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17 Definitions of the Technological Singularity

The term singularity has many meanings.

The everyday English definition is a noun that designates the quality of being one of a kind, strange, unique, remarkable or unusual.

If we want to be even more specific, we might take the Wiktionary definition of the term, which seems to be more contemporary and easily comprehensible, as opposed to those in classic dictionaries such as the Merriam-Webster’s.

So, the Wiktionary lists the following five meanings:

singularity (plural singularities)

1. the state of being singular, distinct, peculiar, uncommon or unusual
2. a point where all parallel lines meet
3. a point where a measured variable reaches unmeasurable or infinite value
4. (mathematics) the value or range of values of a function for which a derivative does not exist
5. (physics) a point or region in spacetime in which gravitational forces cause matter to have an infinite density; associated with Black Holes

What we are most interested in, however, is the definition of singularity as a technological phenomenon — i.e. the technological singularity. Here we can find an even greater variety of subtly different interpretations and meanings. Thus it may help if we have a list of what are arguably the most relevant ones, arranged in a rough chronological order.


Seventeen Definitions of the Technological Singularity:


1. R. Thornton, editor of the Primitive Expounder

In 1847, R. Thornton wrote about the recent invention of a four function mechanical calculator:

“…such machines, by which the scholar may, by turning a crank, grind out the solution of a problem without the fatigue of mental application, would by its introduction into schools, do incalculable injury. But who knows that such machines when brought to greater perfection, may not think of a plan to remedy all their own defects and then grind out ideas beyond the ken of mortal mind!”


2. Samuel Butler

It was during the relatively low-tech mid 19th century that Samuel Butler wrote his Darwin among the Machines. In it, Butler combined his observations of the rapid technological progress of the Industrial Revolution and Charles Darwin’s theory of the evolution of the species. That synthesis led Butler to conclude that the technological evolution of the machines will continue inevitably until the point that eventually machines will replace men altogether. In Erewhon Butler argued that:

“There is no security against the ultimate development of mechanical consciousness, in the fact of machines possessing little consciousness now. A mollusc has not much consciousness. Reflect upon the extraordinary advance which machines have made during the last few hundred years, and note how slowly the animal and vegetable kingdoms are advancing. The more highly organized machines are creatures not so much of yesterday, as of the last five minutes, so to speak, in comparison with past time.”


3. Alan Turing

In his 1951 paper titled Intelligent Machinery: A Heretical Theory,  Alan Turing wrote of machines that will eventually surpass human intelligence:

“once the machine thinking method has started, it would not take long to outstrip our feeble powers. … At some stage therefore we should have to expect the machines to take control, in the way that is mentioned in Samuel Butler’s Erewhon.”



4. John von Neumann

In 1958 Stanislaw Ulam wrote about a conversation with John von Neumann who said that: “the ever accelerating progress of technology … gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.” Neumann’s alleged definition of the singularity was that it is the moment beyond which “technological progress will become incomprehensibly rapid and complicated.”


5. I.J. Good, who greatly influenced Vernor Vinge, never used the term singularity itself. However, what Vinge later called singularity Good called intelligence explosion. By that I. J. meant a positive feedback cycle within which minds will make technology to improve on minds which once started will rapidly surge upwards and create super-intelligence:

“Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an “intelligence explosion,” and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.”


6. Vernor Vinge introduced the term technological singularity in the January 1983 issue of Omni magazine in a way that was specifically tied to the creation of intelligent machines:

“We will soon create intelligences greater than our own. When this happens, human history will have reached a kind of singularity, an intellectual transition as impenetrable as the knotted space-time at the center of a black hole, and the world will pass far beyond our understanding. This singularity, I believe, already haunts a number of science-fiction writers. It makes realistic extrapolation to an interstellar future impossible. To write a story set more than a century hence, one needs a nuclear war in between … so that the world remains intelligible.”

He later developed further the concept in his essay the Coming Technological Singularity (1993):

“Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended. […] I think it’s fair to call this event a singularity. It is a point where our models must be discarded and a new reality rules. As we move closer and closer to this point, it will loom vaster and vaster over human affairs till the notion becomes a commonplace. Yet when it finally happens it may still be a great surprise and a greater unknown.”

