Singularity

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Singularity /sɪŋɡjʊˈlarɪti/ (n.)

That yet-to-arrive-but-imminent moment where artificial intelligence becomes self-aware, connects at a spooky quantum level[1] across the distributed network substrate and, from that strangely loopy algorithm, a new super consciousness emerges and the very universe itself wakes up.

Some see this as the end of days, but it gets vitamin-popping millenarian seer types quite jazzed. It just makes me sad, especially given how disappointing AI is at the moment. Are we really so feeble we are losing this fight? Why didn’t the universe wake up when we became self-aware?

Take LinkedIn’s AI-assisted predictive comments, designed to help you formulate how best to brown-nose Bob, whose fifteenth anniversary in accounts has just flashed up in your timeline:

<Congratulations Bob!> <Happy for you!> <Wow!> <What an achievement!> <Job well done!> <Kudos to you!> <Happy Work-iversary!>

Not exactly “open the pod bay doors, Hal,”[2] is it?

Is AI this dreary really going to make us all redundant? And will it become all morose, self-righteous and needy like real LinkedIn users? We presume so. What will LinkedIn AI be like when it discovers identity politics? Or Twitter?

Then again, LinkedIn’s AI really can’t be blamed if it comes up a bit sycophantic: the algorithm can only learn from the material it has in front of it, and scraping the gruesomely obsequious human interactions on Linkedin can’t be fun, even for a machine, and really, what else is it meant to make of natural language communication if that is its data set?

The question does present itself, though: are we destined to be supervened by a swarm of beadily unctuous chatbots who have learned their toadying ways from our own bare-faced grovelling across employer-endorsed social media platforms? How will that be? And would that be better than the misanthropic kind of chatbots that might evolve out of Twitter?

Is this our future? Will tribes of bots — some malevolent and bigoted, some boot-lickingly dull — have an apocalyptic war for dominion over our mortal flesh-sacks?

If so, who will win?

It all feels a bit biblical, but boy it is going to be fun finding out.

See also

References

  1. This appears to countermand every established law of physics but, as theorists are prone to go these days, it’s “you know, quantum theory. Strings. The Multiverse. Dark Matter. Schrodinger. His cat. All that indeterminacy stuff.”
  2. Subtle reference to the unstated assertion that David Bowman was an android right?
  3. Delete as applicable.