The technological singularity

The technological singularity is a theoretical future point of unprecedented technological progress, caused in part by the ability of machines to improve themselves using artificial intelligence. [Wikipedia]

SingularitybookI’m clawing my way through Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near. It’s not an easy read. Lots of charts and graphs and stuff I skipped in college. But it’s a wonderfully optimistic view of the near future.

“I set the date for the Singularity –representing a profound and disruptive transformation in human capability– as 2045. The nonbiological intelligence created in that year will be one billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today.”

“Despite the clear preponderance of nonbiological intelligence by the mid-2040s, ours will still be a human civilization. We will transcend biology, but not our humanity.”

I’m only about a third of the way through the book but I think “transcend biology” might be good news if I’m still around in 2045. I’ll be 93 and in serious need of a tune-up.

I originally posted this on 8/13/08 and re-post here with some of my a-ha’s.

Now part of [my consciousness] lives on the Internet and seems to stay there all the time … “Real life” is just one more window. — Christine Boese, reporting on findings by MIT professor Sherry Turkle (pg. 338)

Information lasts only so long as someone cares about it. (pg.329)

Whether data or wisdom, information will survive only if we want it to. By extension, we can only live for as long as we care about ourselves. Already or knowledge to control disease and aging is advanced tot he point that your *attitude* toward your own longevity is now the most important influence on your long-range health. (pg.330)

Later this century it will seem remarkable to people that humans in an earlier era lived their lives without a backup of their most precious information: that contained in their brains and bodies. (pg.325)

Is death desirable? The “inevitability” of death is deeply ingrained in human thinking. If death seems unavoidable, we have little choice but to rationalize it as necessary, even ennobling. The technology of the Singularity will provide practical and accessible means for humans to evolve into something greater, so we will no longer need to rationalize death as a primary means of giving meaning to life. (pg.326)

“If the mind were simple enough for us to understand, we would be too simple to understand it.” –Peter D. Kramer (pg.169)

“Although we have the illusion of receiving high-resolution images
from our eyes, what the optic nerve actually sends to the brain is just
outlines and clues about points of interest in our visual field. We
then essentially hallucinate the world from cortical memories that
interpret a series of extremely low-resolution movies that arrive in
parallel channels.” (pg.186)

My body is temporary. Its particles turn over almost completely every month. Only the pattern of my body and brain have continuity. (pg.371)

So am I constantly being replaced by someone else who just seems a lot like the me of a few moments earlier? (pg.385)

Religion is the smile on a dog…
Religion is  a light in the fog…
–Edie Brickell, “What I Am”

If you could blow the brain up to the size of a mill and walk around inside, you would not find consciousness. — G. W. Leibniz

Dreams are real while they last; can we say more of life? — Havelock Ellis

Information is not knowledge (pg.372)

When people speak of losing part of themselves when a loved one dies, they are speaking quite literally, since we lose the ability to use the neuralpatterns in our brain that had self organized to interact with that person. (pg.372)

The primary problems we cannot solve are ones that we cannot articulate and are mostly ones of which we are not yet aware. (pg 372)

Emplyment in factories and farms has gone from 60 percent to 6 percent in the United States in the past century. (pg.340)

3 thoughts on “The technological singularity

  1. from Wikipedia:
    In the Terminator storyline, Skynet gains sentience shortly after it is placed in control of all of the U.S. Military’s weaponry, and subsequently determines that humans are a threat to its existence. It then employs humankind’s weapons of mass destruction in a campaign to exterminate the global human population.
    Henry’s right, it does sound like science fiction.

  2. Glad to hear that you are giving the book a try. This book has excited me more than anything else that I have read this year. I hesitated to recommend it because some of it (the “Singularity”) drifts into what sounds like Science Fiction.
    However, the core concept is that the rate of change in science and technology is exponential, not linear. The trend shows no signs of letting up. The implications of that idea are profound.

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