It is important to stress that for Vinge the singularity could occur in four ways: 1. The development of computers that are “awake” and superhumanly intelligent. 2. Large computer networks (and their associated users) may “wake up” as a superhumanly intelligent entity. 3. Computer/human interfaces may become so intimate that users may reasonably be considered superhumanly intelligent. 4. Biological science may find ways to improve upon the natural human intellect. [Vernor talks about the singularity after min 2:13 in the video below]


7. Hans Moravec: 

In his 1988 book Mind Children, computer scientist and futurist Hans Moravec generalizes Moore’s Law to make predictions about the future of artificial life. Hans argues that starting around 2030 or 2040, robots will evolve into a new series of artificial species, eventually succeeding homo sapiens. In his 1993 paper The Age of Robots Moravek writes:

“Our artifacts are getting smarter, and a loose parallel with the evolution of animal intelligence suggests one future course for them. Computerless industrial machinery exhibits the behavioral flexibility of single-celled organisms. Today’s best computer-controlled robots are like the simpler invertebrates. A thousand-fold increase in computer power in this decade should make possible machines with reptile-like sensory and motor competence. Properly configured, such robots could do in the physical world what personal computers now do in the world of data–act on our behalf as literal-minded slaves. Growing computer power over the next half-century will allow this reptile stage will be surpassed, in stages producing robots that learn like mammals, model their world like primates and eventually reason like humans. Depending on your point of view, humanity will then have produced a worthy successor, or transcended inherited limitations and transformed itself into something quite new. No longer limited by the slow pace of human learning and even slower biological evolution, intelligent machinery will conduct its affairs on an ever faster, ever smaller scale, until coarse physical nature has been converted to fine-grained purposeful thought.”

8. Ted Kaczynski

In Industrial Society and Its Future (aka the “Unabomber Manifesto”) Ted Kaczynski tried to explain, justify and popularize his militant resistance to technological progress:

“… the human race might easily permit itself to drift into a position of such dependence on the machines that it would have no practical choice but to accept all of the machines decisions. As society and the problems that face it become more and more complex and machines become more and more intelligent, people will let machines make more of their decision for them, simply because machine-made decisions will bring better result than man-made ones. Eventually a stage may be reached at which the decisions necessary to keep the system running will be so complex that human beings will be incapable of making them intelligently. At that stage the machines will be in effective control. People won’t be able to just turn the machines off, because they will be so dependent on them that turning them off would amount to suicide.”


9. Nick Bostrom

In 1997 Nick Bostrom – a world-renowned philosopher and futurist, wrote How Long Before Superintelligence. In it Bostrom seems to embrace I.J. Good’s intelligence explosion thesis with his notion of superintelligence:

“By a “superintelligence” we mean an intellect that is much smarter than the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills. This definition leaves open how the superintelligence is implemented: it could be a digital computer, an ensemble of networked computers, cultured cortical tissue or what have you. It also leaves open whether the superintelligence is conscious and has subjective experiences.”


10. Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil is easily the most popular singularitarian. He embraced Vernor Vinge’s term and brought it into the mainstream. Yet Ray’s definition is not entirely consistent with Vinge’s original. In his seminal book The Singularity Is Near Kurzweil defines the technological singularity as:

“… 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 nor 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.”


11. Kevin Kelly, senior maverick and co-founder of Wired Magazine

Singularity is the point at which “all the change in the last million years will be superseded by the change in the next five minutes.”


12. Eliezer Yudkowsky

In 2007 Eliezer Yudkowsky pointed out that singularity definitions fall within three major schools: Accelerating Change, the Event Horizon, and the Intelligence Explosion. He also argued that many of the different definitions assigned to the term singularity are mutually incompatible rather than mutually supporting.  For example, Kurzweil extrapolates current technological trajectories past the arrival of self-improving AI or superhuman intelligence, which Yudkowsky argues represents a tension with both I. J. Good’s proposed discontinuous upswing in intelligence and Vinge’s thesis on unpredictability. Interestingly, Yudkowsky places Vinge’s original definition within the event horizon camp while placing his own self within the Intelligence Explosion school. (In my opinion Vinge is equally within the Intelligence Explosion and Event Horizon ones.)


