AI - Technological Singularity


The emergence of technologies that could fundamentally change humans' role in society, challenge human epistemic agency and ontological status, and trigger unprecedented and unforeseen developments in all aspects of life, whether biological, social, cultural, or technological, is referred to as the Technological Singularity.

The Singularity of Technology is most often connected with artificial intelligence, particularly artificial general intelligence (AGI).

As a result, it's frequently depicted as an intelligence explosion that's pushing advancements in fields like biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information technologies, as well as inventing new innovations.

The Technological Singularity is sometimes referred to as the Singularity, however it should not be confused with a mathematical singularity, since it has only a passing similarity.

This singularity, on the other hand, is a loosely defined term that may be interpreted in a variety of ways, each highlighting distinct elements of the technological advances.

The thoughts and writings of John von Neumann (1903–1957), Irving John Good (1916–2009), and Vernor Vinge (1944–) are commonly connected with the Technological Singularity notion, which dates back to the second half of the twentieth century.

Several universities, as well as governmental and corporate research institutes, have financed current Technological Singularity research in order to better understand the future of technology and society.

Despite the fact that it is the topic of profound philosophical and technical arguments, the Technological Singularity remains a hypothesis, a guess, and a pretty open hypothetical idea.

While numerous scholars think that the Technological Singularity is unavoidable, the date of its occurrence is continuously pushed back.

Nonetheless, many studies agree that the issue is not whether or whether the Technological Singularity will occur, but rather when and how it will occur.

Ray Kurzweil proposed a more exact timeline for the emergence of the Technological Singularity in the mid-twentieth century.

Others have sought to give a date to this event, but there are no well-founded grounds in support of any such proposal.

Furthermore, without applicable measures or signs, mankind would have no way of knowing when the Technological Singularity has occurred.

The history of artificial intelligence's unmet promises exemplifies the dangers of attempting to predict the future of technology.

The themes of superintelligence, acceleration, and discontinuity are often used to describe the Technological Singularity.

The term "superintelligence" refers to a quantitative jump in artificial systems' cognitive abilities, putting them much beyond the capabilities of typical human cognition (as measured by standard IQ tests).

Superintelligence, on the other hand, may not be restricted to AI and computer technology.

Through genetic engineering, biological computing systems, or hybrid artificial–natural systems, it may manifest in human agents.

Superintelligence, according to some academics, has boundless intellectual capabilities.

The curvature of the time curve for the advent of certain key events is referred to as acceleration.

Stone tools, the pottery wheel, the steam engine, electricity, atomic power, computers, and the internet are all examples of technological advancement portrayed as a curve across time emphasizing the discovery of major innovations.

Moore's law, which is more precisely an observation that has been viewed as a law, represents the increase in computer capacity.

"Every two years, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles," it says.

People think that the emergence of key technical advances and new technological and scientific paradigms will follow a super-exponential curve in the event of the Technological Singularity.

One prediction regarding the Technological Singularity, for example, is that superintelligent systems would be able to self-improve (and self-replicate) in previously unimaginable ways at an unprecedented pace, pushing the technological development curve far beyond what has ever been witnessed.

The Technological Singularity discontinuity is referred to as an event horizon, and it is similar to a physical idea linked with black holes.

The analogy to this physical phenomena, on the other hand, should be used with care rather than being used to credit the physical world's regularity and predictability to technological singularity.

The limit of our knowledge about physical occurrences beyond a specific point in time is defined by an event horizon (also known as a prediction horizon).

It signifies that there is no way of knowing what will happen beyond the event horizon.

The discontinuity or event horizon in the context of technological singularity suggests that the technologies that precipitate technological singularity would cause disruptive changes in all areas of human life, developments about which experts cannot even conjecture.

The end of humanity and the end of human civilization are often related with technological singularity.

According to some research, social order will collapse, people will cease to be major actors, and epistemic agency and primacy would be lost.

Humans, it seems, will not be required by superintelligent systems.

These systems will be able to self-replicate, develop, and build their own living places, and humans will be seen as either barriers or unimportant, outdated things, similar to how humans now consider lesser species.

One such situation is represented by Nick Bostrom's Paperclip Maximizer.

AI is included as a possible danger to humanity's existence in the Global Catastrophic Risks Survey, with a reasonably high likelihood of human extinction, placing it on par with global pandemics, nuclear war, and global nanotech catastrophes.

However, the AI-related apocalyptic scenario is not a foregone conclusion of the Technological Singularity.

In other more utopian scenarios, technology singularity would usher in a new period of endless bliss by opening up new opportunities for humanity's infinite expansion.

