Ray Kurzweil postulates a law of accelerating returns in which the speed of technological change and more generally, all evolutionary processes  increases exponentially, generalizing Moore's law in the same manner as Moravec's proposal, and also including material technology especially as applied to nanotechnology , medical technology and others.
Kurzweil reserves the term "singularity" for a rapid increase in artificial intelligence as opposed to other technologies , writing for example that "The Singularity will allow us to transcend these limitations of our biological bodies and brains There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between human and machine". Some singularity proponents argue its inevitability through extrapolation of past trends, especially those pertaining to shortening gaps between improvements to technology. In one of the first uses of the term "singularity" in the context of technological progress, Stanislaw Ulam tells of a conversation with John von Neumann about accelerating change:.
One conversation centered on the ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which 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. Kurzweil claims that technological progress follows a pattern of exponential growth , following what he calls the " law of accelerating returns ". Whenever technology approaches a barrier, Kurzweil writes, new technologies will surmount it. He predicts paradigm shifts will become increasingly common, leading to "technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history".
Oft-cited dangers include those commonly associated with molecular nanotechnology and genetic engineering. These threats are major issues for both singularity advocates and critics, and were the subject of Bill Joy 's Wired magazine article " Why the future doesn't need us ". Some intelligence technologies, like "seed AI",   may also have the potential to make themselves more efficient, not just faster, by modifying their source code.
These improvements would make further improvements possible, which would make further improvements possible, and so on. The mechanism for a recursively self-improving set of algorithms differs from an increase in raw computation speed in two ways. First, it does not require external influence: machines designing faster hardware would still require humans to create the improved hardware, or to program factories appropriately.
While speed increases seem to be only a quantitative difference from human intelligence, actual algorithm improvements would be qualitatively different. Eliezer Yudkowsky compares it to the changes that human intelligence brought: humans changed the world thousands of times more rapidly than evolution had done, and in totally different ways. Similarly, the evolution of life had been a massive departure and acceleration from the previous geological rates of change, and improved intelligence could cause change to be as different again.
There are substantial dangers associated with an intelligence explosion singularity originating from a recursively self-improving set of algorithms. First, the goal structure of the AI may not be invariant under self-improvement, potentially causing the AI to optimise for something other than was intended.
While not actively malicious, there is no reason to think that AIs would actively promote human goals unless they could be programmed as such, and if not, might use the resources currently used to support mankind to promote its own goals, causing human extinction. Carl Shulman and Anders Sandberg suggest that algorithm improvements may be the limiting factor for a singularity because whereas hardware efficiency tends to improve at a steady pace, software innovations are more unpredictable and may be bottlenecked by serial, cumulative research.
They suggest that in the case of a software-limited singularity, intelligence explosion would actually become more likely than with a hardware-limited singularity, because in the software-limited case, once human-level AI was developed, it could run serially on very fast hardware, and the abundance of cheap hardware would make AI research less constrained. Some critics, like philosopher Hubert Dreyfus , assert that computers or machines can't achieve human intelligence , while others, like physicist Stephen Hawking , hold that the definition of intelligence is irrelevant if the net result is the same.
Psychologist Steven Pinker stated in 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. University of California, Berkeley , philosophy professor John Searle writes:. We design them to behave as if they had certain sorts of psychology , but there is no psychological reality to the corresponding processes or behavior. Martin Ford in The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future  postulates a "technology paradox" in that before the singularity could occur most routine jobs in the economy would be automated, since this would require a level of technology inferior to that of the singularity.
This would cause massive unemployment and plummeting consumer demand, which in turn would destroy the incentive to invest in the technologies that would be required to bring about the Singularity. Job displacement is increasingly no longer limited to work traditionally considered to be "routine. Theodore Modis   and Jonathan Huebner  argue that the rate of technological innovation has not only ceased to rise, but is actually now declining. Evidence for this decline is that the rise in computer clock rates is slowing, even while Moore's prediction of exponentially increasing circuit density continues to hold.
This is due to excessive heat build-up from the chip, which cannot be dissipated quickly enough to prevent the chip from melting when operating at higher speeds. Advancements in speed may be possible in the future by virtue of more power-efficient CPU designs and multi-cell processors. Others  propose that other "singularities" can be found through analysis of trends in world population , world gross domestic product , and other indices.
