Technology is moving faster than news. In The Terminator Series, I write about different aspects of our digital and virtual world, and often times how it may impact our lives in a very hidden yet long lasting manner.
Today, I want to tell you about the idea of "Singularity". Once the stuff of science fiction, it now is the mainstay of science.
What is Singularity?
Singularity is the very real notion of all artificial intelligence. This reality can be clear to you, right now: just glance at your screen, or your smart phone. Think of it as super-intelligence, created and maintained by computer intelligence.
You are already relying upon a small primitive version of Singularity.
Author Ray Kurzweil believes "The Singularity is an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today—the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity.
Curse or Blessing?
Robotics, after all, can save lives. Implants can deliver life saving or altering medicine or treatment to patients with diseases.Information that will guide fire fighters through dense smoke to rescue people is used nowadays. Lost? Your GPS can guide you on a stormy night on a dark roadway. Have a pet that ran away? That chip you implanted will bring you to your pet. Heck, you can track your ipad or iphone the same way!
But Singularity, in its infant stages, is now leaping ahead.
Did you ever consider how Google glasses - with the instantly readable video, photo, call and text commands available as you wear them - is the first step towards what seems to be an inevitable evolutionary leap for all mankind?
Now, labs can grow retinas from stem cells. Turns out, as you may expect, this turn of events is tricky.
In 1993, mathematician and science fiction writer Vernor Vinge wrote in his study, "In thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended. Is such progress avoidable? If not to be avoided, can events be guided so that we may survive? These questions are investigated. Some possible answers (and some further dangers) are presented."
With this change, make no mistake: we are witnessing the dawn of a great evolutionary change as major as the very birth of mankind. Whether or not we survive - in a version we all can continue to call "human" - is another matter. Vinge predicted some events that have already become commonplace in our everyday lives. Shockingly, his prediction was tame.
As he wrote, "When I began writing science fiction in the middle '60s, it seemed very easy to find ideas that took decades to percolate into the cultural consciousness; now the lead time seems more like eighteen months. (Of course, this could just be me losing my imagination as I get old, but I see the effect in others too.) Like the shock in a compressible flow, the Singularity moves closer as we accelerate through the critical speed.And what of the arrival of the Singularity itself? What can be said of its actual appearance? Since it involves an intellectual runaway, it will probably occur faster than any technical revolution seen so far. The precipitating event will likely be unexpected -- perhaps even to the researchers involved. ("But all our previous models were catatonic! We were just tweaking some parameters....") If networking is widespread enough (into ubiquitous embedded systems), it may seem as if our artifacts as a whole had suddenly wakened.And what happens a month or two (or a day or two) after that? I have only analogies to point to: The rise of humankind. We will be in the Post-Human era. And for all my rampant technological optimism, sometimes I think I'd be more comfortable if I were regarding these transcendental events from one thousand years remove ... instead of twenty."
What seems to be the scientific thread leading from Vinge's predictions to our current world is this: artificial intelligence has already taken such futuristic leaps most humans cannot understand it. And, with the onslaught of the virtual reality we all live in - again, just think of how everyone walks around staring at their smart phones while walking, talking, even at movies, shows, fireworks, etc, - how long will it take to take the next step and just implant minuscule artificial intelligence into our bodies?
Biology meets Technology
For now, ponder this idea: that we have somehow arrived, with the tap of a button on a small phone screen, at the intersection of humanity and artificial intelligence.
How long do you believe the human race will be able to resist taking that next step - and making the instant amplification of knowledge andintelligence and information - permanent, via an implant?
For now, help for stroke victims and others is an ongoing positive development, brought to life via implants.But the next step - as I see clearly - is that first generation of humans who gladly give up their anonymity in exchange for a super-intelligence, embedded in their bodies, by a minuscule device.
What frightens me is that the very control of our minds - and our privacy, which truly is gone already if we are to be honest - will be at the mercy of whatever giant corporations rule those tiny chips in our heads.Within a few years, we will all have the option of uploading our brains - our memories - and having them "live" for eternity.
Along with this immortality, of course, we must each surrender our privacy, our freedoms, and our ability to live "off the grid".
With our imbedded intelligence, that new generation will communicate silently, enjoy multiple virtual worlds, and make alliances with those who share their super-intelligence.Depending upon your view, this can be heaven - or it can be hell.
For now, as crazy as you may feel this sounds, I am here to tell you: this is no science fiction. It is real - and scientists are exploring ways tobring humans into a merged techno-biological state sometime soon.
NASA hosts Singularity University, where they offer inter-disciplinary courses of study for graduate students and executives. Founding members include Google and CEO Larry Page. Instead of being a one-time flash-in-the-pan idea, this university is attracting the smartest brains on our planet.
In spite of how our brains are hardwired - in a linear fashion - the reality of Singularity is here. And don't worry: whether you believe in it or not; agree with it or protest: artificial intelligence will be sure topave the way for many, many humans to join in as the merging of biology and technology radically reshapes the very future of humanity.
Updates to follow.