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Technological Singularity: the moment when robots reach a level of intelligence that is superior to the current level of human reasonableness or ability to predict the outcomes of unrestrained technological growth. As a consequence, the economic, cultural and political singularity of human civilization follows. And although the singularity is still the subject of many Hollywood films and fictions, the possibility of this hypothetical moment genuinely approaching is looking more and more likely.
The process of replacing the biological by technological has already approached the substitution of a human by some algorithm. Thanks to technological acceleration and the accumulation of historical time, the desire to go beyond biology brings mankind closer to the culmination point — the singularity. Acceleration of historical time, that is, the concentration of social events, followed by mankind in a unit of time — is an important factor in the concept of singularity.
The singularity really is somewhere near. Moreover, its hypothetical date is real to calculation by scientists, and such data has been presented to the public. After making their calculations, scientists claim to have easily found the starting point of the “singularity”.
It occurs around the middle of the 21st century, which coincides with the forecasts by Ray Kurzweil, who, based on the dynamics of the exponential development of computer technology, predicts that:
- · By 2029 the machine will pass the Turing test;
- · By 2034 artificial intelligence will be created;
- · By the 2040s the non-biological mind will be more powerful than the biological one;
- · By the end of 2040 the Earth will turn into a reasonable “computer”, more precisely, a networked intelligent being;
- · At the end of the century this computer will cover the Universe with its powers
In space rocket launches in the countdown, instead of “zero” one say “start”. That is, zero is, in fact, the transition point, the end of the countdown in the preparatory process.
Therefore, “zero”, this is the beginning of some new countdown, for which, in fact, the reverse countdown is started. But what humanity is waiting for this new starting point, behind this launch? I do not know how the moment of transition to singularity will be technically made, what the future will look like.
But I think that the key solution will not be found in the field of nanotechnology or operations in the field of chemistry and physics, or biochemistry, but in the field of digitization, that is, copying a person.
The key work will be done not with the body of a human being, but with information that is technologically already available today, and many experiments are conducted without much public attention today as well.
This is the first step. The next step is the transformation of the human body, which will be necessary in the framework of compulsive evolution and realization of singularity in the frame of economy, politics and culture. But for the preparation of this moment, the question of copying a person into an environment where all knowledge is instantly available must first be resolved.
Therefore, a possible transition to a singularity will be prepared most likely, by cyberorganics and gadgetization of human nerves. Probably, it will be about some kind of synthesis of a person’s personality and machine, in which the human will move to the network environment, while retaining unique identity and gaining not only the entire available universal mind of mankind, but also the ability to instantly generate any new knowledge.
Apparently, the developments in the field of body gadgetization, on the one hand, and work in the field of artificial intelligence, on the other, will somehow lead to the moment of singularity when it will be possible to combine personality with artificial intelligence. It can look like a synthesis of a man and an android.
Corporations and startups are actively engaged in artificial intelligence, including Google, IBM and others. The results of this work are real.
As one of examples, a robot has been created that looks like a human and can support conversation, read emotions — or at least try to do it — and also perform different types of settled tasks. The concept of technological singularity has no technological or scientific basis, as it seems at first glance.
However, the proponents of singularity are trying to draw a parallel with the evolution of species and technologies without any reason. They believe that the constant increase in the power of computers will eventually give artificial intelligence that will surpass the human mind. But conventional computing devices are not the human mind at all. We have about 100 billion neurons in our brains. Not only their number, but first of all, their structure and principle of interaction gives us the opportunity to think and act. All we can do is create certain kinds of algorithms to achieve certain goals and solve problems. In fact, all these systems are very limited in their capabilities.
A possible conclusion is that the singularity is a new religion, but not a science that will be implemented in human historical development.
One can say that the technology is not bad and not good, it’s just an instrument. And this instrument becomes bad or good only in the hands that hold it, which control it. As for the singularity, people, nothing to do with it, all this only about the machines. They can break free from our hands, and the only thing that can be said with certainty is that we cannot predict the consequences of such an outcome of events. And we remember that based on the history of civilization, the public authorities always use religion as a controlling tool, which in turn uses many and varied tools of manipulation, influence and reaction. If, of course, the singularity becomes a religion. What needs to be done today is to think about ways to develop artificial intelligence technologies.
Ideally, the fusion of human with artificial intelligence will bring people benefits and improve the quality of their lives. People will transfer their consciousness into the cloud and be able to “unload” the brains. According to Ray Kurzweil, this will lead to an increase in the neocortex — new areas of the cerebral cortex of humans that is responsible for sensory perception, conscious thinking, speech, the ability to create art and a sense of humor. Kurzweil is optimistic — he is confident that the merger of man with artificial intelligence is the future. People will stop thinking linearly, and this will lead to unprecedented progress. This is one side of the medal. And what about the other side? After the creation of the superhuman intellect, the human epoch may be completed, in the form to which we are accustomed and which is fixed in our historical memory.
So, let’s take as a working hypothesis that the capabilities of computers in the near future will surpass the human. At this level, it does not matter whether they “really” think, because the results of their work will be the same as if they thought faster and deeper than people.
For the first time in the history of mankind, we will find ourselves in a society of beings more intelligent than ourselves.
