Top ten signs the "Singularity is near"
19 Jun 2007

Top ten signs the "Singularity is near"

As we stated in yesterday’s top ten

19 Jun 2007

ten-days-sm.pngAs we stated in yesterday’s top ten list, human-surpassing intelligence will guarantee that the future is far more different than we can imagine. Our second top ten list plays off ideas from Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is near, Hans Moravec’s Mind children and Robot, and the work of Vernor Vinge. Onward Singularitarians!

  1. Accelerating returns: S-curves of change are occurring much more rapidly, forcing humans to cope with unexpected resource diversity. Much of this exists in the form of bona fide forms of abundance, for which there are few or no means of effective absorption and equitable distribution.
  2. Advances in genetics: By many definitions of creation, including those within religious systems and conservative science, humans are about to become as gods.
  3. Advances in nanotechnologies: Richard Feynman pointed out a basic new direction for R&D: toward the much, much smaller. After a clumsy start that attempted to blend Newtonian mechanics with nanomachinery, the field has broadened and moved into chemistry, circuitry, and molecular self-assembly.
  4. Advances in robotics: The more spectacular advances in robotics are occurring at the level of microelectromechanical systems. In many ways less sophisticated than nanobots, mems offer the potential for a myriad of near-term applications, including some within the human body.
  5. Advances in computational capacities: According to Ray Kurzweil, reverse engineering of the human brain is on a path to duplicate the brain’s circuitry within one or two decades. Cost estimates of such systems are projected to follow the now-familiar downward curve even as capabilities skyrocket.
  6. Advances in understanding human intelligence: Intelligence may need to be redefined as higher-order domains of potential and capability rather than properties specific only to humans. Dovetailed intelligent humans and smart machines have already begun to generate a gradual equation of organic and inorganic intelligence potentials and capabilities.
  7. Virtual reality is beginning to complement reality: In a yin-yang manner, virtual reality (VR) and classical reality (CR) are dovetailing as well as coexisting. Distinctions between VR and CR may gradually dissipate as the properties of both are defined and measured empirically and as more blended systems and experiences are created.
  8. Paradigm shifts in thought and the senses are emerging as important cultural software: It will become ordinary to speak of paradigm changes outside the boundaries of cognition. Knowledge and innovation workers must change their thinking and feelings both anticipatorily and reactively to create opportunities and cope with sudden changes.
  9. The future is more difficult to imagine than ever before: The more information that becomes available through trends, scenarios and visions, the more that numerous alternative futures can be created. Alvin Toffler recognized this in 1967, but it is an insight that continues to provoke claims that humans are incapable of entertaining more than a handful of future alternatives, most of them utopic (all too “unlikely”) or dystopic (all too “likely”).
  10. Accelerating technological change is accelerating social change: Technological advances routinely change our cultural norms, political systems, economics, and modes of thinking. New cultures are routinely created, both as new configurations of blends of existing cultures (transcultures) and innovative, designed, personal cultures (postcultures).
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