In­tel­li­gence Explosion

TagLast edit: 1 Oct 2020 2:08 UTC by Ruby

An intelligence explosion is theoretical scenario in which an intelligent agent analyzes the processes that produce its intelligence, improves upon them, and creates a successor which does the same. This process repeats in a positive feedback loop– each successive agent more intelligent than the last and thus more able to increase the intelligence of its successor – until some limit is reached. This limit is conjectured to be much, much higher than human intelligence.

A strong version of this idea suggests that once the positive feedback starts to play a role, it will lead to a very dramatic leap in capability very quickly. This is known as a “hard takeoff.” In this scenario, technological progress drops into the characteristic timescale of transistors rather than human neurons, and the ascent rapidly surges upward and creates superintelligence (a mind orders of magnitude more powerful than a human’s) before it hits physical limits. A hard takeoff is distinguished from a “soft takeoff” only by the speed with which said limits are reached.

Published arguments

Philosopher David Chalmers published a significant analysis of the Singularity, focusing on intelligence explosions, in Journal of Consciousness Studies. His analysis of how they could occur defends the likelihood of an intelligence explosion. He performed a very careful analysis of the main premises and arguments for the existence of the a singularity from an intelligence explosion. According to him, the main argument is:”


He also discusses the nature of general intelligence, and possible obstacles to a singularity. A good deal of discussion is given to the dangers of an intelligence explosion, and Chalmers concludes that we must negotiate it very carefully by building the correct values into the initial AIs.

Luke Muehlhauser and Anna Salamon argue in Intelligence Explosion: Evidence and Import in detail that there is a substantial chance of an intelligence explosion within 100 years, and extremely critical in determining the future. They trace the implications of many types of upcoming technologies, and point out the feedback loops present in them. This leads them to deduce that an above-human level AI will almost certainly lead to an intelligence explosion. They conclude with recommendations for bringing about a safe intelligence explosion.

Hypothetical path

The following is a common example of a possible path for an AI to bring about an intelligence explosion. First, the AI is smart enough to conclude that inventing molecular nanotechnology will be of greatest benefit to it. Its first act of recursive self-improvement is to gain access to other computers over the internet. This extra computational ability increases the depth and breadth of its search processes. It then uses gained knowledge of material physics and a distributed computing program to invent the first general assembler nanomachine. Then it uses some manufacturing technology, accessible from the internet, to build and deploy the nanotech. It programs the nanotech to turn a large section of bedrock into a supercomputer. This is its second act of recursive self-improvement, only possible because of the first. Then it could use this enormous computing power to consider hundreds of alternative decision algorithms, better computing structures and so on. After this, this AI would go from a near to human level intelligence to a superintelligence, providing a dramatic and abruptly increase in capability.

Blog posts

See also

External links


In­tel­li­gence Ex­plo­sion vs. Co-op­er­a­tive Explosion

Kaj_Sotala16 Apr 2012 11:01 UTC
34 points
62 comments16 min readLW link

In­tel­li­gence ex­plo­sion in or­ga­ni­za­tions, or why I’m not wor­ried about the singularity

sbenthall27 Dec 2012 4:32 UTC
13 points
187 comments3 min readLW link


lukeprog7 Aug 2011 17:46 UTC
17 points
24 comments1 min readLW link

In­tel­li­gence Ex­plo­sion anal­y­sis draft: From digi­tal in­tel­li­gence to in­tel­li­gence explosion

lukeprog26 Nov 2011 6:30 UTC
1 point
5 comments6 min readLW link

New re­port: In­tel­li­gence Ex­plo­sion Microeconomics

Eliezer Yudkowsky29 Apr 2013 23:14 UTC
72 points
251 comments3 min readLW link

Fac­ing the In­tel­li­gence Ex­plo­sion dis­cus­sion page

lukeprog26 Nov 2011 8:05 UTC
22 points
141 comments1 min readLW link

Su­per­in­tel­li­gence 6: In­tel­li­gence ex­plo­sion kinetics

KatjaGrace21 Oct 2014 1:00 UTC
15 points
68 comments8 min readLW link

Fac­ing the In­tel­li­gence Explosion

mgin29 Jul 2014 2:16 UTC
6 points
0 comments1 min readLW link

Op­ti­miza­tion and the In­tel­li­gence Explosion

Eliezer Yudkowsky11 Mar 2015 19:00 UTC
23 points
0 comments7 min readLW link

Could Dem­ocri­tus have pre­dicted in­tel­li­gence ex­plo­sion?

lukeprog24 Jan 2012 8:40 UTC
6 points
56 comments1 min readLW link

Toward an overview anal­y­sis of in­tel­li­gence explosion

lukeprog13 Nov 2011 22:23 UTC
7 points
15 comments1 min readLW link

Ex­is­ten­tial risk from AI with­out an in­tel­li­gence explosion

AlexMennen25 May 2017 16:44 UTC
20 points
23 comments3 min readLW link

1960: The Year The Sin­gu­lar­ity Was Cancelled

Scott Alexander23 Apr 2019 1:30 UTC
93 points
14 comments11 min readLW link2 nominations1 review

Coun­ter­fac­tual Plan­ning in AGI Systems

Koen.Holtman3 Feb 2021 13:54 UTC
5 points
0 comments5 min readLW link

Creat­ing AGI Safety Interlocks

Koen.Holtman5 Feb 2021 12:01 UTC
7 points
4 comments8 min readLW link
No comments.