Documenting the Coming Singularity

Saturday, January 15, 2011

What Reasonable People Should Think about the Singularity

Michael Nielsen - 1.12.11

In 1993, the science fiction author Vernor Vinge wrote a short essay proposing what he called the Technological Singularity. Here’s the sequence of events Vinge outlines:

A: We will build computers of at least human intelligence at some time in the future, let’s say within 100 years.

B: Those computers will be able to rapidly and repeatedly increase their own intelligence, quickly resulting in computers that are far more intelligent than human beings.

C: This will cause an enormous transformation of the world, so much so that it will become utterly unrecognizable, a phase Vinge terms the “post-human era”. This event is the Singularity.

The basic idea is quite well known. Perhaps because the conclusion is so remarkable, almost outrageous, it’s an idea that evokes a strong emotional response in many people. I’ve had intelligent people tell me with utter certainty that the Singularity is complete tosh. I’ve had other intelligent people tell me with similar certainty that it should be one of the central concerns of humanity.

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