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A '''technological singularity''' is a hypothetical event occurring when technological progress becomes so rapid that it makes the future after the singularity qualitatively different and harder to predict. Many of the most recognized writers on the singularity, such as Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil, define the concept in terms of the technological creation of superintelligence, and allege that a post-singularity world would be unpredictable to humans due to an inability of human beings to imagine the intentions or capabilities of superintelligent entities.Vinge, Vernor. [ "The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era"]Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near, pp. 135-136. Penguin Group, 2005. Some writers use "the singularity" in a broader way to refer to any radical changes in our society brought about by new technologies such as molecular nanotechnology, Yudkowsky. [ The Singularity: Three Major Schools]Anders Sandberg. [ An overview of models of technological singularity] although Vinge and other prominent writers specifically state that without superintelligence, such changes would not qualify as a true singularity. Many writers also tie the singularity to observations of exponential growth in various technologies (with Moore's Law being the most prominent example), using such observations as a basis for predicting that the singularity is likely to happen sometime within the 21st century.

Vernor Vinge proposed that the creation of superhuman intelligence would represent a breakdown in the ability of humans to model the future thereafter. He was the first to use the term "singularity" for this notion, in a 1983 article, and a later 1993 article entitled "The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era" was widely disseminated on the World Wide Web and helped to popularize the idea.Dooling, Richard. ''Rapture for the Geeks: When AI Outsmarts IQ'' (2008), [ p. 89] Vinge also compared the event of a technological singularity to the breakdown of the predictive ability of physics at the gravitational singularity beyond the event horizon of a black hole.

A technological singularity includes the concept of an intelligence explosion, a term coined in 1965 by I. J. Good.Good, I. J. [ "Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine"], ''Advances in Computers'', vol. 6, 1965. Although technological progress has been accelerating, it has been limited by the basic intelligence of the human brain, which has not, according to Paul R. Ehrlich, changed significantly for millennia.Ehrlich, Paul. [ The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment] However with the increasing power of computers and other technologies, it might eventually be possible to build a machine that is more intelligent than humanity.[ Superbrains born of silicon will change everything.] If superhuman intelligences were invented, either through the Intelligence amplification or artificial intelligence, it would bring to bear greater problem-solving and inventive skills than humans, then it could design a yet more capable machine, or re-write its source code to become more intelligent. This more capable machine then could design a machine of even greater capability. These iterations could accelerate, leading to Seed AI, potentially allowing enormous qualitative change before any upper limits imposed by the laws of physics or theoretical computation set in.Good, I. J., "Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine", Franz L. Alt and Morris Rubinoff, ed., Advances in Computers (Academic Press) 6: 31–88, 1965.[ The Human Importance of the Intelligence Explosion]Good, I. J. 1965 Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine. Pp 31-88 in Advances in Computers, 6, F. L. Alt and M Rubinoff, eds. New York: Academic Press.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil postulates a Accelerating change#Kurzweil and The Law of Accelerating Returns in which the speed of technological change increases exponentially, generalizing Moore's law to technologies predating the integrated circuit, and including material technology (especially as applied to nanotechnology), medical technology and others.Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near, Penguin Group, 2005 Like other authors, though, he reserves the term "Singularity" for a rapid increase in ''intelligence'' (as opposed to other technologies), writing for example that "The Singularity will allow us to transcend these limitations of our biological bodies and brains ... There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between human and machine".Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near, p. 9. Penguin Group, 2005 He also defines his predicted date of the singularity (2045) in terms of when he expects computer-based intelligences to significantly exceed the sum total of human brainpower, writing that advances in computing before that date "will not represent the Singularity" because they do "not yet correspond to a profound expansion of our intelligence."Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near, pp. 135-136. Penguin Group, 2005. The context for this statement is as follows: "we will be producing about 1026 to 1029 cps of nonbiological computation per year in the early 2030s. This is roughly equal to our estimate for the capacity of all living biological human intelligence ... This state of computation in the early 2030s will not represent the Singularity, however, because it does not yet correspond to a profound expansion of our intelligence. By the mid-2040s, however, that one thousand dollars' worth of computation will be equal to 1026 cps, so the intelligence created per year (at a total cost of about $1012) will be about one billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today. That ''will'' indeed represent a profound change, and it is for that reason that I set the date for the Singularity—representing a profound and disruptive transformation in human capability—as 2045."

The term "technological singularity" reflects the idea that such change may happen suddenly, and that it is difficult to predict how such a new world would operate.{{Citation | last = Yudkowsky | first = Eliezer | author-link = | title = Artificial Intelligence as a Positive and Negative Factor in Global Risk | journal = Global Catastrophic Risks | editor-last = Bostrom | editor-first = Nick | editor2-last = Cirkovic | editor2-first = Milan | publisher = Oxford University Press | year = 2008 | url = | doi =}}[ The Uncertain Future; a future technology and world-modeling project] It is unclear whether an intelligence explosion of this kind would be beneficial or harmful, or even an Existential risk,[ GLOBAL CATASTROPHIC RISKS SURVEY (2008) Technical Report 2008/1 Published by Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University. Anders Sandberg and Nick Bostrom][ Existential Risks; Analyzing Human Extinction Scenarios and Related Hazards, Nick Bostrom] as the issue has not been dealt with by most artificial general intelligence researchers, although the topic of Friendly AI is investigated by the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity Institute.

Many prominent technologists and academics dispute the plausibility of a technological singularity, including Jeff Hawkins, John Henry Holland, <!--Daniel Dennett, the references given do not support 'dispute the possibility' for Dennett-->Jaron Lanier, and Gordon Moore, whose eponymous Moore's Law is often cited in support of the concept.

