Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Massaging Our Public Consciousness? Is the Coming Singularity an Elite Opinion Leader and Agenda Setting Agent?

Are you prepared to meet your robot overlords? 
The idea of superintelligent machines may sound like the plot of "The Terminator" or "The Matrix," but many experts say the idea isn't far-fetched. Some even think the singularity — the point at which artificial intelligence can match, and then overtake, human smarts — might happen in just 16 years. 
But nearly every computer scientist will have a different prediction for when and how the singularity will happen... 
Once the singularity occurs, people won't necessarily die (they can simply upgrade with cybernetic parts), and they could do just about anything they wanted to — provided it were physically possible and didn't require too much energy, Hibbard said. 
The past two singularities — the Agricultural and Industrial revolutions — led to a doubling in economic productivity every 1,000 and 15 years, respectively, said Robin Hanson, an economist at George Mason University in Washington, D.C., who is writing a book about the future singularity. But once machines become as smart as man, the economy will double every week or month. 
This rapid pace of productivity would be possible because the main "actors" in the economy, namely people, could simply be replicated for whatever it costs to copy an intelligent-machine software into another computer.
If the newest Singularity becomes sentient, what will it do to and for human beings?

The mainstream media has discovered the coming Singularity. I first became aware of this concept while attending a panel at Worldcon here in Chicago last year. The idea of a paradigm shift where the sum total of computing power is greater than that of the totality of human intelligence is liberating while also being terrifying.

I am curious about if the Singularity will force a rethinking of basic categories of human social organization and interaction. Will race, class, gender, sexuality, and other markers of human difference be subsumed by our shared species identity in the face of A.I.?

Or will the Singularity take all of humankind's worst impulses towards creating social and political hierarchies, reproducing them with levels of cruel and precise efficiency that will make our Colonial and Imperial projects look like the work of ignorant neophytes?
Some scientists think we are already in the midst of the singularity. 
Humans have already relinquished many intelligent tasks, such as the ability to write, navigate, memorize facts or do calculations, Joan Slonczewski, a microbiologist at Kenyon college and the author of a science-fiction book called "The Highest Frontier," (Tor Books, 2011). Since Gutenberg invented the printing press, humans have continuously redefined intelligence and transferred those tasks to machines. 
Now, even tasks considered at the core of humanity, such as caring for the elderly or the sick, are being outsourced to empathetic robots, she said. 
"The question is, could we evolve ourselves out of existence, being gradually replaced by the machines?" Slonczewski said. "I think that's an open question." 
In fact, the future of humanity may be similar to that of mitochondria, the energy powerhouses of cells. Mitochondria were once independent organisms, but at some point, an ancestral cell engulfed those primitive bacteria, and over evolutionary history, mitochondria let cells gradually take over all the functions they used toperform, until they only produced energy. 
"We're becoming like the mitochondria. We provide the energy — we turn on the machines," Slonczewski told LiveScience. "But increasingly, they do everything else."
Thus, a question. When the Singularity comes into existence, the first thing it will likely do is hide from human beings. As the idea of the Singularity is mentioned more frequently by opinion leaders, the mass public is introduced to the concept, and thus prepared to accept it as an inevitable fact.

How do we know that the Singularity itself is not actually behind this shaping of public opinion in preparation for its reveal to the mass public? Given corporate media consolidation and the denseness of ties within (elite) social knowledge networks could the Singularity be massaging public opinion as we speak? 


Wavenstein said...

maybe you're not a real person Chauncey, how do I know I'm not talking to a decepticon right now?

Michael Varian Daly said...

Decepticons are people.

Michael Varian Daly said...

'escapefromwi' just mused upon this: http://hipcrime.blogspot.com/2013/05/automation-and-resource-curse.html

Vic78 said...

Humans will find a way to resist if the machines turned hostile. We have evolved quite a bit, but I don't see the wisdom in hooking one's brain to a computer. It's cool if a few people do it. I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. Too much can go wrong if everyone did it. I'd be satisfied with the pills from the movie Limitless.

chauncey devega said...

Shhhh...I would have many more resources and not be fretting about doing an impromptu fundraiser here on WARN to get this dental implant finished off that I have procrastinated about and my dentist said finish asap :) But let's keep that between us...

chauncey devega said...

Yes we are!

chauncey devega said...

Will have to check out. Thanks for the link.

chauncey devega said...

Resist and die we will. The smart Singularity will win us over with kindness. It is likely already here; are most folks ready?

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Scopedog said...

A good post, Chauncey. It reminds me of a passage from Hogan's novel "The Two Faces Of Tomorrow" (but I cannot recall it at the moment). There is another take on the Singularity at David Newhoff's site THE ILLUSION OF MORE:


CNu said...

When the Singularity comes into existence, the first thing it will likely do is hide from human beings. rotflmbao..., a most childishly naive and ignorant supposition. How's it gonna "hide" from human beings, dependent as it would inevitably be upon all the energy, environment, and infrastructure dependencies of a world-class data center?

The hard AI fanboys don't even try to whip this tired old whip anymore, and the computational specialists and deadly serious mathematicians who work in this space, have already gotten their state of the art quantum computational wet dream funded out in the boondocks of Utah. http://subrealism.blogspot.com/2012/04/growing-state-surveillance.html

The only kind of species-effecting singularity coming out of the digital computational arena is of the distinctly human livestock management variety http://subrealism.blogspot.com/2011/01/journal-of-social-structure.html

That's already here, right now, and it's being locked into place with the steely-eyed resolve which first advanced the concept of "full-spectrum dominance"

JGreyden said...

