FROM CELL TO SINGULARITY
MONOLOGUE WRITTEN BY CLYDE LEWIS
In the beginning, over 4.5 billion years ago, there was no life in the Solar System. And then, almost in the blink of an eye on the geologic time scale, everything changed. Deep in the primordial soup on Earth laid the organic compounds that would give rise to life’s humble origins.
As we look at modern physics, we have found that everything we thought of as the physical world has been proven to be mostly empty space. It is all a bunch of solids, liquids, and gasses.
There is also a huge collection of atoms and molecules moving differently. If we were to look at the universe as the creation of a type of singularity we would then have to believe that an advanced mind was able to arrange all of the scattered information and give it organization. The result is an arrangement of information that represents the atoms and the molecules and every little detail that science still has to discover.
Science could not possibly know everything there is to know about how we came to be and how we are to become.
Einstein’s theory of relativity found that that only true constant in physics is light. Light is special, though no one knows why. In fact, you might say that light is the only true “fundamental” in physics. We haven’t been able to figure out why.
In the Bible, we learn that God or whatever advanced beings were involved with creation needed light in order to create all things.
All light was the result of electromagnetic activity – a cosmic switch that was activated in order for the process to begin. If the electromagnetic theory holds validity then we can say that the “spirit” of God moved throughout creation.
Today, scientists have tried to harness the power of creation on a grand scale. They are either slamming particles together to recreate the big bang – or they are creating simulated worlds in computers.
These simulated worlds can be populated with characters of the programmer’s own creation. Within computer simulations, light is crucial. Computer graphics consist of pixels based on information — these pixels are “rendered” into the physical world that exists inside the computer.
It is quite interesting that as man has created a universe in the computer, he has become godlike in a sense—because God created us from simple cells or bits of information and these bits of information have grown into thinking beings that are about to leap into what can be called, singularity.
Scientists are now rethinking their positions about consciousness and many are finding God again even though it has been the practice to steer away from anything that would be considered godlike.
This may partly have sprung initially from not wanting to share the fate of scientists like Galileo whose research was suppressed by a dominant Catholic Church.
Religious ideas take on a whole new meaning when viewed through the lens of science.
We see that angels and demons become aliens, chariots of fire, the merkaba and wheels within wheels become space ships and ascension can be compared to being lifted to the heavens to have communication with advanced beings that some people claim are extraterrestrial gods that have been responsible for the advanced architecture of past civilizations.
This is not some grand deception, it is just a modern reimaging of what God may be and that our whole existence is a wonderful simulation.
Sir Isaac Newton discovered the spectrum of light as well as the laws of motion, gravity, and cooling; and also invented the reflecting telescope and jointly inventing calculus.
However, he wrote more about the Bible than science and was a creationist. He contended that classical physics is at best just a model to explain how God upholds His creation.
Newton’s laws explain how the world works in the physical realm in which we live. From the orbits of planets to measuring force, mass and acceleration Newton’s laws explain it all.
Then, along came Albert Einstein to upset the physics apple cart with his general theory of relativity. The general theory explains how gravity curves space as illustrated by the bending of light photons as they pass near a massive star.
When his theory was actually verified experimentally it became obvious to many physicists that Newton’s Laws simply didn’t work on the macro level—like the size of the universe. For example, scientists must factor in general relativity in plotting satellite orbits if they have any intention actually putting an object in the proper orbit.
If they were to depend on Newton, they would miss the proper orbit every time. Newton’s laws are now known to be simply approximations on every level.
On the other hand, Quantum Mechanics explains the behaviors of atoms on the micro level. Newton’s laws don’t work on this level either. The energy of an atom was found to change only by a discrete quantity named a “quantum”. In other words, you can’t have half of a quantum. They either come whole or not at all.
It should be obvious by now that the implications of quantum demand an encounter with human consciousness. Eugene Wigner declared: “It is not possible to formulate the laws of Quantum Mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness.
Again, science needs to find its place with consciousness –because with it comes the answers that are buried deep in the mind of God.
Despite continued research in the neurosciences, the complexity of the human brain is far from being understood. Could a genomic approach prove beneficial in unlocking the secrets of consciousness?
If the search for the soul and the meaning of consciousness remain as tough as ever, the neurosciences and the molecular neuroscientists have not stood idle. With real-time dynamic imaging systems and with the help of exquisitely specific monoclonal antibodies, brain function, dysfunction, and degeneration have been and continue to be probed in great detail.
It is hoped that such investigations will lead to tools for early diagnosis and effective interventions to slow or arrest disease progression – even if they do not lead us any closer to the soul. Optimists even suggest that perhaps cures of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases might be possible.