==History of the idea==

Image:PPTMooresLawai.jpg writes that, due to paradigm shifts, a trend of exponential growth extends Moore's law from integrated circuits to earlier transistors, vacuum tubes, relays, and electromechanics computers. He predicts that the exponential growth will continue, and that in a few decades the computing power of all computers will exceed that of human brains, with superhuman artificial intelligence appearing around the same time.]]

In 1847, R. Thornton, the editor of the Primitive Expounder, {{Citation | last = Thornton | first = Richard | title = The Expounder of Primitive Christianity | place = Ann Arbor, Michigan | year = 1847 | volume = 4 | page = 281 | url = }} wrote (more than half in jest) about the recent invention of a four function mechanical calculator: {{quote| ...such machines, by which the scholar may, by turning a crank, grind out the solution of a problem without the fatigue of mental application, would by its introduction into schools, do incalculable injury. But who knows that such machines when brought to greater perfection, may not think of a plan to remedy all their own defects and then grind out ideas beyond the ken of mortal mind!}}

In 1951 Alan Turing spoke of machines outstripping humans intellectuallyA M Turing, ''Intelligent Machinery, A Heretical Theory'', 1951, reprinted ''Philosophia Mathematica'' (1996) 4(3): 256-260 doi:10.1093/philmat/4.3.256 []: {{quote|once the machine thinking method has started, it would not take long to outstrip our feeble powers. ... At some stage therefore we should have to expect the machines to take control, in the way that is mentioned in Samuel Butler (novelist)'s 'Erewhon'.}}

In 1958, Stanisław Marcin Ulam wrote in referenceUlam, S., Tribute to John von Neumann, Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, vol 64, nr 3, part 2, May, 1958, p1-49. to a conversation with John von Neumann: {{quote|One conversation centered on the ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.}}

In 1965, I. J. Good first wrote of an "intelligence explosion", suggesting that if machines could even slightly surpass human intellect, they could improve their own designs in ways unforeseen by their designers, and thus recursion augment themselves into far greater intelligences. The first such improvements might be small, but as the machine became more intelligent it would become better at becoming more intelligent, which could lead to a cascade of self-improvements and a sudden surge to superintelligence (or a singularity).

Mathematician and author Vernor Vinge greatly popularized Good’s notion of an intelligence explosion, addressing the topic in print in the January 1983 issue of ''Omni (magazine)'' magazine. In this op-ed piece, Vinge seems to have been the first to use the term "singularity" in a way that was specifically tied to the creation of intelligent machines,Dooling, Richard. ''Rapture for the Geeks: When AI Outsmarts IQ'' (2008), [ p. 88]Vinge did not actually use the phrase "technological singularity" in the Omni op-ed, but he did use this phrase in the short story collection ''Threats and Other Promises'' from 1988, writing in the introduction to his story "The Whirligig of Time" (p. 72): ''Barring a worldwide catastrophe, I believe that technology will achieve our wildest dreams, and'' soon. ''When we raise our own intelligence and that of our creations, we are no longer in a world of human-sized characters. At that point we have fallen into a technological "black hole," a technological singularity.'' writing: {{quote|We will soon create intelligences greater than our own. When this happens, human history will have reached a kind of singularity, an intellectual transition as impenetrable as the knotted space-time at the center of a black hole, and the world will pass far beyond our understanding. This singularity, I believe, already haunts a number of science-fiction writers. It makes realistic extrapolation to an interstellar future impossible. To write a story set more than a century hence, one needs a nuclear war in between ... so that the world remains intelligible.}}

In 1985 Ray Solomonoff introduced the notion of "infinity point"Solomonoff, R.J. "The Time Scale of Artificial Intelligence: Reflections on Social Effects," Human Systems Management, Vol 5, pp. 149-153, 1985, in the time scale of artificial intelligence, analyzed the magnitude of the "future shock" that "we can expect from our AI expanded scientific community" and on social effects. Estimates were made "for when these milestones would occur, followed by some suggestions for the more effective utilization of the extremely rapid technological growth that is expected."

A 1993 article by Vinge, "The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era", contains the oft-quoted statement, "Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended." Vinge refines his estimate of the time scales involved, adding, "I'll be surprised if this event occurs before 2005 or after 2030."

Vinge continues by predicting that superhuman intelligences will be able to enhance their own minds faster than the humans that created them. "When greater-than-human intelligence drives progress," Vinge writes, "that progress will be much more rapid." This feedback loop of self-improving intelligence, he predicts, will cause large amounts of technological progress within a short period, and that the creation of superhuman intelligence represented a breakdown in humans' ability to model their future. His argument was that authors cannot write realistic characters who surpass the human intellect, as the thoughts of such an intellect would be beyond the ability of humans to express. Vinge named this event "the Singularity". In 1993, Vernor Vinge associated the Singularity more explicitly with I. J. Good's intelligence explosion, and tried to project the arrival time of artificial intelligence (AI) using Moore's law, which thereafter came to be associated with the "Singularity" concept.

Aubrey de Grey has applied the term the "Methuselarity"Aubrey de Grey. [ The singularity and the Methuselarity: similarities and differences] to the point at which medical technology improves so fast that Life expectancy increases by more than one year per year.

