The Singularity

March 3, 2009 at 9:16 am | Posted in Tech Talk | Leave a comment

Let me tell you about the Singularity. If you haven’t heard of it before, it might boggle you a bit. The Singularity sounds like science fiction and, if it happens, will cause such profound changes that it really isn’t possible to predict what the world will be like after it happens. It can be difficult to wrap your head around things that are impossible to predicate.

The Human Nature thing to do is to dismiss such new information as something that will never happen or at least won’t happen for hundreds of years. That’s fine. I’m not trying to convince you that the Singularity will happen. I’m not trying to sell you on the idea that anything will or will not happen. I just want you to know that many real science type people think that this science fiction sounding thing will become science fact, just as many other things have done in the past five decades.

“The Singularity is an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today—the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity.”

Basically, the idea is this: Everytime there is a significant advancement or “next generation” of technology, the generation after that comes quicker. For example, if it takes 20 years to achieve the “next generation” of artificial intelligence, then reaching the next step will take significantly less time, perhaps only ten years. The generation of technology after that will take less time and so on and so on. The level of technology increases exponentially.

What happens when technology becomes so advanced that it can take over designing the next generation of itself? What happens when the speed of advancement is no longer limited by the speed of human brains? That my friend, is the Singularity.

There’s a good reason that it sounds like Science Fiction. The world being profoundly changed by rapid advances in technology has been a topic of many science fiction stories. In the episode The Turk of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles John Connor describes the Singularity as the beginning of the war between humans and machines.

In my opinion, however, the Singularity is unlikely to lead to a dystopian future. Fiction such at the Terminator Series tend to anthromorphize technology for the sake of telling a good story. However, technology is not human or human-like. Humans have survival instincts; computers do not. Any technology that develops will develop from what you see around you today. As far as I’m concerned, saying that a CPU will evolve into a war machine is like saying that a chicken egg will hatch into a pteradactyl.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Singularity and deciding for yourself if it is likely to happen, there is of course the Wikipedia article. You can also consider the opinion of Ray Kurzweil.

Kurzweil is one of the world’s leading inventors, thinkers, and futurists, with a twenty-year track record of accurate predictions. Kurzweil was selected as one of the top entrepreneurs by Inc. magazine, which describe him as the “rightful heir to Thomas Edison.”

And check out They have many charts and news items that demonstrate that even though it may sound like Science Fiction, the Singularity is on track to becoming Science Fact.

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