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The singularity is near... in Israel

On October 17, Monday, a special gathering will be held at the Hamada Center in Tel Aviv, the main theme of which is the singularity on all the different angles in which

Ray Kurzweil in a lecture at Stanford University in 2006. From Wikipedia
Ray Kurzweil in a lecture at Stanford University in 2006. From Wikipedia

Futurist Ray Kurzweil believes he will live forever.

And he may be right.

The quest for eternal life is not unusual in history. It was identified back in the 18th century by the statesman Robert Greene Ingersoll, who claimed that "our hope for eternal life did not grow out of religions, but all religions grew out of this hope."

It's hard to say whether futurist Ray Kurzweil knew the saying when he started promoting the idea of ​​the singularity in popular culture. Kurzweil has been known for many years as a versatile inventor and a gifted and talented futurist. But in recent decades his predictions have become wilder and more grandiose than anything he had dreamed of before. And so Kurzweil founded the 'Singularity Cult', as some call it. Advocates of the 'singularity' believe that it necessarily creates the possibility of eternal life, or at least a longer life than we have dared to hope for so far.

The singularity point

The famous singularity point describes a future state where technology becomes complex and powerful enough to start thinking for itself. Officially, we are still many years away from this point in time. But the truth is that in the last decades we are in the midst of a technological revolution that is only gaining momentum. Computers are becoming more sophisticated, smarter and cheaper every year. Deep Blue, the supercomputer that defeated Garry Kasparov in 1997 was one of the most powerful computers of its time. Today it is possible to run software with similar capabilities on a netbook. In short, the world is progressing, and the rate of progress itself is increasing.

According to the thinkers of the singularity idea, the process of technological progress will continue to accelerate forward until the stage where the first software capable of competing with human intelligence will be created. Although computers are already able to do this today in certain areas - such as memory and calculation speed - they are not close to competing with the human ability to derive meanings from the world around them or to reach balanced conclusions by weighing the thousands of factors that go into the calculation of reality - an ability whose realization in humans is sometimes also called intuition.

Once artificial intelligence of such a high level is created, we will be able to use it day and night. We can run it on thousands of computers at the same time, without letting it rest. It is difficult to say whether she will have her own feelings, or even whether she will aspire to freedom and independence - it is very likely that these will have no real meaning for her, since they were formed during evolution in the minds of living beings only. And on the assumption that that intelligence will therefore be under our complete control, one important question is asked: what will be the first problem we ask it to solve?

And Kurzweil's answer is just as smart as it is elegant: we will ask her to create the artificial intelligence of the next generation. It will be allowed to plan and design the refinements that it itself needs to create the next software and hardware that will be faster, smarter and cheaper. It shouldn't take her too long. After all, we could run thousands of such computers at the same time, and each of them would have all the intelligence of an average computer engineer. And when they succeed in designing the next generation of artificial intelligence that will be even smarter, we will also employ the next generation in creating even smarter artificial intelligence, which will create the next generation that is really genius, that will create the next generation...

The age of thinking machines

Well, the point is clear. From the moment we arrive at the creation of programs that will have the intelligence of an average person, an even faster development process will begin which will result in the development of machines with intelligence greater than that of all mankind combined, if it is even possible to estimate or quantify such a level of intelligence in the terms we have Today.

Such 'genius' machines will be able to analyze the world around us and understand it at a level we have not been exposed to before. We believe today that Einstein's IQ index was 160 - an incredibly high score for his unique mind, through which he was able to test a large number of experiments and form from them the understanding of the unique properties of light and time, known today as the theory of relativity. If this was the success rate of a person with an IQ of 160, what could machines with an IQ of 1,000 be able to do? of 10,000? Machines armed with all the knowledge available on the web, capable of analyzing all the scientific articles written to date and cross-checking them according to criteria that none of us have yet thought of? Where will they take humanity, and what will happen to us along the way?

The answers to all these are unknown. In fact, we can't even guess them. This is the true meaning of the 'point of singularity'. This term is used in physics to define a region in the centers of black holes, where all calculations get confused and entangled, and it is impossible to know what is happening there. The technological 'point of singularity' is the point in time when the intelligent machines begin to analyze, plan and create for the human race its future. We cannot understand the way of thinking of such beings, any more than the ants, whose nervous system gives them only the capacity for simple automatic operations, could decipher Einstein's way of thinking.

