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Possibility of a technological singularity

  1. Mar 20, 2009 #1
    Some of you may be familiar with the concept of a supposed 'singularity' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity that some people think will happen in the coming hundred years or so. The idea was popularized by Ray Kurzweil, and some of you may have read his book 'The singularity is near'.

    I thought it would be interesting to hear some opinions from educated people on the subject to discuss how realistic the concept is. I must admit that I have become quite convinced that this is at least a realistic possibility and the fact that the concept has been mentioned by intel proves its not entirely crackpottery.

    In the interest of a useful discussion I will define some topics less ambiguous than 'the singularity' but ones that are associated with it:

    -The predictions of Ray Kurzweil.

    -Non-biological intelligent agents that surpass humans in every respect by around 2050

    -mini computers in everything: our blood; brains; clothing; the air by around 2050

    -well developed nanotechnology: the ability to construct something 5 atoms at a time in the next few decades.

    -the continuation of moore's law, in at least some sense.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 20, 2009 #2
    "Non-biological intelligent agents that surpass humans in every respect by around 2050"

    Hopefully not exceeding the capacity of human greed, lust, and slothfulness. But as for tapping out a great novel or beautiful painting, it's a tall order to say the least.
  4. Mar 20, 2009 #3
    50 years in the future? What educated person can even claim to make an extrapolation like that? Technology has been growing exponentially and it is certainly possible that some of those things may come to pass, you'll also remember that people in the 1980s though we would have flying cars by 2000 and live on the Moon. Unless you're about to put on your spacesuit and go for a flight around your moon-neighborhood, I wouldn't put much stock into wacky predictions that far into the future.

    Technology is not one field; it is a compilation of various fields that are each advancing and a different rate and in different directions, making it very hard to predict advances. Could it happen? Sure, anything COULD happen, it's likeliness is debatable.
  5. Mar 20, 2009 #4
    You are correct, and as you said it's likeliness is debatable which is why I was looking for discussion from people who may have esoteric knowledge about the development of these fields.
  6. Mar 20, 2009 #5
    Its a good thing that the world does not operate according to classical physics (aside from the fact that this would be impossible as far as we know) since if it did then all the greatest possible inventions would already have been discovered and refined.

    The discovery of quantum physics last century made many previously thought-impossible technologies into realities and far from being exhausted it seems that the well of possibilities has only just begun to be tapped.

    The non-classicality of the universe convinces me that it is possible for technological progress not only to continue indefinitely, but also to accelerate so rapidly that it cascades to infinity in a finite time.
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