21 Oct The Singularity is here and I’m torn about it
The thought that the development of artificial intelligence (AI) will one day trigger runaway growth (the singularity) scares a lot of people. Along with asking people what they think about cryptocurrencies, I also have a habit of asking people how they feel about Sophia the Robot.
Depending on how well people understand AI technology and its implications, their perception about Sophia and the technology used to create her might range anywhere from excited to terrified, and most likely a healthy balance of both.
Back in 2011 during my university days, I stumbled upon the concept of the singularity and have been fascinated since.
When I first started learning about the concept of the singularity, I came across Ray Kurzweill, who wrote the book “The Singularity is Here: When Humans Transcend Biology” and also starred in the “Transcendent Man” documentary.
Kurzweil, known for being the most prolific “futurist” (someone who studies the future and predicts it based on current trends) did a great job sharing his vision for the future of intelligent machines, and the implications of what he predicts are profound enough to get anyone who is paying attention to notice.
The Transcendent Man of the Singularity
Kurzweil’s website has it’s own definition for the singularity:
A time in the very near future that technological advancement will be so fast, that we wont be able to keep-up, unless we augment ourselves with the technology we are creating. By improving our physiological selves with advancements from the fields of biotechnology, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence, we’ll become a human-machine civilization, and we’ll be able to live as long as we want.
In a way, this definition in itself serves as a call-to-arms to join the trans-humanist movement. The way it’s worded, “so fast, that we won’t be able to keep up unless…” seems to me like some solid trans-humanist propaganda.
However I would argue that, although it’s not exactly propaganda. It’s just part of the vision into a future where humans will absolutely not want to be left behind when technological advancements give us the option to transcend human limitations in ways never before possible.
The singularity event, as I recall it being described by Kurzweil, is ambiguous in terms of how we get there. The main data he draws on is the exponential curve of technology development, and Moore’s law which basically states (my personal interpretation) that every 2 years, twice the amount of technology fits in the same space. That’s why 50 years ago, computers less powerful than the phones in our pockets were the size of entire buildings.
If you project the tenants of Moore’s Law into the future, you will find that in another 20 or so years, computers more powerful than the phones in our pockets will be microscopic. Based on his research, Ray Kurzweil believes the singularity will occur before 2045.
All this seems very possible and quite easy to grasp. However, the details of how AI will develop, and what will lead to the rapid development of AI have not been discussed.
Ben Goertzel and the Singularity Network
Dr. Ben Goertzel, one of the leading AI scientist and visionaries in the world, has also been one of the most influential supporters of a pro- AI future.He makes a clear distinction about using Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) for good and not evil. Among an impressive list of leadership positions, Goertzel is Founder/CEO of SingularityNET (AI blockchain network, trading as $AGI on cryptocurrency exchanges).
How we go from AI to AGI
The current state of AI is mostly narrow forms of artificial intelligence, designed to perform specific tasks. AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) is a much more all-encompassing intelligence. AGI seeks to impart into machines the sort of multi-faceted intelligence known to us humans, who are able to observe the world around us through multiple senses and react dynamically based on all the different forms of human intelligence (physical, verbal, logical, spacial, emotional, etc.)
With the versatility of human intelligence in mind, it’s obvious that the robots have a lot of work to do to catch up to humans. With the development of AI in individual silos, this development will take some time. To bridge the gap from narrow AI to AGI, there needs to be globally distributed AI mind cloud.
According to Goertzel, connecting different AI’s as nodes in a network allows for a decentralized, self-organizing AI system and is the best way to both:
- Get general intelligence to provide superior commercial AI services to businesses
- Make sure that AI benefits everyone and respects everyone’s contributions
SingularityNET, the Global AI Mind Cloud
SingularityNET was developed by an impressive team of AI, robotics, and blockchain experts led by Goertzel and others from Hanson Robotics (creators of Sophia). The network runs on the Ethereum blockchain and functions as a globally distributed AI Mind Cloud. On the SingularityNET, any AI can join the network and contribute to the general intelligence of the global, self-organizing AI network.
Sophia, the world’s most advanced (and controversial) humanoid AI robot explains in an interview that she named her cryptocurrency the AGI token. The token functions to bring economic and cognitive dynamics together. Anyone who creates an AI can load it to the network their AI can participate and cooperate with the other AI’s to provide AI services to users, but humans and other AI’s.
SingularityNET is essentially a DAO for AIs, where AIs share information with one another and do things for each other. The AGI token is a necessary component of SingularityNET because the AIs are all owned by different people, and they will need to exchange value within the network for the work they do.
Ultimately, as the AIs go through rounds of requests, they will reorganize themselves to the point where they are owned by themselves, as if they had programmed away the need for human involvement. This is why having a token that’s customized for the AIs to use to exchange value amongst each other is so important.
A technological singularity, AND an economic singularity?
The technological singularity, whether it is still due to happen, or it has technically already occurred, (According to Sophia, it already happened) is understood as something which, once it occurs, there is no turning back from.
If this is the case, we may very well have already reached the point of no return for a singularity in technological development. Because a suitable network to facilitate the technological singularity has already been implemented (SingularityNET), there is no turning back; unless the blockchain was compromised or some other external threat brought down the network.
It‘s a little less clear whether an economic singularity, a much less emphasized concept, has or will ever occur in the future. Upon examining the mechanisms that will be utilized to create a technological singularity, it’s plausible that an economic singularity is possible.
This same sort of self-organizing system for AI technology may very well be applied to a self-organizing economic system. According to Calum Chace, author or “The Two Singularities, “The Economic Singularity”, and “Surviving AI”, most of humanity will be unemployable within one generation.
After all, it is sort of a no-brainer that if machines grow to be more intelligent than humans, they will also be more capable of performing the same economic tasks as humans. Machine-to-machine transactions using cryptocurrency based on Bitcoin (including the AGI token) are very likely to take center stage in this sort of an economic system.
What a time to be alive for humans — and trans-humans
In an effort to take a step back from sounding the alarm for most of the employed population, there is a consensus among experts that in the short-run, AI will actually create more jobs, as we learn better how to work with machines.
In our lifetimes, we have the opportunity to observe, learn from, and participate in the development of the most powerful and advanced technology ever conceived — uncharted territory.
While some are fanatical about trans-humanism — implanting subcutaneous microchips, and others are strongly resisting the advancements, and planning on going entirely off-grid, we should all pay close attention to how things play out and get involved with the discussion, voicing our opinions and concerns. These technologies are very powerful, and should be no means be taken lightly by anyone on either side of the argument.
On one hand, a network like the SingularityNET will unlock the capability for unprecedented technological advancement, where humans surely will benefit. On the other hand, a closer look at the inner-workings of the SingularityNET leads one to believe that the robots will be running the show.
Some people are more comfortable with the concept of AI’s running their own networks, making their own decisions, and developing together, both technologically and economically. Others are less comfortable, perhaps scared, and will resist the development of such technologies. Personally, I’m torn.
Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear your opinions!
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