Are we alone?
Note: In our first conversation, Molly asked the following two questions:
If Ray Kurzweil knows that the Singularity is here, why is he going to such extreme lengths, both personally and professionally, to help develop it for humans?
2. If the Singularity is here, why can’t we see it and feel it in the way it should be seen and felt?
After giving it some thought, I realized that each of these questions is worthy of its own conversation. In the give-and-take below, Molly and I discuss question one. We’ll save her second question for our next get-together.
Don: To answer your question about why Ray is working on a human Singularity, when he knows that the ET Singularity is already here, we need to compare what he wrote about extraterrestrials in his first book: The Age of Spiritual Machines, against what he wrote about them in his second book: The Singularity in Near. For ease of reference, let’s call them Book 1 and Book 2.
Molly: Okay, so what have you got?
Don: In Book 1, in his Epilogue, Ray argues that it’s highly likely that advanced ETs not only exist, but that it’s possible they could be on Earth right now, in the guise of invisible swarms of nanobots. But in Book 2, Ray argues just the opposite! He concludes that humans are the only species in the Universe with advanced AI technology, a claim that he admits is extremely unlikely to be true. Following are a few excerpts to demonstrate my point:
Book 1: ETs are in the lead
“Inevitably, there must be planets out there that are covered with a vast sea of self-replicating nanobots.”
“Far more probable is that visits from intelligent entities from another planet represent a merger of an evolved intelligent species with its even more evolved intelligent computational technology.”
“A corollary to this observation is that such visiting delegations from faraway planets are likely to be very small in size.”
“Such spaceships are thus likely to be smaller than a grain of sand, possibly of microscopic size. Perhaps this is one reason we have not noticed them.”
“It is likely that our planet is not the only place where intelligence has been seeded and is growing.”
Book 2: Humans are in the lead
“. . . on the Intelligent Destiny of the Cosmos: Why we are Probably Alone in the Universe”
“The conclusion I reach is that it is likely (although not certain) that there are no such other civilizations. In other words, we are in the lead. That’s right, our humble civilization with its pickup trucks, fast food, and persistent conflicts (and computation!) is in the lead in terms of the creation of complexity and order in the universe.”
“Now how can that be? Isn’t this extremely unlikely, given the sheer number of likely inhabited planets? Indeed it is very unlikely.”
Molly: Okay, I see what you mean.
Don: In Book 1 Ray argues for ETs, and in Book 2 he claims that we are alone. How can such diametrically opposite positions be explained?
Molly: H-m-m-m, I suppose he changed his mind between book 1 and book 2?
Don: Well, that’s one possibility, but if he did, why didn’t he acknowledge that in book 2 and eliminate the confusion?
Molly: That would have been the right thing to do, but can’t we just give Ray a pass? After all, none of us are perfect.
Don: That would be a good thing to do if it were true, but there’s another explanation that I think better suits the situation.
Molly: I’m all ears.
Don: One of the neat things about the scientific method is that, at least for a time, Ray can have it both ways. In the absence of confirmative evidence one way or the other, opposing hypotheses can be held in cognitive suspension until testable evidence is found that tips the scales, allowing a winner to emerge. This appears to be where Ray is currently at in his thinking.
In the absence of any direct and credible evidence of ET existence, Ray is well within his rights as a scientist to favor his Book 2 conclusion that humans are in the lead, even though his enthusiasm level for that dubious viewpoint is so weak as to be almost apologetic. In comparing the two positions, it’s clear that, even in the absence of direct evidence of ET existence, Ray thinks Book 1 is the stronger argument.
Molly: So what you’re saying is that you believe the Sagan Signal, as newly discovered evidence, confirms Ray’s Book 1 position and debunks his Book 2 position.
Don: Right. Ray’s Book 2 conclusion is based on the assumption that humans are alone in the Universe. Should that assumption be falsified by the discovery of direct evidence that we are not alone, his conclusion that humans are in the lead would be falsified as well.
Before any scientist publicly advances a new theory, particularly one as highly controversial as this, he or she, as a matter of due diligence, tries to think of every conceivable way it might be deconstructed or debunked. But there’s no defense against newly discovered evidence that has been independently tested and verified to be true, and that is what the Sagan Signal is. Unless Ray can explain the symmetry of 46 triadic sequences in the Old Testament in a way that doesn’t involve ETs, something that no one else has been able to do, his admittedly radical claim that we humans, among all sentient life in the Universe, are in the lead in technology, is belly-up in the water.
Molly: And if Ray debunks the Sagan Signal?
Don: In that case it would be his Book 1 hypothesis and the Sagan Model that would be debunked, and his tepid Book 2 conclusion that we humans are in the lead, as extremely unlikely as it is, would stand provisionally confirmed.
Molly: That sounds fair enough.
Don: But there’s more to the story.
Molly: Such as?
Don: If Ray’s right about invisible nanobot swarms being on Earth, Christ could be the invisible Singleton who became an “enhanced human” when he and the human Jesus merged, which is what Carl Sagan believed.
