in print:: from Aureconin print | Aurecon • Pondering the singularity

feature: with Ray Kurzweil
July 1, 2024

— story —

group: Aurecon
publication: Just Imagine
story title: The singularity: last we looked, it’s not too late
date: September 2019

note: This story is collected for the Kurzweil library.

— introduction —

by Aurecon

Not so long ago: science fiction movies were filled with weird and wonderful — and impossible — scenarios with exciting plots. It was thrilling, entertaining — and while all humankind was always in grave danger, we never believed it could actually happen to us.

Because it’s not real — or so we thought. But now we mull-over “what if” — and wonder about the blurred lines between science fiction + science fact.

The idea of the singularity.

The story we’re pondering today is called the “singularity.” It’s essentially the idea that artificial intelligence (AI) will enter a run-away reaction loop of self-improvement cycles — becoming smarter, faster, and causing an intelligence explosion.

How computer super-intelligence will impact humanity is debated. On one hand — futurist Ray Kurzweil says AI will enhance our humanity, and produce the kinds of necessary step-change solutions to give civilization a boost. On the other hand — inventor + skeptic Elon Musk believes AI is “far more dangerous than nuclear weapons —  our greatest existential threat.”

Is AI the evil antagonist to “end the human era” — as scientist + science fiction author Vernor Vinge PhD predicted? Or will it be the hero of the story? The un-stoppable power of AI is terrifying.

But Toby Walsh PhD — AI expert at Univ. of New South Wales — says the future isn’t fixed. We can decide the direction of AI if we have a say in it. Standing ankle-deep in this Fourth Industrial Revolution, we’re still crafting the tech + algorithms to open-up new capabilities. But it’s not too late to be the gate-keepers.

The rise of super-intelligence.

The world is plagued by problems of immense complexity — ranging from global warming + geo-politics, to extreme market volatility. This will impact the next generation. But nothing will cause so much tectonic change as the arrival of super-intelligence on Earth.

Jurgen Schmidhuber PhD — who’s called the father of AI — said: “It’s more than another industrial revolution. It’s something that transcends humankind and life itself.” It’s no longer a matter of if — but when — machines will by-pass human cognition.

  • Ray Kurzweil hangs his hat on year 2045 — story
  • Louis Rosenberg PhD says a tech tipping point could be as early as year 2030 — story
  • Jurgen Schmidhuber PhD says we’re 30 years off — story
  • Toby Walsh PhD pushes the date to year 2062 — story
  • Peter Diamandis MD sets the date within 30 years — story

And Jolene Creighton — editor at Futurism — asks does it really matter? If it’s only a difference of a few decades, the real issue is: what could this reality look like?

The things we can do.

Assuming by year 2030 the human brain will be successfully reverse-engineered, enabling super-computers to understand and simulate its functions — we will have laid the groundwork for this imminent intelligence explosion.

Ray Kurzweil said: “Within a quarter century, non-biological intelligence will match the range + subtlety of human intelligence. In 30 years, even our everyday devices will have incomprehensible capabilities.”

Jurgen Schmidhuber PhD said: “Rather cheap computational devices will have as many connections as your brain but will be much faster. And that’s just the beginning. Imagine a cheap little device that isn’t just smarter than humans — it will compute as much data as all human brains taken together.”

Kurzweil is looking forward to amazing solutions this reality ushers in. He sees the upgrade opportunities for our humanity. By taking these super-computers, embedding them in our brains, and then connecting our brains to the cloud — we can tap into an unlimited library of knowledge + ability. It will unlock what Peter Diamandis MD calls meta-intelligence — the next evolutionary step towards a human-scale transformation.

Fei-Fei Li PhD is an AI researcher at Stanford University. He said: “When machines can see, physicians will have extra pairs of tireless eyes to help them diagnose and care for patients. Cars will run smarter and safer on the road. Robots will help us brave disaster zones to save the trapped and wounded. We will discover new species, better materials, and explore unseen frontiers with the help of the machines.”

Li said: “For the first time, human eyes won’t be the only ones pondering and exploring our world. We’ll use the machines for their intelligence, and collaborate with them in ways we can’t imagine.”

Can we safe-guard the future of AI.

Nick Bostrom PhD said: “What if we unknowingly encode our first super-intelligent entity with goals that are best achieved through our annihilation? What if a mis-programmed super-intelligence could lead to a society of economic miracles + tech awesomeness, but with nobody there to benefit — a Disneyland without children.”

Toby Walsh PhD said: “Think about the implications of handing over the reins to decide who lives + who dies to machines.” He tells us to think carefully about the tools we’re creating — and their potential impact on society. He signed an open letter with more than 100 global tech leaders in year 2017 — to petition the United Nations to ban killer robots. Walsh said it’s essential to build algorithms that know our unconscious biases such as: race, gender, sexual identity.

Walsh said: “We have to be careful not to bake bias into algorithms and take society backwards.” He believes that eventually AI will deliver on good promises — if humanity stays close to the ground and thoughtfully architects our future tech tools.

Should we trust the optimistic judgement of one genius — Ray Kurzweil? Or join the eminent ranks of the concerned: such as Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Stephen Hawking PhD?

But are these the only options? The solution could be in the middle. We need a managed evolution, a well-considered caretaking of tech — so we can balance challenges that come with harnessing the power of AI. Walsh said: “What happens next in AI is very much the product of the choices we make today .”

on the web | reading

Just Imagine • by Aurecon | AI: evil or avatar?

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tag line: Bringing ideas to life.

about | Aurecon

Aurecon is an engineering, design, and advisory company. We work with our clients to co-create clever solutions to complex challenges — through our deep technical + advisory expertise. We serve clients across a range of markets world-wide.

We see opportunities others miss. Through a range of unique creative processes + skills, we collaborate to shape a better tomorrow. Humanity depends on engineering, and we have a broad stewardship role. Our clients will be both future-ready + engineered for life.

— the podcast —

podcast title: Engineering re-Imagined

Throughout history, engineers are leaders — at the center of society’s most ground-breaking developments. Think of the stone pyramids of Egypt, the water viaducts of ancient Rome in Italy, the airplane, and skyscrapers.

What is the role of engineers today — and tomorrow? Our podcast explores how people — around the world — are re-imagining leadership in engineering. Each episode features a guest we can learn from.

Tech is disrupting our world at a faster pace than any other change in our history. Humanity depends on engineers to solve the wicked problems our globe faces. Engineers make things function — they think smart with digital tech, to build the best possible communities where people can thrive.

— the blog —

blog title: Just Imagine

Our blog is a glimpse into the future — the possible, probable, and remotely plausible. Our motto is: imagination takes you everywhere. We ask what if + why not — across a broad spectrum of business theories, ideologies, tech innovations, and processes.

we imagine:

  • the possible —  make way for bolder + braver solutions.
  • the probable — we adopt a mind-set without ambiguity + moving toward the futuristic.
  • the remotely plausible — we design ways to get to tomorrow.

— notes —

AI = artificial intelligence