I to am amazed at what it takes to produce the synthesis that on the surface allows us some affordance, like asking and answering questions on Quora, and that it is made up of a lot of ascii nonsense, that makes making sense possible.
But there is indeed a post-programming age but it is going to be worse. Software Engineering basically deals with the tame aspects of Software, which we try to use to do practical things in this new medium which is the first world wide interactive hyper medium, because it is made up of many other media.
The reason that software is so strange is that it is the only cultural artifact that embodies what Plato called the Third Kind of Being and Derrida called DifferAnce (differing and deferring). Thus it embodies Hyper Being. See my electronic book called Wild Software Meta-systems for more details. So the next thing will be something at the next higher meta-level which is Wild Being discovered by Merleau-Ponty. And I think that has to do with Artificial Life, Consciousness and Sociality. It is the artificial intelligence programming techniques like self-rewriting code, expert systems, genetic programming, neural nets, etc. that is wild instead of tame but still it is software. It is automatic writing, in the sense that it is automated writing. And when the automatic is automated to produce itself, reference itself, organize itself, design itself, etc then things get really strange and it goes beyond our understanding, it seems opaque to us. And what is happening now is that multiple opaque techniques are being combined. Kurzeweil says that the moment that the machines are more intelligent than we are is the singularity. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity).
But this is not half of the story. The real story is that we are climbing the stairway to nowhere, i.e. up through the meta-levels of Being. And we have unleashed an artifact called software which will transform everything in our culture as it already has in many ways. But we have not really entered the realm of Wild Being yet. Deleuze with Guattari tried to build a philosophy there in Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus. But it is even more difficult to think than DifferAnce. Each meta-level is exponentially more difficult to think. But as we combine multiple AI techniques, which depends on the reflexivity of software code itself, then things will start to get really strange. But the singularity is beyond that where we enter Ultra Being. The fact that multi-technique AI devices are smarter than us means little. We will adapt to them as assistants. They will be data slaves that know their place. They will be the automated equivalent of the Mechanical Turk. But when we get to Ultra Being then we will have real problems because that really is a singularity, and a singularity really is incomprehensible. The very fact that Vinge or Kurzweil can define what their singularity is means it is not really a singularity, but merely a threshold, that like other thresholds we will adapt to it and it will adapt to us.
It is not the speeding up of technology that is the problem, it is the qualitative shifts that occur when we have cultural artifacts that embody kinds of Being, that have always been implicit in the worldview and are now becoming explicit. So we will slowly get used to real AI devices that are opaque to our understanding helping us understand more and better. And we will adapt to our whole environment becoming not just smart but actually artificially intelligent, living and social. But what we will not be able to adapt to is what comes after that when the real singularity of Ultra Being is embodied. In myth it is called the Beast of Earth, the Anti-Christ, the Dajal, etc. We don’t know what it is, and when it arises we won’t know how to comprehend it. The true singularity is what is scary, not the pseudo-singularity of intelligent machines which is just the passage into Wild Being.
What we do know about it is that it is what Being looks like from the point of view of existence, and it is the difference that makes a difference like a domain wall between emptiness and Void, two dual nonduals. It is already with us, and has been with us from the beginning of the Indo-European worldivew. But it has always been implicit, part of the implicate order of the worldivew, but when it becomes explicitly embodied somehow that is going to be a true transformation of our culture and society. Speculating on what that might be is really worth while. But I have not got a clue. It is an emergent event that is off the scale. Kurzeweil is right to be worried but not about machines more intelligent than we are. What is coming from within ourselves is the truly Alien. The Alien does not come from Out There, but what is truly alien comes from deep within us, from the worldview itself.
Now my own speculation is that it is the end of the Metaphysical era, when the Heterochronic Era begins. And now that I have named it, and invoked it then it has probably begun. We have been trying to end the Metaphysical Era for almost a century. But everything we say is the end is just the post-post-post-modern, and just another intensification of the nihilism of the metaphysical that started with Thales. But I think it really started with Dunne in the 1920s who postulated multidimensional time, which was explored by Tolkien in Lord of the Rings, the most popular book ever written (And for once the Movie was good too.) But the real turning point came when we hit F-Theory, which is the next dimension up from M-theory, which resolves the differences between the various string theories. F-Theory says that there are two orthogonal timelines in the 12th dimension, and three in the 14th dimension, and I am postulating that there are four in the 16th dimension. Orthogonal Timelines is exactly what we need to make Multiple worlds theory comprehensible.
So my hypothesis is that the singularity of Ultra Being is when we have the emergent event of the appearance of something that embodies the splitting of timelines that are orthogonal. Something directly connected with the Multiverse. We may already be seeing that with Blackholes, Dark Energy, Dark Matter, and the acceleration of the expansion of our universe. What are we expanding into increasingly fast and where is the non-conserved energy coming from that makes the acceleration occur?
The multiverse as the meta-system of the universe, i.e. the operating system that gives it resources, such as room to expand into, and the energy fueling its expansion, and a place for the rule of physics to break down in black holes, and what is there before the Big Bang or Bounce as the case may be. I call that the Pluriverse in General Schemas Theory. It has to have orthogonal time in order to house the other universes side by side without interfering too much with each other, except via quantum phenomena as David Deutsch says.
I say we began to enter the Heterochronic Era with Dunne in the Twenties, and the Philosophy of that transition is in Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy: From Ereignis, where he identifies the difference between Sein (Being) and Seyn (Beyng) which was shortly there after. And this was brought to the consciousness of the public though Tolkein’s playing with Dunne’s idea in Lord of the Rings. And the last piece of the puzzle fell into place with F-theory appearing that had to have orthogonal timelines.
If that is true then the singularity of Ultra Being probably also already is manifest. But what it is we do not know yet. But I opine that it is something past AI, Alife, Asocial that embodies multiple orthogonal time streams, something that takes us into the Meta-system fully from our restricted economy of Being and brings us to understand the existence underlying Being. What ever it is we can be assured that it is an indicator of the Homeward path, i.e. the path to the nondual core of the Western worldview.