- Edward, thank you very much for agreeing to join us today!
“Gratitude is supremely mutual, Frank!”
- So, dear listeners, today in our studio one of the leading experts in the theory and practice of singularism, Edward Northrop.
- Come on, Frank! Me and the host?
- Edward, Edward, let's do without too much modesty. You, like no one else, can answer all our questions.
- Oh, well, ok, Frank, ask.
- So let's start with a simple one. For the part of the audience that is listening to our channel recently, in a nutshell, what is singularism?
- Singularism is a social doctrine that originated in the mid-20s of the 21st century and became widespread by the mid-30s. Now it is the only world religion, so to speak.
- But did the term singularism have been used before?
- Yes, the philosophers of the 19th century in the controversy of monism and pluralism, however, the concept that we are talking about today has nothing to do with that singularity. The modern meaning of the term is associated with the concept of technological singularity and directly derives from it. Singularism postulates knowledge as the highest value, and the approximation of singularity as the meaning of human life.
- What about the moral and ethical problems?
- Like any teaching of the past, singularism offers a way to solve them.
- Which one?
- Ignoring. In the context of achieving technological singularity, they do not matter.
- And what is the technological singularity?
- This is the moment after which the technical progress of humanity becomes so swift and complex that it is inaccessible to human understanding. The concept of singularity was proposed by American writer and professor of mathematics Vernor Vinge and inventor, and later Google’s technical director Raymond Kurzweil at the turn of the century. However, many scientists and writers addressed the issue of the accelerating growth of scientific knowledge long before them. Among them are Friedrich Engels, Irving Good, the Strugatsky brothers. Described in the novel “Waves Extinguish the Wind” of the latest concepts of vertical progress, the people and the monocosme are closest to me, but I don’t think that it is necessary to tire the listeners with an excursion into the history of literature.
- Yes, Edward, you, as always, are right. Perhaps you better tell us how people imagined singularity at the dawn of the century?
- Most of the specialists and supporters of the concept linked the onset of singularity with the creation of strong artificial intelligence, i.e. such a computer program that would gain self-awareness, intelligence, will and would be capable of self-improvement, due to the absence of physical limitations billions of times faster than the natural evolution of man. Some believed that the path to singularity would pass through transhumanism, the fusion of man with a machine, or the development of biotechnology, which would qualitatively increase the capabilities of the human brain.
- And what path did mankind take?
- All forecasts have come true, to one degree or another. Only those who prophesied the uprising of machines, the Third World War and other apocalyptic scenarios did not guess.
- But there was some kind of chain of events that directly determined the onset of the singularity? The discrepancy of extrapolations of technical progress, i.e. the moment when any extrapolation begins to give meaningless results is a good definition of singularity in the mathematical sense, but not in the everyday sense. Today I stand in a crowded subway car on my way to work, and tomorrow I am going on a spaceship with anti-gravity engines in the direction of Alpha Centauri, and the singularity, respectively, came while I was reading a bedtime story for the child. After all, everything did not happen quite right?
- Oh, you laugh me, Frank! Of course, you are right, singularity is a conditional concept, no point, when technological progress ... and further in the text, was not. Contemporaries of Vinge and Kurzweil did not take into account that the exponential progress described by them would cover an exponentially decreasing part of humanity. Those. the fruits of the singularity will be enjoyed by all, but here its offensive for each person will occur individually. For some, the singularity will never come. Not everything, as it turned out, will want to fly to Alpha Centauri, load their minds into virtual reality or transform the body for life under water and in lava flows.
- Edward, please illustrate your thought with an example. And then, I'm afraid, our audience starts to get bored.
- Easy. India, early 2000s, the city of Varanasi, a kind of Indian Rome, one of the oldest cities in the world, hopelessly stuck in the Middle Ages. The bodies of the dead are burned at the stake on the quays-ghats, cows sadly wander through the narrow streets between the dustbin, where they satisfy hunger. Thousands of beggars live there, weaving machines work in the houses, whose products are not only sold to tourists, but also used by themselves, because it’s simpler, cheaper and “why change something if the last couple of hundred years have lived beautifully”. The only thing that brings the third industrial revolution to life in Varanasi is LEDs, they are used absolutely everywhere by 2020, since by all parameters (brightness, price, power consumption and durability) they bypass any other light sources. So, remember the third law of Clark (any sufficiently developed technology is indistinguishable from magic) and answer me that you have changed the fourth technological revolution in Varanasi and completed its singularity?
- I do not know what?
