Our Post-Human Future: David Simpson at TEDxSantoDomingo (Transcript)

Full transcript of novelist David Simpson’s talk titled “Our Post-Human Future” at TEDxSantoDomingo conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


David Simpson: Hello. Are you guys ready to hear about the craziest subject that you have ever heard about?

Audience: Yeah.

David Simpson: Yeah? I’m ready to tell you about it. They say that you don’t really choose your passions; your passions choose you.

And when I was a 27-year-old graduate student at the University of British Columbia, my passion chose me big-time. And it was because I heard about the topic – the topic I’m going to be telling you guys about today – and it just changed me forever. This is how much it’s changed me; it changed me so much that since then, I’ve actually written six books on the subject, I’ve directed a short film on the subject, I’m doing this TEDx on this subject, I’m adapting a graphic novel on this subject.

And I’m just going to keep writing about it and talking about it because once you learn about it, it will change your view of the world so much, so profoundly, you can’t unlearn what you’re going to learn today. Isn’t that exciting?

Audience: Yeah.

David Simpson: You can’t unlearn this. It will change the way you think about the future; it will change the way you think about humanity; it’ll change the way you think about fabric of the universe. It’s really amazing, and that topic is ‘the technological singularity.’

Okay, so, for anybody who hasn’t heard about the term before, some of you might be a little bit familiar, I’ll take a stab at trying to describe what it is. A lot of people have talked about it but basically what it is, is pretty simple, really, is that within about the next 15 years, the human species is actually going to develop superhuman level machine intelligence.

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Now, I’m in the camp that believes this is actually true; and some of the wealthiest tech billionaires in the world are also in that camp, some of the most famous scientists are also in that camp. Now, once that’s happened, that’s going to really change the fabric of what it means to be human. I want to give you an example.

If we were to use, say Albert Einstein, as our litmus test. If Albert Einstein were our guru for smartest person who ever lived, think about the impact that Albert Einstein’s intelligence had on humanity. He was able to undo 200 years of Newtonian physics. How incredible is that. He was able to figure out black holes; he was able to figure out the time was relative; he was able to change our view of the universe itself.

Now, what if we had access to a superhuman level intelligence that was just Einstein plus 50 percent, or what if we had access to Einstein times 2 or Einstein times 10? And the truth is that you really would not be able to comprehend it; you wouldn’t be able to comprehend it unless somehow your own intelligence was actually amplified as well.

And the amazing thing is, this is coming soon. So says the man who coined the term, Vernor Vinge. Now, Vernor Vinge was a math professor; I say was, he’s still alive, he’s just retired. And he was a computer science and mathematics professor, but he’s also a damn good science fiction novelist. And he wrote a paper back in 1993, and it’s important to do the math on this actually; this 1993, it’s 22 years ago, and the paper was called ‘The coming technological singularity: how to survive the post-human era.”

Now, I’m going to sort of paraphrase what his abstract was, but it was pretty blunt. And it was within the next thirty years, we will have achieved superhuman level machine intelligence, shortly thereafter, the human era will have ended.

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