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The Singularity- should we welcome or fear it?

July 19, 2017

The Singularity - when machines are smarter than humans...

The reknowned futurist, Ray Kurzweil, believes that the date when machines will be as smart as the smartest humans is about 2045.

The significance of when this occurs whether it is 2045 or sooner or later, is that at that point the risks of extermination of the human race starts to rise. This is what Elon Musk, Martin Rees (Cambridge, UK) and so on are starting to worry about. If a machine is smarter than the smartest human it can then make itself ever smarter at an ever increasing rate ie exponentially, and outwit humans, and can also propagate its intelligence in milliseconds to thousands of other machines / robots.

If Einstein had many smart understudies he could only impart his knowledge to a limited number, thereby only slowly increasing intelligence levels and knowledge, where a machine can transmit its knowledge and intelligence to an unlimited number of other machines. The movie “I, Robot” might give taste of such a future.

Extinction of the human race?

So the smarter machines might decide that humans are an annoyance and eliminate them, as they use resources unnecessarily amongst having many issues, some of which may threaten the machines existence.

Elon Musk has recently invested in Neuralink- a company designed to enhance human intelligence or the operation of the brain, so if this can be made to work (there are many dangers in operating on the human brain and so little is currently understood) then that may enhance human capabilities to extend the date of the singularity. However one finds it difficult to believe that a biologically based organism, even an enhanced one, will be able to effectively compete against computers in the longer term.

Artificial Intelligence and Artificial General Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (“AI”) is flavour of the month, with everyone seeming to mention it and saying that they are employing AI techniques, so they can sound advanced and exciting- and thereby garner either more publicity or raise money.

However I have seen little in the way of what I consider true AI. Most efforts are simply very focussed computer programs. However Deepmind (now owned by Google) seems to be moving forward to a broader intelligence.

It is the broader Artificial General Intelligence “AGI”, where a machine can think broadly, ie across numerous areas, and make its own deductions and reasoning, is where the greatest benefit, and ultimately threat to humanity exists.

Children born since the turn of the century will see this plays out, whether it will be HG Wells “The Time Machine”; or “The Terminator”, or “Blade Runner”, or “I Robot”. Whatever happens it will be fascinating, as long as humans can keep control!

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