Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Singularity

Lately, I have been spending a lot of time reading about the technological singularity.  For those who do not know what it is this is the gist of it. The singularity refers to the development of greater than human intelligence some time in the future. If a greater than human intelligence can be created then that intelligence would be able to create one smarter than itself. This would lead to incredibly fast creation of intelligence. Because of the grand implications of this idea, it is hard to predict what will actually happen to humanity after that point because there will be such a great leap in technology that all new developments would seem entirely alien to present day humans. When greater than human intelligence determines innovation, more and more intelligent technology will be created eventually causing intelligence to expand exponentially. Vernor Vinge wrote an excellent paper on the singularity and what it might mean for the human race.

Over time the propagation of new ideas throughout society has increased to faster and faster speeds. In early times ideas only spread by word of mouth. The speed that ideas could travel was limited by how fast someone could walk or ride an animal. There was also a limit on how long the original idea could be saved, due to a persons life span. Information had to be shared orally and be passed down from generation to generation in order for it to survive. The relatively slow process of learning that information also slowed down the rate that it traveled.

Eventually there was writing that could store information and allow information to be saved longer than a humans life. Also written text can be copied and distributed to new areas. The next major development for the spread of information

Here are some ways that some believe the singularity will be reached.
  • Computers that are "conscious" may be created and they will reach superhuman intelligence
  • Large computer networks may develop some greater intelligence
  • Computer/human interfaces will allow man to think at much greater levels than those allowed by purely biological life forms.
  • The altering of human biology to allow for greater intelligence. This could mean altering DNA in order to develop better brains.
In the next few posts I will expand on some of these ideas and share some of the history of the sharing and comprehension of information.

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