Daniel Lemire's blog

, 2 min read

Technological singularity

Interesting: I just read the Technological singularity entry. Firstly, it interesting because Wikipedia is a free-for-all encyclopedia, but the entry is really high quality and, secondly, the topic of a technological singularity is fascinating in itself.

In futurism, a technological singularity is a predicted point in the development of a civilization at which technological progress accelerates beyond the ability of present-day humans to fully comprehend or predict. The Singularity can more specifically refer to the advent of smarter-than-human intelligence, and the cascading technological progress assumed to follow. Whether a singularity will actually occur is a matter of debate.

Of course, I doubt anyone understands what intelligence is, despite centuries of research and billions of dollars invested in the last 30 years on AI research.So, I’m not expecting a big breakthrough in AI research soon. However, the Wikipedia entry correctly points out that the singularity could occur through other means: nanotechnology or some other technological breakthrough which allows us to greatly accelerate our rate of technological progress.

I expect the Internet to boost technological progress. To me, it feels like it does enhance my intelligence greatly. (I define intelligence as my capacity to solve problems.) However, in other to reach a singularity, you need a much more profound breakthrough: you need to enter a tight loop where technological breakthroughs lead to faster R&D which in turns leads to more R&D-enhancing technological breakthroughs, and so on. The problem is that right now, R&D is done by humans are humans are limited: we can only adapt so fast to change. Hence, you need to either improve human beings, or create new intelligent beings.

I think that AI is currently out of reach, and probably not desirable: do we really want to create intelligence beyond our own? Books, IT, Google, Wikipedia help make us smarter, and quite a bit so, but I just don’t see the exponential growth in intelligence that we require to reach a technological singularity…? Or maybe it is simply hard to see because we are living through the last few years before the singularity?