Andrey Korotayev and others argue that historical hyperbolic growth curves can be attributed to feedback loops that ceased to affect global trends in the s, and thus hyperbolic growth should not be expected in the future. In a detailed empirical accounting, The Progress of Computing , William Nordhaus argued that, prior to , computers followed the much slower growth of a traditional industrial economy, thus rejecting extrapolations of Moore's law to 19th-century computers. In a paper, Schmidhuber stated that the frequency of subjectively "notable events" appears to be approaching a 21st-century singularity, but cautioned readers to take such plots of subjective events with a grain of salt: perhaps differences in memory of recent and distant events could create an illusion of accelerating change where none exists.
Paul Allen argued the opposite of accelerating returns, the complexity brake;  the more progress science makes towards understanding intelligence, the more difficult it becomes to make additional progress. A study of the number of patents shows that human creativity does not show accelerating returns, but in fact, as suggested by Joseph Tainter in his The Collapse of Complex Societies ,  a law of diminishing returns. The number of patents per thousand peaked in the period from to , and has been declining since.
Jaron Lanier refutes the idea that the Singularity is inevitable. He states: "I do not think the technology is creating itself. It's not an autonomous process. If you structure a society on not emphasizing individual human agency, it's the same thing operationally as denying people clout, dignity, and self-determination Economist Robert J. Standard of Living Since the Civil War , points out that measured economic growth has slowed around and slowed even further since the financial crisis of , and argues that the economic data show no trace of a coming Singularity as imagined by mathematician I.
In addition to general criticisms of the singularity concept, several critics have raised issues with Kurzweil's iconic chart. One line of criticism is that a log-log chart of this nature is inherently biased toward a straight-line result. Others identify selection bias in the points that Kurzweil chooses to use. For example, biologist PZ Myers points out that many of the early evolutionary "events" were picked arbitrarily.
The Economist mocked the concept with a graph extrapolating that the number of blades on a razor, which has increased over the years from one to as many as five, will increase ever-faster to infinity. Dramatic changes in the rate of economic growth have occurred in the past because of some technological advancement. Based on population growth, the economy doubled every , years from the Paleolithic era until the Neolithic Revolution.
The new agricultural economy doubled every years, a remarkable increase. If the rise of superhuman intelligence causes a similar revolution, argues Robin Hanson, one would expect the economy to double at least quarterly and possibly on a weekly basis. The term "technological singularity" reflects the idea that such change may happen suddenly, and that it is difficult to predict how the resulting new world would operate. While the technological singularity is usually seen as a sudden event, some scholars argue the current speed of change already fits this description. In addition, some argue that we are already in the midst of a major evolutionary transition that merges technology, biology, and society.
Digital technology has infiltrated the fabric of human society to a degree of indisputable and often life-sustaining dependence. We spend most of our waking time communicating through digitally mediated channels With one in three marriages in America beginning online, digital algorithms are also taking a role in human pair bonding and reproduction".
The article further argues that from the perspective of the evolution , several previous Major Transitions in Evolution have transformed life through innovations in information storage and replication RNA , DNA , multicellularity , and culture and language. In the current stage of life's evolution, the carbon-based biosphere has generated a cognitive system humans capable of creating technology that will result in a comparable evolutionary transition.
The digital information created by humans has reached a similar magnitude to biological information in the biosphere. Since the s, the quantity of digital information stored has doubled about every 2. In biological terms, there are 7. The digital realm stored times more information than this in see figure.
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The total amount of DNA contained in all of the cells on Earth is estimated to be about 5. This would represent a doubling of the amount of information stored in the biosphere across a total time period of just years".
The goal was to discuss the potential impact of the hypothetical possibility that robots could become self-sufficient and able to make their own decisions. They discussed the extent to which computers and robots might be able to acquire autonomy , and to what degree they could use such abilities to pose threats or hazards.
Some machines are programmed with various forms of semi-autonomy, including the ability to locate their own power sources and choose targets to attack with weapons. Also, some computer viruses can evade elimination and, according to scientists in attendance, could therefore be said to have reached a "cockroach" stage of machine intelligence. The conference attendees noted that self-awareness as depicted in science-fiction is probably unlikely, but that other potential hazards and pitfalls exist.
Berglas claims that there is no direct evolutionary motivation for an AI to be friendly to humans. Evolution has no inherent tendency to produce outcomes valued by humans, and there is little reason to expect an arbitrary optimisation process to promote an outcome desired by mankind, rather than inadvertently leading to an AI behaving in a way not intended by its creators such as Nick Bostrom's whimsical example of an AI which was originally programmed with the goal of manufacturing paper clips, so that when it achieves superintelligence it decides to convert the entire planet into a paper clip manufacturing facility.
