Most of the news is noise, this is not
By Jim Thompson
In my column here titled “Singularity emerges” (HCP, June 16, 2013) I warned of the rise of “Singularity” or the ability of computing machines (software and hardware) to reach a point where their abilities are indistinguishable from thinking humans.
I spoke of many goings on at the time, “Google Glass,” the government putting “black boxes” in all new cars to record their performance and so forth.
“Singularity is on track for greater-than-human intelligence” was my column of September 26, 2017 here on the pages of the HCP. Here, I reported “There have been estimates that this [singularity] will happen somewhere between about 2025 and 2030. I think it is much closer than this.”
At that time, almost six years ago, I further reported “Apple is about to do away with the opening button on the Smartphone and just do facial recognition on you in order to identify you…”
That seems almost quaint now.
In “Why are we so angry?” (HCP, Aug. 29, 2019), I erroneously concluded with, “We have discussed singularity before. This is the condition which will exist when the computers and the humans become indistinguishable from each other. Let me tell you, the computers still have a long way to go.”
I got it wrong in this last one; the middle column above is more nearly correct, except the guess that “singularity will happen somewhere between 2025 and 2030” was wrong. It is here now.
Geoffery Hinton, a British-Canadian cognitive psychologist, who works for Google and is at the University of Toronto, said in an interview with CBS News earlier this week, “Until quite recently, I thought it was going to be like 20 to 50 years before we have general purpose AI. Now I think it may be 20 years or less.”
He further stated that it is not inconceivable to consider that AI could wipe out humanity.
AI development is at the point where researchers are not sure when its intelligence will surpass humanity’s and concede perhaps it already has. Earlier this week, an open letter containing names like Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple) and others gained over 1,000 (latest count 2,137) signatures calling for at least a six-month pause in training the AI systems to be more powerful than Chat GPT-4. Others are saying the pause needs to be 30 years. Good luck with that.
One interview I heard this week on the subject suggested that the danger, as it always has been, is runaway gain of intelligence on the part of these systems, leaving our ability to think quickly in the dust. Further, if these systems have the ethics and morality of their creators (think Google and Facebook, for starters), they may decide that humans are not necessary.
This interviewee painted the picture of humanity’s last desperate attempt to survive as being bombing (that’s atomic bombing) the server farms where these things exist if we can get to the controls of the bombs before the AI does.
Just what is the power of these systems now? Well, in September 2017 when I wrote the article mentioned above, I stated: “The latest example I heard about which simply blew me away, however, involved a one-on-one talk with a medical doctor this past week. We were talking about the asymptotic rise in cancer research and the results this is yielding.??“He pointed out that the only way to keep up with this is Artificial Intelligence (AI), such as “Watson” (see http://www.ibm.com/watson). His illustration went as follows. Suppose you are a general oncology doctor who comes to work in the morning, and at the time you arrive at work, you are fully up to date on the latest cancer research.??“In order to go home that evening able to make the same statement, you will have to read 9,000 scientific papers that day. This is the volume of research being generated each and every day in the field of cancer research. The only way to keep up with this is using AI.”
And that was seven years ago.
This is far more serious than any other contemporary news currently astonishing you, yet most will ignore it.
Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at email@example.com.