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The Singularity Is Near

April 25, 2011 Leave a comment

I have always been fascinated by technology and I have also always put significant amounts of faith in the fact that technology will be able to solve all of our problems. Nothing better captures my views than that of the Singularity movement that we learned about early on in the course. The singularity is used much more colloquially to describe a point at which technology will solve most of the major problems that humans struggle with, even death.However, the basic concept of the Singularity movement is actually that technology is advancing so rapidly that eventually humans will create a superintelligence so advanced that from that point on it will be impossible to accurately predict the future, just like scientists lack the ability to see beyond the singularity of a black hole. One of they keys to the singularity movement is that this superintelligence will be so advanced that it will actually be able to rewrite its own code or even create other more intelligent entities, just like humans are doing. Proponents of the singularity argue that this will lead to an intelligence explosion at which point the advancements could continue to accelerate until the laws of physics are the only limiting factors.

Now many people think that proponents of the singularity happen to be crazy. The advancement of AI and other technology begs to differ however, and suggests that the singularity might be approaching much more quickly than we might think. Take Nicole’s post on the Geminoid for example. This generation of robots created by a tech company in Tokyo look so human that it is difficult to tell that they’re actually robots. Not only that, but they are able to carry on conversations with each other and with human participants. To make things even scarier take a peek at Sasha’s article on the new wikipedia for robots which creates a compiled source of data specifically for use by robots. Creating a central data source that robots wirelessly have access to can only accelerate the coming of the singularity. Just as wikipedia has consolidated the knowledge base of human beings and increased our access to information and learning, the RoboEarth system could do the same for robots. This system is slightly reminiscent of the Viki system in iRobot that wirelessly controls all robot actions. Lastly, the Watson system that Chris describes could be the scariest of all. The superintelligent Watson was able to easily beat the best human competitors in Jeopardy history, which begs the question as Chris asks “How long will it be until future generations of super computers exceed human ability at other tasks?” It seems that the answer is not very long at all.

My feelings about the singularity are very mixed however. While many fear that superintelligent robots will be the bane of human existence(I do too), I am excited to see the effects as humans reach the pinnacle of their creativity and intelligence. I truly believe that with such rapid technological advancement, humans might be able to as Ashlee Vance argues in Merely Human? That’s So Yesterday, to stave off death for hundreds of years.

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