I was talking with a friend over coffee last night. He’d just read an article in which the author posited that we are approaching a ‘singularity’ – a point in time where technology transforms the very nature of human life.
This isn’t a new idea. There have been conferences and papers and books written about this stuff for years. But the tie-ins with some of the Web 2.0 concepts of harnessing collective intelligence have led many Web developers to wonder if the Web will be where this singularity makes its debut.
Every day, people invent new ways to get things done on the Web. For my particular job, the biggest problem I have to solve is staying on top of the ever-rising tide of news, products and ideas swirling through the world of Web development. Were a technological singularity to come about, all that information would somehow be filtered and streamed directly into my consciousness.
Personally, I believe that what will hinder the arrival of a technological singularity will not be the speed of technological innovation, but the rate at which people are willing to adopt that technology. Many futurists predict humanity’s merging with computers at a biological level within the next fifty years. But how many of the children being born today do you believe will be willing to adopt technology that changes they way their brains work?
Cybernetic implants aside, the utopian future of effortlessly linked information promised by the Semantic Web and beginning to be delivered by Web 2.0 is certainly a singularity of sorts. But rather than a technological singularity, what I’m talking about is a singularity of information — ensuring anyone can find the information that interests them at any time from any place.
Now that’s a singularity I can get on board with. And as Web developers, we will be responsible for bringing it about.