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What is the Technological Singularity? Part 1 of 3. September 14, 2007

Filed under: A.I.,Artificial Intelligence,Technological Singularity,Technology — allyouneediscourage @ 11:55 pm

Fractal Black Hole

The Technological Singularity is a hypothesized point in the development of a scientific civilization where artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence.  It’s about more than becoming self-aware, it’s about machines replacing humans because they will have become so advanced that humans cannot meaningfully direct their progress.  What does that mean?

In the worst case, some brilliant inventor will create AI that will recursively augment its mental abilities and then for some reason it will turn hostile.  We’ve seen it in Terminator 3 where Skynet (software program) spreads throughout the world infecting systems as it becomes self-aware, and it realizes that humans are a huge threat and must be eradicated.  Of course, this kind of AI logic seems ridiculous because we have emotions and we can distinguish right and wrong better because of it.  AI only see things in black and white so its decisions are absolute.

In the best case, some brilliant inventor will do the same thing but AI is friendly and have laws which say they can’t harm humans.  But wait a minute, didn’t we also see something like this in the movie called I ROBOT.  Robots in that movie were controlled by a central positronic brain known as V.I.K.I. or Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence.  That AI interpreted three laws that ensured human safety in a completely wrong way.  V.I.K.I. decided that humans had to be prevented from self harming behavior and it ends up that humans are harmed in the process.  That movie takes place in 2035.

Some think this singularity will be reached in 2029.  Ray Kurzweil, the director of the Singularity Institute has set this date.  That date will never come if steps are taken to ensure that humans are always on top.  The phrase “dreams become reality” will come true eventually if guidelines aren’t developed.  The point is, you can’t ignore the possibility of something like this happening now that the world is relying more and more on technology and amazing advances are being made all the time.

I guess you could become a neo-luddite which are people opposed to technological advances because they partially fear existential risks like the singularity scenario.  Society doesn’t work like that though.  People always want to get ahead and become better.  We can’t become better unless we create powerful A.I. to do what we cannot.

This may all sound frightening, so I will talk about my best case scenario here if all is unavoidable.  Okay so what happens when the technological singularity is reached.  Well, first it’s called the singularity because our model of the future breaks down once we surpass the upper limit on intelligence…just like our current model of physics breaks down when describing the center of a black hole in outer space.  Once we can create smarter than human intelligence, a snowballing effect occurs where smarter minds can produce even smarter minds.  The law of accelerating returns extends Moore’s law to describe an exponential growth pattern in technological progress.  Humans and machines will eventually blur in a computer based social structure of such complexity that no one person will be able to understand more than a tiny fraction of it all.

Qubit representation by a Bloch sphere

Ray Kurzweil states:

“An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense ‘intuitive linear’ view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate). The ‘returns,’ such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There’s even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to the Singularity—technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.”

Take some time and read the Wikipedia entry as well as this article on Yahoo about the Singularity Summit to get a bit more on this topic if you’re interested.  There are thousands of articles out there about this and it’s only going to get more interesting.

“The Singularity Summit: AI and the Future of Humanity” brought together hundreds of Silicon Valley techies and scientists to imagine a future of self-programming computers and brain implants that would allow humans to think at speeds nearing today’s microprocessors.

“Some critics have mocked singularists for their obsession with “techno-salvation…but advocates argue it would be irresponsible to ignore the possibility of dire outcomes.”;_ylt=Ao85XrkUfCDoAWYd1mENipsjtBAF

Pictures from and Wikipedia.


7 Responses to “What is the Technological Singularity? Part 1 of 3.”

  1. Warren Bonesteel Says:

    Some additional material on a closely related topic.

     Social Singularity:

  2. chris Says:

    GOOD I LOVE IT. Stop the troll and start going to the football games.

  3. Ihatechrisjen Says:

    God, you get trolled easy.

  4. chris Says:

    Nice, you remembered your name and email so I don’t have to approve your comments anymore. Also you’ve finally made a comment with something meaningful to say.

    The singularity is actually more about the liberation of consciousness and utilizing immense computational capacity than signaling the end of the world.

    Yeah there probably won’t be continued development because we’ll have hit the singularity and we have no idea what’s going to happen.

    There are two reasons I picked that picture. If you look at the sentence above the sphere, it’s just reinforcing my point of complexity. It’s also a representation of a qubit (unit of quantum information) by a Bloch sphere.

    I don’t think you researched Ray Kurzweil too well. Read his insane Wikipedia entry to start. He has more credibility in what he’s talking about than most people. Apparently he’s also way too smart. Those two attributes make his ideas respectable even if they are not agreeable.

    Also I’d like everyone to know I won’t be posting part 2 and 3 too soon. Part 2 and Part 3 will look at the doubts, explore some new ideas, explain why this probably will never happen, and more. Check back within the next 5 posts.

  5. Ihatechrisjen Says:

    You referenced I Robot and Terminator in a post about a completely contrived future scenario based on no scientific or mathematical fact. This “technological singularity” seems more closely associated with end-of-the-world apocalyptic theories like global warming and the end of fossil fuels more than anything else. The “law of accelerating return”… a law that wildly extrapolates another law that really only refers to one fragment of technological progress (not to mention that the creator the law himself does not see continued development past the next couple decades). Also Ray Kurzweil is an aging busybody, not a man whose ideas I would respect.

    An epic fail of a post!

    By the way, I may have missed it, but what’s the point of the sphere image there?

  6. chris Says:

    Thanks a lot Dave. I like your mosaic by the way.

  7. Dave Kliman Says:

    usually when google tells me about my photos flying around on the web i just look and move on but here i thought i’d chime in and suggest some books that explore the technological singularity:

    greg bear tends to put it in many of his books. blood music was the oldest one to consider it.

    verner vinge has some books on the subject.

    Greg Egan explores the downloading of people into software in permutation city as well as the long term ramifications in diaspora.

    Feel free to take a look.


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