In Silicon Valley, there’s no overstating the redemptive potential of technology. Tech can make us happier, wealthier, healthier and luckier. It’s almost like a religion. It should come as no surprise, then, that this religion has its own rapture: the rapture of the geeks known as the singularity. According to this belief system, faster and better machines (a central tenet is Moore’s law) will beget faster, better machines at an exponential rate, and eventually, the machines will become so powerful that they rival human intelligence. Although there are variations, most people who subscribe to the notion of the singularity believe that when it comes, we will upload our consciousness into a computer and live forever. It will be the death of death.
The chief evangelist of this vision is futurist Ray Kurzweil. Kurzweil has serious credentials. He invented the text-to-speech synthesiser, among many other devices. The White House selected him to receive a National Medal of Technology, the highest technology honour in the US. He is in the US Patent Office’s National Inventors Hall of Fame.
He is also famous for consuming up to 150 vitamin pills a day to slow his body’s ageing, so that he will be around to witness the singularity.
The Singularity is Near is a hybrid of documentary and drama, co-directed by Kurzweil, that tries to explain the why and how of its title. Kurzweil’s alter ego, an animated character called Ramona, illustrates the evolutionary arc of thinking machines. She starts out as a primitive, choppy animation but gradually acquires consciousness.