What is 'The Singularity'?

The singularity, or technological singularity, is the idea that the creation of artificial superintelligence could result in unstoppable exponential growth. This rapidly advancing technology could alter the world as we know it because humans may not be able to keep up with or control these advances.


BREAKING DOWN 'The Singularity'

How Would The Singularity Emerge?

If a computer were to possess artificial superintelligence, that computer could implement its own software updates and improvements without requiring a human to trigger the process. The singularity hypothesis suggests that a computer would continue to self-improve at an exponential rate resulting in an intelligence explosion. These machines, referred to as "seed AIs" for their ability to design and create even more advanced machines (that could, in turn, create even more advanced machines), would operate at a capacity far beyond human understanding and could change the face of the world as we know it.

How Realistic Is The Singularity?

Science fiction writers have popularized the idea of the singularity over the past half-century, but many computer scientists, roboticists,  and mathematicians have also contributed to the dialogue and cast their own predictions with timeframes ranging from the 2020s to the 2040s. The median timeframe that is discussed is around 2040. However, some experts who argue that the singularity is completely fictional and could not occur because machines cannot "think" and are not autonomous.

The term suggests that if the singularity were to occur, it would be immediate, and it is impossible to determine what human life would then look like. Proponents of the hypothesis have difficulty in clarifying the effects of the singularity, and most cannot determine whether these changes would be positive or negative.

History of the Singularity Hypothesis

The idea of the singularity first appeared in the late 1950s. While multiple people have hypothesized about the idea of a rampant superintelligence, the term itself is attributed to John von Neumann. The singularity refers to the exponential growth of computer intelligence, but it is also often used in a non-scientific context to describe any radical changes in technology.

Since the 1950s, the singularity hypothesis has attracted more attention. In response to the singularity threat, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI) was founded as a nonprofit in 2000. In 2006, MIRI began its annual Singularity Summit at Stanford, which is a venue for scientists, mathematicians, researchers and businesspeople to discuss trends and safety measures to prevent the singularity from occurring.

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