In the near future, the technological advancements of human civilization will become so rapid that today’s human mind will be unable to comprehend the implications. The point at which this occurs is generally known as “the singularity,” and many believe it will usher in a new era for the human race. Throughout the world, many intellectuals and futurists have noted their belief in the nearness of the singularity, with quite a few predicting it will occur within our generation.
Jesus also foresaw the singularity, citing it as one of the foremost signs of the end of this age and the nearness of His Return.
So what is the singularity? And why is it any different from other events in human history? The singularity is a future point when societal, economic, and technological change increases at such a rapid pace that the unaided human mind cannot begin to imagine its implications.
The singularity is built on the concept that technological advancement is not linear, but rather exponential. In other words, conventional wisdom (the linear view) holds that the next one hundred years will bring the same amount of progress as the previous one hundred years. However, those who predict the singularity (the exponential view) believe that the next one hundred years might bring the equivalent of twenty or more twentieth centuries of progress.
Mere observation tends to support the exponential view of technological progress. For instance, the twentieth century brought more technological progress than the nineteenth century. And the 1990s brought more technological progress than the 1980s. In fact, inventor Ray Kurzweil vividly illustrates the exponential increase in technology in his essay, “The Law of Accelerating Returns.”
So if it’s true that the advancement of technology is exponentialâ€¦so what? Hasn’t change been a part of the human condition for centuries?
Yes, change has always marked the times. But what makes the singularity different is the pace at which change will soon take place. The Industrial Revolution occurred over the course of two hundred to two hundred and fifty years, during which the human race had adequate time to adjust to its widespread impact. However, the changes brought on by advanced technologies as we approach the singularity will be so rapid that changes equivalent in impact to the Industrial Revolution might well be forced on humanity within a two- to three-year period.
As a result of this exponential increase in technology (which includes computational power, advanced artificial intelligence [AI], genetics, robotics, and molecular manufacturing), the current world power structure will be completely upended.
The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
As Christians, why should we care about the singularity? Shouldn’t we be focused on Jesus?
Although our trust should be completely in Jesus, it’s important to be aware of the singularity precisely because Jesus Himself pointed to the singularity as one of the foremost signs that His earthly return and the establishment of His millennial kingdom are at hand. This revelation has been hidden in plain view of Christians for almost two thousand years. Only now, in our generation, can we begin to fully comprehend the meaning of His words. In Matthew 24 (more generally known as the Olivet Discourse), Jesus’ disciples asked Him to reveal the signs that would precede the end of the age and mark the moment of His return. Jesus responded with the following statements:
“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:3-8, NIV).
The various signs described by Jesus, which have occurred throughout history, will become more commonplace and more pronounced in the latter days just prior to His return. Jesus makes this clear in verse 8, where He equates these signs to “birth pains.”
This is one of the most important signs that the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ is close at handâ€”that the end times will be analogous to the birthing process. Jesus is clear that the signs He spoke of will be just like labor pains. So what does this mean? It means that, just like labor pains, the signs that mark the end of the age will appear with greater frequency and intensity as the end draws near.
This was a sign of such great importance that Jesus intentionally mentioned it first when answering His disciples’ questions. It is a sign equal in importance to the two monumental signs He mentions in the same conversation: the restoration of Israel as a nation (which has already happened) and the “abomination of desolation” (a still future event).
Wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilence, persecution, and death of Christians, as well as the appearance of false prophets, all mark the times in which we live. Since our generation has witnessed the reestablishment of Israel as a nation, we can be certain that we live in the end times. As a result, each of the signs Jesus mentioned will occur with greater frequency and with greater intensity as His coming draws near.
Signs of the Times
So how does this relate to the singularity? Jesus spoke about wars, earthquakes, and famines, but He didn’t say anything about technology.
Although Jesus didn’t specifically mention technology, He did point out an overall trend. He stated that certain signs would be just like labor pains, meaning they would occur with greater frequency and greater intensity as the birth (His coming) drew near.
If you plot these two variables on a graph, having them increase over time, the end product would resemble an exponential curve. And the singularity is essentially an exponential curve. Jesus was pointing to the unprecedented nature of human events in the time just prior to His return. The events that mark the times will resemble labor pains, meaning they will follow an exponential progression unique to our generation.
In addition, Jesus specifically mentions another sign:
“The time will come when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about: the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place” (Matthew 24:15, NLT).
