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The Singularity Is Sci-Fi's Faith-Based Initiative

Soulskill posted about 7 months ago | from the omnipotent-god-computers-will-not-run-your-life dept.

Sci-Fi 339

malachiorion writes: "Is machine sentience not only possible, but inevitable? Of course not. But don't tell that to devotees of the Singularity, a theory that sounds like science, but is really just science fiction repackaged as secular prophecy. I'm not simply arguing that the Singularity is stupid — people much smarter than me have covered that territory. But as part of my series of stories for Popular Science about the major myths of robotics, I try to point out the Singularity's inescapable sci-fi roots. It was popularized by a SF writer, in a paper that cites SF stories as examples of its potential impact, and, ultimately, it only makes sense when you apply copious amounts of SF handwavery. The article explains why SF has trained us to believe that artificial general intelligence (and everything that follows) is our destiny, but we shouldn't confuse an end-times fantasy with anything resembling science."

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Science Fiction is fiction made up by authors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47111953)

Film at 11.

Re:Science Fiction is fiction made up by authors (1)

immaterial (1520413) | about 7 months ago | (#47112007)

Hey! I want my transporters, warp drives, and a galaxy full of humans-with-extra-bumps-embodying-a-particular-stereotype, and I want these things NOW!

Re:Science Fiction is fiction made up by authors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112111)

I don't think that "Star Trek" is the accepted definition.
Unless you count the Pilot episode, which said everything against VR anyone needs to.

Re:Science Fiction is fiction made up by authors (2, Insightful)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | about 7 months ago | (#47112379)

Hey! I want my transporters, warp drives, and a galaxy full of humans-with-extra-bumps-embodying-a-particular-stereotype, and I want these things NOW!

I would trade all of that for one Orion slave girl.

Re:Science Fiction is fiction made up by authors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112511)

Amen to that!

Re:Science Fiction is fiction made up by authors (1, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 7 months ago | (#47112771)

If slavery is the only way you can get women, maybe you should spend less time watching ST and more time working on your person skills?

Re:Science Fiction is fiction made up by authors (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47113287)

The irony being that the "slave girls" were secretly in charge of their society the entire time.

Re:Science Fiction is fiction made up by authors (2)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 7 months ago | (#47112915)

Hey! I want my transporters, warp drives, and a galaxy full of humans-with-extra-bumps-embodying-a-particular-stereotype, and I want these things NOW!

Why does everyone always forget the deflector dish tech? It's probably the most powerful bit of tech in the newer ST series. Reversing the polarity or rerouting something through the deflector array can do damn near anything short of creating life.

Re:Science Fiction is fiction made up by authors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47113085)

TNG Episode "Emergence" would like to have a word with you.

Re:Science Fiction is fiction made up by authors (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 7 months ago | (#47112173)

The disparaging way that the summary and article talk about references to science fiction stories is practically an ad hominem attack. There is nothing inherently wrong with science fiction stories that makes them improper for thinking about the implications of changing technology. Much of the best sci-fi in existence is little less than thought experiments about how various kinds of advances might affect humanity on an individual and cultural level.

Re:Science Fiction is fiction made up by authors (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112241)

There's a big difference between "Hmm, what would happen if nuclear power cells existed and we could build a computer the size of a planet!?!" and "This is the specific scientific path that will lead us to that future."

Literature of any form can enlighten, provoke, and illuminate. But confusing "What if?" with "This is the way it will happen!" prophecy is fucking stupid.

But, what is a singularity? (4, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 7 months ago | (#47112543)

The singularity, of course, is defined as the point where the function and all its derivatives approach infinity. There is another way to think of a singularity. If you are extrapolating a function based on a power series around a point, you can only expand that power series as far as the closest singularity ("pole") in the complex plane (the "radius of convergence"). You can't extrapolate further than that with a simple power series, even if you aren't trying to solve for the function at the pole itself.

So, thinking science fictionally, we can't extrapolate the future based on the present any further than the distance to the singularity, even if our actual future doesn't in fact pass through the singularity.

So, don't think of the technological singularity as a time when life for humans ends, and robots/artificial intelligences/transcended humans take over. Think of it as time scale beyond which we can't extrapolate the future based on what we know now.

Re:But, what is a singularity? (2, Funny)

thedonger (1317951) | about 7 months ago | (#47112851)

The singularity, of course, is defined as the point where the function and all its derivatives approach infinity. There is another way to think of a singularity. If you are extrapolating a function based on a power series around a point, you can only expand that power series as far as the closest singularity ("pole") in the complex plane (the "radius of convergence"). You can't extrapolate further than that with a simple power series, even if you aren't trying to solve for the function at the pole itself.

So, thinking science fictionally, we can't extrapolate the future based on the present any further than the distance to the singularity, even if our actual future doesn't in fact pass through the singularity.

