Ken Wilber Riffs On the Singularity

Here’s a video of Ken Wilber talking about the Singularity.

In this video Wilber talks about different levels of consciousness and how each level would interpret the Singularity differently. But the first step, of course, is get to know what the Singularity is. Ray Kurzweil laid out his vision in the book, The Singularity is Near.

From the perspective of psycho-social development, I think Kurzweil and Wilber would have more in common than differences. For example, in his own utopian vision, Wilber agrees with Kurzweil that “virtually all material wants will have been vanquished by nanotech.” When it comes to longevity, I think Wilber is in agreement with Kurzweil too. Wilber’s health condition is a case in point. He depends on a number of medication and supplements (as well as his practice of meditation) to counter the effects of RNase Enzyme Deficiency Disease.

As someone who is very interested in integral theory,
transhumanism, and technological singularity, I would love to watch a
conversation between Wilber and Kurzweil and see their points of
agreement, as well as disagreements. Wilber is excellent at mapping out
the interiors but when it comes to
mapping the exteriors of technology, Ray Kurzweil kicks butt.

Speaking of singularity and longevity, check out Aubrey de Grey on The Colbert Report. I love the part where Stephen Colbert made fun of de Grey’s beard. What’s up with that beard anyway?

Comments (15)

  1. siggi wrote::

    It is interesting that someone like Wilber did make some astonishingly mistakable references of the singularity in Boomeritis and has up to now (2007) only some partial understanding of the concept of the tech singularity (re singularity= Kurzweil). I did my first presentation about this topic in 1994. Vernon Vinge in 1991. It is a strange phenomenon that the spiritual avantgarde dont get whats going on on Terra in technological matters and has a so big lag in these realms.

    (Sorry about my english)

    Sunday, February 17, 2008 at 12:02 pm #
  2. ~C4Chaos wrote::

    hi siggi,

    thanks for your response. i’m interested to understand your critique of Wilber’s understanding of Singularity. can you point me to an article or essay online for reference?

    really curious ๐Ÿ™‚



    Monday, February 18, 2008 at 3:29 am #
  3. Stephen Rose wrote::

    Hmm. I viralled this video onto my blog because I thought Ken was not doing an integral hype as much as maybe describing a possible reality, but then everything lapsed into color characterizations that are at best speculative and at worst an effort to institutionalize integral thought. I wish we really did have integral thought but when you go the way of Wilber you cut out vast pieces of social, economic and most egregiously aesthetic design (pattern language) reality. I want to create integral settlements and all I get from Wilber is he has better Christians with him than the rest of us. I thionkit ws the press kit line that really got me.

    Monday, February 18, 2008 at 10:50 am #
  4. ~C4Chaos wrote::

    hi Stephen,

    allow me to link to your blog entry so we could establish more context of where you’re coming from.

    first of, i wouldn’t look at Wilber to understand Spiral Dynamics. the better way to approach SD is to learn from people who put the theory in practice.

    to use the phrase “integral racism” when talking about Spiral Dynamics is not only inaccurate but also very misleading.

    i suggest that you go beyond Wilber and not associate SD with him.

    here’s a more detailed explanation of Spiral Dynamics from someone who actually uses the model in practice.

    An Explanation of Spiral Dynamics Memes and Vmemes


    Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 4:20 am #
  5. siggi wrote::

    Uff. Now I have to get my rusty english out. I canยดt guarantee that I will say what I mean ๐Ÿ˜‰

    As I mentioned above, singularity isnยดt about Kurzweil. Thatยดs some sort of american press dynamic plus the PR-machine of Kurzweil. But who bursts: “Ray Kurzweil!” as Wilber in the first seconds of this clip has not done his homework ( a prefered reproach of Wilber in many of his works ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). Second, defining singularity as exponential progress is one – and not the best – definition and scenario of a “singularity”. Itยดs in a way a Kurzweillian way to talk about the future. A way which is masking many by-products of technological acceleration as inequality, transhuman ghettos of superrich, joblessness etc pp. But that is not really important because I think even Ken Wilber has only 24 hours a day to study something and his focus is limited.

    The main point which I mean to see and in discussion with Wilberants in Germany etc and reading Wilber since the 80ties is a very ambiguous and not very significant role of “technology” in the world view of spiritual people, Wilber-fans and Wilber himself. Maybe I am doing injustice here but at least thats my impression following this field of human endavour the last 20 years.

    The rest of the video Mr. Wilber is doing some fluff about this topic which shows me that he suspects that his rants about “singularity” and AI in Boomeritis was at least flippant. I would suspect in a few years he will be up to the speed in this regard. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    As he himself in One Taste mentioned from a discussion with a high Zen-Master there has been about 1000 enlightened human beenings in the whole history of Zen. Thatยดs really a big track record! If we and the survival of the human race depends on something with this track record we could forget it and go make our last party.

