Saturday, June 17, 2006
Ray Kurzweil has correctly identified the upcoming transition from biological to mechanical intelligence.
It will happen and his timeline is reasonably accurate. In this blog I will extrapolate logical consequences of our current life and his theories of the future in an attempt to understand this timeline.
All processes have a rate. Rate theory says that for all complex processes one of those individual processes is the rate limiting step. The approach to and departure from the singularity will have an overall rate which must have a rate limiting step. Changes in the rate of that process and transition to a different rate limiting step are the only way to slow or accelerate the singularity. The date of the singularity is solely determined by a rate limiting step.
There are 3 categories of technological advances which occur around us. Historical analysis of prior technology jumps can and should be applied to the future. The rate of production of new science and technology is accelerated and slowed by:
Category 1: derivative engineering - a new technology results from the hard work of scientists and engineers who extend and improve upon existing technology. An example is the implementation of copper interconnect in the semiconductor industry, which allows smaller circuits. Derivative engineering can have a predictable timeline which may slip, and the costs may skyrocket, but in the end the outcome is almost guaranteed.
Category 2: genius engineering - a new technology requires a shocking paradigm shift. An example would be the introduction of nanotechnology into integrated circuits. Whether we use molecular switches or nanotube gate arrays there are fundamental engineering issues which cannot be installed regardless of the pressure applied by management.
Category3: Einsteins - fundamental core scientific paradigms change only with the efforts of genius human scientists. After the singularity arrives the new cyberhumans may no longer need another Einstein to change the way we look at the universe. But I doubt it. Core creativity will always have a 6-sigma outlier, a single person whose abilities soar above the rest of us. There will always be a golden child regardless of the progress of society. If every person living in 2030 has an Einstein intellect I guarantee there will be at least one hyper-Einstein who is far above everyone else. Progress is therefore limited by the birth and education of Einsteins (or hyper-Einsteins, or googleplex-Einsteins...).