The Consequences of Machine Intelligence
If machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do?
The question of what happens when machines get to be as intelligent as and even more intelligent than people seems to occupy many science-fiction writers. The Terminator movie trilogy, for example, featured Skynet, a self-aware artificial intelligence that served as the trilogy’s main villain, battling humanity through its Terminator cyborgs. Among technologists, it is mostly “Singularitarians” who think about the day when machine will surpass humans in intelligence. The term “singularity” as a description for a phenomenon of technological acceleration leading to “machine-intelligence explosion” was coined by the mathematician Stanislaw Ulam in 1958, when he wrote of a conversation with John von Neumann concerning the “ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.” More recently, the concept has been popularized by the futurist Ray Kurzweil, who pinpointed 2045 as the year of singularity. Kurzweil has also founded Singularity University and the annual Singularity Summit.