The Singularity As The Ultimate Culture Jam

Growing up, and even until fairly recently, I viewed the world as little more than a spinning funeral procession. Morbid, yes. Borderline ridiculous, check. But also the truth. I regarded life on Earth as a cold accumulation of atoms in the void, where the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the machine grinds on. I’m at heart a pessimist who has forced himself to consider optimism as a more manageable world view.

This view of death wasn’t entirely negative. You see, I considered mortality to be a form of parity—a unique brand of universal justice.

Of course, the natural corollary to this is that I am doomed to die as well. And I’m not too proud to confess that the fear of death—or, more accurately, sheer horror over the prospect of Eternal Nothingness—has kept me awake many nights.

When I learned about the Singularity my entire worldview changed. Suddenly I discovered there were people out there—singularitarians—who not only reject the hypothesis of normal linear progression, they reject the hypothesis of death itself. The world is indeed a cold accumulation of atoms in the void, but we may be able to wake it up. We may be able to produce a culture jam on matter itself.

At this point you may be asking two questions. What is the Singularity? And what is a culture jam? 

The Singularity

The Singularity by Ken Vallario
The Singularity by Ken Vallario

A crisp definition of the technological Singularity is to say that it will be an explosion in intelligence that creates superhuman computational abilities that evolve exponentially. Humans are not necessary to this equation, although many futurists expect them to merge their intelligence with advanced machines and transcend their biological form.

We can expect a complete paradigm shift in the evolution of intelligence on Earth. Things we hold common and dear now, such as singular emotional expressions, discrete physical actions, and individual consciousness will be reconfigured into incomprehensibly efficient online systems that will interconnect disembodied, polymorphous identities.

I imagine most of our time will be spent in virtualized states of entrepreneurial rapture, competing to deploy versions of our identities to optimal coordinates of the Dyson Sphere in order to mine for raw matter that can be transformed into computronium (intelligent matter).

That’s right, I said computronium.

The Culture Jam

A culture jam is an action, expression, practice, or work of art that subverts mainstream cultural meanings or institutions. It is a popular form of civil disobedience among anti-consumerist groups and other social activists who attempt to re-appropriate cultural iconography and use it to critique mass culture.

A culture jam can be as simple as spraying graffiti over a corporate logo, or as complex as hacking into a database of classified files and disseminating them across the Internet. That said, a culture jam doesn’t have to be a criminal act at all. Poetry readings, public art installations, even unusual gestures and actions such as ‘planking’ can all be considered forms of culture jamming.

Occupy The Singularity

By creating an entirely new lexicon of ideas, memes, and modalities, the Singularity will be the ultimate culture jam, or, as the 60s Situationists group may have called it, an epic détournement. Everything will be turned around, rearranged, spliced and re-coded.

changing media

I like to think about how things like humor, intimacy, recreation, leisure, and consumption will be turned on their heads in a post-Singularity world. In a society in which matter can be reengineered at the molecular level, economic models involving supply and demand won’t make a lot of sense. In fact, currency itself will have to be completely re-imagined. Perhaps it will end up resembling a combination of the Economics 2.0 Charles Stross describes in Accelerando and the reputation currency Whuffie in Corey Doctorow’s Down and Out In The Magic Kingdom.

Many other things will be drastically different as well. For example, in a world in which human consciousness has been exponentially enhanced by advanced computation, traditional biological synergies like stress and emotional release will probably be rendered arbitrary, eliminating the need for comedy, love, drugs and even sex.

I personally can’t imagine sarcasm after the Singularity either, or rhetorical questions for that matter.

Life After the Singularity

But will life without sarcasm, drugs, sex and stress really be life? It’s hard to imagine that world. In that way, the coming of the Singularity could become a classic example of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Will the technological rapture be derailed by reactionary human ignorance? Life without sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll? Hell no!

Or will the Singularity really be the ultimate culture jam, subverting and re-appropriating everything we’ve ever known about life and consciousness?

The Society of the Singularity 

The Singularity will inherently entail a global culture jam as all current economies, world views, governments, social meanings, commercial values and cultural modalities are irrevocably liquidated or re-appropriated. This will open up a new world for marketers, capitalists, socialists, entrepreneurs, and culture jammers alike—a widespread proliferation of decentralized mobile power centers steered by millions of disembodied agents with the power to reengineer matter itself.

Culture jammers, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. if they’re advertising on the moon, we’ll have to jam the frequencies; if they’re mining us for data, we’ll have to feed them false data.

Of course, my bigger confusion, and fear, concerns the end of death as a form of parity. In a world in which humans can use biotechnology and nanotechnology to stave off death and merge with online entities, the Haves will have an even bigger hand over the Have-Nots: the ability to buy a way out of death itself. That is, unless the Singularity renders currency itself as meaningless. I guess it will be the most anxiety-filled game of wait-and-see in history.

Why anxiety-filled? The Singularity is the only thing that can stop or redirect the near-inevitable extinction of intelligent life on Earth. It is the only hope we have for ebbing the permanent erasure of consciousness from the fabric of the universe. Beyond that, it is our only hope for waking up physical matter out of its cold slumber and enlisting it in the creation of epic purpose in an otherwise meaningless quantum circus of atoms in the void.

The concept of ‘God’ was created by us for a reason: we must create Him, or we will die.

It’s All or Nothing.

Failing that, we’ll always have the dream of sexy robots.

About the Author: 

Jake Anderson is a writer/comedian/filmmaker living in San Diego, California. He is currently self-publishing an e-book of subversive science fictions stories about life after the Singularity. Check out his Over The Moon INDIEGOGO campaign and his blog or follow him on Twitter @OverTheMoonSF.

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