Think:Act magazine about artificial intelligence
What exactly do people mean when they talk about AI in 2018? Where do I start if I want to embrace AI in my business? Get your questions answered in our Think:Act magazine on artificial intelligence.
Writer and scientist Vernor Vinge coined a term in 1993 to refer to artificial superintelligence rising and fundamentally changing civilization. Here he answers three questions on the reality of his idea: singularity.
Yes, where "singularity" means the rise, via technology, of superhuman intelligence. If such a development is possible, I'll be surprised if it hasn't happened by 2030 – and all that could prevent or postpone it would be the civilization-ending catastrophes that we spend so much time worrying about.
Thinking about the singularity is intrinsically different from other technological prognostication. Even if we have little hope of understanding the post-singularity world, we can influence the initial conditions. Perhaps the most dangerous issue is the transition speed: A "hard takeoff" into the singularity might take just a few months (or a few hours!), too fast for any human planning. A "soft takeoff" might last years or decades, giving planners time to guess which way to jump.
There are a number of different scenarios. One is that the internet and its human users "wake up" as a superhuman group mind. This could be the softest of takeoffs. Or maybe humans develop user interfaces as intimate and convenient as access to our own biological minds. Call this Intelligence Amplification (IA). The resulting superintelligence could still be us (and so it's time to think about being nice). Then there is the pure AI scenario – the machines wake up. A lot of serious thought has been put into this possibility. Or perhaps the internet of things grows to support sensors and effectors everywhere. Individual nodes may not be superhuman intellects, but the result is waking up in a digital Gaia. The upside (and the downside) is that our real world could take on the volatility that we associate with financial markets.
Cheer up! Of all the existential threats we face, the singularity may be the only one with significant upside possibilities. In fact, those positive possibilities are breathtaking, addressing fundamental questions we've had throughout human history. Some things are so positive they're a little scary.
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