Robin Hanson, taking "singularity" to refer to sharp increases in the exponent of economic growth, lists the Neolithic Revolution and industrial revolutions as past "singularities". Extrapolating from such past events, Hanson proposes that the next economic singularity should increase economic growth between 60 and 250 times. An innovation that allowed for the replacement of virtually all human labor could trigger this event.{{Citation |url= |title= Economics Of The Singularity |accessdate=2008-09-11 |author= Robin Hanson |work=IEEE Spectrum Special Report: The Singularity }}

Eliezer Yudkowsky has suggested that many of the different definitions that have been assigned to ''singularity'' are mutually incompatible rather than mutually supporting. For example, Kurzweil extrapolates current technological trajectories ''past'' the arrival of self-improving AI or superhuman intelligence, which Yudkowsky argues represents a tension with both I. J. Good's proposed discontinuous upswing in intelligence and Vinge's thesis on unpredictability.

In 2005, Ray Kurzweil published ''The Singularity is Near'', which brought the idea of the singularity to the popular media both through the book's accessibility and a publicity campaign that included an appearance on ''The Daily Show with Jon Stewart'' The book stirred intense controversy, in part because Kurzweil's utopian predictions contrasted starkly with other, darker visions of the possibilities of the singularity. Kurzweil, his theories, and the controversies surrounding it were the subject of Barry Ptolemy's documentary ''Transcendent Man (film)''.

In 2009, Kurzweil and X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis announced the establishment of Singularity University, whose stated mission is "to assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies in order to address humanity’s grand challenges."[ About Singularity University] at its official website Funded by Google, Autodesk, ePlanet Ventures, and a group of technology industry leaders, Singularity University is based at NASA's NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, California. The not-for-profit organization runs an annual ten-week graduate program during the summer that covers ten different technology and allied tracks, and a series of executive programs throughout the year. Program faculty include experts in technology, finance, and future studies, and a number of videos of Singularity University sessions have been posted online.

Some prominent technologists such as Bill Joy, founder of Sun Microsystems, have voiced concern over the potential dangers of the Singularity.{{Citation | first=Bill | last=Joy | authorlink=Bill Joy | title=Why the future doesn’t need us | journal=Wired (magazine) | date= April 2000 | issue=8.04 | url= | accessdate=2007-08-07 | isbn=0670032492 | publisher=Viking Adult }}

==Intelligence explosion==

The notion of an "intelligence explosion" is key to the singularity. It was first described thus by {{Harvtxt|Good|1965}}, who speculated on the effects of superhuman machines: {{cquote|Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an ‘intelligence explosion,’ and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.}}

Most proposed methods for creating superhuman or transhuman minds fall into one of two categories: intelligence amplification of human brains and artificial intelligence. The means speculated to produce intelligence augmentation are numerous, and include bioengineering and genetic engineering, nootropic drugs, AI assistants, direct brain-computer interfaces, and mind uploading. The existence of multiple paths to a intelligence-explosion make a singularity more likely; for a singularity to not occur they would all have to fail.

Despite the numerous speculated means for amplifying human intelligence, non-human artificial intelligence (specifically seed AI) is the most popular option for organizations trying to advance the singularity. {{Harvtxt|Hanson|1998}} is also skeptical of human intelligence augmentation, writing that once one has exhausted the "low-hanging fruit" of easy methods for increasing human intelligence, further improvements will become increasingly difficult to find.

Whether or not an intelligence explosion occurs depends on three factors.[] David Chalmers John Locke Lecture, 10 May, Exam Schools, Oxford, presenting a philosophical analysis of the possibility of a technological singularity or "intelligence explosion" resulting from recursively self-improving AI. The first, accelerating factor, is the new intelligence enhancements made possible by each previous improvement. Contrawise, as the intelligences become more advanced, further advances will become more and more complicated, possibly overcoming the advantage of increased intelligence. Each improvement must be able to beget at least one more improvement, on average, for the singularity to continue. Finally, there is the issue of a hard upper limit. Absent Quantum Computing, eventually the laws of physics will prevent any further improvements.

There are two logically independent, but mutually reinforcing, accelerating effects: increases in the speed of computation, and improvements to the algorithms used.[ The Singularity: A Philosophical Analysis, David J. Chalmers] The former is predicted by Moore’s Law and the forecast improvements in hardware, and is comparatively similar to previous technological advance. On the other hand, most AI researchers believe that software is more important than hardware. There is little reason to expect evolution to have optimised human brains for intelligence, suggesting there are low-hanging fruit on the software side.

===Speed improvements===

The first is the improvements to the speed at which minds can be run. Whether human or AI, better hardware increases the rate of future hardware improvements. Simplistically, Moore's Law suggests that if the first doubling of speed took 18 months, the second would take 18 subjective months; or 9 external months, whereafter, four months, two months, and so on towards a speed singularity.Eliezer Yudkowsky, 1996 “Staring at the Singularity An upper limit on speed may eventually be reached, though it is unclear how high this would be. {{Harvtxt|Hawkins|2008}}, responding to Good, argued that the upper limit is relatively low; {{cquote| Belief in this idea is based on a naive understanding of what intelligence is. As an analogy, imagine we had a computer that could design new computers (chips, systems, and software) faster than itself. Would such a computer lead to infinitely fast computers or even computers that were faster than anything humans could ever build? No. It might accelerate the rate of improvements for a while, but in the end there are limits to how big and fast computers can run. We would end up in the same place; we'd just get there a bit faster. There would be no singularity.}} Whereas if it were a lot higher than current human levels of intelligence, the effects of the singularity would be enormous enough as to be indistinguishable (to humans) from a singularity with an upper limit. For example, if the speed of thought could be sped up by a million-to-one, a subjective year would pass in 30 physical seconds.