The calendar of the singularity

How close are we to the singularity of technology?

Kurzweil believes that by the year 2045 we will succeed in creating the thinking machines that will outsmart all of humanity. He may be right. Already today there is a supercomputer known under the name Watson, who managed to beat the two champions of the United States in trivia, after reading real books and extracting meaning and insights from them. And it is not an ordinary trivia, but one in which the questions included for example - "What do the shirt and the keyboard have in common?"

Don't be shy to think a little and see if you manage to come up with the answer yourself.

Did you succeed?

The answer is "buttons".

Perhaps no less impressive is the fact that in one of the other questions, Watson gave a wrong answer - but it was the same as the answer given by one of the human competitors. Does this mean that his thought and processing processes were similar to those of the human competitor, to the extent that both made the same mistake for a similar reason?

The computer that analyzed me

Recently, Watson's developers from IBM decided to shift his attention to medicine. In recent months, he has been busy reading as many different medical books as possible, and the insurance companies are already lining up to feed him the details of patients and receive from him assessments about the diseases that afflict them and their expected life expectancy. And if Watson succeeds in understanding the ailments and harms of the human body, surely it won't be long before he also devotes his time to going over scientific articles in the fields of physics and chemistry that may yield new and fascinating insights, and no less important - even more advanced technologies, which we will use to build the young Watson the next.

Watson may be one of the most important steps on the way to the singularity point, but there are other steps as well. The Blue Brain project currently taking place in Switzerland is an attempt to create a synthetic brain by imitating the operation of each of the billions of nerve cells in the brain. The computer consists of tens of thousands of processors, where each processor simulates the operation and configuration of a single nerve cell, and all of them together communicate and function with each other, creating the image of the operation of a small part of the brain.

A short video from the neural simulation that runs the Blue Brain project

The project is still very far from imaging an entire human brain, but already today the programmers are trying to use it to understand how parts of the brain work and how they react at the cellular level and at the neural network level to drugs. It is not impossible that in the coming decades we will be able to apply the insights gained from the project and embed them in a more sophisticated computer system that will simulate the entire human brain, its feelings, hopes, desires and dreams. Would such a computer mind be 'alive'? Will he be entitled to basic human rights? Will we be allowed to 'run' such an artificial brain at enormous speed and for days and nights to solve complex problems, while we know that it is tormented inside the computer and strives for freedom?

to the singularity of the solutions. Not to us.

The eternal life of the ship of Theseus

If we manage to complete the amazing achievement of creating a computerized brain, then we may use it to achieve the longed-for goal - the same one that has fueled the dreams of believers of all religions and sects throughout the generations - to reach real eternal life. To leave the weak human body, which is prone to infections and injuries and hormonal effects, and copy the pattern of our mind to the virtual model on the computer.

Apparently this is cheating - because even if my brain template is fully copied into the computer, I am not the one who will get eternal life. It will be the vitrual double, contained in the silicon circuits of the computer, that will get to watch my body age, die and be buried in the ground. I myself will die, but the double I created for myself will remain in the computer.

There may be a solution to this problem, which was presented in a paradox from the first century AD called 'The Ship of Theseus'. Theseus was the hero of the people of Athens, after he saved the city's youth who were sent as a sacrifice to the Minotaur in the labyrinth. He returned from the journey aboard his ship, and the proud people of the city decided to preserve the ship forever. But nature does its thing, and after several years it was necessary to replace one of the planks that made up the ship, with a new and stronger plank. However - it was still the ship of Theseus, wasn't it? And so over the years, more and more planks were gradually replaced, until the entire ship was made up of new and sturdy planks - but it was still the ship of Theseus.

We already live today in an era where cerebral prostheses are becoming part of the medical treatments offered to people whose brains are damaged. Electrodes that connect to the brain are able to transfer information between it and the computer, and only recently were we exposed to a study from Tel Aviv University during which electrodes and computer chips replaced part of the cerebellum of rats. In another study from the last few months, the computer was able to partially fill the place of the memory-making algorithm of the hippocampus. In other words, there are already prostheses - initial and fragile as they may be - for part of the cerebellum and the hippocampus.