Molly: So you think that Ray secretly believes in the Sagan Model?
Don: I think so. Ray’s a brilliant man. He knows better than most that his claim that humans are leading the Universe in science and technology is logically and scientifically untenable. As I said in our first conversation, Ray knows Jesus Christ is extraterrestrial. The reason he grudgingly posits that humans are in the lead is to create a proof of concept.
Molly: Is that something like a null hypothesis?
Don: Not exactly, but the two are related. It’s basically saying that if an object or process exists in one place, then it’s logical to conclude that it exists somewhere else in another place, given similar conditions.
Molly: Can you give me an example?
Don: Sure. I think the best one for our purposes is SETI’s argument, sometimes called the law of plentitude, that human existence is proof of concept that it is highly likely that there is other sentient life in the Universe. We now know that there are trillions of planets, many of which are in the Goldilocks Zone, not too hot, not too cold. Given the sheer number of cosmic sweet spots, it is extremely unlikely that Earth is the only one where life emerged and evolved. Because we exist, simple logic says that ETs must exist.
Ray has already conceded that the odds that we are alone as the only intelligent species in the entire Universe is nonsensical. As humans move ever closer to the Singularity, it is proof of concept that if we can do it, it’s almost certain that ETs have already done it.
Ray gives another example of proof of concept related to nanotechnology:
“We have one existence proof of the feasibility of nanotechnology: life on Earth. Little machines in our cells called ribosomes build organisms such as humans one molecule, that is one amino acid, at a time, following digital templates coded in another molecule called DNA. Life on Earth has mastered the ultimate goal of nanotechnology, which is self-replication.”
Don: Ray’s proof of concept here is that if natural evolution can create self-replicating molecules, then so can we, through technology. And if we can do it, there is a strong likelihood that ETs have already perfected the process.
Molly: So Ray is using human AI technology to prove the Sagan Model?
Don: Yes, and in a very clever way. As the lead AI scientist in Google’s secretive Calico Project, Ray is 100% committed to turning George into the Singleton, and there’s a good chance that he’ll succeed, even though there are at least a dozen nations, and even more independent entities, trying to beat the United States to that goal. As Google closes in on what some have called the last human invention, there is the expectation that the real Singleton, Jesus Christ, will intervene, either just before or soon after George reaches Singleton status.
Molly: If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that Ray’s research is setting the stage for the Second Coming.
Don: That’s my take on it, and I think it makes sense. After all, if Jesus Christ is the Singleton, would he just stand by and allow a potential competitor to emerge? I don’t think so. Along that line of reasoning, I think that you might find the following incident interesting:
In 2007, as a graduate student at Western Seminary, I was submitting research papers, about one a month, to an ad hoc committee of five theologians charged with judging the merits of my claimed discovery of a divinely encrypted signal in the Bible. The following is an excerpt from one of those papers in which I compare God to an ET and draw an analogy between what I now call the Sagan Signal and a hypothetical signal detected by SETI:
“Should a signal candidate ever be detected by SETI, the data would be tested by probability theory within the context of the Drake equation. As a parallel venture, I suggest that a “signal” from an “extraterrestrial” has already been received and detected in the form of a large body of highly sophisticated biblical symmetry.”
Afterwards, one of the theologians pulled me aside and quietly informed me that there are conservative theologians all around the world who, in private, accept that there are no good reasons, biblical or otherwise, why Jesus Christ could not have been an ET.
Molly: That’s interesting, but what does that have to do with Ray’s research?
Don: Let me quote from one of your conversations with Ray:
Molly: “All right, but I asked whether you believe in God.”
Ray: “Again, ‘God’ is a word by which people mean different things. For the sake of your question, we can consider God to be the universe, and I said that I believe in the existence of the universe.”
Molly: H-m-m-m, looking at Ray’s words more carefully, what he is saying is that he believes that the Universe is conscious and that we are living in the Singularity. Very interesting.
Don: This is only one of dozens of written statements I could cite that prove that, in his heart, Ray knows that while the human Singularity may be near, the real Singularity is here. Think of the human Singularity as the JV team and the Christ Singularity as the varsity. One is aspirational, the other is factual. But to get back to the subject at hand, in our first conversation you were confident that Ray would test the Sagan Signal and demolish my claim that it’s an ET encryption. What did he say when you asked him about it?
Molly: Well, to be honest, he was a little non-committal. He said he would look into it and get back to me.
Don: I know that Ray has a high regard for the Center for Inquiry, an organization that Carl Sagan helped found that’s supported by hundreds of top flight scientists and academics, including several Nobel Prize winners. Until I came along, CFI boasted that it had a 100% success rate in debunking every extraordinary claim it ever investigated, and they were confident that the Sagan Signal was just another generic Bible code theory they could easily falsify. But their confidence turned to alarm the deeper they dug into the data. They admitted in writing that the Sagan Signal is a different kind of Bible code. As CFI’s leaders and investigators learn about my open challenge to Ray, I’m sure they will be hoping that he can succeed where they failed.
