Thursday, June 30, 2011


“...Some people say that computers can never show true intelligence, whatever that may be. But it seems to me that if very complicated chemical molecules can operate in humans to make them intelligent, then equally complicated electronic circuits can also make computers act in an intelligent way. And if they are intelligent, they can presumably design computers that have even greater complexity and intelligence...” By Dr. Stephen Hawking

“...One consideration that should be taken into account when deciding whether to promote the development of superintelligence is that if superintelligence is feasible, it will likely be developed sooner or later. Therefore, we will probably one day have to take the gamble of superintelligence no matter what. But once in existence, a superintelligence could help us reduce or eliminate other existential risks, such as the risk that advanced nanotechnology will be used by humans in warfare or terrorism, a serious threat to the long-term survival of intelligent life on earth. If we get to superintelligence first, we may avoid this risk from nanotechnology and many others. If, on the other hand, we get nanotechnology first, we will have to face both the risks from nanotechnology and, if these risks are survived, also the risks from superintelligence. The overall risk seems to be minimized by implementing superintelligence, with great care, as soon as possible...” By Dr. Nick Bostrom

“...We have a hard time motivating people to do stuff in the service of abstract nouns like 'liberty,' but 'singularity' is so abstract as to make 'liberty' seem as concrete as 'imminent car-wreck.' The singularity needs to be the mere abstract cherry on the concrete cake: the funny curiosity to consider as the end-point of a bunch of imminent, relevant, concrete changes in our lives that we need to prepare for and prepare the way for...” By Cory Doctorow

“...To any thoughtful person, the singularity idea, even if it seems wild, raises a gigantic, swirling cloud of profound and vital questions about humanity and the powerful technologies it is producing. Given this mysterious and rapidly approaching cloud, there can be no doubt that the time has come for the scientific and technological community to seriously try to figure out what is on humanity's collective horizon. Not to do so would be hugely irresponsible...” By Dr. Douglas R. Hofstadter

“...What, then, is the Singularity? It's a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed. Although neither utopian or dystopian, this epoch will transform the concepts that we rely on to give meaning to our lives, from our business models to the cycle of human life, including death itself. Understanding the Singularity will alter our perspective on the significance of our past and the ramifications for our future. To truly understand it inherently changes one's view of life in general and one's own particular life. I regard someone who understands the Singularity and who has reflected on its implications for his or her own life as a 'singularitarian'...” By Ray Kurzweil

“...The Singularity is a frightening prospect for humanity. I assume that we will somehow dodge it or finesse it in reality, and one way to do that is to warn about it early and begin to build in correctives...” By Stewart Brand

“...It is clear from my work that to tell a truly compelling story, a machine would need to understand the 'inner lives' of his or her characters. And to do that, it would need not only to think mechanically in the sense of swift calculation (the forte of supercomputers like Deep Blue), it would also need to think experientially in the sense of having subjective or phenomenal awareness. For example, a person can think experientially about a trip to Europe as a kid, remember what it was like to be in Paris on a sunny day with an older brother, smash a drive down a fairway, feel a lover's touch, ski on the edge, or need a good night's sleep. But any such example, I claim, will demand capabilities no machine will ever have. Renowned human storytellers understand this concept. For example, playwright Henrik Ibsen said: 'I have to have the character in mind through and through, I must penetrate into the last wrinkle of his soul.' Such a modus operandi is forever closed off to a machine...” By Dr. Selmer Bringsjord

“...There's this stupid myth out there that AI has failed, but AI is everywhere around you every second of the day. People just don't notice it. You've got AI systems in cars, tuning the parameters of the fuel injection systems. When you land in an airplane, your gate gets chosen by an AI scheduling system. Every time you use a piece of Microsoft software, you've got an AI system trying to figure out what you're doing, like writing a letter, and it does a pretty damned good job. Every time you see a movie with computer–generated characters, they're all little AI characters behaving as a group. Every time you play a video game, you're playing against an AI system...” By Dr. Rodney Brooks

“...If there is a key driving force pushing towards a singularity, it's international competition for power. This ongoing struggle for power and security is why, in my view, attempts to prevent a singularity simply by international fiat are doomed. The potential capabilities of transformative technologies are simply staggering. No nation will risk falling behind its competitors, regardless of treaties or UN resolutions banning intelligent machines or molecular–scale tools. The uncontrolled global transformation these technologies may spark is, in strategic terms, far less of a threat than an opponent having a decided advantage in their development - a 'singularity gap,' if you will. The 'missile gap' that drove the early days of the nuclear arms race would pale in comparison...” By Jamais Cascio

