Notes for a Talk on Technological Singularity
1. On Wikipedia: "The technological singularity is a theoretical point in the future of unprecedented technological progress, caused in part by the ability of machines to improve themselves using artificial intelligence."
"Statistician I. J. Good first wrote of an 'intelligence explosion', suggesting that if machines could even slightly surpass human intellect, they could improve their own designs in ways unseen by their designers, and thus recursively augment themselves into far greater intelligences. The first such improvements might be small, but as the machine became more intelligent it would become better at becoming more intelligent, which could lead to an exponential and quite sudden growth in intelligence."
2. If you are unfamiliar with the idea of technological singularity check out this video on ted.com by Ray Kurzweil. And this series of articles at IEEE Spectrum for a more mediated set of views.
3. Inventor, Scientist, Dietary Supplement fanatic Ray Kurzweil is the tech singularity's most feverish advocate. He works to extend his own life in order that he might live to the days of medical immortality (probably before 2040 in his view). And he's got a cryogenic account lined up if that doesn't work out.
4. While learning about The Singularity from Kurzweil is a little like learning about Jesus from an Evangelist, (maybe it's the eternal life fixation) he seriously knows his stuff. He has spent a lot of his resources trying to prove his idea of the exponential technological evolution/growth that has been happening since we were solitary proteins floating in a primordial goo.
5. The main criticism for "Singulatarians" as they call themselves seems to be that they are unabashed techno-optimists. And that they don't focus on the dangers of what they propose, but only the virtual and cybernetic joys. Also that it ignores the complexity of nature's engineering feat. V.S. Ramachandran says “God is a hacker, not an engineer," and you can't reverse engineer a hacker. Also there is the unresolved question of consciousness. The most cited rebuttal to the idea of a Tech Singularity is Jaron Lanier's One Half Manifesto from Wired Magazine, though it's 8 years old now. This is how he articulates framework, which is in his view all wrong, of the Singulatarians who he calls "Cyber-Totalists":
a. Cybernetic patterns of information provide the ultimate and best way to understand reality.
b. People are no more than cybernetic patterns.
c. Subjective experience either doesn't exist, or is unimportant because it is some sort of ambient or peripheral effect.
d. What Darwin described in biology, or something like it, is in fact also the singular, superior description of all creativity and culture.
e. Qualitative as well as quantitative aspects of information systems will be inexorably accelerated by Moore's law.
6. Nano Technology is key. Cybernetics. Turing test. Dumb Software. Wetware?
7. Man this gets confusing.
8. I have a hard time not seeing Kurzweil's point. And though a million science fiction authors have warned us about the possibility of self-replicating, self-improving, and self-aware AI Kurzweil seems to have a very pure optimism.
9. One thing is for sure though, nobody is going to stop the exponential pace of technological advancement, and AI is going to be at the center of the great ethical debate of the 21st century.
According to Kurzweil's pretty compelling speculation robots will be as smart as humans AND self-replicating before I get the senior citizen discount at the movies.
10. What is the relationship between the development of AI and human evolution? I think in a twisted way they are fundamentally the same. Humans took evolution into our own hands with the first rock we used to crack a nut. Not to mention when we started fires and made wheels, invented languages, writing, and machines. All of these are clearly an external evolution that has been exponentially advancing since the beginning.
11. I find the difference between an iPhone and a computer installed in your body or clothing very minuscule.
12. I have to admit I'm guiltily looking forward to full-immersion brain-based virtual reality.
13. Uploaded skills, language and consciousness will be handy.
14. It's when they air around us becomes materialized intelligence that starts expanding out into the universe, colonizing space. That's when my understanding breaks down. My friends say the air already is intelligence. Ok, but this is going to be different.
15. Reminds me of the dictum from Octavia Butler's Parable of the Talent's: "And the Destiny of Earthseed, Is to take root among the stars."
16. We may not be long for this world but not in the way Al Gore thinks.