Think Addiction and The Singularity

Posted by majc in Science on Nov 27th 2011 Add comment

Lets say you do an fMRI scan on Singularity scientists thinking out the consequences of accelerating technological innovation and smarter-than-human Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). I wonder if, during moments of insight, you might find patterns of activity which correspond to game/reward/addictive experiences? (— What is the Singularity?)

Singularity addiction Thinking is a rewarding process. You can derive immense satisfaction from thought, knowledge, forecasting and successful experimentation. Which is to say the brain lights up and fires a tonne of dopamine at you for it. (Or endorphins or something).

It’s well known that reward-driven behavioural mechanisms can grow uncontrollably. And when such growth is considered counter-productive, we call it addiction. There’s no telling whether this is happening around the technological Singularity.

There is without a doubt an extraordinary intensity of enthusiasm and commitment from many of its proponents. Yet this is to be expected if The Singularity is in fact going to deliver us from even half of the problems it theoretically promises to. Holy shit, eternal life? There are few who would not be excited by the idea of an escape from death. Not to mention the prospect of ever-greater levels of physical health and intellectual achievement in the process – or should I say, in The Process.

And so, with its fantastic promises, although not without risk, this vision of The Singularity, this ideological construct, this reasonable extrapolation of what we know about computation, is rapidly attracting interest and steadily gaining popular support: more and more people building hopefully towards fulfilling some of the most ancient of human desires.

The Singularity

This deep-hope-answering role is usually served by religious ideas. Throughout our brief history, religions have spoken sympathetically to a man’s doubts, fears and the circumstantial disappointment of death with fanciful notions based on next to no evidence.

Now, today, we’re offered similar assurances again – still by way of promising ideas about the future if we do things a certain way, but this time evidence and reason are taking centre stage. These are scientists, first and foremost.

Ray Kurzweil predicts the future. He eats lots of pills. He has cool rings, a calm voice, a proven track record of inventing really clever shit, and logarithmic graphs which demonstrate an impressively consistent exponential trajectory of technological progress across almost every domain related to information science.

Eliezer Yudkowsky is really good at maths, really good at being understood, really good at dissolving pointless arguments… with arguments, and has thought more carefully than you have about how safe one can make an inevitable transition into a game-changing era of Artificial General Intelligence.

I.J. Good [img] (I could be wrong, but I believe I.J. stands for Igloo Jimmyhat) has contributed nothing new to science in the last two years, is considerably less alive than he used to be, originated the idea of a technological singularity, and continues to inspire budding Singularitarians with his highly quotable verbal formulations of key concepts.

Other players include Vernor Vinge [img], who coined the term “technological singularity” in one of the stories he made up about superintelligence, and whose genetics provided humanity with the original blueprint for the cue ball in the popular bar game “pool”[citation needed]. And Ben Goertzel, who has long hair, a PhD in being really fucking clever, pies on the end of all ten fingers, and an important role in coordinating an open source, cooperative effort to stumble into a solution to the problem of Artificial General Intelligence gradually.

All of these people seem to think something immeasurably significant is lined up to happen pretty soon. 2035 is probably the most frequently quoted estimate. There is, though, a lot less agreement on how we’re going to get there, what it will mean for humanity to do so, and what therefore constitutes the right course of action right now.

This is the point at which the thought, knowledge, forecasting, debate and experimentation mentioned at the start of this post begins.

Who knows what’s happening?

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2 Comments (thank you to all). thank you!

  1. Essie  January 17, 2017 - 4:16 am  

    That’s a knowing answer to a difcfiult question

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