Warning: This is not light reading.
Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an ‘intelligence explosion,’ and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.
- I. J. Good (Statistician)
Mathematician and computer scientist Vernor Vinge:
What are the consequences of this event? When greater-than-human intelligence drives progress, that progress will be much more rapid. In fact, there seems no reason why progress itself would not involve the creation of still more intelligent entities – on a still-shorter time scale.
In 2000, AI researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky and entrepreneur Brian Atkins founded the Singularity Institute to work toward smarter-than-human intelligence by engaging in Artificial Intelligence and machine ethics research. Yudkowsky states:
The Singularity is beyond huge, but it can begin with something small. If one smarter-than-human intelligence exists, that mind will find it easier to create still smarter minds. In this respect the dynamic of the Singularity resembles other cases where small causes can have large effects; toppling the first domino in a chain, starting an avalanche with a pebble, perturbing an upright object balanced on its tip. All it takes is one technology – Artificial Intelligence, brain-computer interfaces, or perhaps something unforeseen – that advances to the point of creating smarter-than-human minds. That one technological advance is the equivalent of the first self-replicating chemical that gave rise to life on Earth.
What, then, is the Singularity? It’s a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed. Although neither utopian or dystopian, this epoch will transform the concepts that we rely on to give meaning to our lives, from our business models to the cycle of human life, including death itself. Understanding the Singularity will alter our perspective on the significance of our past and the ramifications for our future. To truly understand it inherently changes one’s view of life in general and one’s own particular life.
The term “singularity” was first used to describe all matter in the universe that converged at some finite point in the past. From there it expanded over time into the universe we have today. The next event that was comparable to that was the right conditions and right amount of proteins and various chemicals for life to begin on earth. This was the start of evolution. It seems today that this quest for the next cosmic event dubbed the singularity is man’s attempt to take evolution to the the next step. There is no need to wait for evolution to do its job, man can create more advanced life.
I do not prescribe to evolution or the philosophies presented above. However, I do have thoughts on the matter. If greater-than-human intelligence changed every aspect of our lives, it would not preclude us from answering the age old questions that still haunt us today. Also, we have access to greater-than-human intelligence in God. If you happen to not believe in God, well… that’s just too bad for you because the questions of life can only be answered by the greater-than-human intelligence found in the Creator. Advanced life created in the world by the abilities of man would still have no outside-of-the-universe knowledge. Therefore, answers gained by looking at the “box” of the universe may be more complex, but ultra-intelligent life still would not gain any more truth than we would. We all look at the same “box”.
I’m not pronouncing doom on the singularity project. Certainly, progress in technology changes our lives for the better. However, the plight of humans will continue until time is over. Nothing will change that.
The Singularity Summit is a meeting by scientists and mathematicians alike that report on the progress of technology toward the singularity.
The first Singularity Summit was held at Stanford in 2006 to further understanding and discussion about the Singularity concept and the future of human technological progress. It was founded as a venue for leading thinkers to explore the subject, whether scientist, enthusiast, or skeptic.
Here is a link to the Singularity Summit videos. I found them extremely interesting.