Saturday, February 26, 2011

Technological singularity. Ray Kurzweil - AI (Artificial Intelligence)





A technological singularity is a hypothetical event occurring when technological progress becomes so rapid that it makes the future after the singularity qualitatively different and harder to predict. Many of the most recognized writers on the singularity, such as Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil, define the concept in terms of the technological creation of superintelligence, and allege that a post-singularity world would be unpredictable to humans due to an inability of human beings to imagine the intentions or capabilities of superintelligent entities. Some writers use "the singularity" in a broader way to refer to any radical changes in our society brought about by new technologies such as molecular nanotechnology, although Vinge and other prominent writers specifically state that without superintelligence, such changes would not qualify as a true singularity. Many writers also tie the singularity to observations of exponential growth in various technologies (with Moore's Law being the most prominent example), using such observations as a basis for predicting that the singularity is likely to happen sometime within the 21st century.

Vernor Vinge proposed that the creation of superhuman intelligence would represent a breakdown in the ability of humans to model the future thereafter. He was the first to use the term "singularity" for this notion, in a 1983 article, and a later 1993 article entitled "The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era" was widely disseminated on the World Wide Web and helped to popularize the idea. Vinge also compared the event of a technological singularity to the breakdown of the predictive ability of physics at the space-time singularity beyond the event horizon of a black hole.

A technological singularity includes the concept of an intelligence explosion, a term coined in 1965 by I. J. Good. Although technological progress has been accelerating, it has been limited by the basic intelligence of the human brain, which has not, according to Paul R. Ehrlich, changed significantly for millennia. However with the increasing power of computers and other technologies, it might eventually be possible to build a machine that is more intelligent than humanity. If superhuman intelligences were invented, either through the amplification of human intelligence or artificial intelligence, it would bring to bear greater problem-solving and inventive skills than humans, then it could design a yet more capable machine, or re-write its source code to become more intelligent. This more capable machine then could design a machine of even greater capability. These iterations could accelerate, leading to recursive self improvement, potentially allowing enormous qualitative change before any upper limits imposed by the laws of physics or theoretical computation set in.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil postulates a law of accelerating returns in which the speed of technological change increases exponentially, generalizing Moore's law to technologies predating the integrated circuit, and including material technology (especially as applied to nanotechnology), medical technology and others. Like other authors, though, he reserves the term "Singularity" for a rapid increase in intelligence (as opposed to other technologies), writing for example that "The Singularity will allow us to transcend these limitations of our biological bodies and brains ... There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between human and machine". He also defines his predicted date of the singularity (2045) in terms of when he expects computer-based intelligences to significantly exceed the sum total of human brainpower, writing that advances in computing before that date "will not represent the Singularity" because they do "not yet correspond to a profound expansion of our intelligence."

The term "technological singularity" reflects the idea that such change may happen suddenly, and that it is difficult to predict how such a new world would operate. It is unclear whether an intelligence explosion of this kind would be beneficial or harmful, or even an existential threat, as the issue has not been dealt with by most artificial general intelligence researchers, although the topic of friendly artificial intelligence is investigated by the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity Institute.

Many prominent technologists and academics dispute the plausibility of a technological singularity, including Jeff Hawkins, John Holland, Jaron Lanier, and Gordon Moore, whose eponymous Moore's Law is often cited in support of the concept.


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