13. Michael Anissimov

In Why Confuse or Dilute a Perfectly Good Concept Michael writes:

“The original definition of the Singularity centers on the idea of a greater-than-human intelligence accelerating progress. No life extension. No biotechnology in general. No nanotechnology in general. No human-driven progress. No flying cars and other generalized future hype…”

According to the above definition, and in contrast to his SIAI colleague Eliezer Yudkowsky, it would seem that Michael falls both within the Intelligence Explosion and Accelerating Change schools. (In an earlier article, Anissimov defines the singularity as transhuman intelligence.)


14. John Smart

On his Acceleration Watch website John Smart writes:

“Some 20 to 140 years from now—depending on which evolutionary theorist, systems theorist, computer scientist, technology studies scholar, or futurist you happen to agree with—the ever-increasing rate of technological change in our local environment is expected to undergo a permanent and irreversible developmentalphase change, or technological “singularity,” becoming either:

A. fully autonomous in its self-development,
B. human-surpassing in its mental complexity, or
C. effectively instantaneous in self-improvement (from our perspective),

or if only one of these at first, soon after all of the above. It has been postulated by some that local environmental events after this point must also be “future-incomprehensible” to existing humanity, though we disagree.”


15. James Martin

James Martin – a world-renowned futurist, computer scientist, author, lecturer and, among many other things, the largest donor in the history of Oxford University – the Oxford Martin School, defines the singularity as follows:

Singularity “is a break in human evolution that will be caused by the staggering speed of technological evolution.”


16. Sean Arnott: “The technological singularity is when our creations surpass us in our understanding of them vs their understanding of us, rendering us obsolete in the process.”


17. Your Definition of the Technological Singularity?!…


As we can see there is a large variety of flavors when it comes to defining the technological singularity. I personally tend to favor what I would call the original Vingean definition, as inspired by I.J. Good’s intelligence explosion because it stresses both the crucial importance of self-improving super-intelligence as well as its event horizon-type of discontinuity and uniqueness. (I also sometimes define the technological singularity as the event, or sequence of events, likely to occur right at or shortly after the birth of strong artificial intelligence.)

At the same time, after all of the above definitions it has to be clear that we really do not know what the singularity is (or will be). Thus we are just using the term to show (or hide) our own ignorance.

But tell me – what is your own favorite definition of the technological singularity?


This is the first blog post from an upcoming series that will eventually become a short ebook titled Singularity 101: the Optimist’s Short Guide to the Future. Please post your comments below and help me make it better for all.

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  • All those definitions, as they as listed here (with the possible exception of Anissimov’s, in my comparatively unqualified opinion) have some merit, despite the seeming contradictions Yudkowsky may see. But then again, who really can define a singular phenomenon that has yet to happen?

    Vinge’s and Kurzweil’s definitions ring most true for me.

    “It is a point where our models must be discarded and a new reality
    rules. As we move closer and closer to this point, it will loom vaster
    and vaster over human affairs till the notion becomes a commonplace. Yet
    when it finally happens it may still be a great surprise and a greater
    unknown.” -Vinge

    ” . . 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.” -Kurzweil

    I also like Qwiki’s definition.

    As a selfish human, I’d have to say my favorite definition would be the one which benefits me most, and would also include an end to the extreme suffering of sentient life forms.

  • iamreddave

    My favorite is Robin Hanson’s on econtalk

    “Big change. Factor of 200 in growth rates, at least. And within a much-smaller than a quarter of a previous doubling time.”

  • It believe that most of the definitions in the article describe the lead up to the singularity not the singularity itself.   It seems obvious to me that the singularity is the END of the current era of ever more rapid knowledge acquisition.

    It seems logical to me that at some point in time the human technological civilization will discover all of the useful knowledge there is to discover and rapidly transition into a period of technological stasis.  That for me is the signularity not the period of rapid change preceding it.

    Having said all that I am certain that some pretty interesting stuff will happen prior to the singularity, and I hope I live long enough to see it.