Man, whether they are white supremacist or philanthropist extraordinaire, those white folks sure become color blind when it's about the extinction of humankind.

For them , the exquisite delicacies on Mt Olympus, but when it's time to pay the bill , we're all in it together. Just like those Egyptians of old who couldn't imagine passing away without their cohort of slaves sharing their fate.

In for a penny , in for a pound, right , right , i get it, We're all in it together.

CNu said...

Where things actually get interesting, where the lines begin to blur rather dramatically is in the field of synthetic genomics http://subrealism.blogspot.com/2007/10/synthetic-genomics.html

Or as it's now understood and has been profoundly demonstrated computational genomics http://subrealism.blogspot.com/2010/05/short-course-on-synthetic-genomics.html

Nascent understanding of the mechanisms of genomic construction, and engineering capability far outpacing the underlying understanding - IS the new Moore's law and will decide our fate as a species.

If the people doing this work get it right, it's Prometheus time. If they phuk up, well, it's been real.....,

John Kurman said...

FIrst off, my bet is, if (IF) it does come, it won't be won't be what you expect. The one theme ever since Vinge introduced the term is All Bets Are Off. In other words, us talking about it, trending and projecting, is just indelicate public wanking. My second bet is, it doesn't come, or rather, it comes in a series of increasingly frequent Narrow Catastrophes, such as when dumb AIs caused the Flash Crash. Third bet is, it's overrated, just like all visions of the future. Fourth bet, it's already here. Fifth bet, which is more of a quibble, the only self-replicating intelligent robots I see are us, and that gets us back to the fourth bet. Sixth bet, which really is a quibble, is that we've been through at least five singularities. 1) The Big Bang, 2) Organic Life on Earth, 3) RNA world to DNA world and the rise of the bacterial consortia, 4) the Eukaryotic Revolution, and 6) Multicellular Life. The fact that massively plenitudinous parallelism took at least 13.7 billion years to get us here makes me think the Big S is not around the corner. Smart as we are, we are not as smart as we fucking think we are.

CNu said...


Kristala Prather just got full tenure at the Institute and her group develops biological synthesis processes to solve chemical engineering problems. As noted below, jacking directly into the genius of 13.7 billion years of massively plenitudinous parallelism IS either the singularity in our lifetime, and under the same accelerated developmental clock as the shrinking of transistors, or, it's the end of us as a species in a properly Promethean manner...,

chauncey devega said...

And you sir know your stuff! Wow.

chauncey devega said...

Got to look her up. The future is now. I wonder if scifi created the future, or was it just reflecting what folks in the know were already thinking about at the time.

chauncey devega said...

That was a question from 2 of the foremost writers on the topic at Worldcon. So if they are naive then so be it. If I remember the claim, it was that if the Singularity is that efficient and "smart" it would most certainly be able to operate in a decentralized manner or mask its presence.

chauncey devega said...

Thanks, will check it out. The idea is so compelling and scary.

Dick Destiny said...

"such as caring for the elderly or the sick, are being outsourced to empathetic robots, she said."
This is just futurist pabulum, an outright lie. You can get a journalist to publish anything, as we know to our regret.

If the singularity is almost upon us, why are we losing so many antibiotics to microbial resistance? Does not the singularity predict that computing will grant godlike power to drug development and medicine?

If the singularity is nearly here why have their been no significant advances in treating many advanced cancers in the last two decades?

If the singularity approaches why did the latest HIV vaccine fail, even making people who took it have a slightly higher rate of infection than those who got a placebo?

You can make a list like this one hundred feet long.

The singularity is tech press propaganda, a money-making business for the sale of snake oil.

chauncey devega said...

Maybe the singularity just doesn't care about us meat sacks?

CNu said...

lol, human beings can't even conduct - much less sustain - cogent conversation about consciousness, sentience, sapience, cognition, intelligence, etc..., we.can't.even.get.our.terms.right. such that we might have a standardized taxonomy.

So, given thatn it's humans who'd have to program any kind of artificial "intelligence" - about the very best you can expect to see therefrom - will be some highly complex algorithms and heuristics which set about efficiently solving some problems (like chess) which are not too terribly difficult to describe.

Given that human mathematical thinking alone, exhibits non-computable properties http://youtu.be/3WXTX0IUaOg - you can simply eject as childishly and painfully naive any notion purporting the prospect for, much less the current existence of an artificially sentient and subjectively self-aware machine capable of deception.

Those cats at Worldcon clowned a naive audience like the shills on Coast to Coast AM clown a naive and suggestible audience.

CNu said...

Let me go for plain language that everybody can easily understand. Ant colonies exhibit profound intelligence which has been assigned the term "stigmergy".

Human programmers can do a fine job of simulating the emergent properties of simple computational agents to produce stigmergic effects mimicking natural intelligence.

No sensible human being, however, imagines that an ant colony or any other haplodiploidy insect hive is subjectively aware of itself as you have been taught to believe that you are "aware" of yourself.

The artificial intelligence of the sci-fi singularity is not conceived of as a stigmergic process, rather, it is conceived of as a subjectively self-aware and conscious entity. A human-crafted conscious machine is as far removed from current design and implementation capabilities as a faster than light vehicle is from current design and implementation capabilities.

CNu said...


chauncey devega said...

Hey be nice to Coast to Coast AM ;)

Was much better w. Art Bell.

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