Silicon Valley Confronts the Singularity

For decades, Silicon Valley has anticipated a moment when a new technology will come and change everything. It will unite humans and machines, perhaps for the better, but perhaps for the worse, and divide history in two. Before and rear.

The name of this milestone is “Singularity”.

It can happen in several ways. One possibility is that people will add computer processing power to their own innate intelligence and become supercharged versions of themselves. Or maybe it becomes so complex that computers can really think, forming a global brain.

In either case, the resulting change will be abrupt, exponential and irreversible. Self-aware, superhuman machines could design their own improvements faster than any group of scientists, triggering an intelligence explosion. Centuries of progress can happen in years or even months. Singularity is a pachinko to the future.

Artificial intelligence is disrupting technology, business, and politics more than we can remember in recent memory. Listen to the extravagant and outrageous claims emanating from Silicon Valley, and it seems that the long-promised virtual paradise is finally on the horizon.

Google’s usually reserved CEO Sundar Pichai has this to say about artificial intelligence: “Deeper than fire or electricity” Or whatever we’ve done in the past. “The force for positive change in the world is about to be boosted like never before,” said billionaire investor Reid Hoffman.and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates Declare AI “It will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care, and communicate with each other.”

AI is Silicon Valley’s ultimate new product rollout: the transcendence of on-demand.

However, there are dark developments. It’s as if a tech company introduced self-driving cars with the warning that they might explode before they even got to Walmart.

“The advent of artificial general intelligence is called the singularity because it is very difficult to predict what will happen after that,” said Elon Musk, who runs Twitter and Tesla. told CNBC last month. He believes there will be an “age of prosperity”, but that it “may destroy humanity”, he said.

AI’s biggest cheerleader in the tech community is Sam Altman, CEO of the startup OpenAI, which sparked the current craze with its ChatGPT chatbot.He argues that AI is “economic empowerment and many people get rich we have seen before. “

But he also said that AI critic Musk, who founded a company to develop brain-computer interfaces, may be right.

Apocalypse is familiar and even beloved territory for Silicon Valley. A few years ago, it seemed like every tech executive had a fully stocked apocalypse bunker at their fingertips. In 2016, Altman said he was amassing “guns, gold, potassium iodide, antibiotics, batteries, water, Israeli Defense Force gas masks, and vast stretches of Big Sur land that can be reached by plane.” The coronavirus pandemic has given tech preppers some legitimacy for a while.

Now they are preparing for the singularity.

“They like to think they’re sensible people making wise comments, but they sound more like the 1000-year-old monk talking about the rapture,” he said.illusion of intelligenceCritical Consideration of AI “It’s kind of scary,” he said.

The intellectual roots of the Singularity can be traced to John Fong, a pioneering computer scientist who spoke in the 1950s of how “accelerating technological progress” would create “an important singularity in human history.” Go back to Neumann.

British mathematician Irving John Goode, who helped decipher the German Enigma device at Bletchley Park during World War II, was also an influential advocate. “Mankind’s survival depends on the early construction of superintelligent machines.” in 1964 he wrote. Director Stanley Kubrick consulted Mr. Good about HAL, the computer that went from good to bad in 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is an early example of the porous boundary between computer science and his science fiction.

Hans Moravec, an adjunct professor at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, thought AI would benefit the dead as well as the living. The dead will be recovered in the singularity. “We will have the opportunity to recreate the past and interact with it in a realistic and direct way,” he wrote in Mind Children: The Future of Robots and Human Intelligence. ing.

In recent years, entrepreneur and inventor Ray Kurzweil has become one of the biggest advocates for the Singularity. Kurzweil wrote The Age of Intelligent Machines in 1990, The Singularity Is Near in 2005, and is currently working on The Singularity Approaching.

He expects computers to pass the Turing test and be indistinguishable from humans by the end of the decade. Then, fifteen years later, he calculates, true transcendence comes, the moment when “computation becomes part of us, and our intelligence increases a million times his.” .

Kurzweil will be 97 by then. With the help of vitamins and supplements, he plans to live to be 97.

