Singularity Moment

One of my favorite commercials ever is one where there’s an American football game on, and the ball is spiraling through the air toward the goal posts, and there are thousands of fans coming to their feet roaring with hope. The voiceover says, “Not even the will of fifty thousand fans can send the ball through the goalposts…

“…or can it?”

And no. Of course not. Not with an inanimate object.

And yet. And yet.

Nine months ago NASA sent a machine toward Mars, and that machine had a crazy complicated set of manuevers it had to accomplish in order to land safely. NASA dubbed it “Seven Minutes of Terror” (the video is really worth watching), and for the past week or two people have been getting increasingly excited/nervous/worried/hopeful over its imminent landing date. The good will for this thing to succeed was tremendous.

This morning I got up early–not quite early enough, as it turned out–and logged onto the computer to see /Laura Anne Gilman’s Twitter post as the first thing, crying out, “TOUCHDOWN CONFIRMED!”

I spent the next half hour with tears streaming down my face as I watched the live stream FROM MARS FOR GOD’S SAKE, as Curiosity Rover took and sent her first photographs of Gale Crater back to Earth, and as the men and women at JPL sobbed and cheered and hugged and high-fived with their success.

And I did it all with the rest of the world, with hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people who had stayed up late, gotten up early, all of us sharing it at the same time, all of us sharing it on Facebook and Twitter and, for the love of all, Times Square, thousands of people at Times Square at three in the morning to watch Curiosity and cheer SCIENCE! SCIENCE! SCIENCE!.

Not even global will for success can make a machine land safely on another planet…and yet.

If this is not a post-Singularity moment, I don’t know what is. Humans have gathered for important events as long as there’ve been humans, of course, but the whole world connecting like this, able to share the moment instantaneously across the globe, for all that emotion to be so broadly extended…I mean, that’s just beyond wonderful. That’s humanity at its best, and we ought to do more of that.

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