What is Technological Singularity?
“Technological Singularity: an event or phase that will radically change human civilization, and perhaps even human nature itself, before the middle of the 21st century (Paul and Cox 1996; Broderick 2001; Garreau 2005, Kurzweil 2005).”
Singularity hypothesis suggests it would happen from an intelligence explosion (Good 1965): “A process in which software-based intelligent minds enter a ‘runaway reaction’ of self-improved cycle, with each new and more intelligent generation appearing faster than its predecessor.” Or (Vinge 1993; Bostrom to appear) “postulates the emergence of the artificial super intelligent agents – software-based synthetic minds – as the ‘singular’ outcome of accelerating the process in computing technology.”
Mathematician John von Neumann first used the term “singularity” in 1958. As a conversation with his friend Stanislaw Ulam stating that “The Interests of humanity may change, present curiosities in science may cease, and entirely different things may occupy the human minds in the future.” Stanislaw Ulam described, “Ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.”
Science fiction writers were obsessed by the term and it became very popular in todays media. The last entry was for Johnny Depp’s movie Transcendence that deals with a similar theme.
Is it coming soon?
Technology is progressing in a very fast phase that you would expect anything could be possible. We are going there, maybe not as Good or Vinge described it – that machines will evolve without the help of humans. I say that humans will be the major player in the technological singularity. Machines will always be machines; they will never have the capability to do things on their own, they need a director. Programmers need to provide the machines with all the possibilities and all the instructions for each possibility in order for a machine to be able to make a decision by itself.
As an example, lets suggest that robots of the future are programmed to understand all the aspects regarding project management and leadership. Then, I don’t expect you to be surprised when you enter your university’s dean office and find a robot sitting behind the desk. It is obvious that the more we provide machines with information, the more the machines are becoming capable of taking our positions in real life. This will give machines more chances to surpass the intelligence of the human race as we see it in all those science fiction movies. As Alan Turing (1951) observed, “at some stage therefore we should to expect the machines to take control, in the way that is mentioned in Samuel Butler’s ‘Erewhon’”.
What will life be after singularity?
I don’t believe that humans are welling to allow machines to reach that point of intelligent dominance. They will always try to set a limit for machine capabilities. Other than that, all the probabilities that we have seen in the science fiction movies might become a reality. Rogue robots, machines with feelings, machine revolution, etc. It’s going to be a new era for humans.
What really makes me wonder what will life be after singularity is when cyborgs emerge. A cyborg is a short for “cybernetic organism” is a being with both organic and bio mechatronic parts. “The cyborg deliberately incorporates exogenous components extending the self-regulatory control function of the organism in order to adapt it to new environments.” It can improve the human’s intelligence, power, and speed. That’s what I like to call a “Super Human”. I believe that humans’ greed for power would make cyborgs a solution that can’t be ignored. Installing bio mechatronic part in your mind and body to increase your intelligence and strength would make you superior to the average human. Imagine what would happen if anyone can obtain such technology.
Is Singularity a concern?
A lot of people watch a science fiction movie about earth being controlled by robots and say it’s a wonderful movie with a lot of action scenes but it’s far away from reality. Ever they imagined this could possibly happen. Will it be normal to them if machines are taking on their jobs? Will they be normal when they need to install new parts to their bodies in order to keep up with the challenges?
30 years ago people didn’t believe that computers would be essential in today’s life. Now almost everything depends on computers and technology. Today, we do not believe in singularity. In the future we need to face the fact that there are machines that wants to share the world with us.
Ammon H. Eden, James H. Moor, Ohnny H. Soraker, Eric Steinhart (2013), Singularity Hypotheses: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment, Springer.
Stanislaw Ulam (May 1958), Tribute to John von Neumann, 1903-1957 – Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society Vol 64 No 3.
Manfred E. Clynes, Nathan S. Kline, Cyborgs and Space, MIT.