The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible (Arthur C. Clarke's 2nd law)

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Review by Terry Winograd

There is a great deal of speculation today about the potential for a "singularity" in which superintelligence emerges, and there is a great deal of debate about what will happen as a result. The scientific and philosophical arguments for and against these speculations are less interesting than the fact that many serious people take this as a topic of interest. In reading the diverse and well-chosen perspectives in this volume, we can get insights into the underlying views of rationality, human nature, scientific and social progress, and of hopes and fears for the future. The editors have provided a valuable overview of the singularity debate, and the style of articles with responses provides the reader with entry into the dialog. There is much to be gained from reading them and understanding the interpretations they represent. I am happy to recommend the book both for artificial intelligence researchers and for the more general public interested in the future of computing.
Terry Winograd, Professor of Computer Science, Stanford University

Friday, 29 January 2016

The Technological Singularity: A Definition

Synopsis: Careful expositions of a technological singularity anticipated by the mid-21st century can be uniquely described using three common characteristics: superintelligence, acceleration, and discontinuity.
First draft, with excerpts from: A.H. Eden, "The Singularity Controversy, Part I: Lessons Learned and Open Questions". Technical Report STR 2016-1, Sapience Project, January 2016, DOI 10.13140 arXiv:1601.05977

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Review by Marcin Miłkowski

The singularity has become a buzzword, and as all buzzwords, its precise meaning is somewhat hard to grasp. In this helpful volume, the concept is elucidated but also shown to be ambiguous; some believe that there will be superhuman AI that will accelerate in an explosive fashion, while other believe that technology will transform human beings into posthuman cyborgs. Some find the idea abhorrent and offer arguments against the belief in singularity, while others point to constant acceleration of computer power. I believe that a sober discussion is very much needed in this domain, and this volume might as well be the first necessary step to build empirically-driven models which examine the plausibility of singularity scenarios. But one cannot start building a theory before discussing assumptions made in the debate. Hence this volume is indispensable.
Marcin Miłkowski, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Review by Ilya Levin

The book presents a clear, balanced, critical study and discussion around one of the most neglected hypotheses of our recent time - the Singularity Hypothesis. The book focuses on the technological singularity, notably the intelligence explosion and the possibility of the super-intelligence and its consequences. The singularity hypothesis is inspired by a diversity of ideas from several sources: science, philosophy, technology, ideology and even science fiction. The book succeed in gathering, under one roof, a number of bright and deep papers written by authors of different ages, having different approaches and working in various fields. The most important thing is that a scientist having interests in the possibility of a singularity will definitely be encouraged to continue research in that direction. The implications to humanity of the singularity deserve an open multi perspective rational and critical discussion. The book poses a challenge and opens the way for future research.
Ilya Levin, Head of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education Department, School of Education, Tel-Aviv University

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Review by P.W. Singer

A 'who’s who' of thinking on the Singularity, the volume is notable for having both leading thinkers and critics of the visions behind what may (or may not) be one of the most important events to come in all of human history.
P.W. Singer, Director, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at Brookings, and author: Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Review by Ted Goerztel

(Replicated from Amazon book reviews)
***** A Significant Advance in Singularity Scholarship
This volume is a significant advance in scholarship about the likelihood and nature of a forthcoming technological singularity. It hits the sweet spot between short-term trend extrapolation and Sci-Fi speculation to deconstruct and analyze the arguments for a tipping point or discontinuity in information technology that will transform the world as we know it.
Many of the arguments here can be found in other places, but the collection is much more than the sum of its parts. It imposes a dialectical logic on the discussion whereby every essay is responded to with one or more critical essays. The introductory essay, which can be read free on, raises a very well thought out set of questions that will define debate on the singularity for years to come. The essays that follow provide thoughtful, comprehensive and insightful answers to the questions.
The skeptics are given more than ample opportunity to develop their arguments, which are then subjected to serious criticism. The criticisms are telling: many of the skeptics demolish straw men. They go to great pains to demonstrate that no one can "prove" the singularity with mathematical or logical certainty, something which none of the authors in the volume assert. Much of the skepticism is addressed to Ray Kurzweil's more popular work, rather than to the more careful state-of-the-art futurism in this volume. The skeptics are actually more "fideistic" (arguing from faith) than the scientists (I won't call them "believers") who do their best to assess the likelihood and nature of a singularity. 
The skeptics are perhaps most convincing on the issue of timing. But even here, the criticism applies more to Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near than to the essays in this book which have absorbed and incorporated the criticisms of Kurzweil. These essays admit what we don't know, but have the courage to make the most of what we do. They accept the challenge of predicting likely turning-points in the medium-term future of information technology, and of suggesting what we can do to prepare for them.
Ted Goertzel, Professor, Sociology Department, Rutgers University