Over recent weeks, headlines in the popular press have highlighted the generation of useful model cellular culture systems for laboratory investigations of brain function. While the hype has referred to these aggregates of neurons as ‘brains-in-a dish’ or ‘mini-brains – we are still very far from being able to create systems that mimic brain function, but there is an objective to all of this that is hardly spoken of and that is the “organic singularity.”
Many of us have heard of the “Technological Singularity” predicted by Ray Kurzweil — the hypothetical future emergence of greater-than-human-intelligence based on computer systems. Kurzweil looked at the famous “Moore’s Law,” which predicts the ever-increasing power of computers based on ever-increasing chip density, and concluded such power inevitably would exceed that of the human brain.
Kurzweil, relied on a straightforward projection of improvements in computing and software technology and didn’t envision any radical transformation in computing techniques themselves.
While others have argued that Kurzweil understated the technical challenges, especially regarding the software needed to replicate human cognition—even today we see systems and networks of systems that far exceed the communications powers of any single human being. Google is one example, not to mention the Internet itself. Although these systems don’t fulfill Kurzweil’s prediction, they certainly do demonstrate that many human intellectual abilities can be exceeded through technical means.
We have discussed in the past that in order for us to preserve any type of cognitive spirit units able to activate a computer that exceeds our process of cognition we would have to replicate the 86 billion neurons that our nervous system sends to the brain, and each of these neurons contacts an average of 10,000 other neurons, representing a grand total of approximately 860 billion connections.
This is why Kurzweil has said that this may take another 30 years to accomplish the task of transference of intelligence within systems both organic and non organic.
If you consider just the number of neurons, we would reach a figure in the zetta domain (for your information, the order is kilo, mega, giga, tera, peta, exa and zetta, multiplying by 1,000 at each step.
The emergence of greater-than-human-intelligence computers is a foregone conclusion, notwithstanding the fact that at this point we don’t understand what intelligence really entails, how the brain actually performs many functions, or if a software analogue of neural processing is possible.
Alan Turing, a noted mathematical theorist, contended that an “intelligent” computer only needed to provide human-mimicking responses that didn’t actually have to be correct. Turing is the man who is well known for the famous Turing Test.
It is the test that was used in the movie “Blade Runner” to trip up the cyborg replicants that needed to be terminated.
We now assume that Kurzweil’s Technological Singularity is inevitable.
The conclusion that a greater-than-human silicon-based intelligence will occur, however, does not preclude other developments that may occur before that.
In the past, we’ve seen favored technologies outpaced by newer technologies. However, there needs to be a consideration of the possibility that an organic-based singularity can happen far sooner than any technological one.
The question is, are we ready to create organic beings that would mimic gods? A team at George Church’s Harvard lab wants to redesign species with large-scale DNA changes.
Since its invention, CRISPR has let scientists introduce DNA changes at specific locations in a genome. Often these precise changes are made one at a time. A team at Harvard University says it has used the technique to make 13,200 genetic alterations to a single cell, a record for the gene-editing technology. The group, led by gene technologist George Church, wants to rewrite genomes at a far larger scale than has currently been possible, something it says could ultimately lead to the “radical redesign” of species—even humans.
According to their paper, posted in March to the preprint website BioRxiv, the team was able to make over 13,000 changes at once in some cells without destroying them.
With that in mind, it’s long overdue for us to consider how quickly we might achieve an “Organic Singularity,” a synthetic biological structure or creature that is more intelligent than a human being. There have been a few occasions in science fiction films where we have seen how this can be accomplished.
One such film is the academy award winning film “Charly,” a film based on the story “Flowers for Algernon.” When I was in High School, the book Flowers for Algernon was pulled from the shelves of our library and we were told it was not an acceptable book because of some of the sexual themes that were in it. As an act of rebellion against the school district, I organized a performance of it as a school play. I cast myself in the role of Dr. Strauss. The teacher approved of the performance. He was later fired.
Charly is a tragic story of what happens when we increase the intelligence of both animals and humans. Algernon is a laboratory mouse who has undergone surgery to increase his intelligence. Charlie Gordon is a character in the story that has an I.Q. of 68 who volunteers to go through the same procedure to help him increase his I.Q.
The operation is a success, and within the next three months, Charlie’s IQ reaches 185. However, as his intelligence, education, and understanding of the world increase, his relationships with people deteriorate. His co-workers at the small job he has at a bakery, who used to amuse themselves at his expense, now fear and resent his increased intelligence and persuade his boss to fire him. It is also eveident that the Doctor’s who oversaw the operation were treating him like a laboratory rat and not a human being.