In this verse, Jesus not only points out a specific sign, but He lets us know that the book of Daniel is a credible source of information when it comes to the end times. As a result, we should expect that any signs of the end times mentioned by Daniel should also resemble labor pains. Does the book of Daniel mention any specific signs relating to the end times? Yes, it does:
“But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end. Many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase” (Daniel 12:4, NLT). According to the book of Daniel, two things will markedly increase just prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ:
Not only will these signs increase, but they will do so exponentially. The labor-pains analogy made by Jesus applies to these signs as well, meaning both the availability and power of transportation and knowledge will increase. Simple observation has shown this to be the case in the centuries since Jesus first spoke to His disciples.
The human knowledge base, transportation, and the pace of technological development are all increasing exponentially. Knowledge and transportation are widely available to both rich and poor now more than at any other time in human history. The power of knowledge and the speed of transportation have also increased markedly over the same time period. As they continue to increase in our time, humanity is fast approaching the event horizon known as the singularity. Jesus foresaw these events, and He clearly stated that these signs will herald His Second Coming.
Tribulation Unlike Anything the World Has Ever Seen
In addition to the aforementioned signs, Jesus told His disciples that just prior to His return, the world would experience a time of unprecedented trouble that the world will never see again:
“Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. A person outside the house must not go inside to pack. A person in the field must not return even to get a coat. How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for mothers nursing their babies in those days. And pray that your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For that will be a time of greater horror than anything the world has ever seen or will ever see again” (Matthew 24:16-21, NLT).
As the singularity approaches, advanced technologies will completely change the social, economic, and political power structure of the world. These changes will lead to unprecedented global tribulation as people struggle to deal with new generations of weapons, geopolitical upheaval, and massive unemployment.
As Mike Treder points out in his Future Brief article, “A Global Surge Protector?”:
“Some refer to this as the next Industrial Revolution, and that is not an unreasonable comparison. The big difference, however, between previous industrial revolutions and the nanotech revolution is the time span covered. Steam engines, electricity, the automobile, telecommunications, computers: these all brought extreme transformations to society, but they each did so over a period of decades. When molecular manufacturing arrives, probably before 2020, a shock wave of change could reverberate around the world in only a year or two. Never before have disruptive impacts occurred so rapidly.”
The Transhumanist Movement
In preparation for the singularity, a new movement has emerged: the Transhumanist Movement. Calling themselves “singularitarians” and “transhumanists,” these people look forward to the singularity with a religious fervor. Many within the movement believe the singularity will lead to the emergence of “post-biological humans” who are able to shed their biological bodies and “upgrade their hardware.” Many believe that by downloading themselves into a network, they will effectively become “immortal.”
The Bible points to a time when the human race will have the audacity to directly challenge Jesus Christ in battle. By gathering their armies at Armageddon, the human race will attempt to “break the chains of God and set themselves free from His bondage.” Psalms 2 describes this monumental act of arrogance:
“Why do the nations rage? Why do the people waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against His Anointed One. ‘Let us break their chains,’ they cry. ‘And free ourselves from this slavery.’ But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them” (Psalms 2:1-4, NLT).
In the New Testament, in the same passage where Jesus describes the signs of His coming to the disciples, He makes an interesting statement in light of our times:
“And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:22, KJV).
Through the centuries, this verse has been interpreted to mean that the Second Coming of Christ will arrive just before the human race manages to destroy itself, meaning the human race will cease to exist. However, it could mean that “no flesh will be saved” because the human race will transform itself into a race of “post-biological humans” intent on reshaping the universe according their own desires.
Given the history of human rebellion against God, it would be unwise to discount this possibility.
Regardless of whether or not speculations surrounding the technological singularity turn out to be reality or mere fantasy, Jesus Christ clearly communicated to His disciples that the times just prior to His coming would resemble labor pains. As the hour of His return draws near, the signs of the times will appear with greater frequency and intensity, reaching their climax at the glorious appearing. Given the abundance of evidence pointing to His imminent return, we should follow the command of Jesus to be watchful and alert, prepared at all times for His return.
Furthermore, we should present this evidence to our friends and families, so that they too might share in the hope that is Jesus Christ. For the hour of His arrival is near, and a special crown awaits all those who eagerly anticipate His glorious return:
“And now the prize awaits me–the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me, but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return” (2 Timothy 4:8, NLT).