Tag Archives: Singularity

Singularity season – nerd rapture or inconvenient truth?

array of computer screensNothing divides opinion like the future – it’s human nature, we all love to take a stab at predicting what will come. But it’s also human nature to disagree over what cannot yet be proven (which is something we can be sure of by looking at the past).

So, Vernor Vinge – the computer scientist and sf novelist who coined the term ‘Technological Singularity’ as used in this context during a presentation back in the eighties, and has talked about it ever since in his fiction and elsewhere – provides the capstone article to a special Singularity edition of IEEE Spectrum, defending the concept against the criticisms levelled at it by various scientists, economists and philosophers.

“The best answer to the question, “Will computers ever be as smart as humans?” is probably “Yes, but only briefly.””

For some odd reason IEEE neglected to solicit Warren Ellis‘s opinion, so he supplied it himself:

“When you read these essays and interviews, every time you see the word “Singularity,” I want you to replace it in your head with the term “Flying Spaghetti Monster.”

As always, if you want the apogee of cynicism, Ellis is your man; he’s the bucket of cold water thrown over the mating dogs of enthusiasm.

But other opinions are available, as the adverts say – George Dvorsky’s response to Ellis, for example:

“The day is coming, my friends, when Singularity denial will seem as outrageous and irresponsible as the denial of anthropogenic global warming. And I think the comparison is fair; environmentalists are often chastised for their “religious-like” convictions and concern. It’s easy to mock the Chicken Littles of the world.”

What do Futurismic‘s readership think about the Singularity – awesome sf-nal literary metaphor, or looming technological likelihood? [image by binary koala]

Rudy Rucker disassembles the Singularity

simulated-solitons If I could choose one science fiction author in whose head-space I could spend a lengthy holiday (equipped with copious note-taking equipment and a barrel of synaptic cognition enhancers, naturally), Rudy Rucker would be my first choice by a country mile. Despite having a justified reputation as a quirky and colourful writer, he’s a ferociously smart guy. [image by JonDissed]

Here he is debunking the Singularity – or at least the “even better than the real thing” Singularity that some people advocate – by explaining that no Virtual Reality will ever be able to simulate Real Reality accurately, because Real Reality is already running on an incredibly complex and rich computational substrate:

“VR isn’t ever going to replace RR (real reality). We know that our present-day videogames and digital movies don’t fully match the richness of the real world. What’s not so well known is that computer science provides strong evidence that no feasible VR can ever match nature. This is because there are no shortcuts for nature’s computations. Due to a property of the natural world that I call the “principle of natural unpredictability,” fully simulating a bunch of particles for a certain period of time requires a system using about the same number of particles for about the same length of time. Naturally occurring systems don’t allow for drastic shortcuts.”

Rudy Rucker – substantial proof (if proof were needed) that science and hippiedom are two sides of the same coin. There’s masses of free fiction and non-fiction on his website, by the way.

The game of consequences

Simulated reality Science fiction is all about asking “what if?”. Singularitarian blogger Melanie Swann has come up with a hefty crop of questions that are as yet largely unasked by the authors who have chosen to write about post-Singularity societies:

“It could be interesting to look at how society redesigns and reorganizes itself in an upload world. Different subgroups may edit their utility functions in different ways. What are the reproduction norms? Do types of gender proliferate? Which memeplexes would arise and predominate? In the Post-Scarcity Economy, what will be societal organizing factors?”

Speculating slightly less far into the future (and, one assumes, with tongue more firmly in cheek), io9 wonders what the pros and cons would be of having a “Google implant” fitted to your brain:

“PRO: Ability to “remember” many details about a person or issue in the middle of a conversation, so that you can marshal facts quickly and check the accuracy of what other people are saying.

CON: The person you’re talking to could much more easily pretend to be somebody they are not by googling information and feigning expertise.”

That last one wouldn’t be so much of a CON as long as I had that ability too … which I would never use for nefarious purposes, naturally. Ahem. [Image by Felipe Venâncio]

But it raises another question – what place will expertise (as defined by memorised knowledge relating to a particular field of interest) have in a world of ubiquitous computing? Think Phil Dick’s “Variable Man”, but displaced into a knowledge economy …

Ray Kurzweil takes the Singularity to the movies

Portrait of Ray Kurzweil Tired of technophobic portrayals of Artificial Intelligence in movies? Convinced that the Technological Singularity is more than just "The Rapture of the Nerds"? Then you’ll be looking forward to the movie that Singularity advocate and inventor Ray Kurzweil has in the works. Based on his book of the same title, "The Singularity Is Near" will be a blend of documentary interviews and science fictional narrative, intended to communicate Kurzweil’s ideas about the near-future destiny of mankind and its machines. [Via AdvancedNanotech] [Image from KurzweilAI.net]

[tags]Ray Kurzweil, AI, Singularity, movie[/tags]