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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Staring into the Singularity

Throwing this out for anyone with an interest in artificial intelligence and/or science fiction: Staring into the Singularity 1.2.5.¹ The site gives the following as the short version of the extended essay that it contains

If computing speeds double every two years,
what happens when computer-based AIs are doing the research?

Computing speed doubles every two years.
Computing speed doubles every two years of work.
Computing speed doubles every two subjective years of work.

Two years after Artificial Intelligences reach human equivalence, their speed doubles. One year later, their speed doubles again.

Six months - three months - 1.5 months ... Singularity.

Plug in the numbers for current computing speeds, the current doubling time, and an estimate for the raw processing power of the human brain, and the numbers match in: 2021.

But personally, I'd like to do it sooner.
Yeah, you and me both, pal. Difference between us is, you're an optimist and I ordered a cheeseburger.²

Actually the essay contains, in some parts, a fair amount of math and technical terms, which is to be expected in even a minor treatise on AI. But it's not as completely dry a read as you might imagine. Still I've got to do some more knocking of my head against it before I consider myself to have a real clue about what's being said in it.

"The Singularity" is a term coined by science fiction writer Vernor Vinge to describe a point at which artificial intelliegences are not only possible, they are capable of reprogramming themselves faster and better than we can. In other words, it describes a point when truly sentient life will appear. I'm really not expecting to see AI's in my lifetime, let alone The Singularity. And I plan to be around another day, or two.

Vinge's novel, A Fire Upon the Deep, is a damn good read.

² Remember Gary Larson?

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