August 5, 2005 2:42 AM   Subscribe

Technological singularity: pros and cons?

Sounds great, but can anyone lay out reasonable arguments for both the pros and cons of working towards singularity?
posted by jimmy to Science & Nature (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Slightly scary... Here and here are some links about it.
posted by jdphil at 3:13 AM on August 5, 2005

The point of the singularity is that you won't know when it happens anyway, making working towards or against singularity sort of impossible, by definition.

Is your question really geared towards a discussion of the extreme philosophical contrasts of Extropians and Luddites?
posted by Rothko at 4:36 AM on August 5, 2005

Kurzweill's paper assumes that these post-human beings will have the same social needs as us, but I don't see anything to stop them becoming non-social predators. We don't know what evolutionary pressures will be on them once they exist in virtual reality. Maybe they will be competing to spam copies of themself across whatever medium they live in, like bacteria.

From a scientific perspective, it wouldn't be good or bad - it just is. I don't really like the idea though!
posted by lunkfish at 4:47 AM on August 5, 2005

By the way, I get all my good ideas from sci-fi. Ken MacLeods 'The Cassini Division' has got some good stuff in it.
posted by lunkfish at 4:50 AM on August 5, 2005

For those of us who were sleeping during the lecture, what are you talking about?

The only singularities I know about are black holes.
posted by odinsdream at 6:21 AM on August 5, 2005

Hehe. Well, in theory, the singularity will be the end of humanity and biological life as we know it. It's pretty much impossible to see "beyond" it.
posted by nixerman at 7:00 AM on August 5, 2005

For odinsdream: Technological singularities. There's also a pretty good summary of the pros and cons of singularity, as well as a ton of links to various articles. It seems to me to boil down to how much credit you give the people living just before the singularity—whether they can instill the right values in the AIs and create proper suicide triggers for nanobots and things like that. You could think of these people as the last ones to have any control whatsoever over the future, before it's taken out of our hands by cyborgs and super-intelligent AIs.
posted by chrominance at 7:02 AM on August 5, 2005

As I grasp it, the idea is the that technological change is actually happening exponentially and will result in technology which can compute information faster than the human brain. Eventually a machine could be made which could map a humans brain and thought processes and we could actually exist on a computer. Then the speed of innovation and technological change would be happening so fast that humans wouldn't be able to keep up the computers would take over.

Clearly I have glossed over some key points here, please correct me if I am wrong.
posted by jdphil at 7:11 AM on August 5, 2005

The concept of a singularity has been around for a long time, Vernor Vinge popularized it as a specific sci-fi concept and has written some great stuff in novel and short story form about it. See this paper for a good intro.

Charles Stross' stuff has been interesting too, although I haven't read all of his writings yet.
posted by beowulf573 at 7:39 AM on August 5, 2005

*Smartmatter sex toys
*Arbitrarily long lifespans either incarnate or virtually
*Intelligence enhancements
*Superhuman intelligences as helpers (see the Culture)

*Smartmatter puddles that are carnivorous
*Superhuman intelligences as enemies (see The Terminator)

There will be lots of cool shit and you'll be able to ensmartenize yourself. On the other hand, someone who's already way smart might view you as an unowned resource instead of a person.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:09 AM on August 5, 2005

Pros: Orgiastic communal mind-clouds.
Cons: Sounds too much like the geek version of waiting for the rapture to come.
posted by Hildago at 2:21 PM on August 5, 2005

There may not be a 'singularity'. It could be that things get better and better for a while, then progress slows down and stabilizes.
posted by delmoi at 11:48 AM on August 9, 2005

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