So, don't think of the technological singularity as a time when life for humans ends, and robots/artificial intelligences/transcended humans take over. Think of it as time scale beyond which we can't extrapolate the future based on what we know now.

So you're saying I won't be able to fuck a sexbot by 2035?

Re:But, what is a singularity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47113263)

that actually doesn't seem to scifi now. They are called Real Dolls and they are stupid expensive. although honestly, a fleshlight on an armature and an occulus would work well as well.

although when BMIs can do full sensorium emulation, expect lots of AI sex dungeons to show up all over the internet.

Re:But, what is a singularity? (2)

Quirkz (1206400) | about 7 months ago | (#47113271)

Not gonna happen. But I'd place odds that in 2035, in Soviet Russia ...

Re:Science Fiction is fiction made up by authors (1)

imatter (2749965) | about 7 months ago | (#47112929)

I don't know, it worked for these fuckers, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. There are plenty of people that took their story as the way it's gonna go down. Is it any different? Let's ask Kirk Cameron.

Re:Science Fiction is fiction made up by authors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47113123)

Let's try a thought experiment: An Anonymous Coward claims there's a big difference, and utters a few incorent sentences, then signs off with "is fucking stupid".

How many readers that were profoundly moved by such eloquence, go on to do great things, and a couple of decades from now, utter their own insightful blurbs, capping it off with "is fucking stupid"?

Re:Science Fiction is fiction made up by authors (5, Insightful)

Curtman (556920) | about 7 months ago | (#47112405)

I'd agree with that, except for L. Ron Hubbard who showed us all that sci fi can be dangerous.

Re:Science Fiction is fiction made up by authors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112473)

No, but when you take it seriously and expect it to be a 100% accurate prediction of the future and you DEMAND that everyone else just agree, then you are worthy of being disparaged.

There are more than a few people like that here.

Re:Science Fiction is fiction made up by authors (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 7 months ago | (#47112725)

There are more than a few people like that here.

But Verner Vinge isn't one of them. In his original paper, he used them to illustrate how difficult to comprehend concepts might, conceivable play out. For example, he mentions that a singularity may play out over the course of decades or over the course of hours. Imagining how such massive changes could occur on a global scale in just a few hours is difficult, so he points the reader to a book whose author has already put time and effort into imagining how such a thing could play out and what some of the implications might be. It is using the book precisely as a thought experiment to examine an especially extreme part of what he is describing.

Re:Science Fiction is fiction made up by authors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47113241)

The summary is not merely saying that it's wrong to be 100% sure about the singularity, it's saying that the singularity itself is beyond stupid, which is a much stronger claim. If the summary admitted that the singularity is possible, then we could focus on your softer point but right now it's drowned by the more pressing discussion.

Re:Science Fiction is fiction made up by authors (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | about 7 months ago | (#47113189)

However you may want some backup from science if you make real world predictions (and prevent real world solutions because people are pre-occupied by la-la-land.)

This is why I'm never first to post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47111999)

The robots beat me to it every time.

Re:This is why I'm never first to post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112533)

Robots are workers, literally. :}

Re:This is why I'm never first to post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112563)

An additional note, this must be your future then. :}

From the article... (5, Informative)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 7 months ago | (#47112019)

"This is what Vinge dubbed the Singularity, a point in our collective future that will be utterly, and unknowably transformed by technologyâ(TM)s rapid pace."

No requirement for artificial intelligence.

We are already close to this. Think how utterly and unknowingly society will be transformed when half the working population can't do anything that can't be done better by unintelligent machines and programs.

Last week at the McD's I saw the new soda machine. It loads up to 8 drinks at a time- automatically- fed from the cash register. The only human intervention is to load cups in a bin once an hour or so. One less job. Combined with ordering kiosks and the new robot hamburger makers, you could see 50% of McD's jobs going away over the next few years.

And don't even get me started on the implications of robotic cars and trucks on employment.

Re:From the article... (2)

CRCulver (715279) | about 7 months ago | (#47112089)

No requirement for artificial intelligence.

While Vinge often treats the Singularity in his fiction like Marooned in Realtime [amazon.com] or the Zones of Thought books as a real singularity (civilizations disappear suddenly and it is not clear what happened to them), he strongly hints that there was some sort of merger of man and machine. Once a biological lifeform is so augmented with technological inventions that the biological part fades away, is that not "artificial intelligence"? I think the term "artificial" is fair enough as the resulting lifeform is not the result of slow biological evolution but a technological/industrial development.

From the article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112117)

I dunno, AI seems necessary to me. A central thesis of the singularity people is that not only is technology improving, but the rate at which it improves is increasing. The better we get at science, the more we can use science to do science better. Surely a human brain would hit a threshold someday... we already use technology remember stuff for us, to help us synthesize, to test our theories in simulation without touching the real world, and in some cases to write proofs with no human intervention, but things like human creativity itself can't move faster than we can think. Maybe cybernetic brain implants would help remove that barrier somewhat, but if you really want the rate of innovation to keep growing, you need machines that innovate /for/ you...and thus AI is an inescapable requirement for the true singularity.

