Singularity: The technological singularity (also, simply, the singularity) is the hypothesis that the invention of artificial superintelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization.
Have you ever taken a look at the constantly accelerating world of technology and thought "what happens if these machines become more intelligent than us? Will they develop conscious thoughts and decide that we are inferior and wipe us out? Will they become our bff's for being their creators? How come our jobs are rapidly being replaced by machines? What will be the role of humans if we are no longer the most intelligent beings? Is this at all even possible?"
I find these ideas interesting to think about and I think the notion of singularity is a possibility that should at least be considered. In this article I'm going to outline a few of the issues surrounding intelligent machines and advanced AI. As well as give some of my personal opinions about the topic.
Strap in, It's about to get wild..
Job Replacement Through Programmed Machinery
These damn robots are takin' our jerrrbs!! How am I supposed to make my money?? How am I supposed to earn a living?? Relax, this could actually be a great thing. Think about this for a minute... If right now, all of the mundane, boring jobs were to be replaced by machines... A lot of people would obviously be unemployed... But is this necessarily a bad thing? Most people don't enjoy their jobs anyway, so why should this be seen as "bad"? I mean, all of the money is still in existence. That's what most people work for anyways. So what is it that we want? Jobs? or Money? I'd personally rather have money. So, it seems like the real issue here is the distribution of wealth, not the diminishing job supply.
This quote sums it all up nicely.
“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”
- R. Buckminster Fuller
(I'm going to have to agree with you Mr. Fuller!)
But everybody will become lazy if they don't have jobs!
I think this is absolutely false. If you were to ask any individual what they would do if they had all of the free time in the world, I can almost guarantee none of them would say "I'd sit at home and watch TV for the rest of my life!". However, if you were to ask somebody what they think others would do if they had all the free time in the world, they would most likely say "They would just sit at home and watch TV all day".
If people were to become free from the mundane, boring jobs that plague everyday life, I think we would see a boom in intellectual pursuits and entrepreneurship. This, in turn, would bring about more positive societal communion. I think a large part of the reason some people may seem lazy now, is directly linked to the dissatisfaction that they have with their current social position (i.e. job) and the realization of the societal obstacles that are in place to prevent further advancement of their lives (i.e. money).
From this perspective, robots replacing people in unsatisfactory work conditions could be an absolute boon to society... As long as we were able to figure out the proper redistribution of wealth. Universal basic income? I think it's worth a shot...
Internal Adoption of Advanced Technology
I don't know about you, but I love to periodically cut technology out of my life and just experience life in it's raw form. There is something incredibly pleasant and beautiful about disconnecting from the stressors that modern society throws on the table. So why the hell would I want technological devices to be permanently implanted in my body?
This is probably the second biggest obstacle for the merging of mankind with machine. If we were to truly adopt the principles of singularity theory, I think it's imperative that there be an option to unplug if desired. I don't think I would mind being able to access an infinite pool of interconnected knowledge through technological devices. As long as at the end of the day I could unplug and chill-out.
On the other hand, what if there were implantable devices that could alter our brain structure in incredibly positive and powerful ways? That is a very interesting concept. If I could drastically increase my intellectual capacity through implanting a device, I would at the very least consider it. My big questions though would be "who controls the device?" and "what happens if I don't want to use it anymore?".
If a group of consciousness? From an evolutionary perspective "Consciousness" is a product of over 14 billion years of evolution (maybe even longer). It is the elusive, persistent force that gives awareness to all living things and carries evolutionary information from one generation to the next. But what e to do is take a look around...We already see people walking around the streets, glued to their phones like mosquitoes to bright lights. Is there much of a difference if these devices were to become implanted in our bodies so that all we would have to do is think a thought and it would be tweeted? Or is that too disturbing of a notion for people to accept?
Is The Biggest Obstacle Consciousness?
What is the main thing that separates humans from machine? Consciousness. No matter how intelligent a machine becomes, if it is not consciously aware, then it is only doing what it is programmed to do. How are we supposed to create conscious machines if we don't rightly understand what consciousness is from a scientific perspective?
Well, what is consciousness? From an evolutionary perspective "Consciousness" is a product of over 14 billion years of evolution (maybe even longer). It is the elusive, persistant force that gives awareness to all living things and carries evolutionary information from one generation to the next. But what is it?? We don't really know. This could be the most fundamentally important question that humanity faces.. If we fully understood consciousness, then we would understand the essence of life... If we understood the essence of life, then we would understand the meaning of life. Understanding all of this and finding a way of uploading into a computer, would make one bad ass computer.
However, since singularity doesn't necessarily mean "conscious machines" then the notion of singularity is still possible without producing machines capable of consciousness. Machine intelligence and human intelligence are two entirely different ballgames. Human intelligence consists of billions of years of deeply embedded, difficult to comprehend, subtle evolutionary information. Whereas machine intelligence is the product of what we humans decide to give it.
It seems like an impossibly difficult task to replicate the knowledge that is consciousness and put it into a machine. However, given the current rate of technological advancement and the incredible progress that we are seeing in computer science, deep AI, and cognitive science. It may not be so far out after-all.. Which brings about my question to YOU...