It is difficult to directly compare silicon-based hardware with neurons. But {{Harvtxt|Berglas|2008}} notes that computer speech recognition is approaching human capabilities, and that this capability seems to require 0.01% of the volume of the brain. This analogy suggests that modern computer hardware is within a few orders of magnitude of being as powerful as the human brain.

===Intelligence improvements===

Some intelligence technologies, like seed AI, also have the potential to make themselves more intelligent, not just faster, by modifying their source code. These improvements would make further improvements possible, which would make further improvements possible, and so on.

This mechanism for an intelligence explosion differs from an increase in speed in two ways. Firstly, it doesn’t require external effect: machines designing faster hardware still require humans to create the improved hardware, or to program factories appropriately. An AI which was re-writing its own source code, however, could do so while contained in an AI box.

Secondly, as with Vernor Vinge’s conception of the singularity, it is much harder to predict the outcome. While speed increases seem to be only a quantitative difference from human intelligence, actual improvements in intelligence would be qualitatively different. Eliezer Yudkowsky compares it to the changes that human intelligence brought: humans changed the world thousands of times more rapidly than evolution had done so, and in totally different ways. Similarly, the evolution of life had been a massive departure and acceleration from the previous geological rates of change, and improved intelligence could cause change to be as different again.

There are substantial dangers associated with an intelligence explosion singularity. Firstly, the goal structure of the AI may not be invariant under self-improvement, potentially causing the AI to optimise something other than was intended.[ Omohundro, Stephen M., "The Basic AI Drives." Artificial General Intelligence, 2008 proceedings of the First AGI Conference, eds. Pei Wang, Ben Goertzel, and Stan Franklin. Vol. 171. Amsterdam: IOS, 2008 ] Secondly, AIs could have other uses for the scarce resources mankind uses to survive.[ Omohundro, Stephen M., "The Nature of Self-Improving Artificial Intelligence." Self-Aware Systems. 21 Jan. 2008. Web. 07 Jan. 2010.]

While not actively malicious, there is no reason to think that AIs would actively promote human goals unless they could be programmed as such, and if not, might use the resources currently used to support mankind to promote its own goals, causing human extinction.[ Bostrom, Nick, The Future of Human Evolution, Death and Anti-Death: Two Hundred Years After Kant, Fifty Years After Turing, ed. Charles Tandy, p. 339–371, 2004, Ria University Press.]


Dramatic changes in the rate of economic growth have occurred in the past because of some technological advancement. Based on population growth, the economy doubled every 250,000 years from the Paleolithic era until the Neolithic Revolution. This new agricultural economy began to double every 900 years, a remarkable increase. In the current era, beginning with the Industrial Revolution, the world’s economic output doubles every fifteen years, sixty times faster than during the agricultural era. If the rise of superhuman intelligences causes a similar revolution, argues Robin Hanson, one would expect the economy to double at least quarterly and possibly on a weekly basis.

====Existential risk====

"The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made out of atoms which it can use for something else."

Superhuman intelligences may have goals inconsistent with human survival and prosperity. {{Harvtxt|Berglas|2008}} notes that there is no direct evolutionary motivation for an AI to be friendly to humans. In the same way that evolution has no inherent tendency to produce outcomes valued by humans, so too there is little reason to expect an arbitrary optimisation process to promote an outcome desired by mankind, rather than inadvertently leading to an AI behaving in a way not intended by its creators (such as Nick Bostrom's whimsical example of an AI which was originally programmed with the goal of manufacturing paper clips, such that when it achieves superintelligence it decides to convert the entire planet into a paper clip manufacturing facility;[ Ethical Issues in Advanced Artificial Intelligence, Nick Bostrom, in Cognitive, Emotive and Ethical Aspects of Decision Making in Humans and in Artificial Intelligence, Vol. 2, ed. I. Smit et al., Int. Institute of Advanced Studies in Systems Research and Cybernetics, 2003, pp. 12-17][ The Stamp Collecting Device, Nick Hay] Anders Sandberg has also elaborated on this scenario, addressing various common counter-arguments.[ 'Why we should fear the Paperclipper'], 2011-02-14 entry of Sandberg's blog 'Andart') AI researcher Hugo de Garis suggests that artificial intelligences may simply eliminate the human race for access to scarce resources,[ Omohundro, Stephen M., "The Basic AI Drives." Artificial General Intelligence, 2008 proceedings of the First AGI Conference, eds. Pei Wang, Ben Goertzel, and Stan Franklin. Vol. 171. Amsterdam: IOS, 2008. ] and humans would be powerless to stop Garis, Hugo. [ "The Coming Artilect War"],, 22 June 2009.

{{Harvtxt|Bostrom|2002}} discusses human extinction scenarios, and lists superintelligence as a possible cause:

When we create the first superintelligent entity, we might make a mistake and give it goals that lead it to annihilate humankind, assuming its enormous intellectual advantage gives it the power to do so. For example, we could mistakenly elevate a subgoal to the status of a supergoal. We tell it to solve a mathematical problem, and it complies by turning all the matter in the solar system into a giant calculating device, in the process killing the person who asked the question.

