Welcome to Cosmic Revolutions’ Topic Guides, where we wrap up all the CR articles on a particular subject and serve them to you in a nice neat package with a bow.
Today’s topic is a big one: The Singularity.
The term became popular thanks to sci-fi writer Vernor Vinge, who called it an “intellectual transition” in which the world would “pass far beyond our understanding.” It’s a specific theory of the future based on the observation that our technology is improving at an exponential rate. If the trend continues, goes the theory, our technological abilities will eventually surpass our human ones. We’re already at the point where we can vastly improve our own potential by using computers. So what will we happen as we turn our intellects towards… further improving our intellect?
As an extreme example, suppose we create an artificial intelligence that’s smarter than a human. It would presumably be better than humans at designing other artificial intelligences. Which means the second generation of AIs would be even smarter, and could make a still-smarter 3rd generation, and on and on until… well, who knows? This is not the only possible path to a singularity. But however you get there, the effects of the transition would be as powerful as they are unpredictable, and that’s what makes it so much fun to speculate about.
How do we get there? Should we? Could we stop it even if we wanted? Is there an upper limit? What would such a superintelligence choose to do? And would we even recognize the world afterwards?
These are just some of the questions that drive articles about the singularity here at Cosmic Revolutions. Click the links below for further reading!
You can drive a car with your mind, feel through a robotic arm, and more. And I don’t mean in the future – I mean right now! These sorts of advances integrate our human brains more efficiently with our devices, thereby multiplying our potential. Read the full article for cyborg monkeys, hands-free cars, mind-controlled toys and more.
In a follow-up to the previous piece, I dive into the many dizzying implications of full-on brain-computer interfaces. This is a big ol’ rabbit hole full of telepresence machines, virtual reality and mind-melds. Read the article!
It doesn’t have to be computers that bring us the singularity. Check out these ways that humans are making themselves smarter, then join me in exploring the implications.
If the singularity takes off in a bad way, it could spell our doom. Click through for a rundown of that spooky (yet fascinating) scenario, along with many others.
If the singularity takes off in a good way, it might save us. Our survival as a species could depend on how quickly we’re able to solve the problems facing us: resource shortages, climate change, global warming and the like. A vast increase in our collective intelligence might be just the thing to help us keep these issues at bay.
The future is inherently unpredictable. No matter how brilliant your predictive mind, and no matter how thorough your observations of trends, there always exists the possibility of an “out-of-context” issue – some shift in the rules or the situation that no one could have seen coming. And a technological singularity would be especially unpredictable. Read on for a discussion of the tenets of science as applied to future study, and for some thoughtful questions (that I leave mostly unanswered).
Speaking of linking our brains directly to computers… wouldn’t it be great to bypass clumsy interfaces like keyboards and hands? Read the article for a story about a cybernetics professor who has done just that – he was even able to communicate with his wife through his brain interface!