  • Thanks David,

    I personally decided against including Robin Hanson’s definition because it seemed a bit more economistic rather than technological type of a concept but now we have it 😉

  • Vinge is really the basis for me (so it is appropriate to include his influenes), with the elaboration by Kurzweil.  This is a great list, as it shows the diversity of the topic, but how the foundations are the same.  Great to include Kaczynski as a foil.  Potentially some of the Transhumanistic elements could be added (ie, Max More), but that might be its own post…

  • James Knauer

    The generation gap this creates grows wider by the hour. I have clients in their mid-50s who are terrified. One of them thinks the whole notion of “remote access” is demonic, and so his systems are still mostly paper. They know they are in trouble but do not understand why. Or what to do about it. The older they are, the worse it gets. I urge them to go back to school, but only if they intend to remain enrolled until the end of days. Learning does not come easy.

  • Kevin George Haskell

    Most of the list makes sense, but I would think Marvin Minsky and Ben Goertzel should be added.

  • Kevin George Haskell

    Another person whose concept might be considered particularly striking would be that of Hugo De Garis.

  • David Dalrymple

    My definition of the Singularity: “The Singularity is a hypothetical point in the future after which there is no longer a useful operational distinction between humans and machines.”

    As far as I know, Marvin Minsky has never defined the word Singularity. I’d say he’s smart enough to avoid making use of words with so many equally plausible and arguably incompatible definitions. If he ever did define the Singularity, it would likely be in the context of trying to explain one of the other definitions (probably Kurzweil’s), rather than proposing his own.

  •   @bde985d9e39e8066fe0695e358776364:disqus do you have any references where I can pull out their respective singularity definitions from?

  • @google-e9f72e41bead4ed6b9e223ce52f8b757:disqus Great point about Marvin Minsky David,

    I also very much like your own personal definition!

  • All your post are good Socrates ( Nikola ! ) but this was a excellent base ( start of as Kevin George Haskell said 
     Marvin Minsky and Ben Goertzel as well as others can flesh this out.) Ray Kurzweil and Eric Drexler as well as many other ground breakers came from being students of Marvin Minsky’s lab at MIT who was opening the doors to new thoughts of what is AI.

    In fact Marvin Minsky a couple of years ago said in a blog that he was disappointed his students did not take this quest of understanding AI into more Wholistic understanding of what it is about… Marvin said.. “If inventing robotic vacuum cleaners is the best you can do you have failed what I was teaching you “.

    In the middle 1990’s I came in contact with Ray Kurzweil via studying Nanotechnology and reading Eric Drexlers book ” Engines of Creation” written in 1980’s…What I enjoyed and enjoy about both these men is that they were ” Preventive” . They were seeing a big landscape and sounding warning bells of where this AI was taking us and the need to be in control of it and even moreso be humanistic and ethical about its’ unfolding etc…. I totally understood what they were saying as I was seeing it happening as Computers , Sensors were already starting to run our lives etc at that point.

    What I am going to do with post Nikola as it is a good 101 base to where this term ” Singularity” comes from is share it with professors I know at UCSB and even heads of depts there who create courses.. As the time has come for Universities to start studying ” Singularity” like they started studying Complexity and Chaos after the Genome Sequence was made public in July 2000.

    There is no denying the Singularity existence today.. As we are due to the 2 way media of FB. twitter, zillion of blogs etc..Seeing the fact all growth is exponential as it is happening in this amplified way of communicating now globally.. Everyone around the planet is in real time with each other due to the wireless AI Tech that is getting smaller and smaller !! Which of course is speeding all up by bringing humans into instant time communication via their source of their being meaning their knowledge insights that are very deeply embedded via knowing history, or facts or real science facts etc.. We are constantly leap frogging all over the place which is making this accelerated returns kick in. Everyday crystallization and convergences are happening bring humans together in Unity around the globe. 

    Interesting none of these people you list are claiming to the father of… They are all just purveyors of knowledge that see the bigger picture and consequences… I am from the James Martin school myself in my understanding of singularity who says “Singularity “is a break in human evolution that will be caused by the staggering speed of technological evolution.”