Alternatively, AIs developed under evolutionary pressure to promote their own survival could out-compete humanity.[, Nick, The Future of Human Evolution, Death and Anti-Death: Two Hundred Years After Kant, Fifty Years After Turing, ed. Charles Tandy, p. 339–371, 2004, Ria University Press.] One approach to prevent a negative singularity is an AI box, whereby the artificial intelligence is kept constrained inside a simulated world and not allowed to affect the external world. Such a box would have extremely proscribed inputs and outputs; maybe only a plaintext channel. However, a sufficient intelligent AI may simply be able to escape from any box we can create. For example, it might crack the protein folding problem and use nanotechnology to escape, or simply persuade its human ‘keepers’ to let it out.[ Artificial Intelligence Will Kill Our Grandchildren (Singularity), Dr Anthony Berglas]The Singularity: A Philosophical Analysis David J. Chalmers

Eliezer Yudkowsky proposed that research be undertaken to produce friendly artificial intelligence in order to address the dangers. He noted that if the first real AI was friendly it would have a head start on self-improvement and thus prevent other unfriendly AIs from developing, as well as providing enormous benefits to mankind. The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence is dedicated to this cause.

A significant problem, however, is that unfriendly artificial intelligence is likely to be much easier to create than FAI: while both require large advances in recursive optimisation process design, friendly AI also requires the ability to make goal structures invariant under self-improvement (or the AI will transform itself into something unfriendly) and a goal structure that aligns with human values and doesn’t automatically destroy the human race. An unfriendly AI, on the other hand, can optimize for an arbitrary goal structure, which doesn't need to be invariant under self-modification.[ Coherent Extrapolated Volition, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky, May 2004 ]

Bill Hibbard also addresses issues of AI safety and morality in his book ''Super-Intelligent Machines''.

===Implications for human society===

In 2009, leading computer scientists, artificial intelligence researchers, and roboticists met at the Asilomar Conference Grounds near Monterey Bay in California. The goal was to discuss the potential impact of the hypothetical possibility that robots could become self-sufficient and able to make their own decisions. They discussed the extent to which computers and robots might be able to acquire autonomy, and to what degree they could use such abilities to pose threats or hazards. Some machines have acquired various forms of semi-autonomy, including the ability to locate their own power sources and choose targets to attack with weapons. Also, some computer viruses can evade elimination and have achieved "cockroach intelligence." The conference attendees noted that self-awareness as depicted in science-fiction is probably unlikely, but that other potential hazards and pitfalls exist.[ Scientists Worry Machines May Outsmart Man] By JOHN MARKOFF, NY Times, July 26, 2009.

Some experts and academics have questioned the use of robots for military combat, especially when such robots are given some degree of autonomous functions.[ Call for debate on killer robots], By Jason Palmer, Science and technology reporter, BBC News, 8/3/09. A United States Navy report indicates that, as military robots become more complex, there should be greater attention to implications of their ability to make autonomous decisions.Mick, Jason. [ New Navy-funded Report Warns of War Robots Going "Terminator"], Blog,, February 17, 2009.Flatley, Joseph L. [ Navy report warns of robot uprising, suggests a strong moral compass],, 18 February 2009.

The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence has commissioned a study to examine this issue,[ AAAI Presidential Panel on Long-Term AI Futures 2008-2009 Study], Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, Accessed 7/26/09. pointing to programs like the Language Acquisition Device (computer), which can emulate human interaction.

Many Singularitarianism consider nanotechnology to be one of the greatest dangers facing humanity. For this reason, they often believe that seed AI (an AI capable of making itself smarter) should precede nanotechnology. Others, such as the Foresight Institute, advocate the creation of molecular nanotechnology, which they claim can be made safe for pre-singularity use or expedite the arrival of a beneficial singularity{{Citation needed|date=August 2010}}.

Some support the design of "friendly artificial intelligence", meaning that the advances which are already occurring with AI should also include an effort to make AI intrinsically friendly and humane.[ Article at], July 2004, accessed 7/27/2009.

Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics is one of the earliest examples of proposed safety measures for AI:

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with either the First or Second Law.

Additional laws included in some stories were described as follows:

  • ''Zeroth Law:'' A robot may not harm humanity, or through inaction allow humanity to come to harm.
  • ''Minus-One Law:'' A robot may not harm sentience, or through inaction allow sentience to come to harm.
  • ''Fourth Law:'' A robot must establish its identity as a robot in all cases.
  • Alternate ''Fourth Law:'' A robot must reproduce, unless such reproduction would interfere with the First or Second or Third Law.
  • ''Fifth Law:'' A robot must know it is a robot.

The laws are intended to prevent artificially intelligent robots from harming humans. In Asimov’s stories, any perceived problems with the laws tend to arise as a result of a misunderstanding on the part of some human operator; the robots themselves are merely acting to their best interpretation of their rules. In the 2004 in film film ''I, Robot (film)'', loosely based on Isaac Asimov's Robot Series, an AI attempts to take complete control over humanity for the purpose of protecting humanity from itself due to Zeroth Law. In 2004, the Singularity Institute launched an Internet campaign called ''3 Laws Unsafe'' to raise awareness of AI safety issues and the inadequacy of Asimov’s laws in particular. {{Harv|Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence|2004}}

==Accelerating change== Image:ParadigmShiftsFrr15Events.svg of 15 lists of paradigm shifts for key human history events shows an exponential growth trend.{{Clarify|date=October 2009}}<!-- Exponential trend toward what? What does this graph show us? --> The lists' compilers include Carl Sagan{{Citation needed|date=November 2010}}, Paul D. Boyer, ''Encyclopædia Britannica'', American Museum of Natural History, and University of Arizona. Click to enlarge.]]

{{Main|Accelerating change}} Some singularity proponents argue its inevitability through extrapolation of past trends, especially those pertaining to shortening gaps between improvements to technology. In one of the first uses of the term "singularity" in the context of technological progress, Stanislaw {{Harvtxt|Ulam|1958}} tells of a conversation with John von Neumann about accelerating change:

One conversation centered on the ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.

