Sunday, September 30, 2012

Vernor Vinge Discusses the Singularity, Future, Possibilities: "The human era will be ended"

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Countdown to the Singularity

Vernor Vinge on the Technological Singularity Vernor Vinge can rightly be called the Father of the Technological Singularity and came up with the term itself. Vinge thinks the technological singularity will occur no later than 2030. "I'd be surprised if it doesn't happen by 2030". "The technological singularity is the most likely scenario for the relatively near future". Vinge states, "In the relatively near future, humankind, by using technology, will either create or become creatures of superhuman intelligence". This type of change, a technological change, will be qualitatively different than technological changes in the past. The change will be so profound that what will happen is unknowable, hence a singularity and event horizon over which no information, actually speculation and prediction, can occur. This implies no limit to progress. However, Vinge finds hope in this future world and not fear of the unknown. "Overall, we are in a situation where we can surpass the wildest dreams of optimism of previous generations."

Technological Singularity Paths Vinge watches paths to the singularity, and the developments in each as positive and negative indicators as to the overall progress towards the technological singularity. These paths are scenarios on how the singularity could occur. He lists 5 paths:
1) Artificial Intelligence scenario: humans create superhuman artificial intelligence in computers, machines become super-intelligent
2) Intelligence Amplification scenario: humans enhance human intelligence through human-to-computer interfaces, that is, humans achieve intelligence amplification, humans become super-intelligent
3) Biomedical Intelligence scenario: humans directly increase their intelligence by improving the neurological operations of their brains, humans become super-intelligent
4) Internet Intelligence scenario: humanity, its networks, computers, and databases become sufficiently effective to be considered a superhuman being, humans and machines collectively become super-intelligent
5) Digital Gaia scenario: the network of embedded processors becomes sufficiently effective to be considered a superhuman being, machines collectively become super-intelligent
6) [Editor's Note: this leaves only one other possible scenario: humans collectively become super-intelligent?]

Vernor Vinge & The Singularity: Authors at Google 5-time Hugo Award winning author Vernor Vinge, one of the most lauded SF writers of our era, discusses his work and concepts from it, including the concept of "The Singularity" which he coined, and his latest novel, "Children of the Sky," the sequel to "A Fire Upon the Deep." He is interviewed by Brad Templeton of EFF/Singularity U/Google X



About Vernor Vinge Vernor Vinge is a retired San Diego State University professor of mathematics, a computer scientist, and an award-winning science fiction author. Vinge is a futurist who is known as the originator of the term "technological singularity" and his 1993 essay, "The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era" expounds on this concept. In the essay, he states, "Within thirty years we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended". He introduced the term "technological singularity" at an artificial intelligence conference at Carnegie-Mellon University in 1982 and later in a science fiction novel, "Marooned In Realtime" in 1986. Vinge has expanded on the themes of virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and the technological singularity in his books and describes himself as a science fiction writer.



Singularity Concept Timeline Vernor Vinge developed and honed the concept of the technological singularity in the 1980s and early 1990s. The culmination was a 1993 paper, a presentation at NASA and now a classic, "The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era". Vinge says that as the exponential increase in technology becomes more and more evident, especially compared to the 1980s and 1990s, the concept of the technological singularity will increasingly be part of the cultural fabric. "It fits more with what's going on. It becomes a steady drumbeat like background music, like background wallpaper, in how we look at things when it comes to progress. It is a way of looking at things, the world." He feels this concept is a model than can be run to interpret daily events. To keep a balanced view, Vinge also "runs a model" of the technological singularity not happening, as a contra-indicator and even has given a talk on this scenario. In retrospect, from the NASA essay in 1993 to the present, 2011, Vinge says there is little he would change in his paper


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