Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Technological Singularity is the hypothesized creation, usually via AI or brain-computer interfaces, of smarter-than-human entities who rapidly accelerate technological progress beyond the capability of human beings to participate meaningfully in said progress. Futurists have varying opinions regarding the time, consequences, and plausibility of such an event.
I. J. Good first explored the idea of an "intelligence explosion", arguing that machines surpassing human intellect should be capable of recursively augmenting their own mental abilities until they vastly exceed those of their creators. Vernor Vinge later popularized the Singularity in the 1980s with lectures, essays, and science fiction. More recently, some AI researchers have voiced concern over the Singularity's potential dangers.
Some futurists, such as Ray Kurzweil, consider it part of a long-term pattern of accelerating change that generalizes Moore's law to technologies predating the integrated circuit. Critics of this interpretation consider it an example of static analysis.
The Singularity has also been featured prominently in science fiction works by a plethora of authors.

Technological singularity Intelligence explosion
Some speculate superhuman intelligences may have goals inconsistent with human survival and prosperity. AI researcher Hugo de Garis suggests AIs may simply eliminate the human race, and humans would be powerless to stop them. Other oft-cited dangers include those commonly associated with molecular nanotechnology and genetic engineering. These threats are major issues for both Singularity advocates and critics, and were the subject of a Wired magazine article by Bill Joy, "Why the future doesn't need us" (2000).
In an essay on human extinction scenarios, Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom (2002) lists superintelligence as a possible cause:
Some AI researchers have made efforts to diminish what they view as potential dangers associated with the Singularity. The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence is a nonprofit research institute for the study and advancement of Friendly Artificial Intelligence, a method proposed by SIAI research fellow Eliezer Yudkowsky for ensuring the stability and safety of AIs that experience Good's "intelligence explosion". AI researcher Bill Hibbard also addresses issues of AI safety and morality in his book Super-Intelligent Machines.
Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics are one of the earliest examples of proposed safety measures for AI. The laws are intended to prevent artificially intelligent robots from harming humans. In Asimov's stories, any perceived problems with the laws tend to arise as a result of a misunderstanding on the part of some human operator; the robots themselves shut down in the case of a real conflict. On the other hand, in works such as the film I, Robot, which was based very loosely on Asimov's stories, a possibility is explored in which AI take complete control over humanity for the purpose of protecting humanity from itself. In 2004, the Singularity Institute launched an Internet campaign called 3 Laws Unsafe to raise awareness of AI safety issues and the inadequacy of Asimov's laws in particular.
Many Singularitarians consider nanotechnology to be one of the greatest dangers facing humanity. For this reason, they often believe seed AI should precede nanotechnology. Others, such as the Foresight Institute, advocate efforts to create molecular nanotechnology, claiming nanotechnology can be made safe for pre-Singularity use or can expedite the arrival of a beneficial Singularity.

Potential dangers

Main article: Accelerating change Accelerating change
Theodore Modis and Jonathan Huebner argue, from different perspectives, that the rate of technological innovation has not only ceased to rise, but is actually now declining. John Smart has criticized Huebner's analysis. Henry Hazlitt argues that only drops in voluntary employment, not absolute employment, should be of concern.

