Monday, August 24, 2015

The Non-coming of the Technological Singularity

"I'm going to become a doomsday prophet so I can scare gullible people." - Dogbert

The Singularity is a concept promoted by Ray Kurtzweil. I consider it nonsense (propaganda, really) and I think Kurtzweil is close to being a nut (he thinks he is qualified to give dietary advice).

Another concept, created by John von Neuman, is the Technological Singularity, in which technology creates Artificial Intelligence. Those are those who think these living, thinking machines are immediately going to go all Skynet on us.

This is ever going to happen.

For one thing, these machines would first have to develop life, then consciousness, then self-consciousness. How is this going to happen? We don't even know how we developed life and self-consciousness, and just because computers are a lot faster than us doesn't mean they're going to develop any of those attributes just because of their speed.

Machines would not only have to develop life and self-consciousness, they'd have to develop the ability to feel pain and the desire to stay alive.

We don't even know how something really simple came about, like ants.

We're going to be safe from Arnold for a long, long time, if not forever.

I used to read a lot of science fiction from 11 to 14, so I'm very familiar with machines going all genocidal on us (the Terminator movies were based on a couple of '60s short stories by Harlan Ellison, including one about a time-traveling soldier and one about a computer that became self-aware and wiped out the human race except for about six people).

It's not machines I'm concerned about. As always, it's people. Our future might to closer to Blade Runner (with its genetically-engineered "replicants") than Terminator.

I consider genetic engineering, nantechnology and designer drugs to be the same thing. And sooner or later, "science" is going to learn how to design people. So I'm more concerned about people being turned into the Epsilon Minuses of Brave New World than machines wiping us out. I also wonder about us being turned into Moties, warriors all blades and workers with two arms on one side, not being enslaved by a sentient computer.

When science learns to start genetically engineering people - and it is coming very soon - that's a big problem. That's the real coming Singularity, when we're grown in vats, like in Space: Above and Beyond, a TV program that didn't last very long at all.

Not that the concept of babies grown in vats hasn't been around for a long time.

If the government had its way, we'd have a caste of not-terribly smart drone workers and soldiers, and a caste of high-IQ rulers. I keep thinking of the Borg from "Star Trek." That might be closer to our future.

For thinking people, the government is always the enemy. Unfortunately, most people don't think that much, and there are many people who think the government is their friend. Until it's too late.

I am consistently running into conspironuts (the American disease) who keep talking about stockpiling food and water and firearms and digging tunnels because they think society is going to collapse into Mad Max or our reptilian rulers are going to come out of the closet (David Icke has been hit in the head way too many times by soccer balls) or Jesus is going to come back or who-knows-what-else (I suspect this is why The Walking Dead is so popular, along with movies such as World War Z).

This isn't going to happen. The economy is slowly going to get worse and worse but science is continually going to advance. So we're stomping on the brake and accelerator at the same time. But we always have and have been since people have been around.

There is an old saying: "All tyrants call themselves benefactors." The ancient Greeks noticed it, as did Jesus. So whatever the government tries to do to us, they'll tell us it's for our own good. And if a few million die, well, the human sacrifice of some is necessary, to some, to save the rest.

Some people are like that, too. "I predict monsters, and if you listen to me and give me money and attention, I will save you from them." They act like half-savior, half-wizard - just like governments.

The next 30 or so years - if not less - are going to be very interesting indeed.


Anonymous said...

I recommend to you and your readers the sci-fi author Peter Watts. His near-future Rifters trilogy and Firefall duology -soon to be a trilogy hopefully -cover the themes above and more. He owns hard sci-fi.

Glen Filthie said...

I dunno Bob.

If a scientist had a viable approach to AI the filthy masses would tear him to shreds out of fear. We have the technology right now to actually put drones and tracked bots in the air and on the battlefield, armed to the teeth - with algorithms and instrumentation complex enough to distinguish friend from foe...and we aren't allowed to deploy them because too many libertarians and democrats watched the same movies you did and had bad dreams at night. If those idiots were actually confronted by a thinking machine they would fill their diapers with fright and demand that it be destroyed.

My favourite SF nightmare comes from Rollerball where - if you are hospitalized, a computer sums up your chances, the cost of healing and resources - and decides whether you are worth saving or not. Solyent Green and The Omega Man are other plausible dystopian futures for us.

It's a pity that SF has been taken over by fat, ugly women that are offended and disturbed by their own genitals, and men with boobs, or nutters that claim to have been actually kidnapped (and probed) by space aliens. SF was so much better before it became the playground for SJW's.

little dynamo said...

You're wrong, Jesus is returning. Not in a lamb-like way though.

The Transhumanists and Singularists worship their Religion of Technology and Self. The don't need the King nor the wisdom of the prophets, because look at me! I'm a whole lot smarter than all those folks. Me, me. I've got all the really cool answers. Pay attention to ME! lol

Black Poison Soul said...

In addition to Blade Runner - possibly think Second Variety, also by Philip K Dick.

Mindstorm said...

IMO Second Coming and Singularity have about the same chances of happening.