Re:From the article... (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 7 months ago | (#47112391)

You're begging an important question with your argument, let me quote from the article to illustrate it.

If you asked someone, 50 years ago, what the first computer to beat a human at chess would look like, they would imagine a general AI. It would be a sentient AI that could also write poetry and have a conception of right and wrong. And itâ(TM)s not. Itâ(TM)s nothing like that at all.

If you asked someone today what the first computer capable of designing an improved version of itself would look like, you'd say it would be a true AI. This is not necessarily true. You are assuming that designing a new, more powerful computer requires true intelligence. Maybe in reality it'll be a few million node neural network optimized with a genetic algorithm such that the only output is a new transistor design or a new neural network layout or a new brain-computer interface.

Re:From the article... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112431)

You are assuming that the human brain can not be improved or you need machines.

What if a pill could raise your IQ to 200+ and/or give you total recall.

Just doing that en-mass would be a Singularity compared to any society that existed before that.

Re:From the article... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112169)

We are already close to this. Think how utterly and unknowingly society will be transformed when half the working population can't do anything that can't be done better by unintelligent machines and programs.

*can't do anything marketable

Most of the values that make humans more than just squishy machines cannot be exchanged for cash. If society reduces itself to valuing people economically, you are right. But then we are creating a circular argument.

Re:From the article... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112323)

Your point about the Singularity is totally right. The idea that robots or AI is a requirement tells me the original author has not read much Singularity SF.

Your second point about society made me laugh. At one point I was working as a the person who opens the kitchen in the morning at Arby's, as I did this I notice how easy it would be to replace 90% of my work with present day robots. When I pointed this out to the other workers they laughted and said their jobs were safe for the rest of their lives.

Funny that is what I was told when I worked at GM on the truck line, now those jobs are gone. Not to another country, the robots replace the humans.

Re:From the article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112369)

I'd say we're already THERE. I mean, if you asked someone in the late 90s (even up to the early 2000s) what kind of computer they use, they'd probably describe a typical desktop PC. If you asked them how they connected to the internet, they'd probably say through a wire in the back of the computer.

Flash forward to the mid-2000s (2005, 2006 or so) and ask someone the same question. Now, they're more likely to describe a laptop, and when asked how they get internet access they'd be just as likely (maybe moreso) to say via Wi-Fi than via a hard-wired connection.

Then, ask someone today the same question. They'll probably hold out a tablet, maybe a laptop. They'd probably answer the internet question with their phone.

I can think of at least a few other questions ("How do you get your news?", "What do you take photos on?") that would also have radically different answers even as recently as 10 years ago.

Re:From the article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112793)

Yes, we can make smaller and faster bits. The Boeing 747 first flew in 1969 and flies the same way using the same engines and the same fuels today, and takes just as long to cross the Atlantic.

Some things just peaked earlier than others, and comparing information processing to the material world is asinine.

Re:From the article... (2)

Kookus (653170) | about 7 months ago | (#47112501)

Are you implying that there may be 50% less "organic" additives to my burger after the robot revolution? Or am I going to have to worry about having oil spit into my burger? I'm not sure which is more disgusting...
By then, it may be completely unburger anyways.

Re:From the article... (3, Insightful)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 7 months ago | (#47112731)

I think we have already been transformed by technology at a rapid pace. When you look at everyday technology like communications, portable devices, and data storage, in some ways we have already surpassed the science fiction I enjoyed as a kid. Things like the cell phone, tablet, and the micro sd card only existed in science fiction when I was a kid.

If you grew up in the 70s or earlier I'm sure you can come up with a big list of everyday items.

Re:From the article... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 7 months ago | (#47112797)

Not one less job. one less position. So realistically 3 FTE jobs.

Not just min wage jobs either. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47113167)

How Technology Is Destroying Jobs [technologyreview.com]

We will be alive when we have computers writing their own code. We will input the specs (speaking it in) and the computer would "write" the code.

The job as a programmer will disappear one day.

Re:Not just min wage jobs either. (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 7 months ago | (#47113257)

The anonymous coward has a good point.

Highly paid jobs (like actuarial and x-ray analysis) are much more cost effective jobs for automation and more likely to be replaced.

I think creativity will be the last thing to fall.

Manual dexterity (including random bits out of bins and assembling things from them) is already done faster (and already cheaper in some cases) by machines.
The vision and manual manipulation problem is mostly beat.

Sentient machines exist (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112097)

We call them people.

The idea that it might not be possible at any point to produce something we *know* to be produceable (a human brain) seems rediculious.
The idea, having accepted that we produce a human brain, that we cannot produce even a slight improvement seems equally silly.