Another element of technological singularity that requires serious consideration is how the arrival of superintelligence may imply the emergence of superethical capabilities in an all-knowing ethical agent.

Nobody knows, however, what superethical abilities might entail.

The fundamental problem, however, is that superintelligent entities' higher intellectual abilities do not ensure a high degree of ethical probity, or even any level of ethical probity.

As a result, having a superintelligent machine with almost infinite (but not quite) capacities but no ethics seems to be dangerous to say the least.

A sizable number of scholars are skeptical about the development of the Technological Singularity, notably of superintelligence.

They rule out the possibility of developing artificial systems with superhuman cognitive abilities, either on philosophical or scientific grounds.

Some contend that while artificial intelligence is often at the heart of technological singularity claims, achieving human-level intelligence in artificial systems is impossible, and hence superintelligence, and thus the Technological Singularity, is a dream.

Such barriers, however, do not exclude the development of superhuman brains via the genetic modification of regular people, paving the door for transhumans, human-machine hybrids, and superhuman agents.

More scholars question the validity of the notion of the Technological Singularity, pointing out that such forecasts about future civilizations are based on speculation and guesswork.

Others argue that the promises of unrestrained technological advancement and limitless intellectual capacities made by the Technological Singularity legend are unfounded, since physical and informational processing resources are plainly limited in the cosmos, particularly on Earth.

Any promises of self-replicating, self-improving artificial agents capable of super-exponential technological advancement are false, since such systems will lack the creativity, will, and incentive to drive their own evolution.

Meanwhile, social opponents point out that superintelligence's boundless technological advancement would not alleviate issues like overpopulation, environmental degradation, poverty, and unparalleled inequality.

Indeed, the widespread unemployment projected as a consequence of AI-assisted mass automation of labor, barring significant segments of the population from contributing to society, would result in unparalleled social upheaval, delaying the development of new technologies.

As a result, rather than speeding up, political or societal pressures will stifle technological advancement.

While technological singularity cannot be ruled out on logical grounds, the technical hurdles that it faces, even if limited to those that can presently be determined, are considerable.

Nobody expects the technological singularity to happen with today's computers and other technology, but proponents of the concept consider these obstacles as "technical challenges to be overcome" rather than possible show-stoppers.

However, there is a large list of technological issues to be overcome, and Murray Shanahan's The Technological Singularity (2015) gives a fair overview of some of them.

There are also some significant nontechnical issues, such as the problem of superintelligent system training, the ontology of artificial or machine consciousness and self-aware artificial systems, the embodiment of artificial minds or vicarious embodiment processes, and the rights granted to superintelligent systems, as well as their role in society and any limitations placed on their actions, if this is even possible.

These issues are currently confined to the realms of technological and philosophical discussion.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

Find Jai on Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram

You may also want to read more about Artificial Intelligence here.

See also: 

Bostrom, Nick; de Garis, Hugo; Diamandis, Peter; Digital Immortality; Goertzel, Ben; Kurzweil, Ray; Moravec, Hans; Post-Scarcity, AI and; Superintelligence.

References And Further Reading

Bostrom, Nick. 2014. Superintelligence: Path, Dangers, Strategies. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Chalmers, David. 2010. “The Singularity: A Philosophical Analysis.” Journal of Consciousness Studies 17: 7–65.

Eden, Amnon H. 2016. The Singularity Controversy. Sapience Project. Technical Report STR 2016-1. January 2016.

Eden, Amnon H., Eric Steinhart, David Pearce, and James H. Moor. 2012. “Singularity Hypotheses: An Overview.” In Singularity Hypotheses: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment, edited by Amnon H. Eden, James H. Moor, Johnny H. Søraker, and Eric Steinhart, 1–12. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer.

Good, I. J. 1966. “Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine.” Advances in Computers 6: 31–88.

Kurzweil, Ray. 2005. The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. New York: Viking.

Sandberg, Anders, and Nick Bostrom. 2008. Global Catastrophic Risks Survey. Technical Report #2008/1. Oxford University, Future of Humanity Institute.

Shanahan, Murray. 2015. The Technological Singularity. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Ulam, Stanislaw. 1958. “Tribute to John von Neumann.” Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society 64, no. 3, pt. 2 (May): 1–49.

Vinge, Vernor. 1993. “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era.” In Vision 21: Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering in the Era of Cyberspace, 11–22. Cleveland, OH: NASA Lewis Research Center.

What Is Artificial General Intelligence?

Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is defined as the software representation of generalized human cognitive capacities that enables the ...