The greatest debate in the world of Artificial Intelligence!
Under the banner, “We’ll make great pets,” Jefferson Reid explains the meaning of singularity, a key word in the tech field of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Singularity, says Reid, is “the moment when mankind could be mentally dwarfed by its own machines, and we become an inferior species.”
John von Neumann introduced the word singularity in a tech sense in a 1958 conversation with Sanislaw Ulam, mathematician from the Manhattan Project. With technology accelerating at what seems a continuous, unstoppable rate, Ulam noted that this increase “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.” Remember that he made this observation over 50 years ago – 1958!
Moore’s Law, postulated in 1965 by Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore, says that computer processing power doubles roughly every two years. Which has been accurate for the past 50 years. Now if my brain were to double in power every two years… you get the picture?
This field of thought is apparently of rich interest to three groups: optimists, pessimists and skeptics. Optimists point to IBM’s Watson supercomputer, “the closes thing humanity has to genuine A.I. Watson has been able to win in games of chess and Jeopardy.
The pessimists are by no means ignorant bigots sitting in the dark. Rather they are thinkers who believe that AI takeover is such a reality that it is too dangerous to be allowed. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX has shared his concerns about a scenario where clever machines, left to their own devices, stage a global takeover. Other pessimists include Ray Kurzweil and Stephen Hawking.
Of course, not everyone thinks that singularity will happen in the next 5 or 500 years. For example, Steven Pinker, the world-leading Harvard psychologist, states,
There is not the slightest reason to believe in a coming singularity. The fact that you can visualize a future in your imagination is not evidence that it is likely or even possible. Look at domed cities, jet-pack commuting, underwater cities, mile-high buildings, and nuclear-powered automobiles–all staples of futuristic fantasies when I was a child that have never arrived. Sheer processing power is not a pixie dust that magically solves all your problems.
Obviously a question only time will tell for some people. An interesting speculation of improbability? A time of terror for earth? A great innovation of extended life? And the debate goes on. And on…