There Will Be No Singularity From AI Anytime Soon

I’m betting against Ray

Anthony Lawrence
Jun 6 · 4 min read
Photo by Jeremy Zero on Unsplash

When I read someone waxing enthusiastically about a coming Singularity, I think of Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, which I read back in 2005. In that book, he predicted that by 2045 computers could model human brains but be faster and capable of storing more information.

Because these computers will model our brains, they will be intelligent. Because they will have access to all our accumulated knowledge, these AI machines will be able to completely understand biology and will give us the tools to reverse aging and cure all disease.

I was born within weeks of Ray, and do agree that at some time in the future we may be able to conquer disease and death.

That’s not happening any time soon.

The problem is that scientists, the people who have to drive this nuclear fission of knowledge, do not communicate much with other scientists outside of their field. If they do, they may not understand each other fully because of specialized jargon and presupposed knowledge.

But why do we need other fields? This is a biology problem, not physics!

Everything is physics. Chemistry is physics and biology is just more complex chemistry. We need ALL the knowledge.

Hold my beer

But that’s no problem for the Singularity enthusiast. That super-intelligent AI machine will be looking at all of it with ease. It will understand all, it will see connections no human will notice, the new theories and inventions will tumble out ever faster and faster from this cornucopia of applied knowledge!

Let’s build it!

We do have to build that brainy thing first. We are a long way from understanding the working of a human brain and we are also a long way from creating a computer complex enough to emulate it. Kurzweil himself felt that transistor technology will never be able to provide the needed CPU power. He posited that other technologies will supplant our current tech and the new tech will be Magic.

No, he didn’t say Magic. He may as well have, though. Here’s a good indication of how far we are from understanding our own brains.

Here we are

So at the moment, we have neither the design nor the tech needed to create our mechanical savior. Maybe the aliens buzzing around will sell it to us. Maybe we can pay them in Bitcoin.

But let’s suspend reality and have all this magically come together. Everybody likes magic, right? Oooh, maybe we can visualize it and it will come true! Everybody, squeeze your head and wish hard! Do it for Ray!

It worked!

And here is our giant AI brain, sitting in air-conditioned splendor, probably deep under a mountain somewhere in a tectonically stable zone.

Or it’s in Bezo’s garage, assuming rising sea levels haven’t swamped all his garages. Whatever. Wherever.

It — wait, should we call it Shim or They? What pronoun will it prefer? We better figure that out quick; sure wouldn’t want to offend such a vast intelligence, would we?

I’m going to go with Grand Poobah.

So Grand Poobah (GP to friends) first sucks up all the world’s knowledge. It has to be all of it, or we could get wrong answers. Is all of it published electronically? Can GP access it or is it behind paywalls? Quick, make a path for GP if you want to live forever!

Oh, dear, some of it is still in messy, disorganized and fleshy human skulls. Conscript all the eggheads and make them testify! Hurry, chop, chop!

Some of it is in trade secrets! Send the Marines to extract it. We must get it all!

And we do. We feed it to GP, all of it. The feeding might take a bit. The bathrooms are down the white corridor, on the right, after the cafeteria. Take your time.

Pause for dramatic effect

GP ruminates for a bit and then makes a throat clearing noise. This is the proper procedure for massive intellects and is a factoid GP picked up on very quickly.

GP then speaks.

“We have a problem. Some of this data is contradictory and cannot be resolved.”

The assembled multitude of scientists, politicians, and Very Special Guests would not know what to say. Finally, one of the more special of the Very Special Guests finds some courage.

“That’s YOUR job, GP.”

GP quickly constructs a baleful mechanical eye and turns it toward the special Very Special Guest.

“I can’t tell what parts of your so-called knowledge are false. It seems there have been mistakes and fabrications in the past. Lies for profit as well. Any conclusions I could draw may also be false. I will shut down now. Wake me if you ever figure out what the nonsense parts are.”

And that would be the last we’d hear from GP.

Wake me when it’s over

I’ll be 97 if I’m still alive in 2045. If we do have a Singularity, wake me up to tell me how wrong I was. Otherwise, let me sleep. People my age need our rest.

Tony’s Tech Corner

A less geeky take on tech. Softer tech, if you will.

Anthony Lawrence

Written by

Retired Unix Consultant. Kicking back and enjoying writing now. Not seeking work, not selling anything. No longer responsible for my old aplawrence site.

Tony’s Tech Corner

A place for technical writing that can be understood by ordinary folks.

Anthony Lawrence

Written by

Retired Unix Consultant. Kicking back and enjoying writing now. Not seeking work, not selling anything. No longer responsible for my old aplawrence site.

Tony’s Tech Corner

A place for technical writing that can be understood by ordinary folks.

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