{{Harvtxt|Hawkins|1983}} writes that "mindsteps", dramatic and irreversible changes to paradigms or world views, are accelerating in frequency as quantified in his mindstep equation. He cites the inventions of writing, mathematics, and the computer as examples of such changes.

Ray Kurzweil's analysis of history concludes that technological progress follows a pattern of exponential growth, following what he calls ''The Law of Accelerating Returns''. He generalizes Moore's law, which describes geometric growth in integrated semiconductor complexity, to include technologies from far before the integrated circuit.

Whenever technology approaches a barrier, Kurzweil writes, new technologies will cross it. He predicts paradigm shifts will become increasingly common, leading to "technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history".{{Harv|Kurzweil|2001}} Kurzweil believes that the singularity will occur before the end of the 21st century, setting the Predictions_made_by_Raymond_Kurzweil#2045:_The_Singularity {{Harv|Kurzweil|2005}}. His predictions differ from Vinge’s in that he predicts a gradual ascent to the singularity, rather than Vinge’s rapidly self-improving superhuman intelligence.

This leads to the conclusion that an artificial intelligence that is capable of improving on its own design is also faced with a singularity.{{Citation needed|date=March 2010}} Self-augmentation or bootstrapping of intelligence is featured by Dan Simmons in his novel ''Hyperion (Simmons novel)'', where a collection of artificial intelligences debate whether or not to make themselves obsolete by creating a new generation of "ultimate" intelligence.{{Citation needed|date=March 2010}}

The Acceleration Studies Foundation, an educational non-profit foundation founded by John Smart (futurist), engages in outreach, education, research and advocacy concerning accelerating change.{{Harv|Acceleration Studies Foundation|2007}} It produces the Accelerating Change conference at Stanford University, and maintains the educational site [ Acceleration Watch].

Presumably, a technological singularity would lead to rapid development of a Kardashev scale, where a Kardashev Type I civilization is one that has achieved mastery of the resources of its home planet, Type II of its planetary system, and Type III of its galaxy.Zubrin, Robert. 1999, ''Entering Space - Creating a Spacefaring Civilization''

Oft-cited dangers include those commonly associated with molecular nanotechnology and genetic engineering. These threats are major issues for both singularity advocates and critics, and were the subject of Bill Joy's ''Wired (magazine)'' magazine article "Why the future doesn't need us".{{Harv|Joy|2000}}


Steven Pinker stated in 2008:

"(...) There is not the slightest reason to believe in a coming singularity. The fact that you can visualize a future in your imagination is not evidence that it is likely or even possible. Look at domed cities, jet-pack commuting, underwater cities, mile-high buildings, and nuclear-powered automobiles — all staples of futuristic fantasies when I was a child that have never arrived. Sheer processing power is not a pixie dust that magically solves all your problems. (...)"

Some critics assert that no computer or machine will ever achieve human intelligence, while others hold that the definition of intelligence is irrelevant if the net result is the same.{{Harvnb|Dreyfus|Dreyfus|2000|p=xiv}}:

"(...) The truth is that human intelligence can never be replaced with machine intelligence simply because we are not ourselves "thinking machines" in the sense in which that term is commonly understood.{{Harvtxt|Hawking|1998}} (...)"


Some people say that computers can never show true intelligence whatever that may be. But it seems to me that if very complicated chemical molecules can operate in humans to make them intelligent then equally complicated electronic circuits can also make computers act in an intelligent way. And if they are intelligent they can presumably design computers that have even greater complexity and intelligence.

Martin Ford in ''The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future'' Ford, Martin, ''[ The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future]'', Acculant Publishing, 2009, ISBN 978-1448659814 postulates a "technology paradox" in that before the Singularity could occur, most routine jobs in the economy would be automated since this would require a level of technology inferior to that of the Singularity. This would cause massive unemployment and plummeting consumer demand—which in turn would destroy the incentive to invest in the technologies that would be required to bring on the Singularity.

===Criticism of the accelerating returns argument===

Theodore ModisTheodore Modis, [ Forecasting the Growth of Complexity and Change], ''Technological Forecasting & Social Change'', 69, No 4, 2002 and Jonathan HuebnerHuebner, Jonathan (2005) A Possible Declining Trend for Worldwide Innovation, ''Technological Forecasting & Social Change'', October 2005, pp. 980-6 argue that the rate of technological innovation has not only ceased to rise, but is actually now declining (John Smart (futurist), however, criticizes Huebner's analysis.Smart, John (September 2005), On Huebner Innovation, Acceleration Studies Foundation,, retrieved on 2007-08-07) Some evidence for this decline is that the rise in computer clock speeds is slowing, even while Moore's prediction of exponentially increasing circuit density continues to hold. This is due to excessive heat build-up from the chip, which cannot be dissipated quickly enough to prevent the chip from melting when operating at higher speeds. Advancements in speed may be possible in the future by virtue of more power-efficient CPU designs and multi-cell processors.Krazit, Tom. [ Intel pledges 80 cores in five years], ''CNET News'', 26 September 2006.

Others propose that other "singularities" can be found through analysis of trends in world population, world gross domestic product, and other indices. Andrey Korotayev and others argue that historical hyperbolic growth curves can be attributed to feedback loops that ceased to affect global trends in the 1970s, and thus hyperbolic growth should not be expected in the future.See, e.g., Korotayev A., Malkov A., Khaltourina D. [ ''Introduction to Social Macrodynamics: Compact Macromodels of the World System Growth'']. Moscow: URSS Publishers, 2006; Korotayev A. V. [ A Compact Macromodel of World System Evolution // Journal of World-Systems Research 11/1 (2005): 79–93.]

