Party Like It's 2049
Never mind the 40th Anniversary of the Summer of Love. The spirit of dropping out on the Protestant work ethic and groovin' with the flow popped up in the unlikeliest of places – the 2nd Annual Singularity Summit, officially titled Singularity Summit 2007.
On September 8-9, many of the world's greatest uber-geeks came together to contemplate that singular singularity – you know, the original one-and-only singularity that put the word in circulation back in the 1980s. For those who may be out of the techno-loop, in a 1983 Omni magazine article, SF writer Vernor Vinge predicted that we would make machines that were smarter than us, and when that happened, everything would change in ways that would be strange beyond our capacity for imagining. (Whether Vinge's capacity for imagining had ever been amplified by di-methyl triptamine remains unknown to this author.)
The Summit, I am please to report, was kind of fun. There was a playful spirit about, maybe thanks to the largesse of immortality-seeking billionaire benefactor Peter Thiel, who threw a party in his Pacific Heights home to kick things off. You don't usually see so many pretty people at a geek party. Were they hoping to meet a brainy, non-biological companion or did their presence have something to do with that whole billionaire thing?
It didn't matter. Good energy spilled over into the hall all weekend, despite the singular, bitter eco-anarchist who muttered anti-semitic imprecations at my wife. A disquisition on whether the Singularitarians are right or wrong; whether The Singularity they predict is good or bad; and whether or not I want to wait on line when Steve Jobs popularizes it in the form of a handheld entertainment device is best left for another time. As an event, I give Singularity Summit 2007 a qualified thumbs-up. Sure, this culture could loosen its tie a bit more and maybe get itself a good stiff drink – ayahuasca with a twist of lime -- but on the whole, it seems to be getting a whole lot less brittle and mechanical than outsiders might suspect. This may be best reflected by the enthusiastic response futurist Paul Saffo received when he read Richard Brautigan's famous piece of hippie poetry, written just after the Summer of Love, "The Machines of Loving Grace." By the way, Saffo noted that Brautigan's poem was "open source." Although Brautigan wouldn't have used that phrase, in his original publication, he gave permission for anybody to copy and distribute the poem as long as they didn't charge any money for it. In that spirit, here it is:
I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers live together in mutually
like pure water touching clear sky.
I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest filled with pines and electronics where deer stroll peacefully past computers as if they were flowers with spinning
I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology where we are free of our labors and joined back to nature, returned to our mammal brothers and sisters, and all
watched over by machines of loving grace.Tweet