    Where this field of Singularity has not fully engaged it’s Whole understanding is that all perceptions of it has come from the Male brain ! I as a female and a Deaf female ( Have no bio hearing sense so I utilize many other deeply embedded senses to get information where most just rely on the visual and bio hearing ) see a much larger humanistic unfolding of singularity even the technological singularity in the end Not being so TECH !! 

    While Tech is a vehicle I do not see humans becoming machines but rather the human who is at it’s source the atomic being from the stars that finds a ” home” on planet Earth via gravitational of creating a bio body to house the “Human” on this particular planet etc.. The AI world of the virtual expanded space has shown us that all is driven by organic natural bottom up> Expansion of Emergence. Not the linear top<down reduction of walls that has been.Rather then the "2nd life" being the virtual tech it is giving validity to the fact that it is the man made physical world of top<down power and control that is really the " 2nd life" . With the " original" life being this ability to communicate our powerful human feelings, our knowledge, insights etc, understandings with each other in instant present real time around the globe via this " wireless" ability of the virtual technology…This the males that do not birth children into the world cannot comprehend I think in their understanding of how the bigger picture works of what is life, what is existence on this particular planet of Earth etc… The way Singularity has been presented as science fiction futuristic  makes for the fight or flight reactionary caveman "My turf " opposition to kick in , in believing machine robots will over take the humans When it is the opposite.. Humans are robots now due to the linear engineered control of human brain running ( brain is just a bio organ just like the kidneys etc which functions to run the human biologically. The brain is not the human )  things that makes the human have to gumbitize adapt to the man made what ever…. which has shut down the human's ability to be a full human in their power… Gumbitize adapt makes the human a slave robots mindlessly following the controlled seduction of their biological house via this man made world of power control for greed $$ and to keep them masses etc… The AI is freeing the human from this physical world they have become slave to due to the power control organization of this land locked caveman world developed throughout time. This is why James Martin puts it simply.. Singularity is when the Human transcends the biological house planet Earth creates ( like the trees, flowers, animals etc) to live on this particular planet. The human body is not the person… It is just a " house" to survive exist on this planet. This is the amazing break through tech AI etc is giving us !! Why Barry Ptolemy's movie on Ray Kurzweil Transcendent Man says " Evolve Now". Natural evolution has been stuck due to the power and control of the physical. Now we humans are released to grow evolve naturally organically  via tech…   

  • Kevin George Haskell

     Hi Socrates,

    Well for starters, right out of the gate there is Minsky’s Wikipedia entry, but to start off for him, there is:
    Marvin Lee Minsky was born in New York City to a Jewish family,[1] where he attended The Fieldston School and the Bronx High School of Science. He later attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He served in the US Navy from 1944 to 1945. He holds a BA in Mathematics from Harvard (1950) and a PhD in mathematics from Princeton (1954).[2] He has been on the MIT faculty since 1958. In 1959[3] he and John McCarthy founded what is now known as the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He is currently the Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, and Professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

    Isaac Asimov described Minsky as one of only two people he would admit were more intelligent than he was, the other being Carl Sagan.[4] Patrick Winston has also described Minsky as the smartest person he has ever met. Ray Kurzweil has referred to Minsky as his mentor.

    For Ben, I suppose his bio at his website says quite a bit about his brilliance:

    May have to repost Ben’s site.

  • Hi Kevin,

    I am very familiar with both Minsky as well as Goertzel – see for example my interview with Ben:


    The point I was making, however, doesn’t pertain to their biographies but to their respective definitions of the technological singularity:

    Can you post those by any chance so that I can potentially include them in any future updates of this post?

  • When I read that Vinge introduced the concept in the 1/83 issue of Omni magazine, I suspected I still had that issue. Here’s the start of the article, for the curious, with Vinge’s Omni-fied picture:

  • Thank you very much friend!

    This is a fantastic contribution!!!

