Friday, May 30, 2008
HOPE: The Approaching Singularity
A Vision of the Future worth getting excited about. At
some level it's even kind of understandable. And HOT!
THE FUTURE. Our loyal and beloved commenter Mal wants hope. Excuse me. Hope with a capital H, italicized and boldfaced. I'm not sure this qualifies but it might, and mights are what hope is all about. Everybody should tune in to Glenn Beck's TV show on Headline News tonight to hear Ray Kurzweill discuss the coming 'Singularity."
What's that? In Kurzweill's own words:
This, then, is the Singularity. The Singularity is technological change so rapid and so profound that it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. Some would say that we cannot comprehend the Singularity, at least with our current level of understanding, and that it is impossible, therefore, to look past its "event horizon" and make sense of what lies beyond.
My view is that despite our profound limitations of thought, constrained as we are today to a mere hundred trillion interneuronal connections in our biological brains, we nonetheless have sufficient powers of abstraction to make meaningful statements about the nature of life after the Singularity. Most importantly, it is my view that the intelligence that will emerge will continue to represent the human civilization, which is already a human-machine civilization. This will be the next step in evolution, the next high level paradigm shift.
Kurzweill is an optimist. He thinks it's all going to work out for the best. By 2025, we won't be able to recognize the civilization we're living in viewed from the standpoint of today. Which means that all the issues which seem so critical and dark right now will probably be wholly irrelevant. YAY! He foresees, in the very near future, human beings who are trillions of times more intelligent than we are.
Consider a few examples of the implications. The bulk of our experiences will shift from real reality to virtual reality. Most of the intelligence of our civilization will ultimately be nonbiological, which by the end of this century will be trillions of trillions of times more powerful than human intelligence. However, to address often expressed concerns, this does not imply the end of biological intelligence, even if thrown from its perch of evolutionary superiority. Moreover, it is important to note that the nonbiological forms will be derivative of biological design. In other words, our civilization will remain human, indeed in many ways more exemplary of what we regard as human than it is today, although our understanding of the term will move beyond its strictly biological origins.
Many observers have nonetheless expressed alarm at the emergence of forms of nonbiological intelligence superior to human intelligence. The potential to augment our own intelligence through intimate connection with other thinking mediums does not necessarily alleviate the concern, as some people have expressed the wish to remain "unenhanced" while at the same time keeping their place at the top of the intellectual food chain. My view is that the likely outcome is that on the one hand, from the perspective of biological humanity, these superhuman intelligences will appear to be their transcendent servants, satisfying their needs and desires. On the other hand, fulfilling the wishes of a revered biological legacy will occupy only a trivial portion of the intellectual power that the Singularity will bring.
Needless to say, the Singularity will transform all aspects of our lives, social, sexual, and economic...
Not only that. We're going to be richer than our wildest dreams. This is a quote from the first paragraph of the piece:
You will get $40 trillion just by reading this essay and understanding what it says.
Cool. There are some things I could do with $40 trillion. For one thing, I'd buy a new air-conditioner for my office. One that doesn't freeze up in July and August. (And on warm days in May.)
I also think the Singularity vastly simplifies the child rearing challenge. Just teach them to be honest, virtuous, adaptable, and good-humored. It looks like everything else will be taken care of.
Of course, this may be the kind of idea that's more acceptable to the old than the young. For example, I'd probably have felt threatened in my salad days at the prospect of being a trillion times dumber than the smart ones. It doesn't bother me anymore. Something I learned from dogs. After a childhood filled with scary-smart terriers and German Shepherds, I've come to realize that greyhounds -- who are truly deep-down dumb (something the rescue organizations don't promote nearly enough) -- are much much happier than the high IQ breeds like terriers, sheep dogs, retrievers, and standard poodles.
In fact, when the Singularity comes, I'm going to have myself remanufactured as an eternally four-year-old greyhound.
Me in my golden years. Which I expect to last till the sun burns out.
The ladies only laugh when you stick your nose into the Singularity.
It's going to be great. And for once I'm not even being ironic. Irony is totally lost on greyhounds.