A Post-Human Future -A Galaxy Insight
"I certainly think that humans are not the limit of evolutionary complexity. There may indeed be post–human entities, either organic or silicon–based, which can in some respects surpass what a human can do. I think it would be rather surprising if our mental capacities were matched to understanding all the levels of reality. The chimpanzees certainly aren't, so why should ours be either? So there may be levels that will have to await some post-human emergence."
Sir Martin Rees, Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics and Master of Trinity College at the University of Cambridge.
Rees's comment was made at the introduction of the 2007 Singularity Conference held this week in San Francisco. Sir Martin's concern about the ever-quickening pace of technological change and the sinister ends to which it may be used was the theme of his most recent book, Our Final Century (see links to the recent Galaxy post below).
The spirit of singularity and the future of artificial intelligence is best captured by Hans Moravec, one of the world's leading authorities on robots and machine intelligence: "It may seem rash to expect fully intelligent machines in a few decades, when the computers have barely matched insect mentality in a half–century of development. Indeed, for that reason, many long–time artificial intelligence researchers scoff at the suggestion, and offer a few centuries as a more believable period. But there are very good reasons why things will go much faster in the next fifty years than they have in the last fifty... Since 1990, the power available to individual AI and robotics programs has doubled yearly, to 30 MIPS (machine instructions per second) by 1994 and 500 MIPS by 1998. Seeds long ago alleged barren are suddenly sprouting. Machines read text, recognize speech, even translate languages. Robots drive cross–country, crawl across Mars, and trundle down office corridors. In 1996 a theorem–proving program called EQP running five weeks on a 50 MIPS computer at Argonne National Laboratory found a proof of a Boolean algebra conjecture by Herbert Robbins that had eluded mathematicians for sixty years. And it is still only Spring. Wait until Summer."
Posted by Casey Kazan.
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