The technocrats, in order to help bolster their arguments that man is a machine, turn to the history of technological development and not only compare it to but say it is a part of Evolution. One such technocrat is Ray Kurzweil, inventor of the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, and the first music synthesizer to faithfully recreate several orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition software and recipient of the MIT-Lemelson Prize and the National Medal of Technology. In his book The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil argues that Evolution demonstrates a law of this particular universe “The law of accelerating returns,” that is, that lasting or meaningful patterns develop into better meaningful patterns at an exponential rate and that the end of Evolution is universal intelligence. He then place man as a key component of Evolution as being the first meaningful pattern that both recognizes and analyzes meaningful patterns. For Kurzweil, Man’s drive to develop technology arises from the evolutionary urge to develop better meaningful patterns and that Man, because he is hingepin upon which the rise of a better meaningful pattern, will eventually merge with that better pattern, just as single cell organisms merged to become multi-cellular organisms. This will happen since, according to Kurzweil, reality is purely composed of meaningful patterns of information.
This view of reality and man’s nature denies that man’s dignity comes from his moral and spiritual nature, but rather from the fact that each man is a meaningful, though flawed unique pattern information. Man is trapped in his biological limitations and must discover some way to allow his unique pattern to overcome those limitations. Looking at the power of computers in storing information, and the improving algorithms that allow computers to form meaningful patterns from that data, Kurzweil states that if man, as the highest product of biological evolution is to overcome his biologically imposed limitations and continue to evolve, then he must take on those powers of the computer. All claims of morality and spirituality are merely the manifestation of the evolutionary urge to seek greater intelligence, all desire for salvation is a desire to become a flawless meaningful pattern of information. thus, seeking to accomplish that evolutionary urge by freeing and perfecting man’s intelligence from the severe limitations of its biological form can be regarded as an essentially spiritual undertaking.
Kurzweil does not stop here. He then states that since evolution is inevitable, all attempts to stop the merging of man and machine will come to naught as those who have embraced this next phase of evolution will leave behind those who refuse to join. Man must seek this next step relentlessly, according to Kurzweil, for once the human pattern can be copied or stored, it will be possible to prevent each unique human pattern from ceasing to exist. Also, since the pattern of human consciousness would be understood, those limitations which cause suffering, disease, and death could be overcome. Any attempt to hold back this evolutionary step would result in the unnecessary continued suffering and death of millions of human beings.
This is the argument of the technocrats for man and his relation to technology. My next post will be concerning another side of the argument, the side held by Joseph Ratzinger who wants to maintain man’s dignity, seemingly in spite of the development of technology.