We Are Smart Monkeys
Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana.
As soon as the monkey touches the stairs, spray all the other monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey will make an attempt. Spray all the other monkeys with cold water again. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs the other monkeys will try to prevent it.
Now, put the water away. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey will see the banana and want to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys will attack him. After another attempt and attack, he will know that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted.
Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer will go to the stairs and be attacked by the other monkeys. The previous newcomer will take part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, replace the third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth.
Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he will be attacked. Most of the monkeys that are beating him will have no idea why they are not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.
After replacing all of the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana.
Why not? Because as far as they know, that’s the way it’s always been done around here.
The term singularity describes the moment when a civilization changes so much that its rules and technologies are incomprehensible to previous generations. Think of it as a point-of-no-return in history.