The Singularity is near

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I've watched a lot of Star Trek and singularities are rarely ever good things.

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This is like one of those lame rides that shows the 1950s people views of what the future will be like.

Except these guys aren't predicting absurdities like flying cars and Vokuhila hairstyles, but more real stuff like the pace of technological advancement and the future of Artificial Intelligence. And Kurzweil has always been right so far.

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Well this prediction is unlikely to be right:

 

 

However, his claim that such portable computers will be commonly embedded in clothing and jewelry by 2009 seems unlikely to pass, as does his prediction that people will typically be wearing "at least a dozen" such computers in the same year. Most "portable computers" as they are defined here also have built-in keyboards or accessible keyboard functions (such as a digital keyboard that can be manipulated through a touchscreen), putting reality again at odds with Kurzweil's belief that most computers would lack this feature by 2009, with users instead relying on continuous speech recognition (CSR) to communicate with their PCs.

From Wikipedia article on Raymond Kurweil.

 

CSR is his little moneymaker, so of course some of his predictions are going to be skewed in favour of that. And I'm not saying it won't eventually come true, but not on the timeline he's giving.

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Like all futurist predictions some will be right, some woefully wrong and there will be some things we just couldn't predict.

 

I personally do believe a lot will happen in the next 100 years or so in this area. Computer power is increasing more or less in line with mores law and there is increasing understanding of the human brain.

 

Can we in the not too distant future read thoughts? It seems to me to be likely. Will we be able to amend thoughts, scary but not impossible I would guess. Could we enhance the brain by adding extra processing units? Possible as well I would say.

 

There is, as many point out, the possibility we do ourselves out of a job by creating machines which are more intelligent than ourselves. That we should be concerned about.

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Can we in the not too distant future read thoughts?

 

 

we are doing that right now on TT!

 

The machines are not going to be smarter than us, WE are going to be machines smarter than us.

 

all our functions (seeing, hearing, talking, memory, calculation, movement, digestion...usw.) are enhanced by machines and this is only likely to increase, which means that it won't be the machines taking over, but us disappearing to become ghosts within the supercapable machines.

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Fantastic, but who starts building the machines?

 

Venture funded firms looking to survive at the cheapest possible cost until 3rd round financing? Huge public traded companies with a billion internal kingdoms, with each chief looking to minimize already stretched internal resources while maximizing their external budgets? Future prediction: picture a 25-year old McKinsey 'senior consultant' managing a project for one piece of the singularity machinery. Management cannot resist the job security of hiring McKinsey experts. Consultant justifies €1,500-a-day cost by planning for external teams in up'n'coming cheap economies - each of which considers "can't" to be 2nd filthiest word in the English language, next to "no" and the phrase "maybe a bad idea".

 

Project specs designed by committees; goals and targets set by different committees too senior to be involved in details. Project communication invariably is a mix of telephone calls, im, email - with no single source of input/output, ergo each team member has a unique, individual view of the requirements. What little written communication exists is comprised mostly of evil PowerPoint presentations, containing approximately 1,600 pronouns, and 3 nouns so everyone can easily reach a common understanding. Compromising quality and features for time, project is delivered in the quarter promised to company shareholders. QA went extinct in the process, beta testing lasted 1 week. First million manbrids to use the technology enjoy interesting business case failures.

 

You first.

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we are doing that right now on TT!

 

The machines are not going to be smarter than us, WE are going to be machines smarter than us.

 

all our functions (seeing, hearing, talking, memory, calculation, movement, digestion...usw.) are enhanced by machines and this is only likely to increase, which means that it won't be the machines taking over, but us disappearing to become ghosts within the supercapable machines.

All we're going to use this stuff for is to simulate sex, just like the internet now.

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I do seriously wonder about that. Pretty well all we are and all we think about is sex and sex related. How to make our genes last longer than us and how we protect them.

