Tuesday, October 7, 2008

We Takes It Where We Finds It

At Future Blogger, the question is asked, "Is the Singularity a Red Herring built on compelling but faulty logic?".

My too scents follow:

I keep arriving late at these soirees and then tripping over myself when I do finally show up. :)

I feel I should point out that I’m nobody’s idea of an expert when it comes to topics of this nature. I’m really just a guy who makes a habit of reading a lot, and much of that at least slightly above my grade level so to speak. It’s flattering to be quoted and all, but I sincerely hope that’s because I happened to offer an unusually elegant turn of phrase in regards to this subject and not my imagined expertise.

And with the disclaimer out of the way, let’s speculate even more, shall we?

Whether we are talking about Vinge’s Technological Singularity or Kurzweil’s more general concept, I think we should establish that what’s really being discussed isn’t some particular event or metric as such, but an intellectual exercise for re-catagorising our conceptual processes regarding human development.

Just as history wasn’t actually a succession of neatly segregated events, growth into the future won’t be a linear progression either. Events might be most easily considered to lead one from another, but even a casual study of current research efforts around the world will reveal an extensive degree of overlap with often inexplicable-seeming gaps (most commonly attributed to the limited supply of money available – quite true, but also beside the point). The reality is that, by and large, people tend to pursue what they believe themselves most likely to be successful at pursueing. That being the case, research is often as much a result of individual ego as it is anything else, I expect.

So, not only is development not linear, it isn’t especially logical either apparently. As well, widespread acceptance of at least one other factor can be attributed to the singularity concept, that of syncronicity of development.

As can be seen, none of these ideas are especially unique or original, except in their application to future human development. Those of us trying to apply their insights may be guilty of over-expectation however, both in our search for greater meaning and in our attempts at measurement of progress.

Phil Bowermaster at The Speculist website once asked how we would know when we had created an AI. I only slightly tongue-in-cheek commented that I felt certain it would tell us when it was well and truely ready for us to know. Not to be dismissive of your concerns, but I think the questions raised about intelligence in this comment stream might well fall into a similar catagory; we’ll know intelligence when we run into it I expect. Beyond that, how do you measure the infinite? Since potential has to be accounted a contributing factor of intelligence, it would seem an effective impossibility to achieve more than a momentary valuation of an open-ended process, wouldn’t you agree?

Similarly, the concept of singularity entales the notion of impenetrability to it. There is a point in the development process beyond which our present degree of knowledge can no longer extrapolate further possibility. As our knowledge grows, of course this point must recede further into the process, but that doesn’t invalidate the concept I suggest, any more than our here-to-now inability to catalog all of the ramifications of Einstien’s little mathematical formula invalidates it.

I will resist the Clint Eastwood movie cliche. :)

Vinge’s postulate and Kurtzweil’s speculations there-on leave us with a mechanism by which we are better able to imagine our course into the future, but does so by stipulating that we will ever only be able to do so up to some variable limit. Does any of that sound oddly quantum theoryish to anyone else? Can our attempts to measure our progress cause some fluctuation in that progress? Whether or not that be true, does our inability to measure the ultimate of our potential invalidate that potential? I think not and suggest that we postpone any conclusion until some intelligence appears with which to discuss it further. :)

Posted by: Will October 07, 2008

It's not Shakespeare, I admit, but I don't much care for bananas either.

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