In 2008 I got caught up in a Singularity frenzy and wrote several articles on the subject of computers reaching (and immediately surpassing) human-like intelligence. There was one for the Montreal Gazette, one for Urban Male Magazine (believe it or not) and a great one for Radar, which folded as a print mag just before my article. Not my fault!
The full article is above, an excerpt below:
In the movie The Terminator, set in the not-too-distant future, computers become smart enough to break free of the tyranny of their human masters. Of course, the computers round up and kill the humans. It doesn’t look like a lot of fun in the movie.
In the real world, a few researchers are working toward a moment that feels inspired by such science fiction: a tipping point when smart computers themselves become capable of creating smarter computers, at a speed and in a direction we cannot predict.
That moment is the Singularity.
Believers in the likelihood of that event, and of it coming within the next 20 years, Singularitarians see superhuman intelligence as the natural next step in the evolution of life on Earth: amoeba begat sea creatures, sea creatures begat land creatures, which begat primates, which begat man. Now man is begetting his own successor.
Some scientists dismiss that possibility as science fiction; others see it occurring within this generation.
Nanotechnology, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality, and brain-computer interfaces are all being swept forward by an exponential growth in computing power. So-called “narrow” AI is already widely used today – specialized computers that are smarter than humans at specific tasks, like playing chess, managing air traffic or reading medical charts. Neurosurgeons are already implanting computer chips to interpret or modify brain activity. In labs across North America, monkeys are being used in experiments involving the brain’s motor cortex – using implanted computer sensors to bypass the spinal cord and activate prostheses. From thought to action, by electrical signals. One human volunteer, a paraplegic, was able to turn on his TV, open his email, and draw on his computer screen, all by thinking about it…
…Kurzweil and others see the Singularity leading to a post-human utopia. According to Kurzweil’s predictions, machines will not supplant humans; rather, we will merge to the point that there will be no distinction between human and computer, or between real and virtual reality. Step 1: Human consciousness will be uploaded to machines, introducing immortality and in one swoop eliminating war, hunger, poverty and disease. Step 2: With advanced nanotechnology, microcomputers will be embedded in all material, potentially infusing all matter with consciousness. Step 3: This networked consciousness will spread, godlike, through all the matter in the universe. Which is, to be sure, a better scenario than the one where we’re hunted down by the killer robots – but not all Singularitarians agree.