 

There would be no need to procreate so our reason for being would disappear. Would an artificial brain think about sex all the time?

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@Randy: There is no "the machine" to be built. All the machines that enhance our daily functions had had diverse origins. For movement, we have no single machine that was constructed according to a business model (of consultants, etc.) that is used now used in some industries and some contexts.

 

For movement, an example of an enhanced activity, we use different combinations of technologies that rely on things like the wheel, the internal combustion engine, public transportation, air turbines, heavier than air flight... all in which the business models of consutants etc played only a small part.

 

@lilplatinum: the internet extends and enhances our sexual fantasy world (including substituting it for some), but that is only one of the things it is used for. Just like our brains, eyes and hands are not perpetually coordinated to masturbating while looking at porn.

 

There is already a prototype helmet for gamers, that directly collects impulses from the brain and takes the required action within the game. I can imagine this technology also being used to enhance (or substitute) sexual experience, but surely that will only be one of the many things it will be used for. After all plastics are not used solely to make dolls or enhance breasts.

 

 

There would be no need to procreate so our reason for being would disappear.

@Pas: As our lives have become longer and richer, procreation has become less and less important. This can be seen in declining birth rates worldwide (including the third world, where the rise in population is caused by death rates declining much faster than birth rates).

 

Even though sex is a very important part of our lives, any man/machine brain is highly unlikely to be thinking about sex all the time. It will probably think a lot of the time about how to extend/ recreate itself, but sex wouldn't be necessary for this. Anyway simulating sexual pleasure is not very difficult, and anything approaching the human mind could easily do it, without spending all its time on it. After all computers do not think about sex, even though they can and do generate images for sexual stimulation.

 

But the way of the future would be man-machine intelligence. This is true even in the present, when we interface with a computer, we are supplementing our brain by connecting to a machine and extending its capabilities. At such cyborg moments, sex is only one (minor?) thing we think about.

 

The interesting question for me is whether a cyborg, (man-machine) brain think about itself all the time?

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all our functions (seeing, hearing, talking, memory, calculation, movement, digestion...usw.) are enhanced by machines and this is only likely to increase, which means that it won't be the machines taking over, but us disappearing to become ghosts within the supercapable machines.

How long will it take the 411 scammers to remotely interface with sight and memory, so that instead of walking to the donut shop for a morning gut-buster, I fly to Nigeria and hand over all my cash on compulsion?

 

But the interesting question is: would AI get tired of political wonks and conspiracy theorists?

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Humans are highly suseptible to suggestion and manipulation like this.

 

Perhaps the enhanced humans work out even better how to manipulate the non enhanced? Scary thought.

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Are we manipulated by technologies that enhance our sight (television and the like)? Yes, very much so.

 

Are we manipulated by attractive displays and smooth talking salesmen (in the non-german world)? Yes.

 

We are already enhanced at this moment by interfacing with a machine that supplements our intelligence and connecting to a network. Do we manipulate those who do not have their intelligence enhanced in the same way? some of us do, most of us don't. Some try to spread enhanced thinking by getting cheaper laptops, some try to block it.

 

Whether humans will (only) abuse technologies, depends on whether you think of humans as selfish, exploitative, greedy, essentially evil or as cooperating, good for the most part, altruistic at times... and numerous nuances in between.

 

Technologies arise out of flawed human socio-political contexts and go on to shape them. Technologies do not necessarily make our socio-political environments better or worse, we ourselves have a large role.

 

Some of the enhanced thinking might also make potential scam victims aware that people in Lagos, abidjan, ivory coast, wherever are not necessarily always: in the middle of a civil war, corrupt with millions hidden away, retarded and in need of help to make a bank transfer, fair game to be screwed out of their millions.

 

Enhanced thinking might also make us question our greed and our prejudices.

