Thursday, June 12, 2008

No Time For The Singularity

Think that superhuman intelligence will save us from ourselves? Probably not, says Karl Schroeder. Global climate change will be irreversable before the Singularity can happen.
The ultimate in technological optimism is the idea of the technological singularity, which posits that technological advance is exponential and, driven by progress in artificial intelligence, will soon hit the vertical slope of the curve.

Maybe. In fact, let's assume that this mythology is true and, within about 25 years, computers will exceed human intelligence and rapidly bootstrap themselves to godlike status. At that point, they will aid us...or run roughshod over us... to transform the Earth into a paradise .

Here's the problem: 25 years is too late. The newest business-as-usual climate scenarios look increasingly dire. If we haven't solved our problems within the next decade, even these theoretical godlike AIs aren't going to be able to help us. Thermodynamics is thermodynamics, and no amount of godlike thinking can reverse the irreversible.

Will Global Warming trump the Singularity? I don't know about climate change, but mankind faces a large number of challenges and existential risks, any of which could interrupt our "progress" or simply wipe us out before we ever reach Singularity. That's probably for the best.

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