I have long been fascinated by apocalyptic and millennial thinking: belief systems in which the world is about to be changed in some fundamental way by a transformative event of an esoteric nature. Typically:
- The transformation will usher in an era of prosperity, peace, and immortality.
- Only a select few will get to participate.
- The transformation will occur within a small number of years: certainly within the lifetime of those involved, and often on a specific date.
During human history we find hundreds of examples of groups who have believed that they possessed information regarding such an imminent transformation. The reccurence of this idea surely tells us something profound about the human spirit.
I was reminded of this topic by "Radical Evolution" Joel Garreau's interesting book about potential futures. The book presents the views of those who predict a potential "singularity": a time at which, due to continued exponential growth in computer power, we obtain computers able to design yet more powerful computers, and thus enter into an era of essentially infinitely rapid change in technological capability. These developments also enable superhuman intelligence, medical advances, thus eternal life, etc., etc.--but only for those prepared to take advantage of these advances.
I've always found the similarities between the "singularity" and millennial ideas intriguing. Others have apparently thought the same, and furthermore coined the beautiful put down "Rapture for Nerds." Now of course either the singularity or the rapture (or both) may turn out to be quite real, but the similarities between the two concepts is certainly cause for thought.