The Cultural Singularity

When people talk about 'the singularity' you can assume what they are referring to is the technology singularity, and while we are talking about a cultural singularity here it's important to start with this one as it's one we will come back to. Ray Kurzweil (201) defines this as a time where "the pace of technological change is so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed", but I would argue this could also apply to the idea of the cultural singularity with culture having a key power to transform life as we know it. Traditionally the key aspect of the technology singularity is that the technology we create will allow even more complex technology, leading to creations that are beyond are understanding. This will lead to an exponential increase in advancements and some say to a utopian society (or dystopian, depending on who you ask).

The singularity

So what exactly is the cultural singularity? Based off the idea of the technological singularity we could argue that the definition that makes the most sense is one where culture is created at a faster and faster rate. While this may seem absurd at first, culture has a propensity to create more culture: the most obvious example of this would be the way that fandoms interact and create based around the original media that they flock to (Booth, 201), but it would be naive to feel that culture begatting culture stops at this point. With the current media landscape we see the creation of memes, music, social media posts and all kinds of other creative media springing up from the result of something as simple as a quote in parliament that day.

This level of creation is only increased by the lowering of barriers of entry in almost every creative field, either through access to programs or by programs being built to overcome previously needed technological knowledge. Anna Anthropy (2012) talks about how the creation of programs such as game maker and twine allow creators to make games without the barriers, while the open source software movement has created things like blender, and application that has the ability to create 3D art without the thousands of dollars that were previously needed to enter the field. You could even push forward the creation of websites that allow you to create memes without ever needing to download applications as examples of the barrier lowering. With this rise of ease combined with the internet's social media platforms we can see that there is no longer any reason that anyone with access to the internet cannot contribute to culture, creating what essentially fulfills this definition of a cultural singularity.

The singularity

The argument could also be put forth that this cultural singularity will fall in line with the technological one, as the majority of cultural creation in the modern age is given to us through the use of our advanced technology. Most cultural commodities are passed out through the internet, even if they began their life offline. Movies and TV shows appear on netflix, books are dolled out in PDF form and music finds a home in soundcloud or google play. These mediums through which the culture is dispersed evolves alongside the culture, and the culture cannot remain unaffected by it as after all, the medium is the message (McLuhan 1967).

References

Anthropy, A. (2012). Rise of the videogame zinesters: How freaks, normals, amateurs, artists, dreamers, drop-outs, queers, housewives, and people like you are taking back an art form. Seven Stories Press.

Booth, P. (2010). Digital fandom: New media studies. Peter Lang.

Kurzweil, R. (2010). The singularity is near. Gerald Duckworth & Co.

McLuhan, M., & Fiore, Q. (1967). The medium is the message. New York, 123, 126-128.

Wellman, B. (2018). Networks in the global village: Life in contemporary communities. Routledge.

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