Ray Kurzweil, renowned inventor and futurist with a good future-prediction track-record, has written a paper in which he tries to convince the reader why we can be confident that we will have human level AI within 25 years. This will eventually result in a Singularity.
This Turing test that Ray talks about is a test where a person sits behind a computer and engages in a conversation with an AI on the other side. If the AI can convince the person chatting with it that it is not an AI but a real person, then the AI is said to have successfully passed the Turing test.
This AI is also said to be human level AI, because it is functionally indistinguishable from a real person with regards to intelligence.
Ray provides us with a few key insights that may change your mind just in case you’d already convinced yourself that human level AI (and above) was impossible. A quote from Ray’s paper:
Of the three primary revolutions underlying the Singularity (G, N, and R), the most profound is R, which refers to the creation of nonbiological intelligence that exceeds that of unenhanced humans. A more intelligent process will inherently outcompete one that is less intelligent, making intelligence the most powerful force in the universe.
Artificial intelligence at human levels will necessarily greatly exceed human intelligence for several reasons. As I pointed out earlier machines can readily share their knowledge. As unenhanced humans we do not have the means of sharing the vast patterns of interneuronal connections and neurotransmitter-concentration levels that comprise our learning, knowledge, and skills, other than through slow, language-based communication. Of course, even this method of communication has been very beneficial, as it has distinguished us from other animals and has been an enabling factor in the creation of technology.
Machines can pool their resources in ways that humans cannot. Although teams of humans can accomplish both physical and mental feats that individual humans cannot achieve, machines can more easily and readily aggregate their computational, memory and communications resources. As discussed earlier, the Internet is evolving into a worldwide grid of computing resources that can be instantly brought together to form massive supercomputers.
Machines have exacting memories. Contemporary computers can master billions of facts accurately, a capability that is doubling every year.3 The underlying speed and price-performance of computing itself is doubling every year, and the rate of doubling is itself accelerating.
As human knowledge migrates to the Web, machines will be able to read, understand, and synthesize all human-machine information. The last time a biological human was able to grasp all human scientific knowledge was hundreds of years ago.
Another advantage of machine intelligence is that it can consistently perform at peak levels and can combine peak skills. Among humans one person may have mastered music composition, while another may have mastered transistor design, but given the fixed architecture of our brains we do not have the capacity (or the time) to develop and utilize the highest level of skill in every increasingly specialized area. Humans also vary a great deal in a particular skill, so that when we speak, say, of human levels of composing music, do we mean Beethoven, or do we mean the average person? Nonbiological intelligence will be able to match and exceed peak human skills in each area.
For these reasons, once a computer is able to match the subtlety and range of human intelligence, it will necessarily soar past it, and then continue its double- exponential ascent.
Absolutely true. I agree 100% with Ray on the above.
Our opinions diverge, however, from here on:
I pointed out above that machines will match (and quickly exceed) peak human skills in each area of skill. So instead, let’s take one hundred scientists and engineers. A group of technically trained people with the right backgrounds would be capable of improving accessible designs. If a machine attained equivalence to one hundred (and eventually one thousand, then one million) technically trained humans, each operating much faster than a biological human, a rapid acceleration of intelligence would ultimately follow.
However, this acceleration won’t happen immediately when a computer passes the Turing test. The Turing test is comparable to matching the capabilities of an average, educated human and thus is closer to the example of humans from a shopping mall. It will take time for computers to master all of the requisite skills and to marry these skills with all the necessary knowledge bases.
Once we’ve succeeded in creating a machine that can pass the Turing test (around 2029), the succeeding period will be an era of consolidation in which nonbiological intelligence will make rapid gains. However, the extraordinary expansion contemplated for the Singularity, in which human intelligence is multiplied by billions, won’t take place until the mid-2040s (as discussed in chapter 3 of The Singularity is Near).
My opinion is that there will be a hard take-off towards a full blown Singularity once an AI achieves human level intelligence.
Maybe it’s me, or maybe it’s just that my definition of the Singularity differs from Ray’s. But I really don’t see why it would take 15 years after the achievement of human level AI for our society to be transformed beyond recognition.
It seems to me, that once you attain human level AI, thousands of copies of this AI are easily made. All copies could learn different skills and merge with one another not long after that. All of this would go at blinding speed, since the computers of that time will be extremely fast and globally interconnected into one big giant virtual supercomputer. A radical transformation of the world we live in would be sure to follow.
The only thing that could prevent this scenario from happening, as far as I can see, would be if the first human level AI would use up all our computational resources at once, thereby preventing thousands of copies from being made. However, I think it is very unlikely that we will have a computational power scarcity 25 years from now.
What are your thoughts on superior AI and the implications of it?
Please, feel free to comment on this one. I want to hear my reader’s opinions.
(For everybody interested in more of Ray Kurzweil’s future predictions, read Renowned thinker sees boundless future.)