This 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.
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