Singularity: Can Artificial Intelligence be a path of no return?

Artificial Intelligence is certainly one of the most recurring themes in all of science fiction. 
The idea that a machine could exhibit the same level of intelligence and sensitivity as a human has captivated writers and audiences for decades.

From the computer system with hidden interests in 2001: A Space Odyssey to the superhuman androids in Westworld, science fiction has experimented with diverse representations of intelligent machines. In order to materialize the concept of cognitive computing, fiction has a habit of romanticizing certain aspects, such as the frequent inclusion of humanoid robots.

It is understandable that cinema and even literature find anthropomorphism an easy solution to emotionally link readers or spectators to their robotic characters. However, building an android, a humanoid robot, in pursuit of Artificial Intelligence is like building a car chassis before the internal combustion engine was invented.

Evolution of Artificial Intelligence

In recent years, intellectuals and innovators such as Elon Musk, Sam Harris, Stephen Hawking and Nick Bostrom, to name a few, have expressed genuine concerns about the rise of artificial intelligence. Brilliant minds across the globe are vying to recreate hundreds of millions of years of evolution that resulted in the human brain into a form of intelligence based on computational algorithms.

While many experts have no doubts about the possibility of machines reaching the same level of intelligence as humans at some point in the future, there are many others who believe that this is impossible. And maybe it is.

Perhaps we are so incomprehensibly complex that we are not capable of building something as advanced as nature has made us.

If nature's random mutations can lead to intelligence, how difficult can it be to build it artificially? In fact, even though evolution got off to a fairly slow start, taking hundreds of millions of years to go from single-celled organisms to homo-sapiens, machines have already surpassed us in some fields.

In the two most popular board games, Chess and Go, the best players in the world have been defeated by artificial intelligence. No human player will ever be the best in either of these two sports again.

It doesn't matter how hard you try. Even if you dedicate your whole life to becoming the best player you could be, it will never be enough.

Fortunately for us, there's a lot more to the human condition than challenging machines in Chess and Go. However, is it so difficult to imagine that more human talents and skills could become obsolete in the near future?

Assuming it is possible, what will happen when machines become more competent at performing any and all physical and mental work? If Artificial Intelligence were to become more competent in all respects, then what purpose or function would be left for us to serve?

If only repetitive tasks come to your mind as being possible to be robotized, know that creative skills are also in the sights of artificial intelligence developers. Paintings, poemsmusical compositions and journalistic articles are already created by algorithms. And the worst: we couldn't tell the difference!

Machine-written content has become so common and so good that you must have read some automated articles and not even noticed. See if you can pass the New York Times quiz and tell the difference between articles written by humans and articles written by machines.

If you've listened to an audiobook recently, know that there's a good chance it was recorded by artificial intelligence, with some technology similar to Google Deepmind.

What is the stage of development of AI?

As a field of study, artificial intelligence has been developing for decades. Due to the advancement in the processing power of machines at exponential speed and the collection of large amounts of data (Big Data), it is in the process of great acceleration.

In addition, we increasingly collect larger amounts of data and turn it into useful information. As a result, new models and applications for AI are being developed all the time.

Today, humanity already has numerous AI-based tools that help us look at historical data, assess patterns, make predictions ( data science ), and support decision-making. This type of tool can be very useful for predicting machine failures, understanding consumers, assessing risks, and diagnosing diseases faster than any expert professional ever could.

Artificial intelligence moves in three main directions. The first is less reliance on data to “teach” the machine, making it closer to a child who learns from the environment around him. The second is the creation of a more general AI because what we have been able to build so far works very well for carrying out specific activities, but still not so well for activities that involve different skills. The third and final way is to create an intelligence that has “awareness”, which is somewhat subjective, but many researchers believe it is possible.

The singularity

Ray Kurzweil, a recognized inventor, futurist and researcher of new technologies, has been studying the phenomenon of technological acceleration for over 30 years. This led him to coin the law of accelerating returns , from the observation of the exponential acceleration of the universe, biology and technology.

According to him, from the growth of computing capacity, we can expect increasingly disproportionate returns to technological initiatives. Gordon Moore predicted in 1965 that the processing power of a chip would double every 18 months.

The prediction came true and was named Moore's Law, consistently showing the exponential growth in computing power that has taken place over the years.

Along these lines, in 2001, Kurzweil in an essay on the “Theory of Accelerated Change” extends Moore's law to describe that this exponential growth also applied to technological progress. According to the author, the speed of information also benefited from the law of accelerated returns. In other words, as knowledge about the most diverse fields of thought spreads, the volume of information in the world begins to double almost annually.

According to Kurzweil, whenever a technology encounters new barriers, technologies are invented so that we can overcome them. In this way, new paradigm shifts, like the ones we have been facing, will continue to be increasingly common. Technological changes will be so rapid and so profound that what he describes as a rupture in the fabric of human history will occur :

“An analysis of the history of technology demonstrates that technological change is exponential, contrary to the intuitive common sense 'linear view'. So we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate). The “returns”, such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There is still exponential growth in the exponential growth rate. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to the singularity — technological change so rapid and profound that it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. Implications include the merging of biological and non-biological intelligence, human-software, immortal, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand into the universe at the speed of light.”

It is common but wrong to believe that Moore's Law makes predictions about all forms of technology, when in fact it only refers to semiconductor circuits. Many futurists still use the term “Moore's Law” to describe ideas like those put forward by Kurzweil and others.

According to Kurzweil, since the beginning of evolution, more complex life forms have evolved exponentially faster, with shorter intervals between the emergence of new life forms. Furthermore, there is a point where “blind” evolutionary mechanisms are replaced by the efficiency of an engineer, which is what would theoretically be possible with artificial intelligence.

By extension, the rate of human technical progress has also been increasing exponentially. As we discover more effective ways of doing things, we also discover more effective ways of learning.

That is, from spoken language, numbers, written language, philosophy, scientific method, observation instruments, mechanical calculators, computing devices, among others, our ability to account for information that occurs increasingly close to each other. , also increased.

This might make you a little worried about the future and even about the role of man in a world where all work is done by machines. We may be building machines that will leave the human being obsolete and without a social function, which could cause the collapse of the social organization as we know it today.

Yuval Harari wrote in Homo Deus that technology is now an extension of the human body and that this will take us to the level of “gods” in terms of increasing our capabilities compared to today.

Do you agree with this and the other points raised? Leave a comment with your opinion!

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