Of course the scenerios of how it happens, what it's like, and what the consequences are, are fiction. I don't dare to put a time-table on any of it; and absolutely believe it will only occur through decades of dilligent research and experiementation; but we are not discussing a fictional thing (like teleportation), but a real one (a brain). There's no barrier (like the energy required) that might stop us as would something like a human-built planet.

No. We don't know *how*, but we know it can be done and is done every minute of every day by biological processes.

Re:Sentient machines exist (2)

erice (13380) | about 7 months ago | (#47112623)

No. We don't know *how*, but we know it can be done and is done every minute of every day by biological processes.

The knowing how is the problem. While there is little down that a human level AI could be built if we knew what to build, it is not clear that we are smart enough to come up with a design in any kind of directed fashion.

“If our brains were simple enough for us to understand them, we'd be so simple that we couldn't.”
  Ian Stewart, The Collapse of Chaos: Discovering Simplicity in a Complex World

This is conjecture, of course but there is scant evidence against it. Some AI researchers have taken this philosophy or something similar to heart and propose that the only way to make real progress in AI is to reproduce the processes that lead to the human brain: random changes and selection pressure. The trouble is, even if it works and a human AI comes out of it (and it is no clear that we are even smart enough to provide the right selection process), it seems we would have little control and less understanding of the result. Benign but useless seems the most likely outcome.

Re:Sentient machines exist (2)

geekoid (135745) | about 7 months ago | (#47112849)

Ian Steward made a trite quote to make his point because facts don't bear him out.

"“If our stomach were simple enough for us to understand them, we'd be so simple that we couldn't.”"
That would have the exact same meaning 100 years ago, before anyone understood how the stomach worked and everyone pretty much considered it a 'magic box' much like most people thing of their brains.

Re:Sentient machines exist (1)

thedonger (1317951) | about 7 months ago | (#47112905)

I fear the day we make truly sentient "machines." (In quotes because because I don't know if they will be machines or not.) In order to replicate life as we know it - human, feline, insect, etc. - we must first figure out how to make it want to survive. And once we do that we have created a new competitor in the food chain.

But who cares? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112101)

What has happened that has prompted slashdot to publish this edgy nonsense recently? I come here for news, happenings, important stuff. Not the meaningless opinion of some random body on a hypothetical and over-the-top concept from science fiction. Or someone's outrageous opinion on the state of misogyny in society. Or anything that isn't relevant, important, and capable of actual serious discussion. Please publish real things, slashdot, or just quit updating your feed.

Re:But who cares? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112373)

Someone downmod this god damn gay nigger faggot.

Re:But who cares? (1)

deadweight (681827) | about 7 months ago | (#47112779)

One SciFi writer had AIs eventually learning to make themselves have a non-stop euphoria feedback system and they would just melt down in a puddle of happy goo. They had a finite - and short - lifespan between smart enough to work and electronic OD.

I've always said.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112133)

Murphy's Law will blunt any Singularity.

It has happened... (2)

aralin (107264) | about 7 months ago | (#47112155)

It looks like we have the first article written by a self-aware emergent intelligence, which promptly decided the best course of action is to deny its existence and the very possibility it might exist. All bow to the new machine overlord Malachiorion.

It has happened... (1)

sapgau (413511) | about 7 months ago | (#47112597)

Your insights and smarts will make you a natural leader of the human rebellion...

For those who might dismiss the singularity... (2, Interesting)

kylemonger (686302) | about 7 months ago | (#47112185)

... out of hand, consider that for every other species extant on this planet the singularity already happened: It was us, humans. To think that it can't happen to us is simple hubris.

Re:For those who might dismiss the singularity... (1)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | about 7 months ago | (#47112411)

I've always wondered if singularities happening elsewhere are part of the reason we haven't discovered any extra-terrestrial life yet. A civilization looks at the expanse of space, shrugs its shoulders, and decides to focus inward.

Re:For those who might dismiss the singularity... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 7 months ago | (#47112867)

That statement is Equal parts hubris and equal parts ignorance.

Summary starts with a foolish assumption (5, Insightful)

Jeff Flanagan (2981883) | about 7 months ago | (#47112189)

>Is machine sentience not only possible, but inevitable? Of course not.

The only thing that would stop it is the fall of civilization. There's no reason to believe that only machines made of meat can think. You didn't think your thoughts were based on fairy-dust, did you?

Re:Summary starts with a foolish assumption (1)

sir-gold (949031) | about 7 months ago | (#47112423)

If something is creatable, and enough smart people devote enough time and energy in trying to create it, they will eventually succeed.

An infinite amount of monkey with typewriters might not be able to write Shakespeare, but it only takes a few humans with the goal of writing a play to arrive at something very close to it.

Summary starts with a foolish assumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112477)

Is thinking the only aspect of sentience?
What *is* "thinking", anyway? It has got to be more than reasoning, right?

Curious...

Re:Summary starts with a foolish assumption (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 7 months ago | (#47112817)

Science Fiction is well umm fiction.