- The LEDs are gone. Now, on the streets of Varanasi, it is just light in the dark. The need to fill the tuk-tuki has disappeared, the nanobots have solved the problem of atmospheric gas pollution, from time to time someone sees Shiva materializing from the air, something else. If interested, the complete list is easy to find. But, I assure you, it is not particularly long.
- Amazing! But what is the reason? Did immortality, flights at near-light speeds to other planets, etc. did not interest the inhabitants of this city?
- Frank, you again put the question incorrectly. Interested, of course, and part of the population left Varanasi, but most simply did not understand how the world has changed. Imagine that in the same 2020, an ordinary urban teenager will try to explain to his grandmother, who he visited in the village, that he will not ride a bicycle on the river, since his firewood on the phone has flown off, and now he will not be able to catch the satellite. Or how will he ask why grandmother does not use the Google Loon stratospheric dirigible system, and how then does her refrigerator replenish the supply of food, if she can neither place an order, nor send the coordinates of her hut to the Amazon drones? An old woman will be at least somewhat surprised. And this is despite the fact that she is no more than half a century of technological progress from this adolescent, and with the onset of a singularity, people will divide the chasms into thousands, albeit subjective years!
“What you are saying sounds rather ominous.”
- Frank, consider the definition of a singularity. The progress of humanity is blah blah blah, which is inaccessible to human understanding. Not available. Human. Understanding. I literally hear you think “but if ...”. Not. Without “but” and without “if”. A singularity is a world in which any problem is solved at the stage of problem statement, it is a world in which everyone can do anything. Not immediately, the laws of physics, the singularity, of course, does not change, but still. This world is not of separation, but of diversification, not of egoism and not of altruism, but of freedom, in which no one can deprive the other of his freedom because everyone can do everything. And the freedom to live like his ancestors lived is also a choice of man. Happiness is not imposed on anyone, but everyone knows where to find it. Just not everyone wants, because this happiness is beyond his comprehension. Beyond his human self. Beyond human nature. And it scares people. Freedom scares. I will dare to quote the writer of the time period of the turn of the century already touched by us: “It is difficult to predict where the frightened mind will rush. One person can become a talking grand piano doomed to eternal loneliness. The other is a swamp mud, thinking the same ten thousand years. The third - the smell of violets, tightly sealed in a rusty pan. Fourth - a sunset glow on the eyeball of a frozen climber. For all this, there are words. What about what they are not for? This is not the worst. Much more serious than the other. There is no certainty that by becoming a hare's foot lost in space, you will remember that this foot is you. Do you understand? You are you, as long as you remember that it is you. And if you don’t remember it, it’s probably not already you? ”
- Oh, Edward, you know how to catch up with horror and fog! Now all the listeners will decide that the singularity is bad, they will take to the streets with posters of the appropriate content and will move to smash the nightly automated plants as new Luddites.
- Singularity is not bad, it is just not human.
- I do not agree. We are discussing it quite humanly. Yes, and stand behind her, too, people. You yourself said that in order to use the fruits of the singularity, it is not necessary to pass it. A merchant in Varanasi may not know how the LED is arranged, but in order to illuminate his tray, this is not necessary for him.
- Behind the singularity are not people - humanity.
- Humanity always leaves for the future with the sprouts of its best representatives.
- Yes, but the mass of the whole may well be more than the mass of its component parts.
- Sophistry. I still insist that the history of singularism, meaningful movement to singularity, is written by people. And, by the way, our listeners would certainly be interested to hear it.
- Good. As is known, the scale and rate of growth of scientific and technological progress at the beginning of the 21st century reached such values that the contribution of individuals to it became almost imperceptible. Any research required the participation of collaborations. LIGO, ITER, many examples. Even for the best minds of mankind, the task of simply following the changes in their field has become almost impossible. While you read an article about the properties of optical black holes in Physical Review Letters, scientists at King's College London managed to publish two more. The question of what to do with it, has matured by itself. It was necessary to solve the problems of collecting information and processing it, as well as building interaction. And now, scientists, specialists from various fields, who left their own research for the time being, have teamed up. They were the first singularists, and MIT, Caltech, KU Leuven, MSU and 서울 대학교 were the first temples of singularism. For a decade, they struggled with the imperfection of communication technologies, worked to obtain practical results from the use of weak artificial intelligence, but still achieved results.
- Too complicated. Please illustrate your story with an example.
- Good. Let's try to estimate the direction of technical progress.
Imagine that you are driving on an ordinary rural road somewhere in Yorkshire. You are an architect and you notice an unusual building behind the fence. You wonder what it is, but, alas, there is no one to ask it. Your actions?
