The singularity is here-Bush style.

Bush’s predictions in this article are stunning.  His extensive work in information technology combined with astute, reality-based, extrapolations make it seem as though he is speaking to us from some nearby parallel universe.  Motivated by his predictions, I thought I’d take on a popular contemporary prognosticator, Ray Kurzweil, and his singularity theory.  Kurzweil uses less reality-based exponential extrapolation to promote the idea that with the near-term development of artificial super-human intelligence, humans are about to enter a technological utopia where, among other things, we will enjoy virtual immortality.  He predicts that with the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), technology will progress at a rate and in a direction that is incomprehensible to humans and hence singularly unpredictable.  Using his simple exponential graphs, he predicts that this advent will occur somewhere around mid-21st century.  I claim that Mr. Kurzweil’s prediction is about 40 years too late and that this super-human AI is already here.   Based on this interview, I think the novelist Robert Harris, at least, would agree with me.

There are now enough of us connected to each other via enough channels and enough data collected about us to create an aggregate intelligence that is fundamentally different from anything we’ve known before.  We now sift through mountains of data in the blink of an eye and are able to reach conclusions in seconds that would exhaust the lifetimes of a thousand researchers using traditional methods (e.g. data-driven medicine).  We use these fundamentally unverifiable methods to inform our own actions (e.g. matchmaking) and public policies (e.g. global warming).  These actions and policies are then fed back into the aggregate AI and new results and insights are returned.  One of Kurzweil’s characterizations of the singularity is its utter unpredictability.  This new aggregate AI that has grown up around us is arguably already producing new and unpredictable outcomes (e.g. arab spring, stock market fluctuations, wealth concentration).

What does this all mean for you and your children?  (I say with tongue in cheek.)

The rate limiter in this whole picture used to be the communication of new ideas.  Now the rate limiter is the absorption and application of new ideas.  We can’t hope to keep up.  The best we can do is remain engaged and try to bring these technologies to bear on the big problems.


~ by wallablogga on February 6, 2012.

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