Grand CanyonThis blog is about the possibility that the first machine with human-level cognition may be created within a few decades.  If and when that happens, it will be closely followed by the arrival of the world’s first superintelligence, and humans will become the second smartest species on the planet.

Some years or decades before then, intelligent machines may render most humans unemployable.

I think these two developments are so radical that they both deserve to be called “singularities”, a term borrowed from maths to denote maximum transformation.  They are, respectively, the technological singularity and the economic singularity.

The consequences of human-level artificial intelligence (artificial general intelligence or AGI) would be astonishing: as Andrew Marr said in a recent TV programme, it will be the “the greatest achievement of humanity since the invention of agriculture [and it will] challenge the very idea of what it is to be human.”

The consequences of technological unemployment, if it happens, will also be profound.  Both these developments could have wonderful consequences for us – or terrible ones.  And the outcome is partly up to us.

Until very recently, amazingly few people were thinking about these things.  Fortunately, that changed with the publication of Nick Bostrom’s book Superintelligence, and comments it prompted by the “three wise men” – Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Bill Gates.

My name is Calum Chace.  I live in the UK and Spain.  I am an author and speaker about artificial intelligence, and its likely future impact on society.  My work is informed by the experience of a 30-year career in business.  You can see some of my talks here.

If you are new to the idea that machine consciousness and superintelligence may be with us soon (in decades rather than centuries), my novel Pandora’s Brain and my non-fiction books Surviving AI and The Economic Singularity are great places to start.

The Superintelligence page on this site and then the Links page will also give you plenty of food for thought.

Finally, why Pandora’s Brain?  In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman, and Zeus ordered her to be created to punish men for accepting the forbidden gift of fire from Prometheus.  She was given a jar containing all the evils of the world.  She had strict instructions never to open it, but humans are curious, so of course she did, which is exactly what Zeus intended.  That is how the Greeks thought evil came into our world.  But the jar also contained something else – something vital for humans: it contained hope.

“Pandora’s Brain”, “Surviving AI” and “The Economic Singularity” are all available at Amazon in ebook, paperback and audio formats


20 thoughts on “About

  1. Greetings Calum,
    I found your site. It is quite interesting and well thought through.
    Just a consideration for you. I am a SW developer, but my nature is biologist. I have a knack for genes. I am quite familiar with Kurzweil’s ideas and other related topics, but what if I told you that there is a topic as large that no one has even looked at? Obviously, it must be the genes, but you would probably be a bit surprised at what I found. It changes a lot of things, but more importantly it creates a new understanding of what humans are. I just completed a book on it and am working n publishing it, though at this point, the end, I want to redo the introduction first. If you want to see an older version, it is at http://www.diver.net/seahunt/p/p_trans.htm
    I am on your mailing list now, looking forward to your updates.
    Regards, Mike Breeden

  2. Hi Calum,

    I’d like to speak to you about a documentary we are making about the future – please could you send me your email address?

    Thanks, Nick

  3. As a 20 year-old computer science/ business student, what can I do to actively and positively affect the possible nightmare that is the economic singularity? My ambition is to make AI and robotics as commonplace as the computer is today, but I want to do it for the benefit of people – not to the ultimate detriment of first-world society.

    • First of all, Benjamin, don’t try to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Your instincts sound fine, and I’m sure you will contribute greatly. Learn your trade, keep your horizons broad, engage your friends and acquaintances in the conversation. Your path will become clear over time. Best wishes.

  4. Really looking forward to reading your books. Any tips for developing a career in Philosophy or similar area? My particular interest is in the Philosophy of AI.

  5. As far as I know, a career in philosophy means academia. But a training in philosophy can equip you for many other careers. Mine equipped me for all sorts of odd things. 🙂 It can also be a great preparation for life in general.

  6. Hi Calum, I read and enjoyed your economic singularity book. One thought I have is about Universal Basic Income. If the majority of people have very little or no income then how is state going receive taxes to pay for anything including government workers? It seems we will the state will not exist.

    • Hi Paul. Glad you enjoyed “Economic”. UBI will present many challenges. It is likely that the economy will still be creating great wealth – AI enables great efficiency, so wealth should increase. But many people (if the thesis of “Economic” is anywhere near correct) will be unemployable, and not sharing the wealth. So governments will have to provide them with an income, and that will have to be paid for by taxation – at least until we reach the fabled paradise of the Star trek economy, which ain’t going to happen overnight. Such a drastic increase in taxation will not be easy to achieve!

