Issues Magazine

Articles about singularity

The Singularity Is Coming

The Singularity article main image


By Ben Goertzel

It may seem like science fiction, but some scientists and technologists predict that developments in their fields of expertise will soon overtake them.

Kurzweil’s Vision of the Singularity

A Rationalist Approach to Transhumanism and the Singularity

By Meredith Doig

Even if it’s technically possible, is it ethical to pursue the transhumanist agenda? Would we still be “human” in a transhumanist world?

At first meeting, the idea of transhumanism and the singularity fascinates but also invites scepticism. Machines taking over from humans? At a particular point in time? Within the next couple of decades?

My own reaction was initially one of doubt, but I do call myself a rationalist, and that means I had to keep an open mind and look for the evidence. And what I found was more finely balanced than simply a modern day science fiction story.

First, a little background. What is a “rationalist”?

The Artilect War

By Hugo de Garis

Will massively intelligent machines replace human beings as the dominant species in the next few decades?

The “species dominance” issue will dominate our global politics this century, resulting in a major war that will kill billions of people. The issue is whether humanity should build godlike, massively intelligent machines called “artilects” (artificial intellects), made possible by 21st-century technologies and having mental capacities trillions of times above the human level. Society will split into three major philosophical groups, all murderously opposed to each other.

Artilect-Enabling Technologies

Professor Hugo de Garis is the technical advisor to a major Hollywood film studio that is currently making a movie on the themes of this article. His essays and international media videos are at

Guest Editorial

By Adam Ford

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?

Humanity at large is on the brink of understanding that our future will be wildly different from the past. In the coming decades we may witness the human condition transform in fundamental ways. We can see the effects of accelerating technology on our desks, in our pockets and all around us, providing transformative solutions to problems that have plagued us at least since the dawn of recorded history.

Adam Ford is the Singularity Summit Australia and Humanity+ Summit Australia Coordinator. Find out more about the 2012 Singularity Summit at and the Humanity+ Summit at

Can We Program Safe AI?

Can We Program Safe AI? article image


By Steve Omohundro

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.

Technology is rapidly advancing. Moore’s law (see p.11) says that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every two years. It has held since it was proposed in 1965 and extended back to 1900 when older computing technologies are included.

Ethics of the Singularity

By Kevin B. Korb and Ann E. Nicholson

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.

One of the first to consider seriously the idea of the singularity was the philosopher and computer scientist I.J. Good in 1965:

Machines That Can Replicate and Evolve

By Neil Yager

Smart software and hardware may be able to solve some of the future’s most challenging problems, but not without risks.

Evolution by natural selection is a powerful process. It drives the creation and adaptation of life on our planet, and most likely countless other planets throughout the universe. Recently, researchers have been investigating ways to harness the power of evolution and to use it to find innovative solutions to challenging problems in science and engineering.

Three conditions are necessary for evolution to occur in a population:

  • There are not enough resources for everyone, so members of the population must compete to survive.

Lethal autonomous robots: who's really in control?

By Ken Fraser

Anxiety about lethal autonomous robots has some substance.

The state of play as currently constituted, however, already provides enough cause for concern. The Terminator scenario Monash associate professor Robert Sparrow evokes in his recent article – in which the machines decide humanity is no longer useful – is a long way from reality.

The Existential Robot: Living with Robots May Teach Us to Be Better Humans

By Julie Carpenter

Human–robot interaction researcher

We are among the first humans to be regularly living and working with robots. What do we expect from our new robot companions?

Some people have interactions with robots every day, but many of us have never seen a robot in person. In the near future, people will be more likely to interact with many kinds of robots daily in roles like personal caregiver, household help, and assistants in firefighting, security and healthcare tasks. Socially, people may interact with robots in many different ways.

What Is a Robot?