Reclaiming The “Technological Singularity” Concept (Apple Turnaround Series, Part 2)

Technological Singularity

Photo Credit: mountainvision.blogspot.com

By Yonatan Gordon

For Part 1, Please Read:  Where Should Apple Go From Here?

Before we fast forward to the future of Apple, let’s venture back to how product development used to be there. Inside the concealed room, behind closed doors, Steve Jobs and his team would deliberate for hours.

The novelty of product development is not with the ideas, but in their manifestation as products. As Glenn Reid stated in his article, only after the sessions did the patent lawyers come in to see who came up with what idea. Before ideas enter the realm of intellectual property and ownership, they are just ideas … pure and simple. Not belonging to any specific person or vested in any specific product.

Any discussion of products must first start by returning to the moment when they were first conceived. This is because products sometimes obscure the very concepts they represent. Turning from the products, so to speak, allows us to appreciate them in a whole new light.

iTunes

In order to ground our discussion into particulars, let’s first talk about iTunes. Many of us know that Steve Jobs would call music industry executives continuously until they consented to make their offerings available on iTunes. This act of digitizing the world of music was a great accomplishment, and prompted further interest in Apple products. But aside from that, such ventures staved off potential media attacks. As The Economist wrote recently in a January 26th article, “…the best way [Apple] to prove it is not past its prime would be for it to disrupt another big market.” It’s the ability to break new ground that staves off the media for another round.

Back to Basics

If our question is how to return Apple to its heyday, then we need to go back to that closed room in Apple headquarters. The main tool for Apple growth has always been product development.

This brings us to a well-known concept in the world of computing called Moore’s Law. This is the observation that over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles every two years. As we see today, the time between doubling periods is getting shorter until we approach what futurists call the “Technological Singularity.”

What is that means for us is that deliberations over new products don’t exist in a vacuum. Instead, technological innovations represent a shift to divide and measure the world’s information into smaller parts. As we explained at the end of our long-form essay “Should Apple Have Been Named Carob Computer?” it is this act of dividing that most represents the Apple brand. While we usually think of smallness in technology as the ability to stuff a lot into relatively small objects; our focus now is on the dissolution of the material aspect of the product.

Every scientist today is interested in where matter came from … where the world came from. They go back in time until they reach the Big Bang. Now what happened here? Everything was infinitesimally small and combined into one singular point. The further you go toward the beginning, the more everything returns to a single point.

While the Technological Singularity is usually described as a turning point when humans create a machine-based artificial intelligence smarter than themselves, we haven’t yet seen it portrayed as a return to the incipient point of creation. The novelty of this reading of the term is that instead of a future point of exponential technological advancement, we can achieve this state today by contemplating the past. This reading also places the super-intelligence aspect on us humans, not on robots set on world domination.

Glenn Reid’s article description of his hours spent deliberating with Steve Job is reminiscent of an ideal creative state. A moment when time and space don’t exist, one’s own sense of self doesn’t exist, and all that remains is the idea. This is how we would like to re-coin or re-brand the term “Technological Singularity” from its current residence in the halls of science fiction.

Jewish concepts Behind the Discussion:

“BEFORE WE FAST FORWARD…” SECTION:

Let’s return to the beginning, the parting of the Red Sea which corresponds to the yud. Rebbe Nachman says that the parting of the Red Sea is the nullification of the time dimension…

As the Magid of Mezritch said that this is the task of the tzadikim, but now we are saying that this is the task of what we call ba’alei teshuvah. This type of nullification is not to destroy the mundane, but to nullify its effect upon us and return to God…

The point of wisdom within space, within time, and within the psyche. In the psyche it means self-nullification, nullifying our feeling of self, like in the beginning of creation where it says, in a positive way (man that is not man—selflessness)…

“ITUNES” SECTION:

…A generic tool in the Torah is related to combat. These types of tools are related to instruments of music. The musical instruments were essential for the Song of the Sea, the vessels of combat were essential for the War with Amalek. So the main manifestation of vessels, of instruments and tools is in the two letters hei of Havayah. So if the pshat of is that the Jewish people left Egypt with vessels of war, then the first time they came to use was in the War with Amalek…

“BACK TO BASICS” SECTION:

…What does it mean to nullify the dimension of space? Here we are sitting in a shul, in a beit midrash. To nullify space, the space gets smaller and smaller. The closer we get to the source, the smaller things are. Nullification is wisdom the yud of Havayah, the smallest letter. Meditation usually leads to an enrichment, an experience of expansion. But, here we have a meditation where reality gets smaller and smaller as it approaches its source, in nothingness. The simplest type of such nullification to imagine is in space. But, this also happens in time and in the psyche.

Returning to the origin of space

Let’s give an example of a simple meditation on the greatness of Hashem. The Rambam says that to meditate on Hashem’s greatness is through looking at the wonders of creation, of nature. Every scientist today is interested in where this all came from, where this world came from. They go back in time until they reach the Big Bang. Now what happened there? Everything was infinitesimally small. Everything was like nothing. So time, space, even the psyche (which they don’t talk about) was one singular point. What are we trying to experience? That nullification is a movement in the psyche where we reach the depth of the beginning (an idiom from the Book of Formation), referring to the sefirah of wisdom. The depth of the end is understanding, the World to Come, but to meditate on the depth of the beginning, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, is to meditate on wisdom. As you go further and further towards the beginning, everything recedes and returns to a single point. It is a dimensionless point, and from there you reach nothingness.

Excerpted from the weekly shiur given 14 Shevat 5773 from Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh

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