home > archives > The Singularity
December 06, 2002
New Post-Singularity Fiction From Sci-Fi's Dynamic Duo

Charlie Stross and Cory Doctorow have written a short story (being published on four parts) that's already considered a classic in my mind.

I've already read the whole thing, and I can't imagine reading this story in pieces -- so I'll re-blog accordingly after all four pieces are up.

I don't want to make any more comments about the subject matter so as not to risk giving any of the story away, but let's just say that since reading this story, I think about meatspace a lot differently now.

I whole heartedly recommend taking ten minutes to treat yourself to a little glimpse of one possible future.

In many ways, we're already there...Jury Service

Welcome to the fractured future, at the dusk of the twenty-first century.

Earth has a population of roughly a billion hominids. For the most part, they are happy with their lot, living in a preserve at the bottom of a gravity well. Those who are unhappy have emigrated, joining one or another of the swarming densethinker clades that fog the inner solar system with a dust of molecular machinery so thick that it obscures the sun. Except for the solitary lighthouse beam that perpetually tracks the Earth in its orbit, the system from outside resembles a spherical fogbank radiating in the infrared spectrum; a matrioshka brain, nested Dyson orbitals built from the dismantled bones of moons and planets.

The splintery metaconsciousness of the solar-system has largely sworn off its pre-post-human cousins dirtside, but its minds sometimes wander nostalgiawise. When that happens, it casually spams Earth's RF spectrum with plans for cataclysmically disruptive technologies that emulsify whole industries, cultures, and spiritual systems.

A sane species would ignore these get-evolved-quick schemes, but there's always someone who'll take a bite from the forbidden Cox Pippin. There's always someone whom evolution has failed to breed the let's-lick-the-frozen-fencepost instinct out of. There's always a fucking geek who'll do it because it's a historical goddamned technical fucking imperative.

Whether the enlightened, occulting smartcloud sends out its missives as pranks, poison or care-packages is up for debate. Asking it to explain its motives is roughly as pointful as negotiating with an ant colony to get it to abandon your kitchen. Whatever the motive, humanity would be much better off if the Cloud would evolve into something so smart as to be uninterested in communicating with meatpeople.

But until that happy day, there's the tech jury service: defending the earth from the scum of the post-singularity patent office.

Posted by Lisa at 12:01 PM
April 24, 2002
Introduction to "The Singularity"

If you are still relatively new to the singularity, like me, perhaps you will enjoy reading An Introduction to the Singularity, courtesy of the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

Posted by Lisa at 07:49 AM
New Intelligence from the Singularity Institute

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky of the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence has released a new paper that will be included in the upcoming book Real AI: New Approaches to Artificial General Intelligence (Goertzel and Pennachin, eds., forthcoming):
Levels of Organization in General Intelligence.

Here's a printable HTML version, in case you want to print out the whole thing.

Where the human line developed from very complex non-general intelligence into very complex general intelligence, a successful AI project is more likely to develop from a primitive general intelligence into a complex general intelligence.  Note that primitive does not mean architecturally simple.  The right set of subsystems, even in a primitive and simplified state, may be able to function together as a complete but imbecilic mind which then provides a framework for further development.  This does not imply that AI can be reduced to a single algorithm containing the "essence of intelligence".  A cognitive supersystem may be "primitive" relative to a human and still require a tremendous amount of functional complexity.

I am admittedly biased against the search for a single essence of intelligence; I believe that the search for a single essence of intelligence lies at the center of AI's previous failures.  Simplicity is the grail of physics, not AI.  Physicists win Nobel Prizes when they discover a previously unknown underlying layer and explain its behaviors.  We already know what the ultimate bottom layer of an Artificial Intelligence looks like; it looks like ones and zeroes.  Our job is to build something interesting out of those ones and zeroes.  The Turing formalism does not solve this problem any more than quantum electrodynamics tells us how to build a bicycle; knowing the abstract fact that a bicycle is built from atoms doesn't tell you how to build a bicycle out of atoms - which atoms to use and where to put them.  Similarly, the abstract knowledge that biological neurons implement human intelligence does not explain human intelligence.  The classical hype of early neural networks, that they used "the same parallel architecture as the human brain", should, at most, have been a claim of using the same parallel architecture as an earthworm's brain.  (And given the complexity of biological neurons, the claim would still have been wrong.)

Posted by Lisa at 07:19 AM