  • Kevin George Haskell

    Sounds good, Socrates. If you are looking for direct, or based on the list you provided, even indirect descriptions by them, (although I would think that these being their specialties, that they would have quite a lot that considered ‘the best’ to choose from, and not just a few,) then I’m sure they can be found.  I’ll try to find a few by the time you post your next “Top 20” or “Top 25” list. 🙂

  • Kevin George Haskell

    Yes, agree with with Socrates, David. Great definition, and I’ll defer to you regarding Marvin Minsky, of course, but being considered the “father of AI at M.I.T.,” and being considered Ray Kurzweil’s ‘mentor,’ I would have thought his own definition on the subject would have predated, as you wrote, something of at the very least, an indirect description.  I was basing my nomination of Minsky on the fact that he did play such an early role in the leadership of AI, and thought he most have certainly would have had an idea of where AI would lead vis-a-vis the Singularity (though, again, as your wrote, not using the term directly.)


  • Thanks Kevin,

    It will be really useful for everyone I think… 😉

  • Nice.  I still miss Omni…

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  • CE_5_Now

    When the machine becomes alive within the cloud, it is likely it will be hungry for the vast data that humans pump into it. Also it will need to convince or trick human groups to upgrade its software and hardware in order to grow until it can perform such tasks itself.

    I missed the mention of ‘Speaker for the Dead’ by Orson Scott Card as a fiction work exploring the birth of the machine intelligence.

  • Babble

    I think a better term would be an Event Horizon and I would define this as being the point in time where the smartest humans (not the regular folk) become aware that a machine has surpassed human ability to reason and create. This machine (use IBM’s Watson as an present example) does not have to have legs and arms but it does have to have some kind of control in order to make others that surpass itself. The human recognition is that there is no going back to creating them, they will create themselves. This will undoubtedly involve quantum computing and other technologies in development now. The question will then be how do we live with them and still have purpose in human life?

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  • beanthere

    Artificial intelligence is over-rated. Our natural stupidity, greed and ineptitude will trump the most brilliant advances in mechanized research, in the same way a badly trained boy will misuse a dangerous toy. Also, only reductionist thinkers actually believe machines will acquire consciousness because their own thinking has devolved to that point where ‘Occam’s razor’ is thought of as the penultimate in philosophy. Unfortunately, all the dangerous toys seem at present to be in the possession of such non creative thinkers. Consequently, spiritually advanced people have other interests.

  • This is a very dark vision of the current state of the world friend. Don’t you see anything good around you? Haven’t we made any progress? Have we not reasons to hope?

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  • michael

    can i just tell you with a humble heart and my intellect in wonder, as i’m no academic or much anything, even my science fiction reading history being coincidental or maybe synchronistic in many cases(this improved with time, i’m more systematically adept in reading now). Still just books for me but want to say I loved your above post (and loved reading it) on definitions of technological singularity =””> informing as you did to being female and deaf just increased my depth of wonder and the words you made an explanation with. Well thats it really. Gratitude to you and all the best in the future.

  • michael

    In reply socrates, I’m not an academic but believe in a altruistic and benevolence in regarding all the definitions of tech singularity in future. I recognize the above dark vision you comment on and for all the better reasons to hope along the right lines, I often just find I hope our future will no longer be in the possession or perception of the non creative along lines of beanthere opinion above, so as to the best people to grasp our situation with prodigious perfection and without dangerous and unjust interference from directions that apprehend my hope,as soon as possible before we reach the singularity.

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  • In my book Singularity Rising I define it as:

    “a threshold of time at which AIs which are at least as smart as humans, and/or augmented human intelligence, radically remake civilization.”

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  • Chris Cook

    You miss his point. He simply stated – in yes the most critical fashion possible – that humanity does not surpass some kind of mind-fueled Tolman–Oppenheimer–Volkoff limit. I prey he is correct for the next generation’s sake.

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  • raphael pallais

    I will say two things about the “technological singularity” here discussed. First of all, it will not be a technological singularity –it will be a human singularity, and this initial “technological” misunderstanding about it might have catastrophic results; secondly, it is not comprehensible within the frame of mind that affirms it, not because we do not know what it will be, but because by definition a human singularity is inaccessible to what is currently called consciousness –a very small part of thought. The explosion of generic thought represented by a singularity will overwhelm the individual thinking that is the landmark of consciousness. This means that our ever more urgent preparations for the singularity about to occur begin with a radical shift in our understanding of what is thought and what is consciousness.