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I wouldn't say machines necessarily 'enhance' our intelligence, they outsource it. I can't really recall any math beyond simple functions despite the fact that I took up to calculous. Why? I outsource this function to computers, I don't need anything beyond simple math. My physical body is less fit then people in the past because I have machines to do so much for me. How do we know humanity doesn't end up like HG Wells Eloi and become more simplistic, less evolved creatures because we have machines to do everything for us?

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Look at yourself, are you Eloi? Its close on to to a 100 years since Eloi was thought of, we are different from our ancestors, but better or worse, or more simplistic? I don't think so.

 

The basic flaw in Wells' thought was that he picked some human qualities as defining what it meant to be human, in this case independence and thinking and privileged them. Additionally an increase in the independence and intelligence of machines would mean a decrease in ours and so on.

 

To be human is much more than that, and to have machines do some things, leaves us free to do others. Some choose to enhance intelligence, some to enhance their physique. That's why olympic records continue to be broken, we do not celebrate that guy in 1900 who ran so fast, we wait for that other guy in 2008, who will run faster.

 

On intelligence, Newton struggled to invent calculus and now average 16 year olds study and master it as a matter of course (not all over the world, but in enough places to indicate that people are not more stupid now) The Flynn effect shows how the average IQ has kept rising across much of the world (though the causes are controversial). The average American 17 yr old in the 1930s, would have an IQ of 70 or so(verging on retardation) by today's standards.

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Whether humans will (only) abuse technologies, depends on whether you think of humans as selfish, exploitative, greedy, essentially evil or as cooperating, good for the most part, altruistic at times... and numerous nuances in between.

All seem likely as we are capable of all. The problem is that history shows the manipulative tend to take control when they can.

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Intelligence and knowledge aren't the same thing.

 

Sure, we have alot more knowledge, although the average person doesn't have to really understand any of it because its not necessary to function. Back in the day you had to have a large number of common sense skills because they were necessary for survival. Today, you don't have to do much of anything because thers a gadget to do it for you. The average 16 year old does not master calculous, they learn the concepts and then leave it to the very few people it is beneficial to or to computers. I took calculous 2 and I can barely remember how to factor anymore.

 

Specialists have far more knowledge today than they did 100 years ago, but as the bredth of our knowledge grows the inability of an individual to master a significant portion of it does too, so people will focus on what they want or their specializations and leave the rest to other specialists and computers.

 

I would say that the average person is less physically fit (but more healthy) than 100 years ago (athletes are specialists, they are the exception). But as we master medicine and sanitations we have made our immune systems weaker and created new antibiotic resistant strains of diseases.

 

Progress is a good thing but I definately think that 'enhancement' is not as of yet necessarily the right word for every techinlogical breakthrough. Technology makes life easier and gives us more time to do what we want - often by outsourcing labor.

 

Besides, I read Dune, I know where this ends... We're going to overthrow the machines and then be ruled by a large sandworm.

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Ah but in the end the sandworm itself is overthrown... although that was its plan all along.

 

Try reading Redemption Ark...

 

"While a great deal of science fiction reflects either very optimistic or dystopian visions of the human future, Reynolds's future worlds are notable in that human societies have not departed to either positive or negative extremes, but instead are similar to those of today in terms of moral ambiguity and a mixture of cruelty and decency, corruption and opportunity, despite their technology being dramatically advanced."

 

Though even Reynolds comes up with the "Coalition for Neurological Purity", something along the lines of the Butlerian Jihad.

 

Revelation space universe

 

Technology in Revelation Space

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This is totally impossible because machines function using explicit thought and reasoning.

 

If it were possible to write algorithms for real implicit thoughts then machines would start to wonder about the origins of the universe, philosophy, religion and even start conflicts amongst themselves and us.

 

Unfortunately we are incapable of writing such algorithms because implicit thoughts are also guided by such things as love and fear which are not fully understood and never will be.

 

The singularity is a concept genuinely believed in only by the uneducated or the misguided or dreamers or idiots.

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I think the idiots are the ones who think the future will be the same as the present.

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