I'm just done reading some of the parts of this essay "The Law of Accelerating Returns", which I found through The Zeitgeist Movement. If you don't know about the TZM, here is what this movement is all about...
The Zeitgeist Movement is a global sustainability activist group working to bring the world together for the common goal of species sustainability before it is too late. Divisive notions such as nations, governments, races, political parties, religions, creeds or class are non-operational distinctions in the view of The Movement. Rather, we recognize the world as one system and the human species as a singular unit, sharing a common habitat.
and I was thinking about what is going to happen in a few decades. We are heading towards singularity. The computers will get so fast and so smart, they will surpass our limited brains' views and understanding. That 1 hour would be equivalent to one thousand years of history in our current thinking evolution. Computers that will get so smart that they'll create other computers to thinking faster and better. I'm gonna stop now and post a part of this essay. The whole thing is HUUUUGE so it may take you a while to read it. But here is what I'm talking about... Let me know what you think.
The Singularity Is Near
To appreciate the nature and significance of the coming “singularity,” it is important to ponder the nature of exponential growth. Toward this end, I am fond of telling the tale of the inventor of chess and his patron, the emperor of China. In response to the emperor’s offer of a reward for his new beloved game, the inventor asked for a single grain of rice on the first square, two on the second square, four on the third, and so on. The Emperor quickly granted this seemingly benign and humble request. One version of the story has the emperor going bankrupt as the 63 doublings ultimately totaled 18 million trillion grains of rice. At ten grains of rice per square inch, this requires rice fields covering twice the surface area of the Earth, oceans included. Another version of the story has the inventor losing his head.
It should be pointed out that as the emperor and the inventor went through the first half of the chess board, things were fairly uneventful. The inventor was given spoonfuls of rice, then bowls of rice, then barrels. By the end of the first half of the chess board, the inventor had accumulated one large field’s worth (4 billion grains), and the emperor did start to take notice. It was as they progressed through the second half of the chessboard that the situation quickly deteriorated. Incidentally, with regard to the doublings of computation, that’s about where we stand now–there have been slightly more than 32 doublings of performance since the first programmable computers were invented during World War II.
This is the nature of exponential growth. Although technology grows in the exponential domain, we humans live in a linear world. So technological trends are not noticed as small levels of technological power are doubled. Then seemingly out of nowhere, a technology explodes into view. For example, when the Internet went from 20,000 to 80,000 nodes over a two year period during the 1980s, this progress remained hidden from the general public. A decade later, when it went from 20 million to 80 million nodes in the same amount of time, the impact was rather conspicuous.
As exponential growth continues to accelerate into the first half of the twenty-first century, it will appear to explode into infinity, at least from the limited and linear perspective of contemporary humans. The progress will ultimately become so fast that it will rupture our ability to follow it. It will literally get out of our control. The illusion that we have our hand “on the plug,” will be dispelled.
Can the pace of technological progress continue to speed up indefinitely? Is there not a point where humans are unable to think fast enough to keep up with it? With regard to unenhanced humans, clearly so. But what would a thousand scientists, each a thousand times more intelligent than human scientists today, and each operating a thousand times faster than contemporary humans (because the information processing in their primarily nonbiological brains is faster) accomplish? One year would be like a millennium. What would they come up with?
Well, for one thing, they would come up with technology to become even more intelligent (because their intelligence is no longer of fixed capacity). They would change their own thought processes to think even faster. When the scientists evolve to be a million times more intelligent and operate a million times faster, then an hour would result in a century of progress (in today’s terms).
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.
To put the concept of Singularity into perspective, let’s explore the history of the word itself. Singularity is a familiar word meaning a unique event with profound implications. In mathematics, the term implies infinity, the explosion of value that occurs when dividing a constant by a number that gets closer and closer to zero. In physics, similarly, a singularity denotes an event or location of infinite power. At the center of a black hole, matter is so dense that its gravity is infinite. As nearby matter and energy are drawn into the black hole, an event horizon separates the region from the rest of the Universe. It constitutes a rupture in the fabric of space and time. The Universe itself is said to have begun with just such a Singularity.
In the 1950s, John Von Neumann was quoted as saying that “the ever accelerating progress of technology…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.” In the 1960s, I. J. Good wrote of an “intelligence explosion,” resulting from intelligent machines designing their next generation without human intervention. In 1986, Vernor Vinge, a mathematician and computer scientist at San Diego State University, wrote about a rapidly approaching technological “singularity” in his science fiction novel, Marooned in Realtime. Then in 1993, Vinge presented a paper to a NASA-organized symposium which described the Singularity as an impending event resulting primarily from the advent of “entities with greater than human intelligence,” which Vinge saw as the harbinger of a run-away phenomenon.
From my perspective, the Singularity has many faces. It represents the nearly vertical phase of exponential growth where the rate of growth is so extreme that technology appears to be growing at infinite speed. Of course, from a mathematical perspective, there is no discontinuity, no rupture, and the growth rates remain finite, albeit extraordinarily large. But from our currently limited perspective, this imminent event appears to be an acute and abrupt break in the continuity of progress. However, I emphasize the word “currently,” because one of the salient implications of the Singularity will be a change in the nature of our ability to understand. In other words, we will become vastly smarter as we merge with our technology.
When I wrote my first book, The Age of Intelligent Machines, in the 1980s, I ended the book with the specter of the emergence of machine intelligence greater than human intelligence, but found it difficult to look beyond this event horizon. Now having thought about its implications for the past 20 years, I feel that we are indeed capable of understanding the many facets of this threshold, one that will transform all spheres of human life.
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, which I explore herewith.