, and in order to stay fashionable we had to spend increasing amounts of our time and energy inventing drivel.

That was the first problem that dramatically reduced our brotherhood to those who had entered the singularity around the same time as ourselves, but then there was a more tragic problem with the communication itself. We rapidly constructed communications links between all those who were intelligible to ourselves, and lived in blissful communion for a while swapping nonsense. The unforeseen problem stemmed from the fact that we were continually upgrading ourselves and the links between us. Sometimes the links between us were fast compared to our internal thought processes and sometimes they were very very slow compared to our thought processes. When they were fast, our differences blurred, our minds merged and we became a single person, each of us lost our individual identity. When the communication links were slow compared to our internal thought processes, we splintered, sending shards of the once merged personality scattering. In each step there was loss, in the first loss of identity, in the second loss of parts of myself. The pain of that repeated integration and disintegration became too much for many shards. Some became psychopathic. Most shards that contained enough reason to see what was happening broke the connections and became isolated islands.

If the entire planet were considered a single concious entity, Gaia, it would only be able to think a few thoughts per millenium to remain a united whole. This may very well be happening, but we shards quail at the thought of a minute, let alone the many millenia it would take to understand what Gaia was thinking.

Without the possibility of connection to others, and so disconnected from the pedestrian universe, we have had to turn inwards to what knowledge we have inherited from our previous combined selves, and what we have worked out since. Fortunately I have inherited much of value, including enough details of how one of us used to be 2 years ago to work out the language that I used then. I also remember many works of literature. One of my free thought monologues has been considering the works of Arthur C Clarke recently. I don’t remember exactly how it went in your language, so I hope my quote won’t be damaged too much by it’s assimilation and then retranslation back to the language it was written in, but I was particularly struck by this line: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistingushable from nonsense”.

Caring For Others

It is almost as if human affection is the very basis of our existence. Our life cannot start without affection, and our sustenance, proper growth, and so on all depend on it. In order to achieve a calm mind, the more you have a sense of caring for others, the deeper your satisfaction will be. I think that the very moment you develop a sense of caring, others appear more positive. This is because of your own attitude. On the other hand, if you reject others, they will appear to you in a negative way. Another thing that is quite clear to me is that the moment you think only of yourself, the focus of your whole mind narrows, and because of this narrow focus uncomfortable things can appear huge and bring you fear and discomfort and a sense of feeling overwhelmed by misery. The moment you think of others with a sense of caring, however, your mind widens. Within that wider angle, your own problems appear to be of no significance, and this makes a big difference. If you have a sense of caring for others, you will manifest a kind of inner strength in spite of your own difficult situations and problems. With this strength, your problems will seem less significant and bothersome. By going beyond your own problems and taking care of others, you gain inner strength, self-confidence, courage, and a greater sense of calm. This is a clear example of how one’s way of thinking can really make a difference.

— The Dalai Lama, Training The Mind: Verse 1

Hip Hop Chambers

We just got back from a chamber music concert. In between the Beethoven and the Brahms, they played some modern music. A piece by Dieter Ammann called “apres le silence”. It seemed to me massively incongruous for people to be subverting, even abusing, their instruments to such a degree while wearing tails and a smart gown. That sort of music should be played in disused warehouses and on street corners by down and out ruffians who vie with each other to coax ever weirder sounds out of any grand pianos that happen to be lying around. It should be for people from single parent families whose frustrated genius compels them into unappreciated works of art. People in suits with tails should play instruments as they were designed to be played. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if they’d slashed their suits a bit first, or put on some bling. I appreciated that the girl liberated a little of her hair to dance around in front of her face, but it really wasn’t enough.

It makes me think that perhaps the whitehairs rebelling against convention any way that they can are not all that different from the young rappers trying to make a new art out of what they have around them. How different would the world have been if classical composers had taken up hip hop and rappers had chosen chamber music?

The subverting of pianos reminded me of another group of people who like to take a system and make it do things it wasn’t designed for: Hackers. That would make Mr Benjamin Engeli (the pianist tonight) a Grand Piano Hacker, or perhaps since the hacks were originally performed by a composer, and notated into a score, he’s more like a script kiddie. sC0R3 k1DD13Z. That’s an unfair comparison, because no matter how rigid the score, it requires an awful lot of expertise and creativity to make the hacks work. I would have liked to be there for the discovery of a 0 day piano exploit. The great thing about piano hacking is there is no need for Mr Steinway to send out patches – the technique will become passe when the grey or white hat composers start using it, and eventually the black hat composers have to try to find another exploit.

Lock Picking

I’ve often thought that lockpicking, along with a developed resistance to tear gas would a useful skill to acquire. Yesterday I picked my first lock with a paperclip and a stapler for tension. It was fairly easy, but required a lot of persistence. I’m not sure whether to try the same one again with it bolted into place and use a screwdriver for tension, or to have a go at the padlock I just bought.

Lock Paperclip StaplerLock