Wednesday 29 April 2009

The Singularity is Near

If you want to know what's going on in the future you could read the book "The Singularity is Near" by Ray Kurzweil or check out his homepage. The Singularity is the point in time when artificial intelligence passes by human intelligence in all respects.[1] According to Kurzweil this happens about 2050. By then it is literally unnecessary to think. The process is probably gradual. We have long expanded our memory capacities by writing things down. Computational capacity is of course expanded and there are many things which we just don't learn any more, like taking square roots. Computers are already better chess players. Eventually computers will be better at everything but we will probably stay close connected.

Kurzweil describes three revolutions: genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics. You can first extend your health with genetics and biotechnology. The author takes something like 120 dietary supplements and 7 IV's a week. And because of that he did not really grow older during the last 20 years. Later you can use nanobots to fix everything that may have gone wrong. Finally you can upload your brain to a computer. And if you take frequent backups of your data, you will basically remain forever.

If you actually uploaded yourself, then of course your virtual appearance will be everything there is. Maybe that will be called web 3.0 or web 4.0 . But it cannot be denied that the web is moving into that direction.

The idea of wikipedia was to give everyone free access to the sum of all human knowledge. And actually it became all human knowledge in a matter of seconds to everyone at any place. Thanks to search engines using artificial intelligence and mobile internet, respectively. Just an example: I was arguing with my brother about the sugar content of tonic water. Ten years ago we would have gone to the store, bought a bottle, and looked it up. Now we could hear the shocking truth (tonic water has the same amount of sugar as coke) in a matter of seconds while driving on the high way. What will it be like ten years from now? The change will probably be even more drastic thanks to the law of accelerating returns. Maybe something like a mobile broadband brain tap internet connection.

So how will we react to artificial intelligence? I guess we will respect its feelings. Actually it even feels weird to say something mean to the IKEA lady. So we will probably be nice to a well programmed AI. The question if it is conscious is something different. The problem is that consciousness is something that cannot be scientifically adressed. Or how would you prove to someone that you are conscious?

So what will happen after that singularity? We will send nanobots around space. They will either go close to the speed of light. Or if the computers are smart enough, faster - e.g. through wormholes. And since there are no nanobots buzzing around everywhere, there are probably no aliens around (unless they chose to remain hidden).

Anyway, the point is that the future is probably totally different than it is now. And it probably makes sense to think more about the "deeply intertwined perils and promises" that these developments will bring. Technology will probably keep improving people's lifes. But weapons will also become more powerful and more difficult to control in case something goes wrong.

[1] Maybe you could also look at accelerating paradigm shifts. If they form a convergent series then there is one point in time where an infinite number of paradigm shifts will have happened. (Or at least quite a few if the convergent model is not quite correct.)


azmanam said...

>Maybe something like a mobile broadband brain tap internet connection.

We've already essentially hardwired those damn bluetooth earpieces to our head. Can't even take them off at a dinner out with the family... We're not that far away...

As for the future of AI, I suggest reading anything by Isaac Asimov. Start with The Complete Robot.

Felix said...

well it's closer than you'd think

Asimov sounds cool, I'll put him on my reading list ...