Behind the window of the car 1990th year. You reach the nearest settlement and ask the bartender in a pub about the building, trying to mark its approximate location in the road atlas. He shrugs, and you go on asking.
Year 2000 You have a bulky satellite navigator in the glove compartment, you can find out the exact address of the building, but when you come home and connect to the Internet, you can see what is in it. Alas, you are not lucky again, there is no official information on it.
It takes another ten years, and you, without leaving your car, open the OSM or Wikimapia map service on your smartphone and find out in a minute that this is a warehouse complex of the National Railway Museum. After another half an hour of focused search and viewing of the video, you’ll already know from the house what the unusual building looks like from the inside, who its architect is and how to contact him.
2020 year. You drive past the same building and ask a question to the interactive system, literally right there an information board flashes over the building with all the information you are interested in. You do a wave of eyelashes, and the Magic Leap lenses, taking the team, display a 2 meter pseudo-screen in front of you with an interactive presentation of the railway museum. The autopilot, meanwhile, continues to drive.
2030th year. There is no need for bulky lenses anymore, the picture is drawn by the system directly on the retina. The interior of the car dissolves before your eyes, and now you enter the structure that interests you. You are followed by an architect, or rather his alter ego under the control of the service system. He will be happy to tell you about all the features of the building. The car will distract you in 17 and a half minutes (traffic jams) in the Weldrayk at the pub, where it reserves a table for you at the moment (low blood sugar, after 15 minutes you still want to eat).
2040th year. You love the retro style and regularly dissect the empty roads of Yorkshire in your gasoline car. Your eyes catch a glimpse of a curious building deep in the forest. Now you know everything about it and immediately realize that in making the same supporting structures in proportion to the smaller section of single-walled nano-tubes, the building will not only withstand all the regulatory loads, but also perfectly fit into the design of the pavilion of the upcoming Martian exhibition that you design.
- So good. Progress allows you to minimize the number of actions required to solve the problem. Ideally, avoid them altogether. But what does this have to do with singularity and the steps that its first followers took?
- The most direct. The scientists about whom I told you, consistently began to remove the obstacles standing between them and those problems that were really interesting to them.
- What obstacles are we talking about? Tell us more.
- Let's start with the collection of information. All sorts of subscriptions, RSS and other invented back in the 20th century, when the Internet was just emerging. It worked, as long as the volume and complexity of the content made it possible to filter it somehow effectively. In the 2010s, big data analysis tools came to the rescue, for example, the Quid system, which had become the industry standard by 2020. At the same time, the means for analyzing and processing texts available to the weak artificial intelligence were improved. In the same 2020, IBM Watson allowed scientists to no longer be distracted by the search and processing of open data. They received the answer to almost any question instantly, in a natural language and in any way detailed. Any new information also automatically reached them as needed. As one of the contemporaries of this technology put it: “As if I had a third eye and a third hand on the net. I am distracted for a second and wherever I am, I take and extract the necessary information from the Internet. You know, I already do it reflexively. I can quote Plato at will and without hesitation, get a scooter for my child, find a route in an unfamiliar city, and I’m generally silent! ”
The next step of the singularists was the accomplishment of the communication revolution. The first languages fell. Already by 2015, voice translation on the fly was quite possible. By 2020, it was possible to achieve the necessary seamless technology, now two people could be friends, communicate and work, not knowing and not noticing the nationality of each other. Behind the tongues, progress has crushed the means of communication customary at that time. Instant messaging services, first typed on the keyboard or slandered, then simply thought through to themselves, were eventually replaced by expert systems of individual communication, when at any moment you could mentally ask any of your contacts a question, and the corresponding artificial intelligence attached to it based on his patterns of behavior, known information and other factors, he gave an instant and thorough answer. Any meeting on any scientific issue could now include any number of participants, even when the participants themselves were busy with something else.
The final chord was the h + revolution, transhumanism and hybrid intelligence, which enabled a person to memorize, store and process information using the resources of his own brain, as well as various service systems.
- But, if in a post-singular society, service system machines and subroutines started to do everything for a person, if, as you said, problems began to be solved at the stage of setting the problem, what was the need for people to exist? Why did they become necessary?
- To be people. To ask questions. After all, there is no one else to do.
“Then what is our goal, Edward?”
“Locally or globally, Frank?”
- Globally I understand. Serve humanity and compensate for centrifugal processes, make the world a better place. But locally, how are the subroutines of consciousness of Pyotr Semyonovich Mikhalev, born in 2019, a resident of the Tyumen metropolitan area?
“Yesterday evening, going to sleep, Petr Semenovich thought to himself:“ Singularism is a funny word, who would explain to me what it means. ” Then we appeared.