TagLast edit: 13 Feb 2021 9:38 UTC by Yoav Ravid

The Singularity or Technological Singularity is a term with a number of different meanings, ranging from a period of rapid change to the creation of greater-than-human intelligence.

See also: Intelligence explosion, Event horizon thesis, Hard takeoff, Soft takeoff

Three Singularity schools

Eliezer Yudkowsky has observed that the varying perspectives on the Singularity can be broadly split into three “major schools”—Accelerating Change (Ray Kurzweil), the Event Horizon (Vernor Vinge), and the Intelligence Explosion (I.J. Good).

The Accelerating Change School observes that, contrary to our intuitive linear expectations about the future, the rate of change of information technology grows exponentially. In the last 200 years, we have seen more technological revolutions than in the last 20,000 before that. Clear examples of this exponentiality include, but are not restricted to: Moore’s law, Internet speed, gene sequencing and the spatial resolution of brain scanning. By projecting these technology growths into the future it becomes possible to imagine what will be possible to engineer in the future. Ray Kurzweil specifically dates the Singularity happening in 2045.

The Event Horizon School asserts that for the entirety of Earth’s history all technological and social progress has been the product of the human mind. However, Vernor Vinge asserts that technology will soon improve on human intelligence either via brain-computer interfaces or Artificial Intelligence or both. Vinge argues since one must be at least as smart as the agent to be predicted, after we create smarter than human agents technological progress will be beyond the comprehension of anything a mere human can imagine now. He called this point in time the Singularity.

The Intelligence explosion School asserts that a positive feedback loop could be created in which an intelligence is making itself smarter, thus getting better at making itself even smarter. A strong version of this idea suggests that once the positive feedback starts to play a role, it will lead to a dramatic leap in capability very quickly. This scenario does not necessarily rely upon an entirely computing substrate for the explosion to occur, humans with computer augmented brains or genetically altered may also be methods to engineer an Intelligence Explosion. It is this interpretation of the Singularity that Less Wrong broadly focuses on.

Chalmers’ analysis

Philosopher David Chalmers published a significant analysis of the Singularity, focusing on intelligence explosions, in Journal of Consciousness Studies. He performed a very careful analysis of the main premises and arguments for the existence of the singularity. According to him, the main argument is:


He then proceeds to search for arguments for these 3 premises. Premise 1 seems to be grounded in either Evolutionary argument for human-level AI or Emulation argument for human-level AI. Premise 2 is grounded in the existence and feasibility of an extensibility method for greater-than-human intelligence. Premise 3 is a more general version of premise 2. His analysis of how the singularity could occur defends the likelihood of an intelligence explosion. 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.


External links

1960: The Year The Sin­gu­lar­ity Was Cancelled

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

A Less Wrong sin­gu­lar­ity ar­ti­cle?

Kaj_Sotala17 Nov 2009 14:15 UTC
31 points
215 comments1 min readLW link

Sin­gu­lar­ity goes main­stream (in philos­o­phy)

lukeprog21 Mar 2011 3:18 UTC
43 points
7 comments1 min readLW link

Hard Takeoff

Eliezer Yudkowsky2 Dec 2008 20:44 UTC
29 points
33 comments11 min readLW link

Muehlhauser-Go­ertzel Dialogue, Part 1

lukeprog16 Mar 2012 17:12 UTC
42 points
161 comments33 min readLW link

Out­line of pos­si­ble Sin­gu­lar­ity sce­nar­ios (that are not com­pletely dis­as­trous)

Wei_Dai6 Jul 2011 21:17 UTC
38 points
40 comments2 min readLW link

What does the world look like, the day be­fore FAI efforts suc­ceed?

[deleted]16 Nov 2012 20:56 UTC
36 points
64 comments6 min readLW link

Can we model tech­nolog­i­cal sin­gu­lar­ity as the phase tran­si­tion?

Just Learning26 Dec 2020 3:20 UTC
3 points
0 comments4 min readLW link

[Question] What do we *re­ally* ex­pect from a well-al­igned AI?

jan betley4 Jan 2021 20:57 UTC
8 points
10 comments1 min readLW link

Sin­gu­lar­ity&phase tran­si­tion-2. A pri­ori prob­a­bil­ity and ways to check.

Just Learning8 Feb 2021 2:21 UTC
1 point
0 comments3 min readLW link
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