The first consequence is that we will not be able to fully understand or predict the further development of events, when not only people but superintelligents will rise at the head of civilization. This is the meaning of the term “Singularity” — the conditions in which habitual models and representations are losing their applicability, and something fundamentally different begins. This definition of this concept in 1993 gave Vernor Vinge. Technological singularity is a hypothetical moment in the future, when technological development will become so rapid that the schedule of technical progress will become practically vertical. The main idea here is simple: beyond the technological singularity, humanity is waiting for something inhuman, post-singular, and it remains to be wondered whether we can prevent this something frightening of our future.
To understand the logic of the subsequent arguments, it is important to note the inextricable link between the financial and economic system and scientific and technological progress in the evolution of human society. Economics as a phenomenon arose at the time of separation of two processes: production and consumption. What then will be a singularity in the economy? According to the understanding of the essence and function of financial and economic relations, it is possible to draw a self-evident conclusion: they will lose their significance in harmonizing the spheres of production and consumption.
That is, the financial and economic component of society will lose all sense when each action of consumption will be maximally approximated in time to the effect of production, that is, the production of a specific product will be stimulated not by a consumer market factor but by the order of a specific consumer. What is needed for this? Most likely, the speed and flexibility of production. Automation of production, on the one hand, and networked communications, on the other, has now reached the limit beyond which the existence of any form of financial management of production and consumption becomes meaningless. That is, the level of modern technologies already in principle allows us to combine the production of a specific unique product with a specific individual order, which forms the basic principles of economic singularity.
Of course, people included in economic and political relations are free to react to changes in it. How they did react earlier throughout the history of mankind. Their reaction (both positive and negative) is fully predetermined by natural events (mechanization, industrialization, militarization) and is a necessary element in the mechanism for coordinating the economic system itself.
Further, one can come to the conclusion that political singularity is inevitable. As a kind of development of the political system of society, when political management becomes meaningless. That is, in this reason, the need for the existence in the future of certain special political institutions for making meaningful decisions for the development and maintenance of social development, statehood, and society is being questioned. In fact, the entire political system performs only one function — giving some people the right to make decisions. Since the adoption of such decisions requires professional knowledge, the assessment of these decisions by society is difficult, and that is why the political system provides a choice not for the decisions themselves, but only for the people who must accept them, that is, the change of political management. As a matter of fact, political institutions realize the mechanism of allocation of subjects of decision-making that is providing legitimacy of these decisions and no more.
On the one hand, for technological reasons — the time interval between the adoption of socially significant decisions and the achievement of the result is steadily declining.
On the other hand, the implementation of the real-time management mechanism is the result of the development of information technology in recent decades. That is, the combined effect of such two factors as the development of information technology for forecasting and the shortening of the time interval between the adoption and implementation of the solution will inevitably lead in the future to a situation where the time interval between the decision and the assessment of its effectiveness is minimized. One can say that one of the main achievements of post-singular technology will be the elimination of the gap between the adoption and implementation of solutions, any solutions in general. Then the political singularity means that the management problem is shifting from the procedure for selecting the decision-maker directly and immediately to assess the effectiveness of the result. It is unrealistic today, but it is quite feasible in the context of singularity.
Along with technological, political and economic singularities, we can talk about cultural singularity. The historical movement of culture appears to us as a succession of completely separate stages, characterized by a single cultural style, with unique distinctive features. As technological and economic singularities do not mean a catastrophe, but only the exhaustion of some forms of organization of society, so the cultural singularity does not mean the death of culture, not the finale of the aesthetic attitude of people to life, but only a change in the form of the culture development.
The main feature of post-singular culture should be the transition from the priority of successively changing artistic styles to the parallel, simultaneous existence of all possible variety of cultural forms, to the freedom of individual creativity and individual consumption of the products of this creation. Completing the alternation of styles and directions does not mean stopping the evolution of culture, simply after passing the singularity point, the innovation in forms will appear not consistently, but in a single stream, not displacing or replacing each other.
So how can a comprehensive singularity happen; under which conditions?
Here it is worth to listen again to the opinion of Verner Vinge, who identified possible ways of forming a superhuman intellect, which will accelerate the coming of singularity:
- From artificial intelligence
- Through the increase in human biological capabilities — development and, cyborgization and application of other approaches
- To human-computer systems — combining the strengths of man and computer, the increasing use of information and communication technologies to enhance our intellectual abilities
- It is unrealistic to predict the concrete forms in which the singularity will be realized. What will it look like from the point of view of human understanding? Possible looks like:
- Practical subjective immortality
- Ability to be in all places where the network is placed
- A huge number of tasks and problems for research and solutions — everything is exciting, everything has enough time and abilities
- If necessary, you can always complete yourself, both programmatically and functionally
As history shows us, the humanity is not able to find out a common universal justification for its existence. The achievements of individual civilizations, cultures, personalities, religions and philosophies do not converge with each other and are not able to convince doubters in the sense of their existence.
Therefore, the possible global goal of our common civilization for the future is to achieve the Singularity and recognize its dictatorship over human civilization. But the victory of the singularity, in turn, will trigger the mechanisms of neo-technocracy. About this we will talk next time.