Tag Archives: ecopocalypse

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]