Monday, September 14, 2009

SEPT. 14 - Timing the Singularity‏

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Timing the Singularity

The Singularity. The event when the rate of technological change becomes human-surpassing, just as the advent of human civilization a few millenia ago surpassed the comprehension of non-human creatures.

There is a great deal of speculation on the 'what' of the Singularity, whether it will create a utopia for humans, cause the extinction of humans, or some outcome in between. Versions of optimism (Star Trek) and pessimism (The Matrix, Terminator) all become fashionable at some point. No one can predict this reliably, because the very definition of the singularity itself precludes such prediction. Given the accelerating nature of technological change, it is just as hard to predict the world of 2050 from 2009, as it would have been to predict 2009 from, say, 1200 AD. So our topic today is not going to be about the 'what', but rather the 'when' of the Singularity.

Let us take a few independent methods to arrive at estimations on the timing of the Singularity.

1) Ray Kurzweil has constructed this logarithmic chart that combines 15 unrelated lists of key historic events since the Big Bang 15 billion years ago. The exact selection of events is less important than the undeniable fact that the intervals between such independently selected events are shrinking exponentially. This, of course, means that the next several major events will occur within single human lifetimes.


Kurzweil wrote with great confidence, in 2005, that the Singularity would arrive in 2045. One thing I find about Kurzweil is that he usually predicts the nature of an event very accurately, but overestimates the rate of progress by 50%. Part of this is because he insists that computer power per dollar doubles every year, when it actually doubles every 18 months, which results in every other date he predicts to be distorted as a downstream byproduct of this figure. Another part of this is that Kurzweil, born in 1948, is taking extreme measures to extend his lifespan, and quite possibly may have an expectation of living until 100 but not necessarily beyond that. A Singularity in 2045 would be before his century mark, but herein lies a lesson for us all. Those who have a positive expectation of what the Singularity will bring tend to have a subconscious bias towards estimating it to happen within their expected lifetimes. We have to be watchful enough to not let this bias influence us. So when Kurzweil says that the Singularity will be 40 years from 2005, we can apply the discount to estimate that it will be 60 years from 2005, or in 2065.

2) John Smart is a brilliant futurist with a distinctly different view on accelerating change from Ray Kurzweil, but he has produced very little visible new content in the last 5 years. In 2003, he predicted the Singularity for 2060, +/- 20 years. Others like Hans Moravec and Vernor Vinge also have declared predictions at points in the mid/late 21st century.

3) Ever since the start of the fictional Star Trek franchise in 1966, they have made a number of predictions about the decades since, with impressive accuracy. In Star Trek canon, humanity experiences a major acceleration of progress starting from 2063, upon first contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. While my views on first contact are somewhat different from the Star Trek prediction, it is interesting to note that their version of a 'Singularity' happened to occur in 2063 (as per the 1996 film Star Trek : First Contact).

4) Now for my own methodology. In the 3.5 years since the inception of The Futurist, I have consistently noticed a 'prediction wall' on all long-term forecasts, that makes it very difficult to make specific predictions beyond 2040 or so. In contrast, it was not very hard to predict the state of technology in 1940 from the year 1900, just 30 years prior. Despite all the inventions between 1900 and 1930, the diffusion rate was very slow, and it took well over 30 years for many innovations to affect the majority of the population. The diffusion rate of innovation is much faster today, and the pervasive Impact of Computing is impossible to ignore. This 'event horizon' that we now see does not mean the Singularity will be as soon as 2040, as the final couple of decades before the Singularity may still be too fast to make predictions about until we get much closer. But the existence of such a wall/horizon for the first time, just 30 years from now, itself is revealing, and many other top futurists have observed the same approaching phenomenon.

So we can return to the Impact of Computing as a driver of the 21st century economy. In the article, I have written about how about $700 Billion per year as of 2008, which is 1.5% of World GDP, comprises of products that improve at an average of 59% a year per dollar spent. Moore's Law is a subset of this, but this cost deflation applies to storage, software, biotechnology, and a few other industries as well.

If products tied to the Impact of Computing are 1.5% of the global economy today, what happens when they are 3%? 5%? Perhaps we would reach a Singularity when such products are 50% of the global economy, because from that point forward, the other 50% would very quickly diminish into a tiny percentage of the economy, particularly if that 50% was occupied by human-surpassing artificial intelligence.

Singularity We can thus calculate a range of dates by when products tied to the Impact of Computing become more than half of the world economy. In the table, the columns signify whether one assumes that 1%, 1.5%, or 2% of the world economy is currently tied, and the rows signify the rate at which this percentage share of the economy is increasing, whether 6%, 7%, or 8%. This range is derived from the fact that the semiconductor industry has a 12-14%% nominal growth trend, while nominal world GDP grows at 6-7% (some of which is inflation). Another way of reading the table is that if you consider the Impact of Computing to affect 1% of World GDP, but that share grows by 8% a year, then that 1% will cross the 50% threshold in 2059. Note how a substantial downward revision in the assumptions moves the date outward only by years, rather than centuries or even decades.