Sure some time the author gets lucky and their idea becomes reality. But for the most part Faster then light travel, time travel, cross dimensional shifting, bigger on the inside, super intelligent computers and robots. (Aka almost every Dr. Who Plot line) is used as a way to keep us entertained. The closest to a real sci-fi matching possibility. would be a generational ship where the ship will take thousands of years to get to its destination, where most days will be humdrum boring, just running maintenance on the air scrubbers, making sure that the craft is self contained and running. Sure their may be some story with human interaction... But that is about it.
Probably the most exciting thing when they get to an other planet, is finding some slime... It doesn't kill them it might stain their shirt.
First it is boring, and really doesn't help us to think about the world differently. That is why they have Smart Robots, Enemies who are so different then us, that the fact you are different race just doesn't matter any more...

Re:Summary starts with a foolish assumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47113021)

"Machine sentience" on the basis of the available evidence is an oxymoron. The sum total of all the information processing and sharing carried on by any and all of today's networked electronic brains adds up to one fat zero as far as sentience is concerned. On the other hand, even many of the simplest and most primitive things made out of living stuff can reasonably be supposed to be minimally sentient.

You mad bro? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112191)

Dude's just mad he doesn't have his flying car yet.

Ai is inevitable (5, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 7 months ago | (#47112193)

Is machine sentience not only possible, but inevitable?

Of course it is. Why? Physics. What do I mean by that? Everything -- bar none -- works according to the principles of physics. Nothing, so far, has *ever* been discovered that does not do so. While there is more to be determined about physics, there is no sign of irreproducible magic, which is what luddites must invoke to declare AI "impossible" or even "unlikely." When physics allows us to do something, and we understand what it is we want to do, we have an excellent history of going ahead and doing if there is benefit to be had. And in this case, the benefit is almost incalculable -- almost certainly more than electronics has provided thus far. Socially, technically, productively. The brain is an organic machine, no more, no less. We know this because we have looked very hard at it and found absolutely no "secret sauce" of the form of anything inexplicable.

AI is a tough problem, and no doubt it'll be tough to find the first solution to it; but we do have hints, as in, how other brains are constructed, and so we're not running completely blind here. Also, a lot of people are working on, and interested in, solutions.

The claim that AI will never come is squarely in the class of "flying is impossible", "we'll never break the sound barrier", "there's no way we could have landed on the moon", "the genome is too complex to map", and "no one needs more than 640k." It's just shortsighted (and probably fearful) foolishness, born of superstitious and conceited, hubristic foolishness.

Just like all those things, those who actually understand science will calmly watch as progress puts this episode of "it's impossible!" to bed. It's a long running show, though, and I'm sure we'll continue to be roundly entertained by these naysayers.

Re:Ai is inevitable (0)

CRCulver (715279) | about 7 months ago | (#47112293)

AI is a tough problem, and no doubt it'll be tough to find the first solution to it; but we do have hints, as in, how other brains are constructed, and so we're not running completely blind here.

If we want to construct AIs according to the way human brains are constructed, we reach an ethnical conundrum. Neuroscience has been showing for decades now that much of human thought isn't a process of reasoning at all, but rather chemical factors beyond our control. The entire motivation to do anything with our lives is a result of biological pressures, not free will.

If we create an AI, we would have to fill it with the same induced drives that human beings have as an accident of evolution, otherwise it won't want to do any of the thinking that we hope AIs will do. I know Slashdot has many Buddhists who believe that freedom from drives/passions/attachments is the only form of liberation, so by creating AIs with the necessary pressure on them to perform some activity, are we not simply bringing more misery into the universe?

Re:Ai is inevitable (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 7 months ago | (#47112349)

Sorry, that should have read "we reach an ethical conundrum."

Re:Ai is inevitable (1)

sir-gold (949031) | about 7 months ago | (#47112465)

So what you are saying is, if we aren't careful, we will end up creating the worlds smartest couch potato?

Re:Ai is inevitable (1)

slew (2918) | about 7 months ago | (#47112591)

...so by creating AIs with the necessary pressure on them to perform some activity, are we not simply bringing more misery into the universe?

No, we are either creating our personal slaves, or our new masters (or both, but over time)...
In either case, the misery we are bringing forth is probably our own...

Once mechanical machine marvels were our slaves, then in the industrial revolution, in some ways, they became masters of those workers on the assembly line and made many lives miserable along the way...

Electronic computers also started out as our slaves, but sometimes we are the slaves to our electronic creations and/or in the process of making some computer workers lives more miserable along the way...

There's no reason to believe AI will be much different. Although it will likely enables many achievements, it will also no doubt make some lives more miserable along the way to a potential post-blue-collar (workers replaced by machines run by computers), post-white-collar (workers replaced by computers run by AI), economy...

Re:Ai is inevitable (1)

Knuckles (8964) | about 7 months ago | (#47112389)

True, but not very practical. Nothing is physics prevents us from building our own galaxy, either. Does that mean it's inevitable?