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Review by Aubrey de Grey

Eden and colleagues have produced a remarkably thorough survey of contemporary expert thinking concerning the technological singularity. It is particularly impressive that there is a whole section, rather than just a token chapter, dedicated to skepticism about its occurrence. The inclusion of short responses to most chapters is also highly valuable. The only issue that I was sorry to see omitted–and this may well be because too little can yet be said about it - is whether recursive self-improvement of the kind probably required for the singularity may be provable impossible, in the same sort of sense as the "halting problem". All in all, this volume will provide a wide range of audiences with an extremely timely and high-quality account of what we think, know and do not know about what could be the most transformative event in human history.
Aubrey de Grey, gerontologist, Chief Science Officer, SENS Research Foundation

(All reviews)

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Review by David Koepsell

Singularity Hypotheses is the first comprehensive attempt to deal with a vitally important area of technological innovation—the potential of a coming "singularity." Never before has this topic been dealt with as seriously, with such clarity, and regarding such a range of associated topics and issues. The editors succeed in introducing the debates we need before us, and defining the issues we must grapple with if, indeed, the singularity is to occur. This eventuality also is crucially treated with skepticism and a proper scientific outlook pervades the compelling discussions within. It is must reading for scholars and aficionados alike who are seriously interested in the trajectory of modern technologies. It makes for a gripping read, a rare feat for an academic text.
David Koepsell, Deptartment of Values and Technology, Delft University of Technology

(All reviews)

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Call for Contributions, The Technological Singularity: A Pragmatic Perspective

The Technological Singularity: A Pragmatic Perspective

Seeking to promote the debate in the nature of the upcoming technological singularity, the peer-reviewed essays and commentaries in the volume Singularity Hypotheses (Springer, 2012) explicated, defended and criticized a range of hypotheses related to an intelligence explosion and posthumanism, as well as acceleration theories.

We invite contributions to a second volume on the subject. Tentatively entitled The Technological Singularity: A Pragmatic Perspective, the volume will collect essays that expand on consequences of the singularity to humankind and explore plausible pathways and disruptive technologies.

In addition to the tools of science and engineering we particularly welcome essays applying economic, business, historical, social, political and psychological theories to the hypotheses presented in Singularity Hypotheses.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Review by Hal Linstone

Excerpts from: (draft book reviewTechnological Forecasting and Social Change)
The volume offers much food for thought. It is well organized with twenty essays and commentary that make for stimulating reading. The essays are grouped into four parts, three of which focus on superintelligence (artificial and posthuman) and the fourth deals with skepticism. I have only one complaint: the neglect of some of the most incisive writing on the subject. (1) ... Theodore Modis, has an essay in this book, indeed an excellent one which engenders an interesting response by Kurzweil and displays the value of the format of Singularity Hypotheses. (2) Christopher Magee (MIT) and Tessaleno Devezas (Portugal) on “How many singularities are near and how will they disrupt human history?”... All in all I found the book very thought-provoking, with Part IV on skepticism the most provocative.
Harold Linstone, editor in chief, Technological Forecasting and Social Change

(The complete book review)

(All reviews)

Monday, 13 May 2013

Review by Murray Shanahan

Although the idea of machines becoming more intelligent than humans has long been a staple of science fiction, this possibility has only recently become the subject of serious thinking. This book is a timely collection of essays by many of the leading researchers who have thought most deeply about the ultimate implications of progress in artificial intelligence and the prospect of an intelligence explosion.
Murray Patrick Shanahan, Professor of Cognitive Robotics, Department of Computing, Imperial College

(All reviews)

