Thursday, July 25, 2013

Singularity and the New-Normal

Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.

So began Vernor Vinge’s now-infamous presentation titled: The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era …at the VISION-21 Symposium held on March 30th, 1993 (A slightly changed version appeared in the Winter 1993 issue of Whole Earth Review). The renowned science fiction writer, professor of mathematics (retired) and computer scientist went on to say…

“The acceleration of technological progress has been the central feature of this century. We are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. The precise cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater than human intelligence. There are several means by which science may achieve this breakthrough…

1) There may be developed computers that are "awake" and superhumanly intelligent. To date, there has been much controversy as to whether we can create human equivalence in a machine. But if the answer is "yes, we can", then there is little doubt that beings more intelligent can be constructed shortly thereafter. (AI)

2) Large computer networks and their associated users may "wake up" as a superhumanly intelligent entity. (World Wide Web)
3) Computer/human interfaces may become so intimate that users may reasonably be considered superhumanly intelligent. (Transhumanism)

4) Biological science may provide means to improve natural human intellect.” (Intelligence Increase - I)

At this point, all four of Vinge’s scenarios seem quite viable, if not quite likely. Currently, computer driven artificial intelligence (AI) has progressed to the brink of Vinge’s impending technological singularity.

Simply stated, singularity is the moment when machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence. Although this proposition is frightening to many, it is humanity's evolutionary and technological success that has brought us to this crossroads. As our computer networks gain more (human-like) ability and assume more mundane responsibility, humanity too continues to evolve greater capacity.

If an AI or a computer network becomes capable of intelligence that is comparable in sophistication to that of a human, humanity too must move beyond our current limitations. Like AI, we too must cross our own human-singularity threshold.

Paranormal: the New Normal

Throughout history, there have been many individuals who possess extra-ordinary capabilities. Up to this point, these abilities have been viewed with fear and skepticism. In the distant past, these abilities were considered magical or mystical. More recently, these extra-ordinary human faculties have been labeled… paranormal. The word Paranormal is a general term that designates human experiences that are indicative of phenomena considered to be outside of science's current ability to explain.

Taking the evolutionary next step, crossing the human-singularity threshold requires humanity to fully embrace these capabilities that have historically been considered paranormal by the general populace. In a world of globally networked AI, what has heretofore been labeled paranormal must become the new normal. Human capability must evolve beyond our current limitations, if for no other reason that to anticipate and prevent a “Rise of the Machines” nightmare scenario, ala the Terminator franchise… from actually coming to pass. We have to stay smarter than our machines, folks.

Staying ahead of the machines is not only a prerequisite for survival of our species; it is the primary challenge of the twenty-first century. We must keep a handle on the “high weirdness” that is our Brave New Future. What was once considered fringe theory is fast becoming reality... as the paranormal morphs into the new normal. Such is the nature of the new paradigm.

It is a strange world we live in… and the truth is stranger than fiction. We owe it to ourselves (and our kids) to monitor and control our Popular Future in such a way as to insure not only survival, but a healthy and happy near-future. We must evolve and grow into the twenty-first century humanity by developing so-called paranormal abilities, such as extra-sensory perception, pre-cognition, telekinesis and… our favorite… psychometry. The wide-spread development of paranormal ability is what will keep us one step ahead of the machines. Don’t look back… something might be gaining on you.