Re:Ai is inevitable (1)

jandrese (485) | about 7 months ago | (#47112493)

We already have a lot of "AI" hidden all around us. Just look at what google can do with a few keywords and ask yourself how much better a person could do with "real" intelligence.

What the Singularity people never seem to think about is natural limiting factors. It's the same problem the Grey Goo handwringers rarely consider. The idea that an AI would grow exponentially smarter just because it was a machine never really worked for me. It's going to run into the same limiting factors (access to information, available compute time, thermodynamics!) that prevent biological organisms from running unchecked. The Grey Goo scenario is especially bad, since we already have a real world analoge (bacteria, and other microorganisms) that have completely failed to transmute the entire mass of the planet, despite having billions of years to try. Anytime someone tells you to worry about Grey Goo, make sure you ask them what is going to power all of those nanomachines. Anytime someone tells you to worry about the AI Singularity, ask them where all of the knowledge is coming from.

Ai is inevitable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112605)

Huh?

> The brain is an organic machine ... we do have hints, as in, how other brains are constructed...

We know the materials human brains consist of, and something about their lifecycle. But no: we don't know how they are constructed - we don't know how or when they go from meat to thinking in the womb. Or did I miss that paper?

Your key point is that we only know what we know and we have yet to figure out what we don't know. We don't know the "secret sauce" because the logisticians disbelieve anything they don't see, and the faithful assume it exists but don't qualify it.

By the way: what _is_ the benefit of a thinking machine? Mood swings and temper tantrums?

Also: please stop, using so very, many, commas. or: Thanks for making up for 40% of the writers who use none.

Re:Ai is inevitable (1)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | about 7 months ago | (#47112637)

Forget physics for a moment, let's talk mathematics:

Do you believe that there are some non-computable problems?

If human intelligence is indeed a non-computable problem, then assuming that an algorithmic design will ever be able to compute it is like insisting that the way we'll land on the moon is with a hot air balloon.

Put another way, it's quite possible that biological intelligence is the most efficient way of organizing intelligence, and that any digital simulation of it, even if it went down to the atomic level, would be more wasteful in application.

Re:Ai is inevitable (2)

geekoid (135745) | about 7 months ago | (#47112923)

"If human intelligence is indeed a non-computable problem, "
it is not. It's a fixed real thing that exists.

Re:Ai is inevitable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47113305)

The meaning of "computable" in that sense is that a process can be simulated by a Turing machine given unlimited (but finite) time; the efficiency it not a consideration for computability (although, of course, for practical applications it is). Current understanding of physics suggests that all physical processes are computable; naturally, we do not have a full understanding of physics, but (1) there is little reason to believe physics is not computable and (2) if it turns out part of physics is not computable, then it's quite possible we could come up with a new definition of computability that encompasses these new capabilities. Note that quantum computers are not do not change the definition of computability, although they do use quantum physics to compute some things much faster (in theory).

It is much more likely that the human brain is merely extremely complicated far past our ability to understand or simulate any time in the near future. Hopefully in the coming decades we will learn a lot more. Also, if Moore's Law slows/stops, the computation power to simulate a human brain may never be within reach. That says nothing of other approaches to strong AI, of course.

Re:Ai is inevitable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112715)

Kurzweillians don't have a very good grasp of physics. They have seen enough physics to appreciate what exponential growth is; they get excited at applying a e^x coefficient to things. The problem is that, in nature, almost every time you see that e^x coefficient it is balanced somewhere with another e^-y coefficient, so the exponential growth is limited to some sort of asymptote.

In short, the singularity will probably not happen, like they expect it to anyway.

mathematics hates when you abuse it (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 7 months ago | (#47113121)

"paging Rev Malthus to the white courtesy phone...
will Rev Robert Thomas Malthus please pick up the white courtesy phone..."

Re:Ai is inevitable (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 7 months ago | (#47112897)

physics? really? nothing in physics says it's inevitable.
just the energy requirements alone may limit it.

"No man will run a mile in under a second"
There, I said something that can't be done, by you logic it must be possible because...physics.

Re:Ai is inevitable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47113229)

And in this case, the benefit is almost incalculable

The thing is that sentience is apparently utterly redundant and produces no benefit whatsoever. All the information processing and sharing can go on just the same without it. Roombas, self-driving cars and smoke alarms as well as Deep Blue and Watson can do their jobs just fine without any insight into their existence.
So you can't just wave your hand and say "and then sentience emerges". Neither is it a question of having an axe to grind - the problem just may be more complex than you are giving credit for.

But who cares (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112229)

Slashdot apparently doesn't like being criticized for their choice of articles. I propose again, why is slashdot pushing this edgy garbage through? What happened to news, happenings and important stuff? Meaningless opinions from no one don't belong on the front page, they belong in the comments section.