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Review by David Wood

Singularity Hypotheses can be seen as a major sign of the impending birth of a rigorous new field of studies, perhaps known as 'singularity studies'. Just as far-sighted Astronomy emerged from the murkiness and wishful thinking of Astrology, and as mighty Chemistry emerged from Alchemy, it can be anticipated that Singularity Studies will emerge - though with much greater speed - from an existing range of semi-disciplines and pre-disciplines, where much murkiness and wishful thinking still rules the day. These precursors include Populist Singularitarianism, Narrow AI specialism, and AGI Denialism, among others.
    The field is not yet born: there is too much dissent over fundamentals. The essays in the book often show well-intentioned writers speaking right past each other, seemingly without grasping the main points of their fellow contributors. But the editors are to be congratulated on insisting that the Technology Singularity is a topic well worth analysis, and for enabling this ground-breaking round of discussion to take place. Even where I disagreed with individual viewpoints expressed - which was often - I found myself confronted by useful new thinking models or thought-provoking examples.
    The field is not yet born: there is too much dissent over fundamentals. The essays in the book often show well-intentioned writers speaking right past each other, seemingly without grasping the main points of their fellow contributors. But the editors are to be congratulated on insisting that the Technology Singularity is a topic well worth analysis, and for enabling this ground-breaking round of discussion to take place. Even where I disagreed with individual viewpoints expressed - which was often - I found myself confronted by useful new thinking models or thought-provoking examples.
    The diverse essays in Singularity Hypotheses can provide the beginning of serious classification of the issues and risks which will increasingly occupy the public attention, as awareness grows that, indeed, there may soon be giant alien minds at work on earth - giant minds with operating principles at radical variance from human sensibilities. Populist Singularitarians may over-state their claims, but their underlying arguments have sufficient strength as to deserve careful review. The editors of Singularity Hypotheses have shown real leadership in addressing this subject, despite its present-day immaturity. The essays they have commissioned are by no means the last word on the subject, but will surely be cited frequently in the near-future as the field of Singularity Studies quickly grows in stature and significance. 

David W. Wood, Co-founder and Executive VP, Symbian; Chair, London Futurists; Principal, Delta Wisdom

(All reviews)

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Review by David Christian

Singularity hypotheses argue that human society is close to a transformative moment in which Artificial Intelligence or biological enhancements will change, and perhaps destroy what we have traditionally understood by ‘humanity’. This volume offers a wide range of essays that explicate, defend and criticize a range of singularity theories. The best introduction I know of to some profound debates about our future as a species.
David Christian, Macquarie University, Sydney, and WCU Professor, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, author of Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Review by Patrick Lin

There's so much hype and skepticism around the technological singularity that it's difficult to find a balanced discussion. But this volume has done just that nicely. Not only do the essays present the case for and against the singularity, as well as its implications, but each essay is followed by a short critical response to keep the discussion honest at each stop. For anyone interested in the technological future, this is a unique and much-needed contribution to the field.
Patrick Lin, Director, Ethics and Emerging Sciences Group, California Polytechnic State University, and Affiliate Scholar, Center for Internet and Society, Stanford Law School

(All reviews)

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Review by Marcus Hutter

Finally the Technological Singularity has become a socially, philosophically, and scientifically acceptable topic regarded worthy of investigation. ... This book seems very timely, given the largest research excellence award in history (1 billion Euro) just went to developing the most detailed simulation of the human brain. 
Marcus Hutter, Professor, Research School of Computer Science, Australian National University in Canberra, Australia

(All reviews)

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Review by Grady Booch

Riveting. This is one of the more balanced and insightful commentaries on the pragmatics and the possibilities of the continuing co-evolution of computing and humanity. 
Grady Booch, Chief Scientist for Software Engineering at IBM Research and one of the original authors of the Unified Modeling Language

(All reviews)

Friday, 3 August 2012

New Millennium AI and the Convergence of History: Update of 2012

Jürgen Schmidhuber, University of Lugano & SUPSI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has recently become a real formal science: the new millennium brought the first mathematically sound, asymptotically optimal, universal problem solvers, providing a new, rigorous foundation for the previously largely heuristic field of General AI and embedded agents. There also has been rapid progress in not quite universal but still rather general and practical artificial recurrent neural networks for learning sequence-processing programs, now yielding state-of-the-art results in real world applications. And the computing power per Euro is still growing by a factor of 100-1000 per decade, greatly increasing the feasibility of neural networks in general, which have started to yield human-competitive results in challenging pattern recognition competitions. Finally, a recent formal theory of fun and creativity identifies basic principles of curious and creative machines, laying foundations for artificial scientists and artists. Here I will briefly review some of the new results of my lab at IDSIA, and speculate about future developments, pointing out that the time intervals between the most notable events in over 40,000 years or 29 lifetimes of human history have sped up exponentially, apparently converging to zero within the next few decades. Or is this impression just a by-product of the way humans allocate memory space to past events?