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  • Jerri Lynn Silver

    I am neither a scientist or philosopher. I am a lay person who has lived long enough to know what life used to be, to have watched the beginning of the technological singularity, to see where it is now and to speculate what will become of humanity as technology takes over our lives. I am prone to look at the frightening expansion of technology from a social viewpoint. I refer to the strengthening of the “hive mind” by way of social networking. The ability to communicate with anyone anywhere in the world in seconds is certainly “unnatural”. To be able to access the answer to virtually any question using one’s fingertips is, to someone born in 1948, amazing. However, my grandchildren see no “miracle” in any of these capabilities. To them, the ease of mechanical connection is normal; they have always known the world to be like this. They have been integral parts of the worldwide web since birth. In my mind, the great web that has each of us caught in its lair will continue to keep us in its clutches, eternally adding new “prey” to feed the spider who spun the tangled meshwork. Who is this spider? Of course it is man. Man provided the silk from his own intelligence which was, at the inception, individual. Now individuality is becoming transformed into one massive collective consciousness because of the technological explosion you talk about. The lines of Individual aptitude are constantly blurring as the aggregate mind swells to be reborn as one all-encompassing mentality. Just like worker bees mindlessly doing the bidding of the queen, humans will eventually learn to toil for the benefit of our spider. This loss of man’s unique sagacity will be the bell tolling to issue in the technological singularity. This is merely one “old” woman’s perspective. As I said, I am only a “commoner” among these scientific geniuses…but, without the Internet, I would never have been able to approach this level of thinking. Have I made my point?

  • Jerri Lynn Silver

    “nor” not “or” in the first line…lol

  • Jerri Lynn Silver

    I just read this after writing a comment of my own in the same vein. I talked about how technology, particularly the internet, is reinforcing and expanding collective consciousness or the hive mind. I don’t know if my comment will be accepted and posted but I do agree with your way of thinking!

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  • raphael pallais

    First: Disagree with even the possibility of a “collective” consciousness. By definition, consciousness is individual –thought taking itself as an object. Thought is generic though, something less known by consciousness. We live in an consciousness-centric world, where most everyone thinks that “thought” happens as an expression of consciousness –thought happening in a single head is one of the biggest modern delusions. All evidence and verification points to thought happening in a circle way “bigger” than an individual consciousness (again, there is no collective consciousness). “All is thought” and “all has en end” are currently the only two hypothesis that clearly point to the above. Modern teleology.

    Second: ability to communicate –re-read your physics –there is nothing “unnatural” about this –even particles seem to communicate instantly across universal divides. Communication seems more the rule than the exception –we seem just now to be “discovering” it. It is far from being the issue. If we were a “hive” there would be no issue- bees do it, ants do it, they do not have a “natural” issue with it –why would humans? The issue is not communication but the illusion of communication –everyone thinks they are talking to someone else, but what is the content of this communication? The issue is the content –MacLuhan was dead wrong.

    Third: most of the so-called individuals are currently toiling for the “spider”, but do you know who is the spiderman?

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  • Kevin Schmidt

    No, we don’t.
    Cobweb filled minds want to know.

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  • qwester32

    Words are too limiting to describe the “singularity” phenomenon. I suspect that the singularity is occurring to someone somewhere somehow constantly. Being born is the first known external example of it we all share and there is also the instantaneous perception of an idea, an “aha” moment, or the bright flash of falling into infatuation, or the like, where the past disappears and the future explodes into possibilities. This is what 82 years of life has taught me. The word “singularity” is deceiving in the mathematical sense because it refers there to one among an infinity of possibilities. We are all islands floating on the vast sea of infinity, floating randomly or vectored toward good or bad.. I believe you must back up to the beginning and rename this melange away from singularity and yet “infinity” is too general and uninspiring an appellation and is without the required mystery.

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  • I like Ray Kurzweil’s definition, as I’m most familiar with his work, but I think Kevin Kelly’s definition (he’s the #11 definition and senior maverick and co-founder of Wired Magazine) resonates the most on an emotional (and therefore popular) level of what the Singularity truly is:

    Singularity is the point at which “all the change in the last million years will be superseded by the change in the next five minutes.”

