JUSTIN HATHAWAY WAS used to ignoring
the targeted ads that popped up in his
Faciadio social network and email view-er, but he could not ignore one that suddenly appeared as he tangled with a
swarm of cyborg skull-drilling brain
parasites in Eternal Dimensions. He
paused the virtual reality game and read
the ad: “Do you want to join the Singularity? Merge with the immortal hive mind
and transcend the ordinary. Click now!”
He took off his VR headset and
looked around the living room where
cold pizza lay in a box on the coffee table. For years he had wracked his brain
to conceive some insanely great deep
machine-learning start-up idea that
would deliver him wealth and popularity, but it simply never came to mind.
Maybe the long-hyped Singularity really
was about to begin, and maybe he could
take some genius ideas from it to fulfill
his real destiny as a high-tech CEO.
Hoping to transcend such dim prospects, he put the VR headset back on …
The figure of a man with a convincingly realistic face appeared in the 3D
world, looking a little like Jeff Gold-blum in Jurassic Park, in black turtleneck sweater, sitting behind a desk
with a panoramic simulated window
view of San Francisco office towers and
Golden Gate Bridge over his shoulder.
He stood and strode around to the
front of the desk. The man looked like
the kind of CEO Justin wanted to be.
The 3D rendering of the office was likewise the most convincingly realistic virtual environment Justin had ever seen.
State of the art.
“Hello, Justin,” he said. “Thank you
for clicking. This conversation will be
recorded for quality purposes. So . . .
our data indicates you might be inter-
ested in joining the Singularity.”
“First tell me more,” said Justin. “Is
it real or just more hype from Kurz-
weil’s fanboys? What are the pros and
cons? What does it cost?”
“Good questions,” the man replied.
“I’m Basel, by the way. Before we pro-
ceed, I’d like you to read our Terms of
Service.” In front of Basel a long scroll
appeared, covered with closely spaced
text in a tiny font of swirling script, not
exactly designed for the human eye,
hovering weightlessly in mid-air.
Squinting, Justin read, “You must
agree not to divulge anything we tell you
in the next part of this exposition, under
penalty of total doxxing.”
“That can only be described as a
‘high-penalty’ non-disclosure agree-
ment,” Justin remarked. “What’s the
incentive for potential customers, like
me, to agree?”
“It’s our proprietary digital rights
management. We must protect our in-
tellectual property. A minor conces-
sion for our customers to make in ex-
change for the experience of a lifetime;
imagine cybernetic immortality.”
The idea of immortality appealed
to Justin, who, at 25, was in good
health despite taking practically no
exercise, while his parents were in
their mid-50s, spending loads of
money on doctors, already treating
the ailments of age. His grandfather
had died recently, and he thought
about him every day. The sooner I pre-
serve my mind, before it declines, the
better, Justin thought.
The scroll unspooled a tedious column
of tiny text he found taxing to his eyes.
“Okay, you don’t spell out your fees,
but I’ll take whatever you’re offering, as
long as it’s free. If I like it, maybe I’ll
pay to upgrade later.”
Basel waved a hand. “It’s all paid for
by ads. Just confirm by clicking again
that you agree.”
Hesitating a moment, Justin…clicked.
The wall behind Basel now disap-
peared to reveal an enormous server
farm, with rows of humming, blink-
ing processor racks in cabinets
stretching to the horizon. “This su-
percomputer array contains an active
image of you already. Megazon has
been assembling it over your life-
time from your shopping and pur-
chasing history, click trail, and so-
cial media behavior. For instance,
recall you [CONTINUED ON P. 103]
Welcome to the Singularity
Who can say no to the hive mind’s promise of cybernetic immortality, for free?
DOI: 10.1145/3176573 David Allen Batchelor
From the intersection of computational science and technological speculation,
with boundaries limited only by our ability to imagine what could be.