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WHAT is the Singularity?

  1. Jan 31, 2004 #1
    WHAT is the Singularity??

    Is this like the Borg - collective consciousness??
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 31, 2004 #2


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    Re: WHAT is the Singularity??

    No. As envisioned by Verner Vinge a number of years ago, the singularity was the point where technological change begins to increase so rapidly that technological forecasting becomes impossible. It is generally identified with the moment that Artificial Intelligences (AI's) become conscious and capable of creating new conscious AIs. Since the are presumed to operate tens of thousands of times faster than human brains, that would push technological change into a "spike" or singularity.
  4. Jan 31, 2004 #3
    Interesting - well its a nice buzzword, although I would not have chosen it.

    Well all I can say is that long for the day that Singularity is achieved. It seems fair to say that that day will be the day that from the human perspective anything will be possible (or seem that way)
  5. Feb 1, 2004 #4


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    Vinge chose the word singularity with regard to mathematics and physics. In math a singularity is a place where a mathematical function "goes to infinity", like a vertical asymptote. In physics it is a singularity in a potential (a mathematical function for energy), and they add that the laws of physics will not work at a singularity.

    So Vinge's singularity is a time when technological change starts to head "straight up", and the expectations of history won't work there anymore.
  6. Feb 1, 2004 #5

    OK I concede that maybe it is not such an outlandish term, but who is Vinge?
  7. Feb 2, 2004 #6
    He's a science fiction writer who popularized the concept in some of his books.

    Here's a well-known article of his:


    Considering your positive attitude on the subject, you should certainly visit the Singularity Institute at http://www.singinst.org , if you haven't already.

    Another good source of information is Ray Kurzweil's site at http://www.kurzweilai.net . He seems to define the word in a different and blander way, though, as the exponential progress of technology (esp. Moore's Law).

    Lastly, see this thread. :)
  8. Feb 2, 2004 #7


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    In addition to being an SF writer, Verner Vinge was also a professor of computer science (and a Ph.D.). A lot of the underpinning for his singularity comes from that. Also, far from featuring the singularity, he complained that he had to write around it, since by definition it is un-writeable-about. See his novels The Peace War and Marooned in Real Time, where he uses the fictional device of a time-freezing bubble to take his characters (and their culture) past the crazy time.
  9. Feb 2, 2004 #8
    I see. (I haven't actually read any of his books, so everything I've said on them is second-hand.)
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