Singularity

The term “technological singularity” has been described as;  “a predicted point in the development of a civilization at which technological progress accelerates beyond the ability of present-day humans to fully comprehend or predict.”

Ray Kurzweil, is associated with the popular interpretation of the Technological Singularity.  Often called the accelerating change thesis.

In his book “The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology” Ray Kurzweil defined the Technological Singularity as:

“… a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed. Although neither utopian nor dystopian, this epoch will transform the concepts that we rely on to give meaning to our lives, from our business models to the cycle of human life, including death itself.”

In another publication, “The Law of Accelerating Returns,” Kurzweil proposes a generalization of Moore’s law that forms the basis of many people’s beliefs about the Singularity.

Described as a long-term trend in the history of computing hardware, Moore’s law refers to the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit, and how this number doubles about every two years. It goes on to state that the associated costs of these technologies will diminish as well. As more transistors are put on a chip, the cost to make each transistor decreases.

Kurzweil extends this to include technologies from far before the integrated circuit to future forms of computation. He believes that the exponential growth of Moore’s law will continue beyond the use of integrated circuits into technologies that will lead to the Singularity.

Ray Kurzweil’s assertion has in many ways altered the public’s perception of Moore’s law. In that it has become a  common (but mistaken) belief that Moore’s law makes predictions about all forms of technology, when really it only concerns semiconductor circuits.

The number of transistors incorporated in a chip will approximately double every 24 months.”  Gordon Moore

Some examples of Ray Kurzweil’s assertion are computer processing speed, memory capacity, the types of sensors available, and even the number and size of pixels in digital cameras.

The reason for this is because technological advances in areas like this have shown virtually exponential growth. These advances and patterns of growth  have had a dramatic impact on everything from industry and economics, to research and development in seemingly unrelated fields. They have been shown to change personal and social behaviors, morals, values, ethics, and even political systems.

Because of this, many futurologist still use the term “Moore’s law” to describe ideas like those put forth by Kurzweil.

For instance;  the term “Technological Singularity,” has been commonly misunderstood to mean technological progress will rise to infinity, as happens in a mathematical singularity.

But, this is not wholly correct.

The term was chosen as a metaphor from quantum mechanics, not mathematics.

It simply refers to the concept that as one approaches the Singularity, models of the future become less reliable. Similar to conventional models of physics break down as one approaches a gravitational singularity.

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