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The technological singularity, chronological scale by Ray Kurzweil
The technological singularity is a concept which came into being in the mid-20th century. Before considering what the technological singularity implies, let us take a look at what a ‘singularity’ is. According to Murray Shanahan, « In physics, a singularity is a point in space or time, such as the center of a black hole or the instant of the Big Bang, where mathematics breaks down and our capacity for comprehension along with it. » (1) A technological singularity corresponds to the time when ordinary humans will be overtaken by artificially intelligent machines and/or cognitively enhanced biological intelligence. It will be the advent of artificial general intelligence (also known as strong AI). Such a singularity in human history will have far-reaching consequences so much so that «our understanding of what it means to be human – to be an individual, to be alive, to be conscious, to be part of the social order – all this would be thrown into question, not by detached philosophical reflection, but through force of circumstances, real and present. » (2). Transhumanists who believe humans can transcend their biological limitations through the use of technology are optimistic about a future with artificial intelligence while others see the advent of the technological singularity as a degrading life form and enslavement.
When the advent of the singularity occurs is still the subject of much speculation (as is the concept of singularity itself). Based on Moore’s law and the law of accelerating returns, some people like Ray Kurzweil think it might occur around 2045. However, what seems more scientifically probable and accepted is the idea that the technological singularity will coincide with the decline of humanity due to depleting resources, pollution and the global destruction of the ecosystem.
For the time being we shall focus on how the timescale for the technological singularity somehow overlaps the scenarios put forth by the Club of Rome concerning the future of humanity. The idea that technology might bring about dramatic changes in the way we adapt to the world shares common ground with another reality.