We see these parameters deliver a series of years, with the median values arriving at around the same dates as aforementioned estimates. Taking all of these points in combination, we can predict the timing of the Singularity. I hereby predict that the Technological Singularity will occur in :

2060-65 ± 10 years

So the earliest that it can occur is 2050 (hence the URL of this site), and the latest is 2075, with the highest probability of occurance in 2060-65. There is virtually no statistical probability that it can occur outside of the 2050-75 range (sorry, Ray).

So now we know the 'when' of the Singularity. We just don't know the 'what', nor can we with any certainty.

Related :

The Impact of Computing

Are You Acceleration Aware?

Pre-Singularity Abundance Milestones

SETI and the Singularity

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How to Digitally Record/Video a UFO sighting:

Como registar digitalmente ou gravar um vídeo de um avistamento de um UFO:

Stabilize the camera on a tripod. If there is no tripod, then set it on top of a stable, flat surface. If that is not possible lean against a wall to stabilize your body and prevent the camera from filming in a shaky, unsteady manner.

Estabilize a camera com um tripé. Se não tiver um tripé, então coloque-a em cima de uma superfície estável. Se não for possível, então encoste-se a uma parede para estabilizar o corpo e evitar que a camera registe de maneira tremida e instável.

Provide visual reference points for comparison. This includes the horizon, treetops, lampposts, houses, and geographical landmarks (i.e., Horsetooth Reservoir, Mt. Adams, etc.) Provide this in the video whenever is appropriate and doesn’t detract from what your focus is, the UFO.

Forneça pontos visuais de referência para comparação. Isso inclui o horizonte, cimo das árvores, postes de iluminação, pontos de referência geográficos (como o Reservatório de Horsetooth, Mone Adams, etc) Forneça esses pontos no vídeo sempre que for apropriado e não se distraia do que é o seu foco, o UFO/a Nave.

Narrate your videotape. Provide details of the date, time, location, and direction (N,S,E,W) you are looking in. Provide your observations on the weather, including approximate temperature, windspeed, any visible cloud cover or noticeable weather anomalies or events. Narrate on the shape, size, color, movements, approximate altitude of the UFO, etc and what it appears to be doing. Also include any unusual physical, psychological or emotional sensations you might have. Narrate any visual reference points on camera so they correlate with what the viewer will see, and thereby will be better able to understand.

Faça a narração do vídeo. Forneça pormenores sobre a data, hora, local e direcção (Norte, Sul, Este, Oeste) que está a observar. Faça observações sobre as condições atmosféricas, incluindo a temperatura aproximada, velocidade do vento, quantidade de nuvens, anomalias ou acontecimentos meteorológicos evidentes. Descreva a forma, o tamanho, a cor, os movimentos, a altitude aproximada onde se encontra o UFO/nave, etc e o que aparenta estar a fazer. Inclua também quaisquer aspectos pouco habituais de sensações físicas, psicológicas ou emocionais que possa ter. Faça a narração de todos os pontos de referência visual que o espectador irá ver e que, deste modo, será capaz de compreender melhor.

Be persistent and consistent. Return to the scene to videotape and record at this same location. If you have been successful once, the UFO sightings may be occurring in this region regularly, perhaps for specific reasons unknown, and you may be successful again. You may also wish to return to the same location at a different time of day (daylight hours) for better orientation and reference. Film just a minute or two under “normal” circumstances for comparison. Write down what you remember immediately after. As soon as you are done recording the experience/event, immediately write down your impressions, memories, thoughts, emotions, etc. so it is on the record in writing. If there were other witnesses, have them independently record their own impressions, thoughts, etc. Include in this exercise any drawings, sketches, or diagrams. Make sure you date and sign your documentation.

Seja persistente e não contraditório. Volte ao local da cena e registe o mesmo local. Se foi bem sucedido uma vez, pode ser que nessa região ocorram avistamentos de UFOs/naves com regularidade, talvez por razões específicas desconhecidas, e talvez possa ser novamente bem sucedido. Pode também desejar voltar ao mesmo lugar a horas diferentes do dia (durante as horas de luz)para ter uma orientação e referência melhor. Filme apenas um ,inuto ou dois em circunstâncias “normais” para ter um termo de comparação. Escreva tudo o que viu imediatamente após o acontecimento. Logo após ter feito o registo da experiência/acontecimento, escreva imediatamente as impressões, memórias, pensamentos, emoções, etc para que fiquem registadas por escrito. Se houver outras testemunhas, peça-lhes para registar independentemente as suas próprias impressões, pensamentos, etc. Inclua quaisquer desenhos, esbolos, diagramas. Certifique-se que data e assina o seu documento/testemunho.

Always be prepared. Have a digital camera or better yet a video camera with you, charged and ready to go, at all times. Make sure you know how to use your camera (and your cell phone video/photo camera) quickly and properly. These events can occur suddenly, unexpectedly, and often quite randomly, so you will need to be prepared.

Esteja sempre preparado, Tenha sempre uma camera digital, melhor ainda, uma camera vídeo consigo, carregada e pronta a usar sempre que necessário. Certifique-se que sabe como lidar com a sua camera (ou com o seu celular/camera fotográfica) rápida e adequadamente. Esses acontecimentos podem acontecer súbita e inesperadamente e, por vezes, acidentalmente, por isso, necessita estar preparado.

Look up. Be prepared. Report. Share.

Olhe para cima, Esteja preparado, Relate, Partilhe.



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