The Rise of The Bio-Info-Nano Singularity
London, UK - 10th January 2010, 13:15 GMT
Dear ATCA Open & Philanthropia Friends
[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and threats.]
We are witnessing accelerating trends of exponential growth in the Bio-Info-Nano (BIN) revolution unfolding all around us. Just as soon as we have grasped the relevance of some new BIN innovation, we are challenged by yet more extraordinary technological developments that completely supersede our expectations and understanding. The paradigm shifts, taken together, present asymmetric opportunities for unparalleled growth as well as rising asymmetric risks for human society's globalised structure, its sustainability and longevity. This phenomenon of constant acceleration in new technologies is referred to as the Bio-Info-Nano Singularity by ATCA.
Super-Intelligence of BIN Singularity
The rise of the BIN Singularity suggests that technological progress is reaching such an extremely high, near infinite, value at a point in the near future that it will be impossible to predict what happens next based on extrapolations of past experience. In fact, that experience may be an obstacle to grasping the paradigm shift, which is forcing a multi-generational change. A Singularity is a point at which an otherwise continuous mathematical progression becomes infinite, implying that all continuous extrapolation breaks down beyond that point.
Dramatic changes in the rate of world economic growth have occurred in the past because of technological advancement. Based on population growth, the economy doubled every 250,000 years from the Palaeolithic era until the Neolithic Revolution. This new agricultural economy began to double every 900 years, a significant increase. In the current era, beginning with the Industrial Revolution, the world’s economic output has doubled as an average, every fifteen years, sixty times faster than during the agricultural era. As the rise of the BIN Singularity causes a similar revolution one could expect economic output to double much faster with the requirement for remarkably little human labour or intervention, and this may cause The Great Unwind (2007-?) and The Great Reset (2008-?) to follow an uncharted territory that may be entirely unpredictable and different from the 1930s or other less severe downturns in recent decades.
The human capability for information processing is limited, yet there is an accelerating change in the development and deployment of new technology. This relentless wave upon wave of new information and technology causes an overload on the human mind by eventually flooding it. The resulting acopia -- inability to cope -- has to be solved by the use of ever more sophisticated information intelligence. Extrapolating these capabilities suggests the near-term emergence and visibility of self-improving neural networks, "artificial" intelligence, quantum algorithms, quantum computing and super-intelligence. This metamorphosis is so much beyond present human capabilities that it becomes impossible to understand it with the pre-conceptions and conditioning of the present mindset, societal make-up and existing technology.
Machines capable of performing mental and physical tasks as capably as humans are likely to cause a rise in wages for extraordinary jobs at which humans can still outperform machines. However, a proliferation of human-like machines is likely to cause a net drop in ordinary wages, as humans compete with robots and soft-bots for jobs. Also, the wealth of the technological singularity may be concentrated in the hands of a few who own the means of mass producing the intelligent robot and soft-bot workforce. The Bio-Info-Nano Singularity is a transcendence to a wholly new regime of mind, society and technology, in which we have to learn to think in a new way in order to survive as a species.
I J Good, in 1965, first wrote of an "intelligence explosion", suggesting that if machines could even slightly surpass human intellect, they could improve their own designs in ways unforeseen by their designers, and thus recursively augment themselves into far greater intelligences. The first such improvements might be small, but as the machines become more intelligent they would self-innovate, which could lead to a cascade of self-improvements and a sudden surge towards super-intelligence. This could now happen via the Bio-Info-Nano Singularity?
Vernor Vinge, in 1982, proposed that the creation of smarter-than-human intelligence represented a breakdown in humans' ability to model their future. The argument was that authors cannot write realistic characters who are smarter than humans. If humans could visualise smarter-than-human intelligence, we would be that smart ourselves. Vinge named this event "the Singularity". He compared it to the breakdown of the prevalent model of physics when it was used to model the gravitational Singularity beyond the event horizon of a black hole.
Ray Kurzweil, in 1999, generalised the Singularity to apply it to the sudden growth of any technology -- in a similar way to ATCA's Bio-Info-Nano Singularity -- not just intelligence. He argued that Singularity is inevitably implied by a long-term pattern of accelerating change that generalises Moore's law to technologies predating the integrated circuit, and includes material technology (especially as applied to nanotech), medical technology and other disciplines.
Aubrey de Grey, in 2000, applied the term "Methuselarity" to the point at which medical technology improves so fast that expected human lifespan increases by more than one year per year.
Robin Hanson, in 2008, taking the Singularity to refer to sharp increases in the exponent of economic growth, lists the agricultural and industrial revolutions as past singularities. Extrapolating from such past events, Hanson suggests that the next economic Singularity should increase economic growth between 60 and 250 times. Innovations, manifest as a result of the Bio-Info-Nano Singularity's approach, that allow for the replacement of virtually all human labour, could trigger this event!
The key question: What is globalised human society going to do with the mass of unemployed human beings that are rendered obsolete by the approaching super-intelligence of the Bio-Info-Nano Singularity?
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