What's in a Singularity?

Originally posted: Thu, 02 May 2019 13:03:28

Singularities are Black Swan events: you might be able to see it coming, but beyond the event horizon, it's anyone's guess. There's been talk for years about the next one, the one where AGI supposedly emerges, and almost instantaneously becomes ASI. But what if it isn't?

Humans have almost always lived with singularity events; hell, from the point of view if all other life on earth, we are a singularity event. Some of these are obvious, like the control of fire, agriculture, the smelting of various metals, writing, the printing press, and many many more. Others have been smaller, or less obvious types; the automobile, the computer, the emergence of currency, the nuclear bomb. While you might not think these things singularities, there was no possible way to determine the far-reaching effects they would have on us as a species.

Now, the way current talk is going around the next Singularity, you could be forgiven for thinking AGI/ASI will be a conscious entity/entities. I'm of the opinion that this is a little far-fetched, and is actually beside the point for what I'm guessing will take place.

See, I'm of the opinion that while these techno-prophets might be on to something, I'm reasoning that all they may have right might be the timescale of the next 50 years or sooner. We don't need AGI or ASI for an event; just advanced enough AI, similar to Alpha Go, to eliminate most of the drudgery work we engage in, and for these to be widely applied.

Yes, this will basically put the economies of today into free-fall collapse, and oh, no won't that be horrible (it actually will be for a while, until we can adjust to it). Whatever will we do?

Now, I say this almost mockingly as if it's not going to be a problem. But by my thinking, by the time this happens, we will already have been mired in the economic issues for some time. As a rough number I'm pulling out of a hat (because I wouldn't begin to know where to start in calculating a proper figure (if you can, please let me know, I'd be happy to learn)), by the time automation hits 25%, it's game over anyway. If it hits that, that means 25% of the actual working population (not the working age) will be out of work, and at that point, the automation systems can only improve and start coming for the rest in an exponential fashion.

Not every job can be automated or will be. but what's left will not be accessible to everyone. But enough will be that it will change the face of society. For a while, the small handful of people who are able to keep making money will do so, but that can only carry on until fewer people have money that those who don't, and when we approach that, money will be worthless.

Thus, we hit Singularity. What will happen at this point? Huge swathes of people unable to work as there are no jobs, several hundred years of cash economics suddenly gone.

We could enter an era of untold greatness, following in the mould of the likes of Star Trek. Just as easily, we could devolve into war and set our species back centuries. We could just remain static, limiting machine labour and trap ourselves in cyberpunk hell. The so-called Great Filter could come calling and decide that this is enough.

We've turned Singularity into Utopia. It has become the Dream, the thing that will solve all our problems because technology will save us. But that is only one possibility, and for it to become a real one, we have to work for it. Even then, there are no guarantees.

Singularity is nothing more than unlocking the next level in a game, and the only way to succeed is not to just wait and hope, but plan, prepare and guide. They bring turbulence, these events, in ways we cannot predict. If we could, they wouldn't be Singularities: we can mitigate disaster if we see it coming (having the will to is a different matter), but it's all the rest of it, the unknown unknowns that are the issue.

One thing I am sure of though, is that this is the point of Singularity, not when AI has developed further. This is when it really begins.

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