Anders Sandberg has also elaborated on this scenario, addressing various common counter-arguments. Bostrom discusses human extinction scenarios, and lists superintelligence as a possible cause:. When we create the first superintelligent entity, we might make a mistake and give it goals that lead it to annihilate humankind, assuming its enormous intellectual advantage gives it the power to do so.
For example, we could mistakenly elevate a subgoal to the status of a supergoal. We tell it to solve a mathematical problem, and it complies by turning all the matter in the solar system into a giant calculating device, in the process killing the person who asked the question. A significant problem is that unfriendly artificial intelligence is likely to be much easier to create than friendly AI. While both require large advances in recursive optimisation process design, friendly AI also requires the ability to make goal structures invariant under self-improvement or the AI could transform itself into something unfriendly and a goal structure that aligns with human values and does not automatically destroy the human race.
An unfriendly AI, on the other hand, can optimize for an arbitrary goal structure, which does not need to be invariant under self-modification.
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Eliezer Yudkowsky proposed that research be undertaken to produce friendly artificial intelligence in order to address the dangers. He noted that the first real AI would have a head start on self-improvement and, if friendly, could prevent unfriendly AIs from developing, as well as providing enormous benefits to mankind.
Bill Hibbard proposes an AI design that avoids several dangers including self-delusion,  unintended instrumental actions,   and corruption of the reward generator. It also proposed a simple design that was vulnerable to corruption of the reward generator.
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One hypothetical approach towards attempting to control an artificial intelligence is an AI box , where the artificial intelligence is kept constrained inside a simulated world and not allowed to affect the external world. However, a sufficiently intelligent AI may simply be able to escape by outsmarting its less intelligent human captors.
Stephen Hawking said in that "Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks. So, facing possible futures of incalculable benefits and risks, the experts are surely doing everything possible to ensure the best outcome, right? If a superior alien civilisation sent us a message saying, "We'll arrive in a few decades," would we just reply, "OK, call us when you get here — we'll leave the lights on"?
Probably not — but this is more or less what is happening with AI. In a hard takeoff scenario, an AGI rapidly self-improves, "taking control" of the world perhaps in a matter of hours , too quickly for significant human-initiated error correction or for a gradual tuning of the AGI's goals. In a soft takeoff scenario, AGI still becomes far more powerful than humanity, but at a human-like pace perhaps on the order of decades , on a timescale where ongoing human interaction and correction can effectively steer the AGI's development. Ramez Naam argues against a hard takeoff by pointing out that we already see recursive self-improvement by superintelligences, such as corporations.
For instance, Intel has "the collective brainpower of tens of thousands of humans and probably millions of CPU cores to.. Storrs Hall believes that "many of the more commonly seen scenarios for overnight hard takeoff are circular — they seem to assume hyperhuman capabilities at the starting point of the self-improvement process" in order for an AI to be able to make the dramatic, domain-general improvements required for takeoff. Hall suggests that rather than recursively self-improving its hardware, software, and infrastructure all on its own, a fledgling AI would be better off specializing in one area where it was most effective and then buying the remaining components on the marketplace, because the quality of products on the marketplace continually improves, and the AI would have a hard time keeping up with the cutting-edge technology used by the rest of the world.
Ben Goertzel agrees with Hall's suggestion that a new human-level AI would do well to use its intelligence to accumulate wealth. The AI's talents might inspire companies and governments to disperse its software throughout society. Goertzel is skeptical of a very hard, 5-minute takeoff but thinks a takeoff from human to superhuman level on the order of 5 years is reasonable. He calls this a "semihard takeoff". Max More disagrees, arguing that if there were only a few superfast human-level AIs, they wouldn't radically change the world, because they would still depend on other people to get things done and would still have human cognitive constraints.
Even if all superfast AIs worked on intelligence augmentation, it's not clear why they would do better in a discontinuous way than existing human cognitive scientists at producing super-human intelligence, although the rate of progress would increase. More also argues that a superintelligence would not transform the world overnight, because a superintelligence would need to engage with existing, slow human systems to accomplish physical impacts on the world.
In his book, The Singularity is Near , Kurzweil suggests that medical advances would allow people to protect their bodies from the effects of aging, making the life expectancy limitless. Kurzweil argues that the technological advances in medicine would allow us to continuously repair and replace defective components in our bodies, prolonging life to an undetermined age. Kurzweil suggests somatic gene therapy ; after synthetic viruses with specific genetic information, the next step would be to apply this technology to gene therapy, replacing human DNA with synthesized genes.
