The Singularity is a New Renaissance

“The Singularity started in the 80’s and is now streaming live to your neighborhood!  Take a deep breath and enjoy the ride!” – Steamwonk

We’ve entered a New Renaissance–Why believe we’ve entered a New Renaissance at this time? What led to the Medieval Renaissance? Other than technology itself, there is little to distinguish us from our Medieval brethren as they faced their new age. The Crusades brought diverse concepts and cultures in direct conflict with one another. Access to the far east was bringing new goods, technology, and ideas. It must have been hard for individuals to adapt and absorb all the new information. Fear and resistance to the changing ideas was assuredly common. Any threat to the status quo was a threat to those with power, position, and money. Those human characteristics have not changed.

Those same forces will, and are now, attempting to slow the pace of innovation. But too late, Schrödinger’s cat is out of the box–and he’s feelin’ frisky!

Our Technological Renaissance, our Singularity, which is sometimes called the Vinge Singularity, is the result of three factors which we share with our medieval brethren:

  1. A pool of educated scientists and scholars(data density). Then it was wealthy nobles patronizing artists and alchemists whose communications with colleagues were painfully slow. Now it’s a huge, world-wide, educated populace with rapid access to data, and the analyses and communication tools to take advantage of that access.
  2. Increased speed of communication(data velocity). In those times it was the printing press. In the mid 1980’s we created the internet.
  3. Spreading of new ideas (data acceleration). In medieval times it was soldiers returning to Europe from the Crusades with new ideas. Today we have social media and open sources for data and information. In 2004, Facebook and Open Knowledge ( were launched, in2006, LinkedIn. Open data, open knowledge, open research, and online publications from all scientific fields are an internet connection away. Today free data, free software, free training, and low-cost internet are widely accessible.[Ian Graber-Stiehl wrote a nice piece a couple of years ago in the Verge discussing the provenance of open access research and copyright issues(offsite link):

Data density and flow rates have exploded over the past three decades. Just as the printing press and new knowledge from the East fueled the Medieval Renaissance, internet and social connectivity tools are doing the same for this New Renaissance, and at a much faster pace. We have seen computing and data transform our civilizations, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The hidden behemoths of change are physics and material science. Where we saw the internet and smartphones pave the way, with computer programming blossoming in their wake–now we will see physics and material science use 3D printing and distributed design and manufacturing to fuel explosive growth. And sooner than we might have imagined.

It’s easy to see the link between the printing press and the internet in creating a new renaissance. The ability to access significantly new and more detailed information rapidly, easily and cheaply is incredibly favorable for rapid technical advance. But whereas the printing press came into gradual use over more than one generation, the internet sprang onto the stage in less than a generation, connecting almost everyone on the planet. Where the first renaissance brought people some new ideas and what seemed to them rapid change, this time the information is a flood and the change will be over the span of two generations, not 100’s of years.

Faced with change this rapid can we adapt? If so, how do we adapt? For most of us, getting on with our lives is about making a living and raising our children by having a job. But we’re told at every turn that the old jobs are going away, and many of us have already had to cope with that first hand, watching jobs move overseas or disappearing as technology we’ve known and relied on becomes obsolete. Do we fight the factory moves–telling our politicians to bring back the obsolescent manufacturing jobs? Do we just accept what some futurists tell us? That the new jobs will be in service, food, IT and health?

We don’t believe it! Science and engineering are our future, and our future is now. Get your surfboards!

A renaissance is a time of rapid change and disruption, and thus a time of fear and discord–but also a time of incredible opportunity! Technology, sociology, physics, medicine–all the disciplines experience an explosion of new concepts. As a result, manufacturing changes, education changes, business models change, governments change. In fact–EVERYTHING changes

The Chinese curse, “May your children live in interesting times”, is now true for us all. It can be a blessing, and the future may find the technological advances of the Singularity even more “interesting” than the battles and wars of the past.

But we will not escape such conflicts, and the edge will go, as it always has, to the most technologically advanced. By preparing ourselves, we prepare our country. In this New Renaissance, an artisan-driven age of creation and manufacturing is upon us. Niche and distributed manufacturing and independent foundries will cover the world. Supported by 3D printing and computer aided drafting, individual entrepreneurs will be able to dominate a new world of design, creation, manufacturing and distribution. New materials will support new functionality. Smart materials like Shape Memory Alloys(SMAs) will replace the complex motors and actuators we use today. Printed products will allow dentistry, medicine, construction and all the other traditional jobs to blossom and expand in ways that empower individuals and small businesses. Modular AI will support individualized agendas for research and development. Cloud sourcing and cooperation will permit high level research by individuals and small groups. In our lifetimes, the path from concept to prototype will have evolved from a long and tortuous trial and error methodology (ex. Thomas Edison and the light bulb), to a mind boggling few days.

Our new world can be focused on the individual and family. Individual consumers buying unique products, created and manufactured by other individuals and families. A world centered on individuals : security, artificial intelligence, drones, medical science. A guy on your street (maybe you) will be able to manufacture anything wanted with the 3d printers and newest tools in his garage. You can create, design and manufacture products in your home and ship them anywhere in the world to customers you find online, from your home office.