Through the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s, recognition of the cataclysm spread. Perhaps it was the science-fiction writers who felt the first concrete impact. After all, the “hard” science-fiction writers are the ones who try to write specific stories about all that technology may do for us. More and more, these writers felt an opaque wall across the future. Once, they could put such fantasies millions of years in the future. Now they saw that their most diligent extrapolations resulted in the unknowable… soon..
But as time passes, we should see more symptoms. The dilemma felt by science fiction writers will be perceived in other creative endeavors. (I have heard thoughtful comic book writers worry about how to have spectacular effects when everything visible can be produced by the technologically commonplace.) We will see automation replacing higher and higher level jobs. We have tools right now (symbolic math programs, cad/cam) that release us from most low-level drudgery. Or put another way: The work that is truly productive is the domain of a steadily smaller and more elite fraction of humanity. In the coming of the Singularity, we are seeing the predictions of true technological unemployment finally come true.
Vernor Vinge, The Singularity
My grandfather, Luis, is going to be 84 tomorrow (today, actually) and the whole family is hectic preparing him a humongous birthday. We, my sisters and I, are in charge of the digital accouterments and since I’d been wanting to create a photo mosaic for a while, I decided to give it a try today. What ensued baffled me.
I googled photo mosaic and went to the very first result, a 2004 engadget tutorial. The tutorial was very clear and to the point, and I donwloaded the freeware featured in it: AndreaMosaic. The thing was simple, unpretentious and surprisingly intuitive. Some minutes later I was off churning mosaics away and trying the different configurations.
It still took me the better part of the day to finish (with zam distractions) and get the thing 1.27×140m printed but, come on, I even feel ashamed of how little work I actually did. I’m going to be the one with the most impressive, flashy thing in the party and all the time I’ll just be thinking how disproportionate was my effort to the result.
Think about it for a second, a clueless guy in the middle of Mexico is able to churn out in a couple of hours (for something like 50 bucks) a graphical confection that would have floored anyone 50 years ago, that would have been nigh priceless a 100 years ago, and that would have gotten him burned at the stake earlier than that.
I’m unsettled and, frankly, the fact that it isn’t unsettling to anyone else is all the more disturbing to me (because that only hints at how fast this thing I did has already become obsolete). We’re smack in the middle of an art singularity of sorts.