    At this point we could rise the condept of a singularity/AI/AGI to a moral imperative for the survival of the human race and all species on Terra. But I think I am preaching to the choir because I think you at least has done your homework ๐Ÿ˜‰ and read your daily dose of Anissimov, Yudkowsky and Vinge and the 50 other people whose names are not equal some Mr. Kurzweil ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 7:14 am #
  6. ~C4Chaos wrote::


    your English is far from rusty ๐Ÿ˜‰

    thanks for expounding on the singularity. yes, i agree, Kurzweil is only one voice (but nevertheless, the loudest voice) in the concept of singularity. and yeah, i also agree with you that Wilber has not fleshed out technological side of singularity. Wilber is more into interiors (i.e. psychological development) than exteriors. that’s why i compensate my own understanding by looking beyond Wilber when it comes to technology (and other topics that are not fleshed out so well by integral theory).

    for example, another interesting perspective i got from technological singularity is from a science fiction book called, Permutation City. it takes computing power to infinity and messes with our idea of reality ๐Ÿ˜‰


    Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 7:58 am #
  7. siggi wrote::

    Si, Permutation City. Another classical one: Blood Music, Greg Bear. And of course Stross, Accelerando.

    My main Point: If you really think “integral” you must come to the point that there does not exist something detached what is called “technology”. So to speak: Back to Teilhard de Chardin and accept that technology as we gave birth to it is perhaps the primary vector of evolution. The spiritual and biological evolution of mankind is to slow to solve all problems that we have caused.

    Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 9:27 am #
  8. ~C4Chaos wrote::

    “The spiritual and biological evolution of mankind is to slow to solve all problems that we have caused.”

    they also slow down the potential disaster scenario of unchecked progress of technology.

    all in good times ๐Ÿ˜‰


    Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 9:34 am #
  9. siggi wrote::

    “they also slow down the potential disaster scenario of unchecked progress of technology.”

    You mean to not see the eminent evolutionary and perhaps spiritual role of “technology” is imminent dangerous? Thats seeing it very fundamental and would call for radikal integration of technology in a “integral” worldview.

    Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 10:46 am #
  10. siggi wrote::

    Only to avoid misunderstandings: In above quote I misspelled “too”. The correct sentence must be:

    “The spiritual and biological evolution of mankind is >too< slow to solve all problems that we have caused."

    Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 10:50 am #
  11. ~C4Chaos wrote::

    “You mean to not see the eminent evolutionary and perhaps spiritual role of “technology” is imminent dangerous?”

    i mean that unchecked technological progress going much faster than our collective ethical and psycho-social development (whether you call that spiritual or otherwise) poses great danger for us as well as to other species and our environment (i.e. nuclear weapons, space weapons, rogue nanotech, genetics without bioethics, etc.)

    it’s like giving small boys destructive and dangerous toys ๐Ÿ˜‰


    Wednesday, February 20, 2008 at 6:17 am #
  12. siggi wrote::

    Any practical and realistic alternatives?

    Wednesday, February 20, 2008 at 6:59 am #
  13. ~C4Chaos wrote::

    i think barring global catastrophe, the singularity is inevitable whether our ethics or morality catches up or not. (but i’m optimistic about it).

    so aside from being the change i want to see in the world and doing my small share of spreading “ideas worth sharing”, i’m also crossing my fingers ๐Ÿ˜‰


    Wednesday, February 20, 2008 at 7:34 am #
  14. siggi wrote::

    My motto: Acceleration of the acceleration.

    Wednesday, February 20, 2008 at 8:08 am #
  15. Caroline wrote::

    I read Fantastic Voyage, The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Singularity is Near, and they changed my life. I even found some of his lectures on Itunes and I find myself impatiently awaiting his next book.

    Recently read another incredible book that I can’t recommend highly enough, especially to all of you who also love Ray Kurzweil’s work. The book is “”My Stroke of Insight”” by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. I had heard Dr Taylor’s talk on the TED dot com site and I have to say, it changed my world. It’s spreading virally all over the internet and the book is now a NYTimes Bestseller, so I’m not the only one, but it is the most amazing talk, and the most impactful book I’ve read in years. (Dr T also was named to Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and Oprah had her on her Soul Series last month and I hear they’re making a movie about her story so you may already have heard of her)
    If you haven’t heard Dr Taylor’s TEDTalk, that’s an absolute must. The book is more and deeper and better, but start with the video (it’s 18 minutes). Basically, her story is that she was a 37 yr old Harvard brain scientist who had a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. Because of her knowledge of how the brain works, and thanks to her amazingly loving and kind mother, she eventually fully recovered (and that part of the book detailing how she did it is inspirational).

    There’s a lot of learning and magic in the book, but the reason I so highly recommend My Stroke of Insight to this discussion, is because we have powerfully intelligent left brains that are rational, logical, sequential and grounded in detail and time, and then we have our kinesthetic right brains, where we experience intuition and peace and euphoria. Now that Kurzweil has got us taking all those vitamins and living our best “”Fantastic Voyage”” , the absolute necessity is that we read My Stroke of Insight and learn from Dr Taylor how to achieve balance between our right and left brains. Enjoy!

    Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 12:42 am #