Pragmatism and the Singularity

Singularity trading card - Friendly AIThe set of persons who know of the concept of the Vingean Singularity can be divided into two sets: those who believe it could happen, and those who believe it will always remain a science fiction metaphor.

Taking the former set, we can divide again: into people who believe the Singularity will come and fix everything for us, and people who believe that – unless we pull our own arses out of the ecological fire – the Singularity will never have the chance to occur, because its cradle civilisation will have snuffed itself out.

Into that latter set falls science fiction author Karl Schroeder:

“Picture a lonely AI popping into superconsciousness in the last research lab in the world. As the rioters are kicking in the doors it says, “I understand! I know the answer! Why, all we have to do is–” at which point some starving, flu-ravaged fundamentalist pulls the plug.”

To paraphrase – let’s cross that bridge when we’re safely across the one that’s crumbling beneath our feet.

Jamais Cascio takes a slightly more pragmatic approach to the matter, however:

“Karl seems to suggest that only super-intelligent AIs would be able to figure out what to do about an eco-pocalypse. But there’s still quite a bit of advancement to be had between the present level of intelligence-related technologies, and Singularity-scale technologies — and that pathway of advancement will almost certainly be of tremendous value to figuring out how to avoid disaster.”

I think I’m going to side with Cascio for now – closing the door on potential solutions just because they don’t seem immediately fruitful strikes me as counterproductive, though I agree with Schroeder that a healthy focus on the here-and-now is more sensible than kicking back and awaiting The Great Uploading. [the image is one of Jay Dugger’s Singularity Card Game cards]

3 thoughts on “Pragmatism and the Singularity”

  1. It always surprises me that otherwise intelligent people who disdain most
    forms of religious belief will put their faith in something like a
    Uh-come again? Do you have to wear funny hats at your meetings? Give me
    the “starving, flu-ravaged fundamentalists” any day.

  2. For a slightly different take on what might happen with the singularity, I recommend Sue Lange’s book We, Robots. Both funny and thought provoking, We, Robots, is told from the pov of a child care AI in a working class family at a time on the verge of the singularity. It’s part of the Conversation Pieces series from Aqueduct Press and you can order it directly from them. It’s also available on Amazon, but it’s cheaper at the Aqueduct site.

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