Criticism of accelerating change
In addition to the Vernor Vinge stories that pioneered Singularity ideas, several other science fiction authors have written stories that involve the Singularity as a central theme. Notable authors include William Gibson, Charles Stross, Karl Schroeder, Greg Egan, David Brin, Iain M. Banks, Neal Stephenson, Tony Ballantyne, Bruce Sterling, Dan Simmons, Damien Broderick, Fredric Brown, Jacek Dukaj, Nagaru Tanigawa and Cory Doctorow. Ken MacLeod describes the Singularity as "the Rapture for nerds" in his 1998 novel The Cassini Division. Singularity themes are common in cyberpunk novels, such as the recursively self-improving AI Wintermute in William Gibson's novel Neuromancer. A 1994 novel published on Kuro5hin called The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect depicts life after an AI-initiated Singularity. A more dystopian version is Harlan Ellison's short story "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream". Yet more examples are Accelerando by Charles Stross, and Warren Ellis' ongoing comic book series newuniversal. Puppets All by James F. Milne explores the emotional and moral problems approaching Singularity. In the popular British science fiction program Doctor Who, Cybermen are a race of adapted humanoids which seek to enhance all other humanoids similarly.
Popular movies in which computers become intelligent and overpower the human race include Colossus: The Forbin Project, the Terminator series, I Robot and The Matrix. See also List of fictional computers.
Isaac Asimov expressed ideas similar to a post-Kurzweilian Singularity in his short story "The Last Question". Asimov's future envisions a reality where a combination of strong artificial intelligence and post-humans consume the cosmos, during a time Kurzweil describes as when "the universe wakes up", the last of his six stages of cosmic evolution as described in The Singularity is Near. Post-human entities throughout various time periods of the story inquire of the artificial intelligence within the story as to how entropy death will be avoided. The AI responds that it lacks sufficient information to come to a conclusion, until the end of the story when the AI does indeed arrive at a solution, and demonstrates it by re-creating the universe, in godlike speech and fashion, from scratch. Notably, it does so in order to fulfill its duty to answer the humans' question.
St. Edward's University chemist Eamonn Healy provides his own take on the Singularity concept in the film Waking Life. He describes the acceleration of evolution by breaking it down into "two billion years for life, six million years for the hominid, a hundred-thousand years for mankind as we know it" then describes the acceleration of human cultural evolution as being ten thousand years for agriculture, four hundred years for the scientific revolution, and one hundred fifty years for the industrial revolution. Information is emphasized as providing the basis for the new evolutionary paradigm, with artificial intelligence its culmination. He concludes we will eventually create "neohumans" which will usurp humanity's present role in scientific and technological progress and allow the exponential trend of accelerating change to continue past the limits of human ability.
In his book The Artilect War, Hugo de Garis predicts a coming conflict between supporters of the creation of artificial intellects (or artilects), whom he refers to as "cosmists", and those who oppose the idea, who he refers to as "terrans". De Garis envisions a coming battle between these groups over the creation of artilects as being the last great struggle mankind will face before the Singularity.
Neal Asher's Gridlinked series features a future where humans living in the Polity are governed by AIs and while some are resentful, most believe that they are far better governors than any human. In the fourth novel, Polity Agent, it is mentioned that the singularity is far overdue yet most AIs have decided not to partake in it for reasons that only they know.

Popular culture

Clarke's three laws
Development criticism
Doomsday argument
Fermi Paradox
Genetic engineering
Hans Moravec
Indefinite lifespan
Lifeboat Foundation
Logarithmic timeline, and Detailed logarithmic timeline
Max More
Molecular engineering
Marvin Minsky
Omega point
Outside Context Problem
Risks to civilization, humans and planet Earth
Simulated reality
Technological evolution
Tipping point
Transhumanism Technological singularity See also

Broderick, Damien (2001). The Spike: How Our Lives Are Being Transformed by Rapidly Advancing Technologies. New York: Forge. ISBN 0-312-87781-1. 
Bostrom, Nick (2002). "Existential Risks". Journal of Evolution and Technology 9. Retrieved on 2007-08-07. 
Bostrom, Nick (2003). "Ethical Issues in Advanced Artificial Intelligence". Cognitive, Emotive and Ethical Aspects of Decision Making in Humans and in Artificial Intelligence 2: 12-17. Retrieved on 2007-08-07. 
Good, I. J. (1965). "Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine". Advances in Computers 6: 31-88. Retrieved on 2007-08-07. 
Heylighen F. (2007). "Accelerating Socio-Technological Evolution: from ephemeralization and stigmergy to the global brain" , in: "Globalization as an Evolutionary Process: Modeling Global Change", edited by G. Modelski, T. Devezas, and W. Thompson, London: Routledge
Johansen A. & Sornette D. (2001) "Finite-time singularity in the dynamics of the world population, economic and financial indices", Physica A 294, p. 465–502.
Joy, Bill (April 2000). "Why the future doesn't need us". Wired Magazine (8.04). Retrieved on 2007-08-07. 
Kurzweil, Raymond (2001). "The Law of Accelerating Returns". Lifeboat Foundation. Retrieved on 2007-08-07.
Kurzweil, Raymond (2005). The Singularity Is Near. New York: Viking. ISBN 0-670-03384-7. 
Schmidhuber, Jürgen (June 29, 2006). "New Millennium AI and the Convergence of History" (PDF). Retrieved on 2007-08-07.
Ulam, Stanislaw (May 1958). "Tribute to John von Neumann". Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society 64 (nr 3, part 2): 1-49. 
Vinge, Vernor (1993). "The Coming Technological Singularity". Retrieved on 2007-08-07. Essays

The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence
The SSEC Machine Intelligence Project
The Artificial General Intelligence Research Institute

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