Tomorrow (October 3rd) marks the beginning of the annual Singularity Summit held by the Singularity Institute in New York. The summit brings together many of the leading thinkers in the field of singularity philosophy, where they will be discussing many of the recent movements and thoughts on the existence and the impact of any possible technological singularity.
For those of you who aren’t aware of singularity philosophy, it is a fascinating field of study that presumes that there will come a point in the near future where technological advancement will progress at such an exponential rate as to make society completely different to that which existed before the singularity.
For most, this is seen as a point that will be reached upon the creation of super-human intelligence through technological means. The theory is that such a moment will lead to an ‘intelligence explosion’ – with the super-human intelligence being able to create something more capable then itself and so on into an unknown future. Technological progress becomes so rapid that human society will be unable to keep up with it without somehow becoming a part of it, thus bringing about an end to the current era of humanity for something that we just cannot predict.
Obviously for many this raises some serious possible implications, and there are quite a few people who view the singularity with a deep sense of caution and even alarm. Others feel that humanity will be able to harness this moment, and rather then being subsumed by it will instead progress rapidly to evolve into something that our current models just cannot comprehend. There are others still who debate whether or not such a singularity can actually occur outside of theoretical models. Such skepticism is often focused on the concept of an AI singularity in particular, doubting whether a truly sentient artificial intelligence that can surpass humanity is even possible.
Whether or not such a massive paradigm shift will occur (and if it does, it will truly be beyond anything ever seen before), those who are exploring such theories are to be applauded for their close attention on the ethics of technological progress and the possible ramifications of forging headlong into the unknown.
For anybody interested, there are some great resources presented on the Singularity Summit website – particularly the reading list that is offered. I strongly suggest that anybody interested in future ethics and the rapid state of technological progress occurring at the moment should look into these resources – I certainly know that I will be reading around this subject quite closely as the sphere of thought it represents is possibly the most important theoretical work being done today.