Letter From New York 01 24 15 On the verge of singularity?

Night has fallen in Claverack, deep, dark night, the kind where you can see nothing outside your windows. Jazz plays in the background. It is chill but not as chill as it will be; tomorrow the temperature will plunge to 9 degrees and the lows will be that or lower for the rest of the week. Brrrr…

Waking this morning, I discovered four inches of fresh snow when only one had been predicted. It was beautiful though I waited to go out until the afternoon. I have a Prius, which is a lovely automobile but not great in snow. As I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, a wild turkey regally crossed in front of my window. The geese in the creek sailed majestically upstream, a flotilla of living beings, glorious in their beauty.

It’s been a quiet day. Waking early, I fixed coffee and snuggled down with the NY Times. Lazily, I got up and organized some things. Young Nick came and we sorted all the things that needed to go to the Transfer Station, the euphemistic term used in Columbia County for the dump. He shoveled my deck while the snowplow freed the driveway of snow. The orange County trucks plowed the streets. By noon, the world was back to normal.

Normal is a relative work, of course.

It looks like ISIS has beheaded one of the Japanese hostages. Gruesome.

Two planes were held in Atlanta after “credible” bomb threats.

Sarah Palin is considering a run for President while out in Iowa some are branding Chris Christie of New Jersey a flaming liberal. Ouch! Worst thing that a Republican candidate can be called!

In an interesting note today, Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google, said the Internet would disappear! Not really. It just will fade into the background because it will be so integral to our lives. And, yes, I think that’s true. In a few years, we won’t be thinking about the Internet because it will be the thread of our lives. Google has just invested a billion dollars in Elon Musk’s efforts to connect all the unconnected with satellite delivered Internet services.

We’re moving into a very interesting world.

Years ago, I read Dan Simmons’ Hyperion novels, a quartet of books that laid out a world not unlike the one we are moving toward. Prescient in many ways; a dark vision of AI taking over man and man striking back, interlinked with all kinds of religious threads. I’ve read them twice. Supposedly they were going to be a movie but I don’t think that’s happening.

I think Elon Musk, CEO of Space X, has just given some millions to prevent AI from achieving a takeover of men, as in The Terminator or the Hyperion novels.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t think I will be here when that happens, one way or the other. The actuarial tables indicate I won’t.

There are those who preach we are fast approaching The Singularity, the moment at which we create AI that is smarter than we are, when brains can be uploaded for a kind of immortality. Or when machines turn on us. Guestimates suggest that it will happen about 2040 and I am not sure I will last that long. Might be a good thing. I don’t want to be chased down the street by The Terminator when I am old.

We are, technologically, doing amazing things. We are transforming the world.

Yet tribal rivalries are causing huge cataclysms in our world. We advance but we regress. I get confused.

But we are humans, contradictory creatures that defy stereotypes, contradictory creatures that propel us dramatically toward a technological future we can barely imagine while at the same time some are desperate to draw us back into a barren past.

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