If we decide one day, when the singularity turns out to be good for us, to transfer ourselves to a computer, we won't have to do it through a rough copy of our minds. On the contrary - we will do it gradually. Similar to the ship of Theseus, we will replace only one area of ​​the brain with an artificial prosthesis that simulates the normal neural processes, but manipulates them through the computer. And yet - there is no doubt that this is our mind, but it is equipped with a prosthesis. So we will replace another part of the brain with a computerized prosthesis. And another part, and another part and another part. And so until the last living cell, and all along the way we will continue to ask ourselves - are we still ourselves? And the answer, inevitably, will be yes. So until that last cell, and when we turn off the light of his life we ​​will find that we have transferred our entire mind into the computer, and there we will also give up, forever surfing the Internet, or serving as slaves to the humans who have not yet gone through the process.

All these are visions of a very distant future, if at all, but they occupy many researchers of the future, and not only them. They haunt the imaginations of painters, musicians, programmers, scientists and engineers all over the world. They open before us a door to a true hope of winning the eternal life that human beings have longed for since time immemorial.

And now, for the first time, these visions are coming to Israel officially.

The singularity is coming to Israel

In less than two weeks, on October 17, Monday, a special conference will be held at the Hamada Center in Tel Aviv, the main theme of which is the singularity in all its different angles. The convention will be held in the format of a 'non-conference', to which the entire general public is invited, and each of the participants can contribute their information, go up on one of the stages and lecture to anyone who wants to hear their words.

The three organizing bodies are Icon TLV, Hamada, and the Center for Analysis and Technological Forecasting at Tel Aviv University. The Forecasting Center in particular organizes an extraordinary activity during the non-conference, and sends its representatives (your faithful servant) to conduct futures research workshops during the conference. The participants in the conference will be able to experience a real process of thought experiments and research on the various possible futures facing humanity, under the guidance of a future researcher from the center.

Kurzweil believes that the singularity is just around the corner. It is possible that the future of humanity is indeed leading to it without the possibility of going back. As the moth circles the candle and will eventually burn out, so too will humanity create its own intelligent machines and merge with them. And maybe - maybe there are also other possible futures.

I invite all readers to come, conceive and explore those possible futures together at the singularity conference. The invitation is open to artists, scientists, dreamers and cities.

8 תגובות

  1. I know about the plural "futures" and not "futures" when it comes to nouns.
    I don't agree with the paradox, at the end of the day if we replace part of the marrow it will be us and not our whole being.
    The definition of being something is discussed in one of the Greek philosophers, I think it's Aristotle but I'm not sure.
    He claimed that our being is our essence, and without it we are not us.
    In my opinion, the organ that most constitutes the essence of our being is the brain.
    Note that in the paradox only the ship remained, but the man died, meaning at the end of the day they only preserved the things that did not represent the essence of the man, but only an accessory item in his life.
    That's why I don't see my virtual double as a part of my "I".
    By the way, who said it would be difficult to preserve our original body?

  2. It is very interesting to read in this regard the book of the sharp critic of the singularity cult, Jaron Lanier, You are not a gadget.

  3. According to what I know, the book has already been translated into Hebrew (initial translation) by the Kinneret-Zamora-Beitan book publishing house, the translator is Dr. Emanuel Lotem who previously translated many books on science. I understood that the translation work was supposed to be finished already in 2009, so it's really not clear why it took so long, maybe it's worth sending them an email and find out why the delay.

    Maybe they can't decide on the name of the book:

  4. When the hell did a Hebrew translation of the book come out???
    I don't understand. There isn't enough of a popular science-loving audience worth translating the book for???

  5. There is a much earlier date that you did not mention, according to Ray Kurzweil by the year 2030 (that is, within 20 years, to me it seems like an eternity compared to the rate of technological development) we will have a computer that is indistinguishable from a human in terms of thinking ability (will successfully pass the Turing test ).

  6. "The famous singularity point describes a future state in which technology becomes complex and powerful enough to start thinking for itself." - Absolutely not true.

    Singularity means a turning point so different/advanced/complex beyond what we can see, that we cannot predict it and therefore we are "blind" about it. A point where everything we knew is irrelevant and the laws don't apply there. (Similar to a black hole which is defined as a singularity point because all the laws of physics we know do not apply there)

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