The singularity is an expression coined by mathematician John Von Neuman in 1958 describing the “ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life”. Ray Kurzweil believes this means that artificial intelligence (AI) of computers will reach a point that the human mind and personality can be programmed completely within it to such a point that a person can have immortality living within a machine. The Borg of Star Trek the Next Generation fantasized this to such a point that people lost their individuality as they became part of the collective consciousness of the Borg machinery.
As I understand Kursweil’s dream, he wants to translate his mind and life into a computer program that would then allow him to live forever in a machine. I am trying to understand this both from a secular point of view and a Christian point of view. From a secular point of view the physics law of entropy is ignored. Everything is in a state of decay. Machines rust out and break down all the time. This dream of his presumes on a perpetual ability to repair and maintain the machinery of his Borg existence.
From a Christian point of view it ignores the human spirit. It assumes that life is in the mind, which is considered a part of the soul. The soul is a creation of the human spirit combining with the organic body (Gen. 2:7). Without the breath of God which is the substance of our human spirit, there is no soul nor a mind. If the mind could successfully be translated into a computer program, it still would not have a life, it would still be just a machine, and the person who died would still be in hell if they did not have the new birth.
But the concept has a fascinating theological ramification, of which I intend to explore in this post.
The first time I took a computer class it was called Computer Information Systems back in 1995 at a local community college. In that class they taught me a computer programming language called. “Basic”. I could not understand how it worked. I wanted to know how those positive and negative charges called, “machine language” (also called zeros and ones) were able to do all that a computer can do. It was only last year that it dawned on me why it worked. It works because of our minds. It works because of the mind of God.
All creation is an expression of the divine mind, including us. Our DNA is a code from the mind of God that defines who we are. As mankind has discovered and understood the laws of creation, he has viewed and comprehended the expression of the mind of God. Likewise, as the laws of electricity were discovered, the mind of man was able to manipulate those laws to apply it to various applications, the computer being just one. Those positive and negative charges (from the mind of God) had been ascribed zeros and ones (from the mind of man).
Jesus made a statement that gives insight to this process.
It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63)
His words are spirit and life. What are words? Merely sounds with agreed upon meaning ascribed to the sounds. The sound is the form but the meaning is the essence of the communication. Morse code is meaningless to those who do not know the agreed meaning ascribed to the dots and dashes. Machine language, or binary code, is similar to Morse code. It only works because the programmers agree upon the combination of negative and positive charges. In regards to Jesus statement, his words are spirit and life because they express the mind and life of God himself.
C.S.Lewis saw the monstrosity of the singularity back in the 1940’s when he wrote his final book in the Perelandra Trilogy, “That Hideous Strength.” In these 3 Christian sci-fi fantasies, Ransom the philologist (modeled on JRR Tolkien) is first sent to Mars (Out of the Silent Planet) pursued by an agent of Satan named Weston. In the second book, Perelandra, he is sent to Venus where a new Adam and Eve are temped by Weston, and Ransom is their defender. The final book remains on Earth on the university campus where the now dead Weston is merely a head being kept “alive” through machinery so that faculty can follow his orders. In a chilling moment of fiction, the wires are broken off the head and the head keeps on talking. The machine did not animate the head, rather, Satan spoke through the head.
Man may be able to translate the thoughts of a human into a computer program, but that human will still be dead. If Kursweil succeeds in having his personality programmed into a robot, his spirit will still go to Hell, and the robot will no more be alive than Weston’s head. However, Satan is looking for a body to inhabit and this brings us to the Book of Revelation.
Rev 13:3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.
Rev 13:4 And they worshiped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshiped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?
Rev 13:14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
Rev 13:15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
This makes for very interesting speculation. What if the “image of the beast” is a robot with the personality and image of the Anti-christ whose life comes directly from Satan?
The Bible says that everything begets after its own kind. There is no hope of immortality without Immortality begetting the life. This is the Gospel. The Eternal life became the man Jesus as the express image (Heb 1:3) of the Eternal life bearing that life within himself. And because Immortality dwelt in Jesus, He is able to beget immortality in others. The people chasing the Singularity are chasing the wind and will come up empty handed. Jesus Christ is the only guarantee of immortality.