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Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A Singular Universe of Many Singularities: Cultural Evolution in a Cosmic Context

Eric J. Chaisson, Harvard University

Nature’s myriad complex systems—whether physical, biological or cultural—are mere islands of organization within increasingly disordered seas of surrounding chaos. Energy is a principal driver of the rising complexity of all such systems within the expanding, ever-changing Universe; indeed energy is as central to life, society, and machines as it is to stars and galaxies. Energy flow concentration—in contrast to information content and negentropy production—is a useful quantitative metric to gauge relative degree of complexity among widely diverse systems in the one and only Universe known. In particular, energy rate densities for human brains, society collectively, and our technical devices have now become numerically comparable as the most complex systems on Earth. Accelerating change is supported by a wealth of data, yet the approaching technological singularity of 21st-century cultural evolution is neither more nor less significant than many other earlier singularities as physical and biological evolution proceeded along an undirectional and unpredictable path of more inclusive cosmic evolution, from big bang to humankind. Evolution, broadly construed, has become a powerful unifying concept in all of science, providing a comprehensive worldview for the new millennium—yet there is no reason to claim that the next evolutionary leap forward beyond sentient beings and their amazing gadgets will be any more important than the past emergence of increasingly intricate complex systems. Nor is new science (beyond non-equilibrium thermodynamics) necessarily needed to describe cosmic evolution’s interdisciplinary milestones at a deep and empirical level. Humans, our tools, and their impending messy interaction possibly mask a Platonic simplicity that undergirds the emergence and growth of complexity among the many varied systems in the material Universe, including galaxies, stars, planets, life, society, and machines.

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Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Singularity Hypotheses: An Overview

Singularity Hypotheses Introduction to: Singularity Hypotheses: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment

Amnon H. Eden, Eric Steinhart, David Pearce and James H. Moor


Bill Joy in a widely read but controversial article claimed that the most powerful 21st century technologies are threatening to make humans an endangered species (Joy 2000). Indeed, a growing number of scientists, philosophers and forecasters insist that the accelerating progress in disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology may lead to what they refer to as the technological singularity: an event or phase that will radically change human civilization, and perhaps even human nature itself, before the middle of the 21st century (Paul & Cox 1996; Broderick 2001; Garreau 2005; Kurzweil 2005). 

Singularity hypotheses refer to either one of two distinct and very different scenarios.

The first (Vinge 1993; Bostrom to appear) postulates the emergence of artificial superintelligent agents—software-based synthetic minds—as the ‘singular’ outcome of accelerating progress in computing technology. This singularity results from an ‘intelligence explosion’ (Good 1965): a process in which software-based intelligent minds enter a ‘runaway reaction’ of self-improvement cycles, with each new and more intelligent generation appearing faster than its predecessor. Part I of this volume is dedicated to essays which argue that progress in artificial intelligence and machine learning may indeed increase machine intelligence beyond that of any human being. As Alan Turing (1951) observed, “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’”: the consequences of such greater-than-human intelligence will be profound, and conceivably dire for humanity as we know it. Essays in Part II of this volume are concerned with this scenario.

A radically different scenario is explored by transhumanists who expect progress in enhancement technologies, most notably the amplification of human cognitive capabilities, to lead to the emergence of a posthuman race. Posthumans will overcome all existing human limitations, both physical and mental, and conquer aging, death and disease (Kurzweil 2005). The nature of such a singularity, a ‘biointelligence explosion', is analyzed in essays in Part III of this volume. Some authors (Pearce, this volume) argue that transhumans and posthumans will retain a fundamental biological core. Other authors argue that fully functioning, autonomous whole-brain emulations or ‘uploads’ (Chalmers 2010; Koene this volume; Brey this volume) may soon be constructed by ‘reverse-engineering’ the brain of any human. If fully functional or even conscious, uploads may usher in an era where the notion of personhood needs to be radically revised (Hanson 1994).

Read on

Friday, 15 June 2012

Table of Contents

The (hopefully) final table of contents for the volume is now set as follows:

(Update 3/Aug/2012: This page was moved here)

Friday, 18 November 2011

The Singularity and Machine Ethics (Abstract)

The Singularity and Machine Ethics

Luke Muehlhauser and Louie Helm, Singularity Institute of Artificial Intelligence

Many researchers have argued that a self-improving artificial intelligence (AI) could become so vastly more powerful than humans that we would not be able to stop it from achieving its goals. If so, and if the AI’s goals differ from ours, then this could be disastrous for humans. One proposed solution is to program the AI’s goal system to want what we want before the AI self-improves beyond our capacity to control it. Unfortunately, it is difficult to specify what we want. After a brief digression concerning human intuitions about intelligence, we offer a series of "intuition pumps" in moral philosophy for our conclusion that human values are complex and difficult to specify. We then survey the evidence from the psychology of motivation, moral psychology, and neuroeconomics that supports our position. We conclude by recommending ideal preference theories of value as a promising approach for developing a machine ethics suitable for navigating the Singularity.