“...The world is Organized by embodied beings like us to be coped with by beings like us. The computer would be totally lost in our world. It would have to have in it a model of the world and a model of the body, which AI researchers have tried, but it's certainly hopeless. Without that, the world is just utterly un-graspable by computers .... The truth is that human intelligence can never be replaced with machine intelligence simply because we are not ourselves thinking machines. Each of us has, and uses every day, a power of intuitive intelligence that enables us to understand, to speak, and to cope skilfully with our everyday environment...” By Dr. Hubert Dreyfus

“...If you invent a breakthrough in artificial intelligence, so machines can learn, that is worth 10 Microsofts...” By Bill Gates

“...There is no good reason to believe that the emergence of the modern human mind is the end state of the evolution of psyche. Indeed, the rub is this: While evolution might take millions of years to generate another psychological sea change as dramatic as the emergence of modern humanity, technology may do the job much more expediently. The Singularity can be expected to induce rapid and dramatic change in the nature of life, mind and experience...” By Dr. Ben Goertzel

“...It's haughty of us to think we're the end product of evolution. All of us are a part of producing whatever is coming next. We're at an exciting time. We're close to the singularity. Go back to that litany of chemistry leading to single–celled organisms, leading to intelligence. The first step took a billion years, the next step took a hundred million, and so on. We're at a stage where things change on the order of decades, and it seems to be speeding up. Technology has the autocatalytic effect of fast computers, which let us design better and faster computers faster. We're heading toward something which is going to happen very soon – in our lifetimes – and which is fundamentally different from anything that's happened in human history before...” By Dr. W. Daniel Hillis

“...The 21st–century technologies — genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (GNR) – are so powerful that they can spawn whole new classes of accidents and abuses. Most dangerously, for the first time, these accidents and abuses are widely within the reach of individuals or small groups. They will not require large facilities or rare raw materials. Knowledge alone will enable the use of them. Thus we have the possibility not just of weapons of mass destruction but of knowledge–enabled mass destruction (KMD), this destructiveness hugely amplified by the power of self–replication. I think it is no exaggeration to say we are on the cusp of the further perfection of extreme evil, an evil whose possibility spreads well beyond that which weapons of mass destruction bequeathed to the nation–states, on to a surprising and terrible empowerment of extreme individuals...” By Bill Joy

“...Every cybernetic totalist fantasy relies on artificial intelligence. It might not immediately be apparent why such fantasies are essential to those who have them. If computers are to become smart enough to design their own successors, initiating a process that will lead to God-like omniscience after a number of ever-swifter passages from one generation of computers to the next, someone is going to have to write the software that gets the process going, and humans have given absolutely no evidence of being able to write such software. So the idea is that the computers will somehow become smart on their own and write their own software ... My primary objection to this way of thinking is pragmatic: It results in the creation of poor-quality real-world software in the present. Cybernetic totalists live with their heads in the future and are willing to accept obvious flaws in present software in support of a fantasy world that might never appear ... The whole enterprise of artificial intelligence is based on an intellectual mistake, and continues to expensively turn out poorly designed software as it is remarketed under a new name for every new generation of programmers...” By Jaron Lanier

“...Two quite detailed scenarios have emerged, one the Moravec/Kurzweil scenario, which we might call the 'Out to Pasture in the Elysian Fields,' that foresees machines as intelligent as humans, maybe more so, in 50 years and on the whole, a good thing. This leads to questions both Moravec and Kurzweil, to their credit, raise about whether those machines will take over for us (or from us), the basis of the second scenario, Bill Joy's quite opposite and dark vision, which posits the same improvement in machine intelligence, but with a horrifying outcome, the 'NanoGenRoboNightmare.' Some believers in the Elysian fields scenario have been arguing about 'the singularity,' borrowed from science fiction writer Vernor Vinge, the moment AI becomes powerful and ubiquitous enough so that all of the rules change and there's no going back. [...] I don't consider either of these scenarios implausible...” Pamela McCorduck

“...We need to do an unlikely thing: we need to survey the world we now inhabit and proclaim it good. Good enough. Not in every detail; there are a thousand improvements, technological and cultural, that we can and should still make. But good enough in its outlines, in its essentials. We need to decide that we live, most of us in the West, long enough. We need to declare that, in the West, where few of us work ourselves to the bone, we have ease enough. In societies where most of us need storage lockers more than we need nanotech miracle boxes, we need to declare that we have enough stuff. Enough intelligence. Enough capability. Enough...” By Bill McKibben