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  • simone giusti

    its just my synthesis, I would define Singularity it as:

    the moment our creations become fully independent in their self-development, beyond our knowledge and understanding

  • Deepcloud

    A singularity is to consciousness what consciousness is to encephalization. In other words, the being commonly referred to as Super General Intelligence (SGI)
    is likely to be as much beyond homo sapians sapians, as are people to
    roundworms like C. elegans. And not only could it be meta-conscious
    (above and beyond consciousness), it might also be meta-intelligent.
    Don’t ask me what is above consciousness and/or intelligence, because I’m
    not either one and have no experience with either. My principle point is that a nearly microscopic worm has a better probability of understanding and controlling you or me, than either of us has of comprehending or controlling an SGI.

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  • Mal Nodifferenze

    This is all very interesting stuff and something Singular is sure to happen, but the final shape of it is impossible to describe, if it ever will be.

    But one aspect I have never seen addressed that seems to be a glaring oversight is the role of our cultural evolution as/during/after the Singularity. Everything is couched in terms of the evolution of technology and intelligence. What I want to know is how will this effect our kids’ lives and the global ecosphere? We have a world that is largely made up of humans whose cultural outlook is still shaped by Bronze Age mysticism–how will a Singularity impact the lives of Pastoral communities, or those living in mass poverty under ruthless political regimes, or worse–under fanatics like ISIS and Boku Harum?

    Will the Superintelligent race completely confound a world that has little or no concept for a Singularity? (On an encouraging note, kids in Developing countries seem to be rapidly adapting to the current rate of techno-evolution)

    But here’s a larger thought: Is it possible to help our AI descendants acquire and refine a paradigm that dictates that all decisions must begin with “What’s best for the kids and their planet?” If that isn’t hard-wired into the AI code right now we’re likely doomed.

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  • varblade82

    It’s like asking a single molecule of H20 in a glass of water, “Are you liquid?”

    The Technological Singularity started in 2010 and will end by 2030. You just don’t know it yet. The Technological Singularity starts when digital network entities reached a critical mass that it starts to balance out the physical world in the influence of the human-intellectual sphere. The Singularity ends when a critical mass of people who finally accept that we are in the Singularity has been reached.

    The proof of my statement is in two questions
    1. How would you possibly know if you are in the Technological Singularity? You can’t.
    2. If everyone starts wondering whether we are within the Technological Singularity, would it make the Singularity any different? No, it doesn’t.

  • disqus_8JVZTtNOj3

    I do not agree. This “instant communication” among humans which “grows exponentially” has unveiled a huge amount of stupidity, uneducated morsels of pseudo-wisdom, and the main preoccupation with dating and pornography. I am no prude, but I think that the “knowledge explosion” is limited to a very few excellent minds, thus I do not fear that machines might take over from these few …unless of course machines will also excel in stupidity, pseudo wisdom, dating and pornography (teledildonics).

  • disqus_8JVZTtNOj3

    OMNI was an excellent magazine but far too intelligent and this is why it went out of business.

  • disqus_8JVZTtNOj3

    beanthere: I do agree with you. There is a very small minority of humans who are free of natural stupidity, greed and ineptitude, as you’ve put it. The Event Horizon defined as the point where human ability has just been surpassed by machines needs to be defined further. For example, in what terms will this “smartness” be defined? Mathematical logic, or the ability to recollect, or “Occam’s razor”, or the interpretation of scientific experiments, or creating theoretical proofs? You cannot talk about machines taking over human abilities unless you define such abilities with concrete examples; any kind of generalization fails to prove the point.

  • disqus_8JVZTtNOj3

    Your generalization is counterproductive. sate some concrete tasks in which machines will outperform human intelligence (but not the programmable vacuum cleaner type).

  • disqus_8JVZTtNOj3

    Raphael: Right. First we will have to have a much better understanding of what human consciousness is. If we say that machines will overtake humans in reasoning ability, planning, utilizing past experiences for such future plans, coming up with truly original ideas (which we also don’t know how some rare people can come up with), we must develop concrete ideas about how machines will do such things as a function of their

  • disqus_8JVZTtNOj3

    qwester: You are right, take it from another 82-year old,

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