The tragedy is that he regresses to his former self but can remember when he was a genius.
Another film that takes this story into a more technical mixing of intelligence and computers is “Lawnmower Man” a horror story written by Stephen King. Once again we see that a scientist can enhance the intelligence of chimpanzees using drugs and virtual reality.
Dr. Lawrence Angelo wishes to find a human subject that he can use to enhance their mental capabilities. He finds a greens keeper name Jobe Smith that has a developmental disorder. Learning more about Jobe, Angelo persuades him to participate in his experiments, letting him know it will make him smarter. Jobe agrees and begins the program. Dr. Angelo makes it a point to redesign all the intelligence-boosting treatments without the “aggression factors” used in the chimpanzee experiments.
Jobe soon becomes smarter, for example, learning Latin in only two hours. Meanwhile, Jobe also begins a sexual relationship with a young rich widow, Marnie. However, Jobe begins to display telepathic abilities and has hallucinations. He continues training at the lab until an accident makes Dr. Angelo shut the program down.
In a new series of experiments Jobe’s powers continue to grow, but the treatments are also affecting his mental stability, and he decides to exact revenge on those who abused him when he was “dumb”:
Jobe believes his final stage of evolution is to become “pure energy” in the labs VSI computer mainframe in a peculiar form of “singularity” and from there reach into all the systems of the world. He promises his “birth” will be signaled by every telephone on the planet ringing simultaneously.
In the film, Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansen, a drug that is meant to enhance intelligence is released into the bloodstream of a drug mule named Lucy. Lucy becomes super intelligent. As a result, she begins acquiring increasingly enhanced physical and mental capabilities, such as telepathy, telekinesis, mental time travel, and the ability not to feel pain. Her personality also changes into a more ruthless and emotionless one.
It is amazing to watch the evolution of Lucy throughout the film – eventually like the Lawnmower Man, she becomes pure energy and becomes part of the electronic systems of the world – she shows up in a cell phone saying “I am everywhere” indicating that she has become part of a “singularity” becoming pure energy or a being of light.
We realize in the film that we were all beings of light at one time, at the time of the “big bang.”
As with the discovery and commercialization of recombinant human growth hormone, it’s not unreasonable to assume we could gain control over various neurological growth control mechanisms in the near term. Moreover, these growth controls could be augmented with mechanical controls. We might couple the use of a neurological growth factor with the removal of a section of the cranium to permit an expansion of the cortex. Even though vast gaps might remain in our understanding of how the cortex actually encodes information and processes stimuli, the innate plasticity of neural functions could enable an enlarged cortex to function in a coherent manner.
Of course, the ethical implications are staggering, not to mention the scientific, commercial, or political implications. Even if we assume that any experiments that increase genetic and neurological capabilities are performed on animal rather than human subjects, we’d still be on a slippery slope. How do deal with a German shepherd whose intelligence has been enhanced by 25 percent? Can you imagine a chimpanzee that learns to speak and teach a class in physics? Doesn’t the dividing line between human beings and other creatures become irremediably blurred?
Many people may have read “The Island of Dr. Moreau” and if you haven’t read the book, it has been interpreted at least 6 times in the movie theater. While the story focuses on human-animal experimentation, he also had views on what can only be described as forbidden experiments in creating a “plastic” controllable human being or animal.
H.G. Wells presented many of his ideas in the essay “The Limits of Individual Plasticity” and, eventually, the ideas were also found in the book, “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” where through vivisection that mad doctor was able to conduct experiments where animals were genetically altered to resemble humans. The unfortunate thing is the animals no matter how human they looked, still returned back to their beastly nature.
Genetic tinkering and the science of genetic enhancement is now common and the guardians of morality are concerned about the science. American’s understanding of what is happening is limited to the notion of man playing God and the consequences that come from horror stories that have not only been written as fiction but have become a reality with the memory of Nazi sciences conducted by the likes of Josef Mengele.
The temptation to engage in such research is compelling; the threat that another nation or commercial interest would beat us in an “intelligence race” may be considered as dangerous as the threat of the nuclear arms race. Kurzweil recognized that once a computer was developed that was smarter than a human being; it could be employed to create ever-smarter machines. The same result can occur with organic brains of both animals and humans, which may then improve upon themselves at an even faster rate.
We must be sure that the ramifications of an Organic Singularity are understood before it occurs, and there is a beneficial way it can be introduced to society if we make that choice.