“...Only a small community has concentrated on general intelligence. No one has tried to make a thinking machine and then teach it chess — or the very sophisticated oriental board game Go. [...] The bottom line is that we really haven't progressed too far toward a truly intelligent machine. We have collections of dumb specialists in small domains; the true majesty of general intelligence still awaits our attack. [...] We have got to get back to the deepest questions of AI and general intelligence and quit wasting time on little projects that don't contribute to the main goal...” By Dr. Marvin Minsky

“...It may seem rash to expect fully intelligent machines in a few decades, when the computers have barely matched insect mentality in a half–century of development. Indeed, for that reason, many long–time artificial intelligence researchers scoff at the suggestion, and offer a few centuries as a more believable period. But there are very good reasons why things will go much faster in the next fifty years than they have in the last fifty... Since 1990, the power available to individual AI and robotics programs has doubled yearly, to 30 MIPS (machine instructions per second) by 1994 and 500 MIPS by 1998. Seeds long ago alleged barren are suddenly sprouting. Machines read text, recognize speech, even translate languages. Robots drive cross–country, crawl across Mars, and trundle down office corridors. In 1996 a theorem–proving program called EQP running five weeks on a 50 MIPS computer at Argonne National Laboratory found a proof of a Boolean algebra conjecture by Herbert Robbins that had eluded mathematicians for sixty years. And it is still only Spring. Wait until Summer...” By Dr. Hans Moravec

“...In the end, this search for ways to enhance ourselves is a natural part of being human. The urge to transform ourselves has been a force in history as far back as we can see. It's been selected for by millions of years of evolution. It's wired deep in our genes — a natural outgrowth of our human intelligence, curiosity, and drive. To turn our backs on this power would be to turn our backs on our true nature. Embracing our quest to understand and improve on ourselves doesn't call into question our humanity — it reaffirms it...” By Ramez Naam

“...I want to focus on a different aspect of Ken MacLeod's 'Rapture of the Nerds' comment, because I actually think it cuts both ways. Yes, it's possible to draw parallels between the Christian idea of The Rapture — and, even more generally, between religious ideas of transcendence generally — and the notion that, once human technology passes a certain threshold, roughly that described by Vinge and other singularity enthusiasts, human beings will potentially enjoy the kind of powers and pleasures traditionally assigned to gods or beings in heaven: Limitless lifespans, if not immortality, superhuman powers, virtually limitless wealth, fleshly pleasures on demand, etc. .... These do sound like the sorts of things that religions have promised their followers throughout human history. That leads some who invoke MacLeod's comment to contend that because singularity enthusiasts hope for the same kinds of things that religious believers have hoped for, singularity enthusiasts are merely adherents to a new sort of religion, the religion of science ... But as Isaac Asimov has noted, the religion of science is distinguished by one chief characteristic: 'that it works.' I express no opinion on whether science will actually deliver on these hopes. But I note that people once looked to supernatural sources for such now-mundane things as cures for baldness or impotence, only to find those desires satisfied, instead, by modern pharmacology. Yet that hardly makes those who place their faith in pharmacology members of a religion — or, if it does, it makes them members of a religion that is distinguishable from those dependent on the supernatural...” By Glenn Harland Reynolds

“...…'Could a machine think?' My own view is that only a machine could think, and indeed only very special kinds of machines, namely brains and machines that had the same causal powers as brains. And that is the main reason strong AI has had little to tell us about thinking, since it has nothing to tell us about machines. By its own definition, it is about programs, and programs are not machines. Whatever else intentionality is, it is a biological phenomenon, and it is as likely to be as causally dependent on the specific biochemistry of its origins as lactation, photosynthesis, or any other biological phenomena. No one would suppose that we could produce milk and sugar by running a computer simulation of the formal sequences in lactation and photosynthesis, but where the mind is concerned many people are willing to believe in such a miracle because of a deep and abiding dualism: the mind they suppose is a matter of formal processes and is independent of quite specific material causes in the way that milk and sugar are not.....” By Dr. John Searle

“...Before the invention of writing, almost every insight was happening for the first time (at least to the knowledge of the small groups of humans involved). When you are at the beginning, everything is new. In our era, almost everything we do in the arts is done with awareness of what has been done before. In the early post–human era, things will be new again because anything that requires greater than human ability has not already been done by Homer or da Vinci or Shakespeare...” By Dr. Vernor Vinge

“...I certainly think that humans are not the limit of evolutionary complexity. There may indeed be post–human entities, either organic or silicon–based, which can in some respects surpass what a human can do. I think it would be rather surprising if our mental capacities were matched to understanding all the keys levels of reality. The chimpanzees certainly aren't, so why should ours be either? So there may be levels that will have to await some post-human emergence...” By Sir Martin Rees


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