March 30th, 2011
I'm not entirely sure why, but for the last several days I have been pondering The Singularity, and its possible outcome.
So what's a Singularity?
The Singularity as postulated by Ray Kurzweil, is a theory that machines will achieve consciousness and become self aware around 2045, and then go on to completely out match humans in every capacity somewhere around 2060. This theory is currently confirmed by everything we know about how reality, conscience and technology functions, all leading to the fact that sentient machines infinitely smarter than us, will start to appear on Earth in about 50 years.
Currently there doesn't seem to be any doubt that this will happen, although there are some scientists who disagree on the time frame put forward by Kurzweil, the end result is the same. Super intelligent machines.
So what will happen to humanity when the machines take over?
Apparently this emerging machine intelligence will become so advanced, so rapidly, that we will very quickly be unable to comprehend it's thought processes, predict or even understand it's actions. It will become completely alien to us.
Even with its alien nature, I think that we can safely predict that this machine intelligence will neither love nor hate us, in the same way that we neither love nor hate the ants crawling around in the backyard. Unfortunately this will probably result in humanity becoming completely irrelevant practically over night.
The huge question here is whether or not will we be allowed to survive? Will we be allowed to continue to live our lives in some manner, or will we become some form of pet to this new life form?
Or will it intentionally or even accidentally wipe us out?
As dark as this "Terminator" or "Matrix" scenario may seem, there is also a very positive view to how the Singularity may ultimately play out, and end up benefiting humanity. This is also the view that is not only shared by Kurzweil, but evangelized. If we are allowed to not only survive and thrive as a species, we would enter a phase of human civilization that could be described as nothing short of Utopian.
A machine/human utopia which would put an end to disease, war and poverty. And once we would begin to merge with these machines using nano-technology, immortality will surely follow. This would truly be a post-human period.
As wonderful and terrifying as this future may seem, there is another option as to what may happen 50 years from now, and for me this possible outcome seems the most probable.
This other option would be that the machines would never achieve sentience, and the singularity will not occur.
Considering that all currently available data pretty much "proves" that the singularity will happen. The fact that if it does not happen is surely the most exciting.
What this would mean is that our current view and or understanding of how reality functions and conscience works is wrong, dead wrong.
In many ways this would be the most interesting aspect of this proposed technological revolution, as it would be back to the drawing board, and a complete the re-examination of how the conscious mind interacts with and perhaps even creates reality.
Either way the next 50 years are going to be incredible.