Issues Magazine

Issues Magazine 98

Issues 98: The Singularity

Issues March 2012 cover image
The Singularity
AUD$12.00 including GST


An international intellectual and cultural movement is growing to support the use of science and technology to further the progress of AI and the ethics surrounding its use. Without giving the future the full attention it deserves, how can you know what sort of future you want?
It may seem like science fiction, but some scientists and technologists predict that developments in their fields of expertise will soon overtake them.
Creating a general artificial intelligence with intellectual capabilities similar to our own may well launch a technological singularity. This possibility is a key issue for the future of the AI community and of human society.
Will massively intelligent machines replace human beings as the dominant species in the next few decades?
The singularity is an intriguing mix of science and science fiction, innovation and gadgets, risk and fear, and prophecy and religion. How should we each relate to this fascinating stew of technological possibility, scientific promise and apocalyptic potential?
Technology offers great possibility of enhancing human capacity.
Tomorrow’s software will compute with meaning rather than just bits, and will be much more autonomous. But a thought experiment with a chess robot shows that we will also need to carefully include human values.
The problems we face from technology and AI are not a point on the horizon – they are starting now – and the issue is not the technologies themselves but the inability of our current systems and ideologies to adapt to them ethically.
For a technology to succeed, it has to prove its value, but many valuable technologies that could help society still fail.
The transhuman marks the beginning of our evolution from human as we merge with machines.
Even if it’s technically possible, is it ethical to pursue the transhumanist agenda? Would we still be “human” in a transhumanist world?
Our lives are a composite of actions and experiences, and our minds depend on our bodies and the environment – but do they have to?
The convergence of multiple technologies could bring about a technological singularity. Such synergies are already playing out in artistic forms of life extension.
We should stop treating intelligent machines as the stuff of science fiction.
Anxiety about lethal autonomous robots has some substance.