What is A Technological Singularity?
Technological singularity is a theoretical moment when humanity loses its power, and that, in turn, will become irreversible. In simple terms, shortly, technology may develop so much that humanity will simply cease to keep up with them and understand them. Every day appears some kind of new technology, that makes transportation, cleaning, and writing a paper easier.
Further, according to the proponents of the concept of technological singularity, such “intellectual explosions” will be more and more frequent. This can lead to radical changes in society that we can neither predict nor control.
It is the consequences of the singularity that cause many fears and serve as the basis for discussions about the future of humanity. These consequences are evaluated in different ways. Raymond Kurzweil, a futurist, developer of speech recognition systems, and one of the key figures at Google believes that the development of technology is a great opportunity for people to become better.
Less optimistic in their assessments are Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and the late Stephen Hawking. In their opinion, progress can lead to the destruction of humanity.
Concerns about the consequences of technological progress did not appear out of anything. Many processes in modern society and science lead to such conclusions.
Accelerating Technical and Technological Progress
The digital age began with the invention of the transistor in 1947 and continues to this day. Back in 1965, one of the founders of Intel, preparing for a speech, discovered an interesting pattern: every two years, the number of transistors in the chips doubles.
Not much has changed since then: computer computing is showing constant exponential growth. The further technology evolves, the steeper the curve that illustrates technological progress becomes. Within a few decades, its pace can go to infinity.
One of the next steps in the development of technology, probably, can be the invention of AGI (artificial general intelligence). This term refers to an AI that will learn to communicate, think and act like a human or even better. That is, AGI in theory will be able to replace people in all spheres of life.
Development of Artificial Intelligence
So far, computers can’t do absolutely everything better than us, although they are already much smarter than humans in solving many problems.
Even 4-5 years ago, the forecast of Dr. Kurzweil claims singularity will happen by 2045. According to Raymond Kurzweil by 2045 artificial intelligence will surpass humans in everything. This assumption was not treated seriously (although since the 90s, 86% of his assumptions have come true).
Technological Singularity: The Development of Artificial Intelligence
The scheme of carrier evolution in nature: RNA → DNA → Cells → Brain → Digital carriers. A special role in this may be played by the creation of neuromorphic chips-processors for neural networks that reproduce how our brain processes information. While research in this area is still far from getting a real working model, but there are already undoubted successes. Here’s what AI can do today:
- Memorize more;
- Win people in strategy games (the AlphaGo program in 2015, in just 9 hours of training with itself, gained the ability to play chess better than a person);
- Help people with spinal cord injuries get back on their feet;
- Recognize faces;
- Drive a car;
- Paint and write coherent texts;
- Create medicines;
- Run news reports and much more.
The Emergence of Neural Interfaces
Even now, we can talk about the Internet as a form of “global brain” – a phenomenon thanks to which people from all over the world can almost continuously communicate with each other through a technical intermediary.
What arguments are given in favor of technological progress AI and robots will take on the complex intellectual and physical work
The development of artificial intelligence and robotics may eventually lead to the fact that machines will learn to do everything without human intervention or with minimal intervention. In this case, progress will continue to accelerate, improving people’s lives and everyday life more and more.
Even now, computers are used by humans for scientific research and technology improvement. Thanks to this, people themselves become smarter, and cars – faster. This accelerates the development of not only computers but also humans.
People will Discover New Abilities in Themselves
The fusion of a person with technology occurs not only at the physical level (the use of prostheses, modifications) but also at the information level (the use of gadgets). A smartphone with mobile internet in your pocket is the first step to becoming a cyborg.
New Technologies Open The Way to Potential Immortality
A much more elegant solution in this area is to remove the limitations of DNA. Genetic and bioengineering, as well as nootropic drugs, can make people smarter. With the help of artificially grown organs or nanomachines, people can get rid of aging and achieve immortality.
The only question is how quickly a person will learn (and whether) to use these opportunities, whether society and the authorities will approve of them. It will take years for genetically modified humans to be born and trained — even if you don’t take into account the social factors that slow down the introduction of such technology. Other forms of superintelligence (AI) may appear much faster.
What Do the Opponents of Uncontrolled Technology Development Say?
The development of AGI is likely to be far ahead of the development of the human brain and technologies designed to expand our capabilities. Artificial intelligence can outperform human intelligence, and in a pessimistic scenario, it can easily get out of control.
The modernization of the human body can lead to an even greater stratification of society
Modification of the human body can not only create a “Human 2.0”, but also exacerbate social conflicts. Those who will have access to such technologies will have an advantage over those who do not have these capabilities.
Significant ethical and legal issues arise: whether it is possible to give one person an intellectual and/or physical advantage over another, and how to protect “biomechanical people” from hackers.
What Future Can We Expect?
Max Tegmark critically assesses the probability of a pessimistic scenario. He believes that the possibilities of self-improvement are limited by physical laws. True singularity, as infinitely accelerating progress, according to Tegmark, is impossible, although this process is capable of approaching infinity.
Therefore, the professor argues that the leap in technology will be followed by the rapid achievement of all or almost all the fullness of knowledge about the world and not their endless accumulation.
Not all scientists generally share the theory of technological singularity. Some note that until now, no phenomena have been found in nature that develops indefinitely and infinitely quickly. At the same time, the researchers note that a considerable number of forecasts in this area are based not on objective data, but the wishes of the predictors themselves.
So far, AI is outperforming us only at the expense of computing power. But what people can master in a few minutes, the program spends thousands of hours, when compared with human experience.
For example, for AlphaGo to learn how to play Space Invaders, it needs to make thousands of attempts. In the end, the program, of course, will play better than a person, but he will master the process much faster.
Therefore, none of the forecasts can be said to be probable. But this is not a reason to completely abandon the idea of a technological singularity.
In many ways, the implementation of certain scenarios of the fate of humanity will depend on the direction of technological development, on whose hands it will be, and how it will be regulated. How much more complex the technology will be will also play a big role. Do not forget about the social, geopolitical, and economic factors that can influence progress. It is also difficult to talk about the exact dates of the technological singularity.
Will people continue to exist if they are not needed for many activities (for example, science)? Will a person changed by DNA interventions or neuro interfaces remain a person? We don’t have the answers to these questions. Perhaps man has already changed irrevocably with the advent of computers and digital technologies. One thing is certain here: the evolutionary process is natural and unstoppable. We can’t slow it down. After all, perhaps the machines will teach us not to kill or humiliate each other, and we should trust them?