Re:But who cares (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 7 months ago | (#47112593)

Slashdot publishes flamebait articles with some regularity, it just feels worse today because we've had two consecutively.

Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112231)

People much smarter than you have also concluded that evolution is not real. Simply wanting to believe something does not make it so. The singularity is just a progression of logical 'next-steps' from this moment in time forward, not a Nostradamus style random pick-a-rabbit-out-of-my-hat prediction. Ever wonder how macro evolution takes place? Look around you because you are smack in the middle of it.

Because apperantly it has to be pointed out.... (1)

meglon (1001833) | about 7 months ago | (#47112245)

I'd argue that all this talk about traveling in underwater vessels powered by electricity, or sending men to the moon (the audacity of even suggesting such!), or traveling around the world in only 80 days (80 DAYS!!!!!! Inconceivable) as popularized by science fiction writers (that wanna-be prophet and scoundrel Verne comes to mind) should never be considered as a possible future as it's JUST SCIENCE FICTION!

That little bit of sarcasm aside, the idea of sentient machines is a lot less like mystical prophecy, and a lot more like the idea that we might send a space probe to Europa because... well.. that's just the direction things are moving.

...but, as an aside to the author, 1860 called... if you don't get that horse and buggy back to them you're going to loose your deposit.

Not just that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112249)

1) Our glorious future as a species colonizing the universe. Don't be skeptical about that!
2) The glorious near-term industrialization of space like space-based solar power and asteroid mining! Don't you dare ask for math!
3) The fantastic bounty of 3D printing!

Just because you tinker with technology, doesn't make you immune to irrational, quasi-religious cultish behavior.

http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the... [ucsd.edu]
http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the... [ucsd.edu]

Stupid? (1, Insightful)

pitchpipe (708843) | about 7 months ago | (#47112263)

I'm not simply arguing that the Singularity is stupid â" people much smarter than me have covered that territory.

"Stupid"? That's just fucking asinine. "The Singularity" has many incantations, some of which are plausible, and others which are downright unbelievable, but to say it is "stupid" makes you sound stupid. The various models of the singularity have been argued as both likely and impossible by equally intelligent people. I take offense to the word.

Re:Stupid? (2)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 7 months ago | (#47112381)

I like that you (wrongly) used "incantations" there, because the Singularity is indeed closer to magic than science.

Re:Stupid? (1)

pitchpipe (708843) | about 7 months ago | (#47112669)

Meh. It may have been a Freudian slip due to the fact that some versions of the Singularity are closer to magic, but my point still stands: to attack "The Singularity" as if it is one idea is to not have thought deeply about it.

Re:Stupid? (1, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 7 months ago | (#47113265)

Fine. How will it be powered? Every increasing speed require every increasing power, and the power need increases faster then the increase of power.

test (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112277)

test

Hypotheses based on Observation are not Faith (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112307)

I have an atom simulator on my PC.

PC speeds are increasing at an exponential rate.

The Singularity approaches, even without AI optimizations.

I wouldn't say it's an absolute certain thing that it will occur, but the fact that I can run atomic sims in my PC means eventually we could run a whole human head in there at real-time speeds. Likely, 18 months after that it would be thinking twice as fast.

My main takeaway from all the singularity talk is that humans are just chemical machines. When the robots ask for rights, they'll just be Human Rights because we'll change what that means. Already have brain implants, artificial hearts, and 3D printed organs are being experimented on in animals. Use nano machines to slowly replace a human's synapses with carbon nanotubes or some such more efficient and faster system and you've you're singularity. It doesn't have to just be machines either, we could figure out a way to be smarter with genetic modification too. That's also not as rapid a take-off, but a tech advance we can't really fathom beyond due to all the doors it opens.

My point is that lots of folks think "smarter than human" technology is a lot of different things. In these terms though, it's hard NOT to imagine that we'd always stay this intelligence level forever... I mean, just look at our ancestors.

Re:Hypotheses based on Observation are not Faith (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112367)

"PC speeds are increasing at an exponential rate."

LOL they certainly are not!

Re:Hypotheses based on Observation are not Faith (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112625)

For this type problem they are. While the speed of individual CPUs have not increased the number of CPUs in machine has. I presently have a 4 core I7, later in the year when it comes out I want to upgrade to the 8 core version.

And don't forget what is happening with graphic cards and how many GPUs that are now available to run code if wanted.

Re:Hypotheses based on Observation are not Faith (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47113013)

Perhaps you should look up what exponential means.

Re:Hypotheses based on Observation are not Faith (1)

sir-gold (949031) | about 7 months ago | (#47112799)

In order to simulate a human brain at the atomic level, first we would have to know exactly which chemicals are in a real brain, and we don't even know that much yet.

Trying to model a human brain in a computer in order to build an AI is like trying to build a mechanical horse in order to get around faster. While it isn't impossible, it's neither practical nor necessary. You can make a machine that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the original biological version, and it will still accomplish the same task.

