Just as a quick note for those of you who don’t know what the Singularity is – it’s the theoretical point when artificial intelligence will achieve parity in complexity and capability with human intelligence. It’s perpetually just over the hill, but it is pretty much an inevitability.
A lot of what you hear in the next breath after the term Singularity is Matrix or Terminator style lamentations that humans cannot coexist with a self-aware race of computers. I don’t agree. One of the great differences between us and any sort of AI we can see in the foreseeable future is our predilection for emotion-based overreaction. I don’t mean to be glib, but as long as our existence doesn’t logically contradict existence for such AI, we don’t have much to worry about. Additionally, such popular cautionary tales as we see in literature and film assure that we’re designing AI with any variety of kill switches in mind.
So the more likely reality is that sometime soon(ish), we’re going to live in a world where intelligent computers are a reality. And while they await the completion of their ablative-armored, six-foot tall, red-eyed, Austrian accented physical bodies, our first interactions with them will probably be more like what we saw in class on Tuesday in Apple’s World of Tomorrow style future tech flick. They may even be cloud-residing digital dwellers who are simply our contemporaries from a universe we can’t comprehend. And we’ll be visitors in their native landscape. What kind of reaction will they have to us in this environment?
What implications might this have for our digital universe? Is that where the battle, if there is one, might be waged? We exist in two places at once right now: the digital and the analog. Even if our newly aware digital colleague has a physical body of sorts, it’s not designed to interact with its physical world. And aside from the occasional in-person input they may receive, they will have only our digital presences from which to parse out human behavior. They’ll have our posting on discussion forums to understand our attitudes towards interpersonal relations. They’ll have “Shit My Dad Says” to understand how we see the world. They’ll have millions of unflattering pictures of felines engaged in grammatically-challenged quests for self-discovery and cheezburgerz to understand our humor. That will be their only context for understanding us.
Well, on second thought, we’re all screwed.
Information on the Singularity: