Deep Tech

Technological Singularity: Man-Machine Romance Set To Leap

The word ‘singularity’ comes from astrophysics. It refers to a point in space-time where the rules of ordinary physics do not apply.

How does ‘singularity’ relate to technology?

‘Technological Singularity’ refers to the emergence of super-intelligent machines with capabilities that cannot be predicted by humans. 

Technological singularity is often interchangeably called AI singularity. It refers to a point where the AIs in our lives either become self-aware or reach an ability for continuous improvement so powerful that it will evolve beyond our control.

Though AI has seen unprecedented development in recent years, singularity can occur due to other technologies overtaking human intelligence. According to science fiction writer Vernor Vinge, who popularized the term, singularity could also occur as a result of human biological enhancement (gene editing, for instance) or brain-computer interfaces.

Vinge imagined that future information networks and human-machine interfaces would lead to novel conditions with new qualities: ‘a new reality rules’. Even if one knows it is imminent, one cannot predict what it would be like with any specificity. According to him, this condition will be, by definition, so thoroughly transcendent that we cannot imagine what it will be like. There is an “opaque wall across the future”, he said, “and the new era will be simply too different to fit into the classical frame of good and evil. It could be amazing or apocalyptic, but we cannot know the details.”

Ray Kurzweil, an American computer scientist and futurist, has a positive view of singularity. He emphasizes that biology, cryonics, and medicine (including nanomedicine) will enable us with tools to overcome disease and disease-related death. 

His views align with NBIC convergence: the near-future synthesis of nanotech, biotech, infotech, and cognitive science.

Taking stock of technology today

The last decade has seen a massive outbreak in technological developments. We are surrounded by digital devices such as smartphones, smart TVs, smartwatches, and more. Smart gadgets have made many human abilities redundant. We don’t feel the urge to have an astounding memory or paranormal calculation skills–thanks to our devices!

Technological prowess is felt beyond our everyday lives. Industries and enterprises use AI to analyze reams of data and produce results that surpass the rarest of human analytical abilities. Deep learning or machine learning has made machines learn at an unfathomable pace.

How does this lead to the singularity?

One theory states that ‘singularity’ will be a tipping point when technology will create replicas of itself without the assistance of humans. It is a scenario when unrestrained and unstoppable technological innovations happen.

One of the notable aspects of this phenomenon is that it will include computer programs that are sophisticated enough to enable artificial intelligence to surpass human intelligence–blurring the lines between man and machine.

Singularity seems to be approaching faster than most of us think.

How fast?

According to Kurzweil, the process leading up to singularity has already started. He predicts 2045 to be the date when singularity will take over human jobs.

Image Courtesy: Time Magazine

How can we embrace singularity?

The emergence of artificial super-intelligence would bring us greater inventive and problem-solving skills than humans are capable of. It might lead to the creation of a new ‘species’ –one which might not necessarily have human interests at its heart. However, we are not there yet!

We can enhance human intelligence and capabilities with new technologies. Indeed, that’s precisely what we have been doing for hundreds of thousands of years, ever since our ancestors figured out how to light fires. But today, the stakes are much higher due to projects like brain-to-computer interfaces as active areas of research. It may, in turn, lead to radical developments like mind uploading, in which your entire consciousness can be uploaded to and stored on a machine. 

Such developments might sound dystopian since they can potentially transform what it means to be human. At the same time, the convergence of technology and humanity, an area of study known as ‘transhumanism’, appears to be the only way we can keep up with the constant pace of change. It’s either that or the machines eventually outpace our natural evolution and take over.

The choice (and the resulting consequence) is ours!

Say Hello to Humanity 2.0

With Humanity 2.0, the human condition is no longer about our biological form. It is a time when machines become an integral part of our societies and also ourselves. Conversely, this could also lead to newer and deeper social class divisions than we’ve ever seen, as people are separated into those who are augmented by technology and those who are not. There’s a safety benefit of not being physically augmented by technology–no one will be able to hack into your mind.

New realities will demand new laws and a makeover of human rights. Political systems will see an overhaul as humans and technologies will become an inseparable extension of each other. 

Will there be a time when we will need policies to protect the rights of robots? 

Utopia or dystopia? We will have to wait and watch!


The AI Grid