This seems very fitting. A week ago I was thinking about evolution since the big bang, how the very nature of the fundamental forces gave us chemistry, which begat DNA. DNA then gave us life as we know it.
If you continue down this path of logic, I reached a similar conclusion about the technological singularity. Our brains gave humanity an edge in survival over other creatures. But so too did other aspects about humanity. Our ability to record our thoughts and ideas and to pass that information down to other generations; our ability to communicate.
Lost in this, we can only express ideas in what languages we know and can understand. The expressiveness of our language provides subtle variations in how others interpret what we are thinking and this too leads to a greater level of understanding.
The next great evolution I see won’t be in our species, but it will instead be in our electronic brethren. We don’t have to create a super intelligent android to make this happen, but on three different fronts we need to make improvements.
First we need to make improvements in comprehension. We need machines to actually understand. Programming languages are designed to eliminate all ambiguity about what we want the computer to do. This creates a very primitive brain that can only respond to the instructions that humans have predefined for it. Comprehension will mark that moment when computers will be able to respond in surprising ways.
Secondly, and related to the first point, computers will need all manner of input upon which to base their decisions. Some of this input will come from things like the Internet, where vast troves of information can be consumed, understood, and be contributed to. Contradictions in information is related to comprehension. The subtlety is in that the Singularity AI mustn’t always each the same conclusions. In the same way that humans can reach different conclusions based on the same information, computers will need to reach different conclusions. It is the ability to discover something different that is the true hallmark of intelligence. Augmented with sensors that go beyond sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing, these computers will become more intelligent than the men that created then in the first place.
The final step, and the one that I think is one of the greatest barriers, is that these machines need to be able to self replicate. The need to discover energy sources that are sustaining. Harvest the raw materials in order to create new machines, and an ability to retool and create machines that can create newer and perhaps improved machines. There are other organisms that perhaps have the potential for intellectual parity with humana, but it is our ability to observe and manipulate the world around us that gave is the final edge – machines too will need that ability to continue to evolve long after us.
Once these final steps have been reached, we will have become the gods of these new intelligent beings. Life will continue to evolve, but it won’t be carbon life based on DNA. Singularity will have been reached and surpassed.