Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Singularity

by Pa Rock
Burgeoning Futurist

I recently came across a fascinating article on the Internet that dealt with a scientific and philosophical movement, or perhaps more accurately described as a "subculture," that is based on observations by experts and scholars who conclude that within the next thirty or so years computers will be advanced to the point that they will no longer be subject to the control of humans.   They have tracked the exponential growth of technology over the past few decades and forecast that by the year 2045 computers will be so sophisticated that they will essentially be programming and running themselves and no longer have a physical need for humans.

We all have some knowledge of Artificial Intelligence (AI) from movies and science fiction literature.  We know that super computers have already been invented that can beat chess champions, and that recently some Jeopardy past champions were defeated at their own game by a computer.  This movement contends that although Artificial Intelligence is still in the rudimentary stages, it is getting more sophisticated - and it is doing it quicker and quicker.

The movement is called "The Singularity," and one of its working assumptions is that if humanity is to survive, it may well be through melding itself to the machines - such as having our memories and experiences scanned into the computers.  Eventually, these "cyborg" types of machine-creatures will transport themselves and the legacy of humanity to the stars and beyond.

We live in fast times.  I can remember how amazed I was the first time I saw a pocket calculator - and it cost several hundred dollars!  My first contact with a computer was in college where I had to have my research findings keypunched into a deck of special cards and then run the through the machine that took up most of a room.  Computers quickly made their way into homes, they became smaller and faster, and eventually they hooked us up to the entire world via the Internet - and now we can carry them around in our pockets!

My grandfather rode into Missouri in a covered wagon as a young boy.  During his last year of life he flew on a jet to California.  My life has spanned the crank telephone to the iPhone, the radio to 3-D television, and the slide rule to the laptop computer.  My grandchildren were born during a time when computers were commonplace.  During their lifetimes they will see and experience things that are completely beyond my ability to imagine.

I don't miss the past, but I suspect that I am going to miss the future terribly!  It would be wonderful to be able to see where we are heading.  The Singularity movement tells us that wherever we may be headed, we are hurling there faster and faster.

Fasten those seat belts!,8599,2048138,00.html

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