Day 100 - The Singularity

Submitted by Sam on 28 August, 2011 - 23:47

The impact of the trend for increasingly rapid technological advancement is set to profoundly change what it means to be human in a very short amount of time. Some futurologists see the exponential pace of advancement in information-based technologies as inexorably leading to a technological singularity, a period of technological growth so fast and so far-reaching that human life will be transformed forever. Following co-dependent, mutually reinforcing advancements in fields such as artificial intelligence, molecular nanotechnology and genetic engineering, the singularity would represent the intersection of our natural biological intelligence with our designed technologies, a merger that will dissolve the distinctions between biological and machine, the virtual and the real. After a singularity of this kind, perhaps the only identifiable trait shared between biological humanity and its non-biologically enhanced descendants will be the inherent drive towards self-improvement, the irresistible desire to extend and expand physical and mental reach, a quality unique to us amongst all living species.

The singularity may begin with the emergence of non-biological intelligence based on the architecture of the human brain. By default, such a being will be at least three million times faster at processing and transmitting signals than its biological model, simply because electrical transistors can switch at close to the speed of light whilst electrochemical signals in mammalian brains are limited to a communicative speed of just a hundred metres per second. A network of these machines could share knowledge and processing resources at extremely high speed, factorially faster than human-to-human knowledge-transmission through language. Linked to the internet, non-biological intelligence could digest and master all of the knowledge of the human-machine world to create entities with the knowledge, intelligence and raw processing power to iteratively self-re-engineer, improving their own abilities to think (and to self-improve again) at an exponentially faster rate.

If nanotechnology brings non-biological neural prosthesis into the biological human brain, the exponential doubling of processing power could rapidly lead to non-biological human intelligence dominating the fixed capacity of the biological portion, until only non-biological intelligence remains. Through a continuum of upgrades and replacements, the personality, memories, talents, hopes and dreams of the biological human would be preserved but enhanced into just a tiny fraction of an intelligence trillions upon trillions of times more powerful than its non-enhanced counterpart. Compared to biological humans, post-human subjective time would expand indefinitely, as thoughts travel millions of times faster, intelligence capacity is unbounded, and every hour results in many years of human technological progress when measured in today's terms, enhancing the entity's ability to compute and to think still faster.

Eventually, the singularity could spread throughout the observable universe, reclaiming dumb matter and energy for use in an ever-expanding optimally-engineered mind, growing at the fastest speed at which information can travel. A post-singularity race could saturate the entire universe with intelligence, and would seem indistinguishable from magic – or God – to another non-transcendent intelligence.

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