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Prepare for The Singularity (from Chap. 18 of Singularity Rising: Surviving and Thriving…)

Posted: Thu, November 08, 2012 | By:

by James Miller

Do young programmers at Google not save for retirement because they expect a Singularity to arise before they turn sixty? Do more and more self-made tech multimillionaires contribute to organizations such as the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence? It makes sense to watch where the smart people in the high technology community put their money for clues to the odds of a Singularity occurring.

Although an intelligence explosion could, literally, happen tomorrow, we  will most likely get an AI-centered Singularity only after considerable improvements in computing hardware. If programmers never master massive parallel processing, then the hardware metric that most matters is the speed of the fastest computer. With parallel processing, however, an AI could be run on a huge number of relatively slow computers, provided they were cheap enough; so the hardware factor that should top your Singularity watch list is the quantity of computing power you can buy per dollar.

Computers get faster and cheaper only because of huge investments in research and development made by firms like Intel. Hardware manufacturers will make such expenditures only if they expect a high future demand for computing power. Consequently, consumers’ desires for categories of products that rely on ever-increasing quantities of computational resources also deserve a prominent place on your Singularity watch list.

The Pac-Man video game of my youth looks pathetic compared to today’s best-selling games—an advance made possible by Moore’s Law. But how much room for improvement is there in video games? If, in another decade, games have almost all the computational resources they will ever need, then the Singularity will likely be further away than if games keep gobbling processing power-ups.

It seems near certain that virtual reality will someday sweep the marketplace. But, I wonder, how far away are we from having good-enough computing hardware to make virtual reality look like actual reality? Learning that the technology will, over the coming decades, consume ever-increasing amounts of computing power should convince you that the Singularity is a bit nearer than if the contrary holds.

Data analysis, I suspect, will never become saturated with computing power. The movements of atoms, people, and financial instruments are extremely complex, and I’d bet that long before we have computers powerful enough to fully simulate any of these movements, we would have machines with the computational capacity to give us a Singularity. Take it as a bit of a sign of an approaching Singularity if you read articles discussing how, with much, much faster computers, it would be possible to design vastly better drugs or materials.

Robots have the potential to be another huge source of demand for computing hardware. And, of course, robots would necessarily have at least limited artificial intelligence. I doubt much time would elapse between the creation of Rosie, the robot maid on the 1960s TV show The Jetsons, and a Singularity.

Similarly, I believe we would have a Singularity thrust upon us very quickly after someone creates an AI like HAL from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Any artificial general intelligence such as HAL could almost certainly become much smarter and more capable just by running on faster or more numerous computers. Consequently (and perhaps tragically), I strongly suspect that: 

HAL+ Continued Exponential Growth in Computing Power= Not-Too-Distant Singularity 

Brain implants that can raise the general intelligence of a healthy person would be a strong sign that mankind is near a Singularity. If our brains can be improved by direct implants, then it seems likely that as computers become faster and smaller, we will keep getting brighter. Furthermore, the benefits of intelligence-enhancing brain implants would be so enormous that expected future demand for the implants would spur computer hardware companies to make huge investments in research and development.

With regard to human intelligence, learning that additive genes explain at least half of the variance in human intelligence would be a positive indication of the potential of genetic manipulation to create significantly smarter people than have ever existed. Another key indicator would be research showing that having many high-IQ genes usually doesn’t create health problems, or at least that any resulting health challenges can be fixed by modern medicine.

Parents, however, might not advertise the steps they took to raise their kids’ IQs, so look for children accomplishing astonishing things at extraordinarily young ages. If, for example, a ten-year-old Chinese child makes a significant contribution to physics, then suspect that eugenics will soon birth children with the potential to remake civilization.

Once you have accepted that a Singularity probably is near, you should decide how to personally prepare for it. 

Personal Preparations

When choosing a career or contemplating starting a business, you should attempt to predict how future intelligence enhancements will impact different trades and professions. The good news is that, at least for a while, most enhancements will make the average person richer and so will increase the profitability of the majority of professions and industries.

Knowing about intelligence enhancements will make you a better stock market investor. Financial markets offer the highest rewards to those who act on information that the broad market hasn’t yet taken into account. If the premise of this book is correct, you have inside information on the most radical change that will ever befall humanity. Profit from this knowledge! 

Many people invest in stocks to have financial security when they retire. If you’re saving for a retirement that won’t start for a few decades, you should consider the value money will have post-Singularity and how the Singularity will influence the rate of return on investments. Your retirement, however, might not be as near as you think because enhancements such as brain-boosting drugs will affect how long you will be mentally capable of staying at your job.

Even workers who intend to never use cognitive-enhancing drugs should think through their effects. If, for example, you’re a lawyer in a big law firm and can’t figure out how a fellow employee manages to put in such long hours on such tremendously tedious tasks, the answer might be Adderall or modafinil. The performance difference between drug users and abstainers will almost certainly grow. After extremely effective memory-improving drugs come out,it might become impossible to rise to the top of professions that place huge demands on memory (e.g., tax law) without either using the drugs or being born with a photographic memory.

Parents need also to be concerned with brain-boosting drugs. Even if your  kid never uses them, the child down the street who’s in competition with your kid for class valedictorian might. If you put lots of pressure on your child to excel academically, he might turn to your school’s black market in Adderall for help. If you had a frank talk about drugs with your kid that didn’t mention Adderall, you haven’t given him all of the advice and warnings he needs.

Parents should estimate how intelligence enhancements will affect the kinds of skills their children will eventually require. Will fluency in foreign languages matter if we have extremely proficient translation programs or if memory-improving pills soon make learning a foreign language“a trifle?” Parents should keep an eye on brain-fitness research to determine whether playing a few hours of certain kinds of video, games such as the dual n-back, can permanently increase children’s working memory and IQ.

Singularity expectations should give hope to parents with severely disabled children. A good Singularity would almost certainly bring forth both the desire and the knowledge to cure your child’s afflictions. Even if your offspring must suffer for fifty years with a horrible illness, if he survives to a positive Singularity,he will probably be able to live many times that many years more in a world in which he could choose to be smarter, healthier, and happier than any human being alive today.

If you have suicidal thoughts because life currently seems too painful to bear, take into account that if you make it to a positive Singularity, you willlikely spend well over 99 percent of your life living in times of great happiness. A good Singularity will make everything and everyone a lot better.

Even my old or unhealthy readers who have less than a decade left of their “natural” life spans have a realistic shot of making it to the Singularity if they pay heed to what I now advise. In the introduction, I wrote, “This book has one recommendation that, if followed, could radically improve your life.” I will now fulfill my introductory promise. 

My potentially life-changing advice: after your legal death, your body will be burned, buried, or frozen. Go with frozen. 

Read the entire, very excellent book, by purchasing it HERE


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