Can futurologists predict the year of technological singularity?

The end of the world we know is near. And this is good, as many futurologists believe, predicting the inevitable onset of technological singularity. What it is? Technological singularity is the idea that technological progress, especially in the field of artificial intelligence, will reach a tipping point when machines will be exponentially smarter than people. This topic has been hotly debated recently.

Renowned Futurologist and Google Engineer Ray Kurzweilonce again confirmed his bold prediction, according to which machines will acquire comparable to the human mind by 2029. He said earlier that this would happen by 2045, but has since changed his mind.

At the SXSW festival, Kurzweil stated that “in factin fact, machines feed us all. They make us smarter. Perhaps they have not yet been inside our bodies, but by the 2030s we will connect our neocortex, that part of the brain where our thinking takes place, to the cloud. ”

It is a fusion of man and machine - which sometimescalled transhumanism - the same concept that CEO Tesla and SpaceX Elon Musk spoke about while discussing the development of neural networks. For Mask, however, the interface between the human brain and computers is vital to prevent our mind from becoming obsolete when the singularity comes.

Musk also deals with Open AI, a nonprofitan organization with a billion-dollar investment, designed to ensure the development of general artificial intelligence (OII). OII is another term of human level intelligence. Today, most people call AI weak or narrowly targeted artificial intelligence - a machine that can "think" in a very narrow range of concepts or tasks.

Futurologist Ben Herzel, who among his othersNumerous roles is a leading scientist in the financial forecasting company Aidyia Holdings and the robotics company Hanson Robotics, believes that OII may well appear in the time frame of Kurzweil. It is more difficult to predict a singularity - he estimates the timing of its onset somewhere between 2020 and 2100.

“Keep in mind that we could reach the OIIhuman level, a radical expansion of the healthcare sector and other interesting things long before the singularity - especially if we want to temporarily slow down the development of OII in order to increase the chances of a favorable singularity, ”he writes.

Meanwhile, multinational telecommunicationsSoftBank, based in Japan, predicts that superintelligent robots will outperform humans in both speed and thinking by 2047.

Forecast History

Kurzweil, Herzel and others are just part ofthe newest generation of futurologists who decided that humanity has rushed to a new paradigm of existence, largely thanks to technological innovations.

There were some hints that philosophers as early as 19century, thanks to the industrial revolution, they realized that the human race began to move in a strange direction with gradually increasing speed. And only in the 1950s did the modern understanding of the singularity crystallize.

The mathematician John von Neumann noted thatthe accelerating progress of technology hints at approaching some significant singularity in the history of the human race, after which our species will no longer exist in the form we know.

In the 1960s, after working with Alan Turing to decipher Nazi messages, the British mathematician I. D. Goode referred to the singularity, without naming it as such.

He wrote: “Let the superintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual actions of any intelligent person. Since machine design will be one such intellectual activity, the superintelligent machine can design even more advanced machines. And then the “explosion of intelligence” will happen, and the human mind will be far behind.

Science fiction writer and professor of mathematics VernorVinge is considered the creator of the term "technological singularity." In his 1993 essay, An Approaching Technological Singularity: How to Survive the Posthuman Age, he predicted that technological transcendence would come within 30 years.

Vingh explained in his essay why he thinksthat the term “singularity” - in cosmology this is an event when space-time collapses and a black hole forms, - fits: “This is the point beyond which our models will have to be discarded and a new reality will form. As we approach this point, it will become more and more applicable to all human spheres of activity. And yet, when the singularity comes, it can be a big surprise and even more unknown. ”

Inaccurate Science Prediction

But is it possible to predict the singularity at all?

Database compiled by the Research Institute of Machine Intelligence(MIRI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to social issues related to OII, showed 257 predictions of AI from 1950 to 2012 in the scientific literature. Of these, 95 contained forecasts giving a schedule for the development of AI.

“Forecasts of the appearance of AI in the database seem onlyslightly better than random guesses, ”the authors write. For example, scientists found that "there is no evidence that expert forecasts differ from those of non-experts." They also found that most AI predictions fall into a certain spot - from 15 to 25 years from the time of the forecast.

Others doubt that singularity is achievable within the deadlines set by Kurzweil.

Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and the Institute of Artificial Intelligence, wrote that such a technological leap would happen very soon.

Extinction or transcendence?

Futurologist Nikola Danailov believes that it is better to ask whether the achievement of the singularity will be good or bad.

“Will it help us die out like dinosaurs, or conquer the universe?” It’s not clear now. ”

Danailov claims that talk ofsingularities today largely ignore the social upheavals that are already taking place. The idea that “technology will save us” will not help poor people and will not extend a person’s life if technological breakthroughs are only beneficial for those who have money.

“I do not think that a singularity in the sense in which we see it will happen at all. I think we are losing sight of the big consequences. ”