When humans first lit the spark of man-made fire within a cave long forgotten by time, there has been a fear. The cavemen (and women) looked into the flames and then into each other and thought, “shit, super-intelligent toasters better not turn us into slaves.” The fear of ambitious cooking appliances have always been with us, and today, I will be answering a couple of questions relating to this ancient, deeply-seated anxiety. Fandango asks:
Do you think the singularity will occur? If so, what time frame do you think it will happen in and how will it impact humanity? Alternatively, do you think or care at all about the potential for reaching singularity?
First off, what is “the singularity”? According to Fandango, “It’s a hypothetical future point in time when technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization.” Basically, at least from what I’ve read, this “uncontrollable growth” would be the result of machines becoming so intelligent that they are no longer within our control.
Some pretty smart peeps have been trying to achieve artificial intelligence for awhile now, and they’ve come a long way, but I also don’t think machines are going to be sentient any time soon. I mean, yeah, computers are pretty good at chess, but, at least from what I can tell computers aren’t creative, yet. When computers start creating totally unique works of art that’s when I start worrying. Because art involves not just intelligence and decision making, but creativity and self-expression. I’m not 100% down on the most recent scientific journals, but I have a feeling we’re not quite there yet. Though maybe I’m wrong.
Though when some people think of “the singularity” they may not be imagining the TS-300 stomping on human skulls, but rather artificial implants. This is the kind of shit that worries me. Because while “true” artificial intelligence maybe a ways off, companies are already thinking of better, more nefarious way of tracking their workers. And once such practices enter the mainstream, consumers will allow Elon Musk or any other psychopath with too much money to insert whatever questionable device into their skulls.
OK, I’m not sure this kind of “singularity” will actually happen, but if it does it will be gradual. Smartphones were once scarce, but now they’re everywhere to the point where life is almost unimaginable without them. At the moment we may guffaw at the idea of microchips or any other implant, but don’t underestimate the determination of corporations and consumers’ willingness to allow their reservations to be slowly eroded away.
“Hey man, you’re being way too cynical. It’s just another technological advancement. There will be downsides, sure, but the benefits surely outweigh all the negatives.” Yeah, OK. Maybe. But my concern is less to do with technological advancements and more to do with the people behind them. I’m less concerned about robots dominating and more about the psychos and “futurists” who already do. Technology such as smartphones have opened up avenues never thought possible for the average person, but, corporations and governments have also gained a lot of power and access to our personal information.
So, in sum, I don’t think singularity will be achieved via artificial intelligence anytime soon, but I do worry a bit about how we’re willing to allow irreversible changes to be made to ourselves and loved ones by other technological means. Sure, life might be “easier” with implants, we come to find, but at the same time, shouldn’t we also just be a little bit more wary of these things? Just because some tech genius declares it to be “the future,” doesn’t mean it has to be. Do we really need more corporate and governmental intrusion into our lives for the sake of convenience? Then again, when did “need” ever come into play? We only start “needing” eye implants once we’ve allowed them to become a necessity, once we’ve forsaken our ability to navigate reality without them. Or maybe it is a need. A need that will never be sated. Humans will always find discomfort in something and will find an excuse to keep that same fire burning long after its humble spark.