What is the Technological Singularity?
Moore’s Law has been around for 46 years. It’s a descriptor for the trend we’ve seen in the development of computer hardware for decades, with no sign of slowing down, where the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles every two years.
The law is named after Gordon Moore, who described this pattern in 1965. He would know a thing or two about integrated circuits. He co-founded Intel in 1968.
Moore has said in recent years that there’s about 10 or 20 years left in this trend, because “we’re approaching the size of atoms which is a fundamental barrier.” But then, he said, we’ll just make bigger chips.
Ray Kurzweil, who we mentioned in last weekend’s piece on transhumanism, is known for his thoughts on another subject even more than he is known for his thoughts on transhumanism. That subject is the technological Singularity.
The singularity comes after the time when our technological creations exceed the computing power of human brains, and Kurzweil predicts that based on Moore’s Law and the general trend of exponential growth in technology, that time will come before the mid-21st century.
We’ll see artificial intelligence that exceeds human intelligence around the same time, he says. But there’s more to it than just having created smarter intelligences. There are profound ramifications, but we’ll get to those soon.
Technological singularity was a term coined by Vernor Vinge, the science fiction author, in 1983. “We will soon create intelligences greater than our own,” he wrote. “When this happens, human history will have reached a kind of singularity, an intellectual transition as impenetrable as the knotted space-time at the center of a black hole, and the world will pass far beyond our understanding.”
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