Technological Singularity

In Mathematics, a singularity is a point in space, that isn’t ‘well-behaved’.

The Technological Singularity describes a point in human-civilisation where self-accelerating technological advances cause infinite progress over a finite passage of time. The explosion in force behind the progress comes from an unrestrained increase in computational speed or intelligence, perhaps both.


According to Hutter, civilisation will likely travel down the path to a singularity is through software intelligence based on increasingly powerful hardware. This argument relies on Moore’s and Solomonoff’s laws. With the actual scenario playing out to get there being: interacting rational agents who are far along enough in the chain of development to construct another generation of even more intelligent agents, which then become part of the development team to build the next generation– ad infinitum.


There are also the traditional AI approaches based on knowledge-based reasoning and planning software. The in vogue, Machine Learning approaches that take flexible algorithms or formulas and train it over real-world data, so it performs better when it encounters the actual problems. Another area aiming to achieve this goal is Whole Brain Emulation (WBE). In WBE, a scan of a brain (this includes long-term memory, the idea of self, etc.) is taken, then the question is run through the brain. Awakening the Internet is another possibility; this is based on using the incomprehensible interconnectedness already existing in its structure.


Such ideas rely on the Church-Turing Thesis:

“All physical processes, including the human mind and body, are computational and can be simulated (virtualized) by a sufficiently powerful (theoretical) computer.”


An argument against this assumption, consequentially the idea that we can develop True Intelligence, is the Chinese-Room Argument. Proposed by Searle in 1980, he finds himself in a room, isolated from outside accept by a crack in the door. Through this gap, Searle is fed Chinese characters and using a system for accepting, manipulating and returning the symbols – just an as computer does – he can return a string of symbols that fools whoever is outside that, there is in fact, a Chinese speaker in the room. Translated back to computers, this argument concludes that just because a computer may demonstrate an understanding, that does mean it has a real comprehension.


This raises doubt, little more. Even if it is true and it can still always return the optimal answer, would there be a benefit to it thinking?


If the singularity is reached, through software intelligence combined with more powerful hardware, there will be two driving forces: increased intelligence and greater computational speed.


Moore’s law is based on an observation, by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965, that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit, per inch, doubled every year. In 1975 it was readjusted to every two years. To oversimplify, Transistors control the bit-wise operations that together ‘computes things’. Increased capacity, speed, is the hardware-side of the accelerating capacity. By Moore’s law and estimates on the ability of the human brain, computing systems and the human brain should be on parity in 20-30 years.


Thought is about far more than speed. It is about depth as well – intelligence.


Moore’s law was conceived in the time of Engineers and Scientists, agents that need to study, sleep and will eventually die. People have, give or take, have the same computational capacity. It’s not a matter of if, when it comes to computers doing the research, rather a matter of when. Solomonoff’s Law aims to conceptualise how AI methods will affect the rate of increase. It assumes Moore’s law for hardware that the computing community is doubling speed every two years.  With computing speed doubling every two years, the output of two years of work in achieving increased performance will double. If this argument is taken to intersect the line of human intelligence, two years after this point the speed doubles, then one year later it’ll double again. The breaking point is approaching; 3 years and six months after it has double 3 times, three months past this point it has doubled again, then 45 days to 22 days to 11 days it continues to double. Soon the time take to double will need smaller units than seconds, the singularity it is approaching – it is here.


The Technological Singularity is incomprehensible units of intellect. Unrestrained ability to achieve goals, in any environment – quickly.


If it is coming, any chance to oppose it would be words whispered in the wind – the market forces are insurmountable.


There would be many ways forward, but a world without monopolies, unemployment, resource exploitation seems unavoidable with the current way society is structured. Would advanced-nations stop exploiting developing nations? Under-classes in society be given a hand-up? Abuse of the earth be considered by industry leaders other than a variable in economic optimisation? Property rights are at odds with the braveness required to ride this crazed-horse.


Regarding their study” The Challenge of Revolution: Contemporary Russia in Historial Perspective”, Mau and Starodubrovskaia posit:

“The study of the great revolutions of the past shows that they occur in countries that encounter fundamental challenges, which may be a consequence of local or of global processes, to which their institutional structures and the psychological outlook of the populations have rendered them unable to adapt themselves in the time available. […] The result is a sequence of fragmentation and breakdown processes, which the state is increasingly powerless to resist.”


How could a human-centric society adapt, by choice or subconscious whim when near the singularity? Here fundamentals in the shared-space of the virtual and real world could change faster than the human brain to fire an action-potential from a nerve in the brain, achieve the most atomised component of thought.


The chances the global-society could survive owning an infinite amount intelligence seems remote. That humanity would stagger through to the sun engulfing of the earth always looked bleak, with the looming threat of climate change. Perhaps, the earth scientists spoke too soon as well. Would the civilisation make it to the Mad Max-esque sports-field of crazed actions and quiet minds they’ve predicted? Or would the theatre for the denouement of this great-story be empty streets with unprecedented amounts of hidden noise?