The Human Singularity
The key to learning is wanting to learn. In other words, it comes down to asking questions:
“Questions are places in your mind where answers fit. If you haven’t asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go. It hits your mind and bounces right off. You have to ask the question — you have to want to know — in order to open up the space for the answer to fit.” – Clayton Christensen
So if every question we ask is a parking spot in our brains for the answer to station itself, then to accelerate learning, we can:
- Make parking spots faster: Be more curious and ask more questions more frequently.
- Fill those parking spots faster: Facilitate access to the answers.
The faster and more easily we can fill parking spots (answer questions), the faster we’ll be inclined to generate new ones (ask questions). It’s a self-reinforcing cycle that accelerates exponentially over time. It’s the human singularity.
And it’s near.
As long as the answers can keep up.
Before the internet, our access to information was limited. If we had questions we had to go to libraries or ask knowledgable people to get the answers. We wouldn’t always find them though. And since these answers were so hard to come by, we asked less questions. Our parking lots grew slowly and had plenty of empty stalls.
The Start of the Singularity
Thanks to the internet, it’s becoming easier and easier to find the answers we’re looking for. We have convenient and near instantaneous access to more information than was held in the largest library twenty years ago, and it’s growing rapidly. This information is also becoming more accessible, moving from our desktops, to our phones, to our smart homes, to maybe one day chips implanted in our brains.
We now have near instantaneous access to the answers needed to fill every parking spot we create in our minds.
So why no singularity?
The Speed Bumps
There are two issues that keep the human singularity at bay:
- We’re making the wrong parking spots. Instead of seeking valuable information, we overwhelmingly ask meaningless questions like, “How tall is Jake Gyllenhaal?”
- We’re putting the wrong cars into those parking spots. The answers we get to our pointless questions are completely unreliable. We put the wrong car into the stupid spot we created, only for another car to come along to fill it. Chaos ensues. We then waste mental energy cleaning up this senselessness.
We’re close to solving one of them, though.
The Final Frontier
The second of the two aforementioned speed bumps, inaccurate information, will soon be a thing of the past. Search engines are getting better and better at providing the correct answers to not just questions like, “How tall is Jake Gyllenhaal?” but even more important ones too. Soon enough they’ll be infallible. We’ll be able to put the right car into the right spot every single time.
This means that to reach the human singularity it comes down to making the right parking spots. Technology can’t help with this. It’s up to each of us.
Those who learn how to ask the right questions will face exponential learning curves and reach the human singularity. Those who don’t, won’t (but they’ll at least know how tall Jake Gyllenhaal is).
The question is, what will your questions be?