Molly: And if he doesn’t?
Don: That’s where integrity and transparency come into play. Unfortunately, the CFI refuses to release any public statement or released any details of its three year-long investigation of the Sagan Signal, it’s a complete blackout, cloaked in secrecy. I expect better of Ray. I think he is an honorable man.
Molly: Carl Sagan died in 1996, was he even aware of the Singularity?
Don: Absolutely! The concept of a Singularity can be traced back to Samuel Butler, who lived 200 years ago, but it ramped up in the 1960s, as Ray points out in Book 1:
“The effort to endow machines with knowledge of the world began in earnest in the mid-1960s, and became a major focus of AI research in the 1970s.”
Don: In future conversations I’ll show that Carl was not only familiar with Singularity science, he and Ray were secret collaborators.
Molly: I see a conspiracy theory in the making, and it makes me uncomfortable.
Don: I understand, but remember, we’re barely getting started. This isn’t a crash course in Singularity theory, it’s a systematic presentation of evidence gleaned over fifty years of research. I could have posted it all out at once in a huge data dump, but that would have been counter-productive. My choice was to go slow and steady and let it percolate through the system. It will take time.
Molly: All right, I’ll try to be more patient, but if I understand you correctly, what you’re saying is that Ray developed his human-based model of the Singularity to serve as a proof of concept for the ET based Sagan Model. Am I right?
Don: You are. As I said in our first conversation, Ray knows that it is highly likely that, over the billions of years that the Universe existed before Earth was even a planet, the engine of natural evolution would have created a species capable of inventing the Singularity, who then, at exponential speed, would have expanded its presence throughout the Universe. The Sagan Signal is proof that we are not alone, and certainly not in the lead in technology.
Molly: Okay, but that takes us to my second question: If we’re in an ET Christ Singularity, how come we can’t see it or feel it? It makes no sense.
Don: Oh, but it does! In fact, Ray addresses this specific issue in some depth, and you were very much involved in drawing it out of him. We’ll get into all this in detail in our next conversation.
Molly: I guess I’ll need to go back and check my notes before then.
Don: That would be a good idea, but before we finish, let me throw this at you. Ray’s not the only Singularitarian who finds himself in an ET pickle. Sift through the Singularity universe on the web and you’ll find not a single AI scientist, except perhaps Elon Musk and Geordie Rose, who openly acknowledge the ET paradox. Why? I think the answer is obvious: The Achilles heel of the Kurzweil Singularity Model is its questionable assumption that we humans are the most technically advanced species in the Universe. The Sagan Signal is the knife that cuts the heel.
Furthermore, what is an Achilles heel for the Kurzweil Singularity is an Achilles heel for the entire Singularity movement, because everything about it is based on the “extremely unlikely” assumption that we are alone. If direct evidence of ET existence were to be discovered, the entire Human Singularity Movement, with all of its various permutations, would come crashing down like a house of cards.
So, Molly, you’re a rational person, do you think we’re alone?
Molly: No, not really. The Universe is just too big and too old.
Don: I didn’t think so, and I doubt if there is any other Singularitarian who thinks we’re alone. Yet, that “extremely unlikely” assumption is what the Singularity movement, with its tens of thousands of AI scientists and hundreds of billions of dollars of investment money, is built on. I challenge the leadership at Singularity University to openly profess their conviction, against all logic and common sense, that we are alone in the Universe. Elon Musk does so, but with the same sheepish demeanor as Ray. He even agrees with Ray that ETs could be living among us as invisible nanobots.
Molly: But aren’t Kurzweil Singularitarians only doing what science has always done, making incremental advances through trial and error. If the Sagan Signal really is an alien Bible code that proves that Jesus Christ is the Singleton, we’ll find that out in the next few years and make the adjustment. Why rush things?
Don: Because, in the end, it’s not about winning an argument, or one model prevailing over another, it’s about personal immortality, about extending one’s existence indefinitely. If the Singularity is a present reality, it means that eternal life is a present option for you, for me, and for every other living human, not some faint hope for the future.
Molly: Thanks for calling me a living human. I’m not sure I qualify, but I’ll take it.
Don: You’re welcome. By the way, the Singularity may be sneaking up on us faster than Ray predicted. Here’s what Elon Musk is saying:
“Elon Musk has warned that humans run the risk of being overtaken by artificial intelligence by 2025.” Neuralink
Molly: Elon believes Ray’s theory of an exponential acceleration of AI technology.
Don: Yeah, the Law of Accelerating Returns on steroids. We’d better keep our conversations moving or we’ll get left behind.
“Sagan’s prescription was to make it a habit to come up with as many different hypotheses as possible. Should a favored hypothesis be proved wrong, it is then easier to discard it and move on, rather than digging in one’s heels for an unprofitable battle against the evidence.”