Monthly Archives: May 2010

Singularity Part 3: Consciousness and Machines

I have seen numerous debates about the singularity hinge on the question of whether machines could ever become conscious. Specifically, one side takes the position that the singularity will never happen because we will never be able to create conscious machines to make it happen. That position conflates intelligence and consciousness, I believe erroneously. First, let me point out that the success of a singularity, fueled by superhuman AI, does not depend on whether the AI is conscious or not. It only depends on intelligence, and it seems very likely that a machine could have intelligence without consciousness.

Understanding and generating consciousness is a much harder problem than generating intelligence. For one thing, there are ready ways to measure intelligence. Continue reading

Singularity Part 2: Imagineeration or Where’s my Jetpack?

First, Disney didn’t make up the word imagineering, so I can use it how I want.

About my first post, I want to say that not every singularitarian (what a word!) thinks the same way about the future or lets the singularity cloud their vision. I just want to point out that some people use it to cast doubt on whether predictions about the future can ever be considered realistic or meaningful, and I have seen it shut down futurist discussions.

Imagining the future is sometimes seen as a futile endeavor. A post-singularity world might be so different from our own that our conceiving it is no more possible than a cavemen coming up with the idea of Facebook. But that is not a productive assumption. And even if the future is unimaginable, we can still make useful predictions a good deal into the future regarding where technology and society are headed based on current trends. Continue reading

Singularity Part 1: Strong AI as Deux ex Machina

If you’re unfamiliar with the “technological singularity” or “strong AI”:

The world is in a state of transition and the road ahead holds many unknowns. This blog is an attempt to think clearly about the future—particularly, the promise and peril of new technologies and how people will change with them. To do this, one must consider a wide range of possibilities. I’m going to start by examining some issues regarding one very popular vision of the future, the technological singularity.

I find the singularity concept to be both intriguing and frustrating. Continue reading