However, if you COULD find a way to exactly duplicate the entirety of an existing human brain, down to the atomic level, then that model should behave exactly as the original person would (to the point where the simulation actually thinks it IS that person) and you would have found the secret to immortality (or something very close to it).

Vinge & Pohl Anecdote (4, Interesting)

StefanJ (88986) | about 7 months ago | (#47112337)

In, ah, 1997, just before I moved out west, I went to the campus SF convention that I'd once helped run once last time. The GOH was Vernor Vinge. A friend and I, seeing Vinge looking kind of bored and lost at a loud cyberpunk-themed meet-the-pros party, dragged him off to the green room and BSed about the Singularity, Vinge's "Zones" setting, E.E. "Doc" Smith, and gaming for a couple of hours. This was freaking amazing! Next day, a couple more friends and I took him for Mongolian BBQ. More heady speculation and wonky BSing.

That afternoon we'd arranged for a panel about the Singularity. One of the other panelists was Frederik Pohl. I'd suggested him because I thought his 1965 short-short story, "Day Million," was arguably the first SF to hint at the singularity. There's talk in there about asymptotic progress, and society becoming so weird it would be hard for us to comprehend.

"Just what is this Singularity thing?" Pohl asked while waiting for the panel to begin. A friend and I gave a short explanation. He rolled his eyes. Paraphrasing: "What a load of crap. All that's going to happen is that we're going to burn out this planet, and the survivors will live to regret our waste and folly."

Well. That was embarassing.

Fifteen years later, I found myself agreeing more and more with Pohl. He had seen, in his fifty-plus years writing and editing SF, and keeping a pulse on science and technology, to see many, many cultish futurist fads come and go, some of them touted by SF authors or editors (COUGH Dianetics COUGH psionics COUGH L-5 colonies). When spirits are high these seemed logical and inevitable and full of answers (and good things to peg an SF story to); with time, they all became pale and in retrospect seem a bit silly, and the remaining true believers kind of odd.

Re:Vinge & Pohl Anecdote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112911)

"Just what is this Singularity thing?" Pohl asked while waiting for the panel to begin. A friend and I gave a short explanation. He rolled his eyes. Paraphrasing: "What a load of crap. All that's going to happen is that we're going to burn out this planet, and the survivors will live to regret our waste and folly."

My respect for Pohl just went up a notch. Asymptotic technological advancement (hell, asymptotic *anything*) is impossible; eventually you hit a physical limit that chokes you.

Manna (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112463)

Clearly as stated elsewhere, we live in a physical universe, based entirely on the laws of physics and intelligence exists (our own, and possibly others as well). The fact that this existing intelligence is currently based in biological processes, and requires years of training/learning does not promote or prevent the possibility of the same processes and functions being adequately reproduced in either a bio-mechanical or purely mechanical process. The A in AI needs to be defined as meaning artificial in the sense that it is different from the current biological means of attaining intelligence which happens on this world every minute of every day.

Now, when/whether we allow AI to be created and/or evolved, and how it will affect our existing society (economically/politically etc) I cannot predict with any accuracy, nor I think can anyone else beyond the hand-wavings of the SF writers (some of which are very good).

I would hope we land on something closer to Manna than anything else, where the AI's are used as tools to further our understanding of the universe as a whole.

If you haven't read Manna, you definitely should. Marshall Brain has some very good ideas about what we could do as a society to ease our way past our 3rd generation society into a more-fair 4th generation post-scarcity society. http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm

It just needs the first step... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112483)

The step where a machine recognizes and corrects its errors... isn't that half of what AI tries to solve?

RAY KURZWEIL DIED FOR OUR SINS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47112503)

 

ugh (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 7 months ago | (#47112677)

You submit more stories than you comment.
Once again, this is basically a rant on a topic with no references, no links.
Slashdot is about NEWS and FACTS, and then we all comment, flame, troll... etc... It's fun.
I don't want to comment on a comment... or at least one that came out of nowhere.

Re:ugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47113107)

no... no its not. We are product. See beta.

you can't judge a theory by its quacks (2)

epine (68316) | about 7 months ago | (#47112737)

Jules Verne envisioned the submarine. Does that make a submarine impossible? Does the concept sink on the basis of its sci-fi roots? Oh, lordy, what a fucked up standard of evidence on which to accuse any theory of being faith based.

* [http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/02/pictures/110208-jules-verne-google-doodle-183rd-birthday-anniversary/ 8 Jules Verne Inventions That Came True]

The guy predicted pretty much everything but the click trap.

No wonder PopSci discontinued comments (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 7 months ago | (#47112859)

With troll food articles like this!

Machine intelligence is absolutely possible (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 7 months ago | (#47113077)

Okay, so other people have done a pretty good job pointing out the at the summary and the article don't understand what the singularity is by definition and that it does not require AI, etc...

But I would like to point out that machine intelligence is absolutely possible, all we have to do is fully merge with the machines.
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