In ''The Progress of Computing'', William Nordhaus argued that, prior to 1940, computers followed the much slower growth of a traditional industrial economy, thus rejecting extrapolations of Moore's law to 19th-century computers. {{Harvtxt|Schmidhuber|2006}} suggests differences in memory of recent and distant events create an illusion of accelerating change, and that such phenomena may be responsible for past apocalyptic predictions.

Andrew Kennedy, in his 2006 paper for the British Interplanetary Society discussing Wait Calculation,Interstellar Travel: The Wait Calculation and the Incentive Trap of Progress, JBIS Vol 59, N.7 July 2006 stated that although long-term overall growth is inevitable, it is small, embodying both ups and downs, and noted, "New technologies follow known laws of power use and information spread and are obliged to connect with what already exists. Remarkable theoretical discoveries, if they end up being used at all, play their part in maintaining the growth rate: they do not make its plotted curve... redundant." He stated that exponential growth is no predictor in itself, and illustrated this with examples such as Quantum mechanics. The quantum was conceived in 1900, and quantum theory was in existence and accepted approximately 25 years later. However, it took over 40 years for Richard Feynman and others to produce meaningful numbers from the theory. Bethe understood nuclear fusion in 1935, but 75 years later fusion reactors are still only used in experimental settings. Similarly, Quantum entanglement was understood in 1935 but not at the point of being used in practice until the 21st century.

A study of patents per thousand persons shows that human creativity does not show accelerating returns, but in fact—as suggested by Joseph Tainter in his seminal ''The Collapse of Complex Societies''Tainter, Joseph (1988) "The Collapse of Complex Societies" (Cambridge University Press)—a law of diminishing returns. The number of patents per thousand peaked in the period from 1850–1900, and has been declining since.{{Citation needed|date=November 2010}}<!-- is this from 'Collapse of Complex Societies' or some other source? Perhaps this refers to Jonathan Huebner's patent analysis mentioned in the earlier paragraph? If so, would be better to integrate this part with that paragraph, since the earlier paragraph mentions that Huebner's analysis has been criticized whereas this paragraph just seems to present it as fact --> The growth of complexity eventually becomes self-limiting, and leads to a wide spread "general systems collapse". Thomas Homer Dixon in ''The Upside of Down'' maintains that the declining energy returns on investment has led to the collapse of civilizations.

In addition to general criticisms of the singularity concept, several critics have raised issues with Kurzweil's iconic chart. One line of criticism is that a log-log chart of this nature is inherently biased toward a straight-line result. Others identify selection bias in the points that Kurzweil chooses to use. For example, biologist PZ Myers points out that many of the early evolutionary "events" were picked arbitrarily.{{Citation |url= |title= Singularly Silly Singularity |accessdate=2009-04-13 |first1= PZ |last1=Myers}} Kurzweil has rebutted this by charting evolutionary events from 15 neutral sources, and showing that they fit a straight line on :File:ParadigmShiftsFrr15Events.svg.

''The Economist'' mocked the concept with a graph extrapolating that the number of blades on a razor, which has increased over the years from one to as many as five, will increase ever-faster to infinity.{{Citation |title=More blades good |author=Anonymous |newspaper=The Economist |date=18 March 2006 |url= |location=London |page=85 |volume=378 |issue=8469 }}

==In popular culture== {{See also|List of fictional computers}}

James P. Hogan's 1979 novel ''The Two Faces of Tomorrow'' is an explicit description of what is now called the Singularity. An artificial intelligence system solves an excavation problem on the moon in a brilliant and novel way, but nearly kills a work crew in the process. Realizing that systems are becoming too sophisticated and complex to predict or manage, a scientific team sets out to teach a sophisticated computer network how to think more humanly. The story documents the rise of self-awareness in the computer system, the humans' loss of control and failed attempts to shut down the experiment as the computer desperately defends itself, and the computer intelligence reaching maturity.

While discussing the singularity's growing recognition, Vernor {{Harvtxt|Vinge|1993}} writes that "it was the science-fiction writers who felt the first concrete impact." In addition to his own short story "Bookworm, Run!", whose protagonist is a chimpanzee with intelligence augmented by a government experiment, he cites Greg Bear's novel ''Blood Music (novel)'' (1983) as an example of the singularity in fiction. Vinge described surviving the singularity in his 1986 novel ''Marooned in Realtime''. Vinge later expanded the notion of the singularity to a galactic scale in ''A Fire Upon the Deep'' (1992), a novel populated by transcendent beings, each the product of a different race and possessed of distinct agendas and overwhelming power.

In William Gibson's 1984 novel ''Neuromancer'', artificial intelligences capable of improving their own programs are strictly regulated by special "Turing police" to ensure they never exceed a certain level of intelligence, and the plot centers on the efforts of one such AI to circumvent their control. The 1994 novel ''The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect'' features an AI that augments itself so quickly as to gain low-level control of all matter in the universe in a matter of hours.

A more malevolent AI achieves similar levels of omnipotence in Harlan Ellison's short story ''I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream'' (1967).

William Thomas Quick's novels ''Dreams of Flesh and Sand'' (1988), ''Dreams of Gods and Men'' (1989), and ''Singularities'' (1990) present an account of the transition through the singularity; in the latter novel, one of the characters states that mankind's survival requires it to integrate with the emerging machine intelligences, or it will be crushed under the dominance of the machines – the greatest risk to the survival of a species reaching this point (and alluding to large numbers of other species that either survived or failed this test, although no actual contact with alien species occurs in the novels).