Eric Drexler , one of the founders of nanotechnology , postulated cell repair devices, including ones operating within cells and utilizing as yet hypothetical biological machines , in his book Engines of Creation. According to Richard Feynman , it was his former graduate student and collaborator Albert Hibbs who originally suggested to him circa the idea of a medical use for Feynman's theoretical micromachines. Hibbs suggested that certain repair machines might one day be reduced in size to the point that it would, in theory, be possible to as Feynman put it " swallow the doctor ".
Beyond merely extending the operational life of the physical body, Jaron Lanier argues for a form of immortality called "Digital Ascension" that involves "people dying in the flesh and being uploaded into a computer and remaining conscious". In his obituary for John von Neumann , Ulam recalled a conversation with von Neumann about the "ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which 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.
In , Good wrote his essay postulating an "intelligence explosion" of recursive self-improvement of a machine intelligence. It describes a military AI computer Golem XIV who obtains consciousness and starts to increase his own intelligence, moving towards personal technological singularity. Golem XIV was originally created to aid its builders in fighting wars, but as its intelligence advances to a much higher level than that of humans, it stops being interested in the military requirement because it finds them lacking internal logical consistency.
In , Vernor Vinge greatly popularized Good's intelligence explosion in a number of writings, first addressing the topic in print in the January issue of Omni magazine. In this op-ed piece, Vinge seems to have been the first to use the term "singularity" in a way that was specifically tied to the creation of intelligent machines:  . We will soon create intelligences greater than our own. When this happens, human history will have reached a kind of singularity, an intellectual transition as impenetrable as the knotted space-time at the center of a black hole, and the world will pass far beyond our understanding.
This singularity, I believe, already haunts a number of science-fiction writers. It makes realistic extrapolation to an interstellar future impossible.
To write a story set more than a century hence, one needs a nuclear war in between In , in "The Time Scale of Artificial Intelligence", artificial intelligence researcher Ray Solomonoff articulated mathematically the related notion of what he called an "infinity point": if a research community of human-level self-improving AIs take four years to double their own speed, then two years, then one year and so on, their capabilities increase infinitely in finite time. Shortly after, the human era will be ended. In , Bill Joy , a prominent technologist and a co-founder of Sun Microsystems , voiced concern over the potential dangers of the singularity.
In , Kurzweil published The Singularity is Near.
Is Innovation in Advanced AI the Apocalypse?
In , Eliezer Yudkowsky suggested that many of the varied definitions that have been assigned to "singularity" are mutually incompatible rather than mutually supporting. Good's proposed discontinuous upswing in intelligence and Vinge's thesis on unpredictability. In , Kurzweil and X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis announced the establishment of Singularity University , a nonaccredited private institute whose stated mission is "to educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity's grand challenges.
The not-for-profit organization runs an annual ten-week graduate program during summer that covers ten different technology and allied tracks, and a series of executive programs throughout the year. In , the Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress released a report about the future of nanotechnology.
It predicts significant technological and political changes in the mid-term future, including possible technological singularity. One thing that we haven't talked about too much, and I just want to go back to, is we really have to think through the economic implications. Because most people aren't spending a lot of time right now worrying about singularity—they are worrying about "Well, is my job going to be replaced by a machine? From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The hypothesis of an eventual runaway technological growth. For other uses, see Singularity disambiguation.
Further information: Superintelligence. Main article: Accelerating change. Further information: Existential risk from artificial general intelligence. Further information: Sociocultural evolution. The best example of what we could face may be our own evolution. Share to Facebook. Tweet This. Share via Email.
Artificial Intelligence. The creation of AI might be the biggest event in human history Future of Life June 1st What is AI? Why research AI safety? How can AI be dangerous? In the hands of the wrong person, these weapons could easily cause mass casualties. Why the recent interest in AI safety. Recommended References. Artificial intelligence: Our final invention? Artificial intelligence: Can we keep it in the box? Centre for the Study of Existential Risk CSER : A multidisciplinary research center dedicated to the study and mitigation of risks that could lead to human extinction.
Future of Humanity Institute : A multidisciplinary research institute bringing the tools of mathematics, philosophy, and science to bear on big-picture questions about humanity and its prospects. Global Catastrophic Risk Institute : A think tank leading research, education, and professional networking on global catastrophic risk.