At a glance – technological singularity

What is the Tech Singularity?

Artificial Intelligence is fast approaching the point where it can exceed human intelligence, let alone match it. In a high-stakes poker game, an AI platform beat human professionals to take home a cash prize of almost $2 billion. In healthcare, algorithms can detect and prescribe treatments for cancer more effectively than a doctor. Across all industries, employment is increasingly threatened by AI fuelled automation. In 1983, author Vernor Vinge coined the term ‘technological singularity’. This refers to the point in time at which Artificial Intelligence surpasses our own. So, what happens when AI’s ability to out-do humans becomes universal?

One of the most influential speakers on the topic of singularity is Ray Kurzweil. According to the renowned technologist, AI will exceed human ability by the middle of the 21st century. Kurzweil’s prediction is based on Moore’s Law, which amounts to a theory of exponential technological growth. The singularity has profound implications for humanity. Hollywood imagined a fierce war between people and machines in the Terminator franchise, but nobody really knows what a world after technological singularity will look like. It’s impossible to comprehend the speed at which changes will happen with such advanced processing. However, if the singularity does happen, humanity will have to embark on a path of unprecedented innovation to survive.

As intelligent platforms become part of everyday life, there is a case for the argument that AI and humans will cooperate. This notion is reassuring, but if software becomes more powerful than its creators, what’s the point in collaboration? This question has spawned the concept of an enslaved (or simply destroyed) human race. Some have argued that the eventual take over of humanity is inevitable, and by giving technology so much power we have opened Pandora’s box. Others disagree, confidently stating that human intelligence will never be exceeded. Either way, tech companies are joining together to set up safeguards to prevent, or at least delay, the singularity. If Kurzweil’s prediction is correct, we’ll see for ourselves if their efforts are successful.