      • Thanks, Calum. As AI creates greater efficiencies the price of goods and services will fall, intern, the level of state income from taxation will also be smaller. This should not be a problem as people’s standard of living will increase even though their income is lower. The problem seems to be debt. The banking system, the bond market, and government debt will not shrink. History and the current crop of central banking economists seem to suggest printing money out of thin air is a good solution. Inflating the debt away through currency debasement may accelerate the populations move into crypto-currencies, this is happening in Latin American countries like Venezuela as people are scrambling to survive. The rise of crypto-currencies is impossible for governments to tax and redistribute income. I can’t see governments surviving the rise of AI, I think we may be heading towards an Anarcho-Capitalist system. Which sounds scary because the transition could be quite unsettling, to say the least, but in the longer term, I think it may be a very positive outcome for everyone. I hope so anyway!
        Regards, Paul

  7. Hi Calum, just read your UBI article on Linkedin.

    Your article makes sense in some regards, but misses a couple of very important points:

    1. You say that in future only the global megacorps that essentially own all of the technology and IP (and not forgetting the capital) to run our economies based on AI and robotics are the ones that must “contribute” to UBI… and that many of the wealthy will up-sticks and move elsewhere to avoid the taxes to pay for UBI.

    But the point is that UBI must be implemented *Universally* – not just in certain countries! Having 40% of the population starving in China will be just as worrying/threatening for the UK say, as it would be having 40% of the UK population starving. China has nuclear weapons too you understand.

    So all of the megacorps and the UNWs (Ultra Net Worth individuals), as they will be ‘global’, must not merely “contribute” to UBI out of the kindness of their hearts, but must be properly regulated to pay significant taxes on a global scale. So tax havens and loopholes must be eradicated. Of course they won’t be, and the rich will go to live on heavily-defended islands probably. But IMO that’s what does need to happen if UBI is to succeed when we really reach the AI tipping-point.

    2. I haven’t read your books so I don’t know if you’ve really thought out of the box what AI will look like in 50 years. IMO there will be *virtually no* paid employment: never mind 40% unemployment, there will be 98% unemployment. When the robots can mine for metals, build more robots in automated factories, build solar panels to power themselves and society overall, design and construct buildings with robot workforces, grow food in vertical farms and transport it to consumers in self-driving vehicles, manufacture and recycle consumer goods, accurately analyse everything from healthcare diagnostics to legal disputes and propose valid options/solutions, etc etc, what will be the need for mass human employment? 2% of today’s employment levels will remain as minimal overseers of the robots, safety/quality control etc, top-level technical design, and also strategy development (these latter are what you might call ‘politicians’ today). As a consumer, you will be delivered food on a regular basis. If you want some clothes or a TV, you just order them and they will arrive a short time later, from a totally robotised, solar-powered production process.

    Where is the real need for ‘work’ or ‘money’ (or UBI) in such a system? The 2% employment levels mentioned above could be fulfilled through volunteers, or people incentivised by some other means. Everyone else will be free to do what they want to enjoy their lives. The problem in this economy will be purely about regulating and preventing over-consumption and waste, and preventing resource wars. Of course, the system above would probably imply breakdown of national frontiers, and a single world government of some sort.

    Utopian? Nightmarish? Possibly both. But it’s only the rational conclusion of the exponential development of technology and artificial intelligence.

    Discuss 😉

  8. Cool site. You just followed me on twitter. Not sure how you found me but I am really interested in AI so I it is cool that you did. Anyway, I’ll check your book out when I get the time. Take care.

  9. I am currently planning for the February 2018 issue of the Interalia Magazine, on the theme ‘Being Human with Artificial Intelligence’. The aim of the issue is to explore contemporary dialogues of the impact of AI on the future of humanity.Potential themes/questions and contributions are suggested below – these are not exhaustive and are open to additional suggestions.
    • What are the transformational consequences of AI for humanity?
    • What are the ideas behind technological singularity and what are the possible ramifications?
    • What are the risk and safety issue of AI and how to define the potential goals?
    • Applying AI to real world problems.
    • AI and Consciousness
    • Creativity and Artificial Intelligence
    • AI generated Art
    • Blurring the boundaries of Man and Machine

    I am writing to ask whether you would be interested in contributing to this issue.

    If so, can you contact me via my email and I will send you further details

    Richard Bright
    Interalia Magazine

  10. Dear Calum,

    I am writing to inform you about an Artificial Intelligence Conference that Channing School will be hosting on Wednesday 6th March 2019 as part of a week of AI-related activities, and to invite you to participate.

    The conference will see teachers and leaders from girls’ schools around the country gather for a day of practical and inspirational sessions looking at ways to introduce transformative technologies such as virtual / augmented reality and artificial intelligence into young girls’ everyday education. We also aim to encourage schools to promote degree courses and careers in AI.

    Throughout the week (beginning Monday 4th March) we will be putting on a number of events, talks and workshops for our students, and those at local state schools, to coincide with the conference and raise its profile.

    We would be really interested in partnering with you on this event, either for the student events during the week, or at the conference itself.

    Please let me know if you would like to be involved in any aspect of the events planned, or please pass this invite on to anyone you think might be interested in working with us.

    I look forward to hearing back from you.

    Kind regards,

    Dan Grossman
    Assistant Head – Director of Science, Technology and Engineering
    Channing School

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