The Spike – by Damien Broderick

Around 2050, or maybe even 2030, is when a technological Singularity, as it’s been termed, is expected to erupt. That, at any rate, is the considered opinion of a number of informed if unusually adventurous scientists. Professor Vinge called this project event “the technological Singularity,” something of a mouthful. I call it “the Spike”, an upward jab on the chart of change, a time of upheaval unprecedented in human history.”

I actually started this book at the Summary, which is called “Paths and Time-lines to the Spike”.

Here’s what some of the experts are predicting:

Birge Brenner Drexler Hall Smalley
Molecular Assembler (Minting) 2045 2025 2015 2010 2000
Nanocomputer 2040 2040 2017 2050 2010
Cell Repair 2002 2000 2015 2005 2000

Broderick presents the following scenarios:

A1 – No Spike, because the sky is falling.
A2 – No Spike, steady as she goes.

Three variations:
a) Nothing much ever changes ever again.
b) Things change slowly (haven’t they always?)
c) Increasing computer power will lead to near-human AI, then stall (similar to a speed-of-light limitation)

A4 – Thing to to hell, and if we don’t die, we’ll wish we had.

B1 – Increasing computer power will lead to human-scale AI, and then swifly self-bootstrap to incomprehensible superintelligence

B2 – Increasing computer power will lead to direct augmentation of human intelligence and other abilities

B3 – Increasing computer power and advances in neuroscience will lead to rapid uploading of human minds.

B4 – Increasing connectivity of the Internet will allow individuals or small groups to amplify the effectiveness of their conjoined intelligence, leading swiftly ot an emergent AI.

B5 – Research and development of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and fullerene-based devicec will lead to industrial nanoassembly, and thence to “anything boxes”.

B6 – Research and development in genomics will lead to new “wet” biotechnology, lifespan extension, and ultimately to transhuman enhancements.

C – The Singularity happens when we go out and make it happen.

Buy the book to get the details.

Broderick focuses a lot on “minting”, or the process of “nanofacture” from the letters MNT – Molecular NanoTechnology. Eric Drexler is the forefront runner in the world of nanotechnology. Since 1978, he was referring to “minting” as the “Santa Claus Machines”, since they could build practially anything that don’t violate the laws of physics. “Minting in short is based on chunking: the process of making truly stupefying numbers of small identical components, readily described in a CAD computer program, and joining them together in ascending ranks of complicated modules.”

The author suggests that nano-manufacturers will follow a similar path as computers. It will being in large factories, and over the years shrink exponentially, until it perhaps is found on the average Joe’s desktop, and will be a common a burning a CD today. When you combine “minting” with strong AI, you get the “Genie – an entity with at-least-human intelligence and sensorimotor ability that works for free.”

If this all strikes you as unreal, consider Zyvex, a development engineering and directed research startup company founded in 1997 in the Telecom Corridor of Richardson, Texas (

Another idea is “Utility Fog”, a permeable fog of floating of floating nanites drifting across the face of the planet… The Utility Fog operates in two modes: First the “native” mode where the robots act much like cells… Second, the “Fog” mode, has the robots acting more like the pixels on a TV screen…. Each foglet is the equal of a 1990s supercomputer, and there are 16 million Foglets to a cubic inch (but only occupy about 10% of the actual volume of the air).

Both Kurzweil’s book, “The Singularity”, and Brodericks “The Spike” discuss the ethics and spirituality of the singularity. What about augmenting your brain with a computer chip? What if the chip is smarter than you? What happens to your brain when your body dies? Can it be “uploaded?” When do “you” cease to be “you?”

John Good, in his 1965 book “Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine” said:

“Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an ‘intelligence explosion,’ and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.”

For more information, see Wikipedia’s Entry on the Singularity

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