The Singularity is Near

In 1965, co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductors and Intel, Gordon Moore, wrote a paper which observed that integrated circuits were doubling in power whilst halving in size and cost every two years. Called "Moore's Law", this observation has remained accurate for the last 5-6 decades.

In the 90's, inventor, futurist and author Ray Kurzweil, explored the seemingly endless progression of "Moore's Law" in his books "The Age Of Intelligent Machines" and "The Age Of Spiritual Machines". In 2005, he released a now iconic book "The Singularity is Near" in which he explored the technological, social and political effects of "Moore's Law" on the human race. His conclusions are remarkable and, reflecting from many years later, stunningly accurate. Today, Ray Kurzweil is Director of Engineering at Google.

Technology may be evolving at an exponential rate as per Moore's Law, but the effects of this exponential technology progression has a 'secondary' exponential affect on the human race in the form of knowledge, communications, social, political and environmental acceleration. This then means that the human race is experiencing profound change. As Ray Kurzweil observes, the early part of an exponential curve appears flat until you get to the 'knee' of the curve, upon which it 'takes off'.  As we have now gone passed the 'knee' of the 'double' exponential curve, the rate of change is ever increasing, the curve getting steeper and steeper, bringing faster and faster change. Ray Kurzweil refers to this as the 'law of accelerating returns'.

So What Is The Singularity?

Modern computing principles were first outlined by Alan Turing in 1936 in which he propsed that a central computing device could run a series of 'instructions' in order to solve any problem. The first 'computer' capable of doing this was built at The Victoria University of Manchester and ran it's first 'program' in 1948. It can be argued that this is the genesis of modern computers.

 

Since then, computing devices, communications systems, software, graphics and memory devices have all been evolving according to "Moore's Law". Ray Kurzweil was intrigued to find out if and at what point computer systems would theoretically match the human brain in terms of processing power, reasoning and intelligence. His conclusion is that not only will machine intelligence match that of the human brain, but it will surpass and quickly accelerate ahead of human intelligence. This will bring about a profound change in human existence in which human life will be irreversibly transformed with humans "transcending the limitations of our biological bodies and brain". This is what he refers to as 'The Singularity' and he predicts this change will take place in 2045.

Further Information

The Singularity Is Near

2016 Documentary

Ray Kurzweil

The Coming Singularity

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