For some critics of the Singularity, this is an intellectually dubious attempt to replicate the belief systems of organized religions in the realm of software.

“They all want eternal life without the inconvenience of having to believe in God,” said Rodney Brooks, former director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

An innovation influencing the Singularity debate today is large-scale language models, a type of AI system that powers chatbots. Start a conversation with one of these LLMs and you’ll get responses that are quick, consistent, and often with a fair level of explanation.

“You ask a question, and these models interpret what it means, determine what the response means, and translate it back into words. That’s the definition of general intelligence. If not, what is it?” says Jerry Kaplan, longtime AI entrepreneur and author of Artificial Intelligence: What Everyone Needs to Know.

Kaplan said he is skeptical of much-heralded wonders such as self-driving cars and cryptocurrencies. He approached his recent AI boom with the same doubts, but he said he was persuaded.

“If this isn’t a ‘singularity,’ it is certainly a singularity. A transformative technological step that will broadly accelerate art, science, and the entirety of human knowledge, and cause some problems,” he said. .

Critics counter that even LLM’s impressive achievements fall far short of the enormous global intelligence long promised by the Singularity. One of the problems with accurately separating hype from reality is that the engine that drives this technology is being obscured. OpenAI started as a nonprofit using open source code, but is now a for-profit venture that critics claim is effectively a black box. Google and Microsoft also offer limited visibility.

A lot of AI research is being done by companies, who have benefited greatly from the results. Microsoft researchers who invested $13 billion in OpenAI said: Paper published in April A preliminary version of the latest OpenAI model concludes that it “exhibits many characteristics of intelligence,” including “abstraction, understanding, vision, coding” and “understanding of human motivation and emotion.”

Rylan Schaefer, a computer science Ph.D. He said that he had made an inaccurate depiction of whether he would demonstrate unknown abilities.

With colleagues at Stanford University, Bland Miranda and Sanmi Coeljo, Schaefer explored this question. research paper Published last month, it concluded that the emerging property was a “mirage” caused by measurement errors. In effect, researchers see what they want to see.

In Washington, London, and Brussels, lawmakers are buzzing about AI opportunities and challenges, and starting to talk about regulation. Altman is on the roadshow, trying to dodge early criticism and promote OpenAI as the shepherd of the Singularity.

This includes regulatory leniency, although it is unclear exactly what that will look like. In Silicon Valley, there is a general perception that governments are too slow and stupid to oversee rapid technological development.

“No one in government can get it right,” said former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Said He argued for AI self-regulation in an interview with Meet the Press last month. “But the industry can roughly get it right.”

AI, like the singularity, is already said to be irreversible. “It takes something like a global surveillance system to stop it, but even that is not guaranteed to work,” Altman and some of his colleagues said. I have written last month. They added that even if Silicon Valley doesn’t succeed, other companies will.

There is not much discussion about the huge profit you can make by uploading to the world. Despite the buzz that AI is a machine that creates unlimited wealth, most of the people who get rich are already rich.

Microsoft’s market capitalization surged by $5 trillion this year. Nvidia, the maker of chips that run AI systems, recently announced a surge in demand for these chips, making it one of America’s most valuable public companies.

“AI is the technology the world has always wanted,” Altman tweeted.

It’s certainly the technology the tech industry has always wanted, and it’s coming at the best possible time. Last year, Silicon Valley was reeling from job cuts and rising interest rates. The last boom, cryptocurrency, was embroiled in fraud and disappointment.

Charles Stross, co-author of The Rapture of the Nerds, a novel about the Singularity with a touch of comedy, and Accelerando, a more serious look at what life can soon bring, says, “Money follow me,” he said. become that way.

“The real promise here is that companies will be able to replace many of the flawed, expensive, slow, human-powered information processing subunits with bits of software that speed up processing and It’s going to reduce overhead,” he said.

The Singularity has long been imagined as a literal and amazing cosmic event. And it may still be.

But it may emerge, first and foremost, as a tool to cut headcounts at American companies thanks to today’s Silicon Valley obsession with earnings. The heavens are waiting for you when you are doing everything in your power to increase your market capitalization by trillions of dollars.

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