The singularity is sometimes addressed in fictional works to explain the event's absence. Neal Asher's ''Gridlinked'' series features a future where humans living in the Polity are governed by AIs and while some are resentful, most believe that they are far better governors than any human. In the fourth novel, ''Polity Agent'', it is mentioned that the singularity is far overdue yet most AIs have decided not to partake in it for reasons that only they know. A flashback character in Ken MacLeod's 1998 novel ''The Cassini Division'' dismissively refers to the singularity as "the Rapture for nerds", though the singularity goes on to happen anyway.

Popular movies in which computers become intelligent and violently overpower the human race include ''Colossus: The Forbin Project'', the ''Terminator (franchise)'' series, the very loose film adaptation of ''I, Robot (film)'', and ''The Matrix (series)'' series. The television series ''Battlestar Galactica (2004 TV series)'' also explores these themes.

Isaac Asimov expressed ideas similar to a post-Kurzweilian singularity in his short story ''The Last Question''. Asimov's future envisions a reality where a combination of strong artificial intelligence and post-humans consume the cosmos, during a time Kurzweil describes as when "the universe wakes up", the last of his six stages of cosmic evolution as described in ''The Singularity is Near''. Post-human entities throughout various time periods of the story inquire of the artificial intelligence within the story as to how Heat death of the universe will be avoided. The AI responds that it lacks sufficient information to come to a conclusion, until the end of the story when the AI does indeed arrive at a solution. Notably, it does so in order to fulfill its Three Laws of Robotics to answer the humans' question.

St. Edward's University chemist Eamonn Healy discusses accelerating change in the film ''Waking Life''. He divides history into increasingly shorter periods, estimating "two billion years for life, six million years for the hominid, a hundred-thousand years for mankind as we know it". He proceeds to human cultural evolution, giving time scales of ten thousand years for agriculture, four hundred years for the scientific revolution, and one hundred fifty years for the industrial revolution. Information is emphasized as providing the basis for the new evolutionary paradigm, with artificial intelligence its culmination. He concludes we will eventually create "neohumans" which will usurp humanity’s present role in scientific and technological progress and allow the exponential trend of accelerating change to continue past the limits of human ability.

Accelerating progress features in some science fiction works, and is a central theme in Charles Stross's Accelerando (book). Other notable authors that address singularity-related issues include Karl Schroeder, Greg Egan, Ken MacLeod, Rudy Rucker, David Brin, Iain M. Banks, Neal Stephenson, Tony Ballantyne, Bruce Sterling, Dan Simmons, Damien Broderick, Fredric Brown, Jacek Dukaj, Stanislav Lem, Nagaru Tanigawa, Douglas Adams and Ian McDonald (author).

The feature-length documentary film ''Transcendent Man (film)'' is based on Ray Kurzweil and his book ''The Singularity Is Near''. The film documents Kurzweil's quest to reveal what he believes to be mankind's destiny. Another documentary, ''Plug & Pray'', focuses on the promise, problems and ethics of artificial intelligence and robotics, with Joseph Weizenbaum and Raymond Kurzweil as the main subjects of the film.[ Plug & Pray] Documentary film (2010) about the promise, problems and ethics of artificial intelligence and robotics

In 2009, scientists at Aberystwyth University in Wales and the U.K's University of Cambridge designed a robot called Adam that they believe to be the first machine to independently discover new scientific findings.[ Robo-scientist makes gene discovery-on its own | Crave - CNET<!-- Bot generated title -->] Also in 2009, researchers at Cornell developed a computer program that extrapolated the laws of motion from a pendulum's swings.[ Computer Program Self-Discovers Laws of Physics | Wired Science |<!-- Bot generated title -->][ Cornell Chronicle: Computer derives natural laws<!-- Bot generated title -->]

The web comic Dresden Codak deals with trans-humanistic themes and the singularity.

The plot of an episode of the TV program ''The Big Bang Theory'' (season 4, episode 2, "The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification") revolves around the anticipated date of the coming Singularity.

Industrial Music/Steampunk entertainer Doctor Steel weaves the concept of a technological singularity into his music and videos, even having a song entitled ''The Singularity''. He has been interviewed on his views by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies,{{Cite web|url=|title= Interview with Dr. Steel|author=Michael Anissimov|publisher=Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies| accessdate=2009-08-29 }} and has also authored a paper on the subject.{{Cite news|url=| title= Multi-Media Symbiosis and the Evolution of Electronic Life|author=Dr. Steel|date=Spring 2005|accessdate=2010-04-16 |publisher= Paranoia: The Conspiracy Reader, Issue 38 (back issue)}}{{Cite news|url=|work=World Domination Toys|title= Multi-Media Symbiosis and the Evolution of Electronic Life|author=Dr. Steel|date=Spring 2005|accessdate=2010-04-16 |publisher= clipping from Paranoia: The Conspiracy Reader}}

==See also== {|width="100%" |- style="vertical-align:top;" |width=50%|

==Notes== {{Reflist|2}}

==References== {{Refbegin|2}}

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==External links== {{Spoken Wikipedia|TechSingularity.ogg|2010-04-03}} {{Wikibooks|Developing A Universal Religion/2. Possible Applications/6. Technological Singularity}}

===Essays and articles===


===Other links===

{{DEFAULTSORT:Technological Singularity}} Category:Evolution Category:Sociocultural evolution Category:Theories of history Category:Futurology Category:Singularitarianism Category:Philosophy of artificial intelligence

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