Technological Singularity

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Slides from this morning's MACTA presentation

From this morning’s MACTA keynote address: Co-constructing Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century

Career and Technical Education is poised at the inflection point of a technological and social change process identified as the “J” Curve. Just like the letter J, the “J” Curve describes a sharp upward turn in the exponentially accelerating rate of change. The effects of the “J” Curve will be felt -indeed, are already being felt- by every institution, company, government, and school in all societies. This presentation centers on the leadership that can be exerted by Career and Technical Education in the context of the “J” Curve’s increasing impacts.

To view the slides in a larger format, click here.

Six scenarios for the Technological Singularity

Two articles related to the Singularity Summit have appeared on preparing for the Technological Singularity:

First, Jamais Cascio writes on a Metaverse Roadmap Overview:

In this work, along with my colleagues John Smart and Jerry Paffendorf, I sketch out four scenarios of how a combination of forces driving the development of immersive, richly connected information technologies may play out over the next decade. But what has struck me more recently about the Roadmap scenarios is that the four worlds could also represent four pathways to a Singularity. Not just in terms of the technologies, but — more importantly — in terms of the social and cultural choices we make while building those technologies.

The scenarios explored are:

  1. Virtual Worlds: the combination of simulation and intimate (highly personalized) technologie
  2. Mirror Worlds: the intersection of simulation and externally-focused technologies
  3. Augmented Reality: the collision of augmentation and external technologies
  4. Lifelogging: brings together augmentation and intimate technologies to record the experiences and histories of objects and users (what Cascio refers to as “participatory panopticon“)

Read more at Open the Future

Second, Bryan Gardiner writes on the Wired blog that Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, multi-millionaire Facebook backer, and the president of Clarium Capital Management, a global macro hedge fund, is devising a Singularity-aware investment strategy based on two, polarized scenarios in a near-future world where machines will become smarter than humans:

  1. Negative scenario: where machines won’t need us and humans become expendable
  2. Positive scenario: where humans would still have a positive outlook

Regardless of the two scenarios, Gardiner points out that the volatile booms and busts over recent years are indicative of the market’s attempts to align itself with near-Singularity transformations:

In essence, he argues that each of these booms represent different bets on the singularity, or at least on various things that are proxies for it, like globalization. What’s more, we’ve been seeing them now for over 30 years.

The markets are catching on to accelerating change. Why not bet on the Singularity in our schools as well?

Top ten signs the "Singularity is near"

ten-days-sm.pngAs we stated in yesterday’s top ten list, human-surpassing intelligence will guarantee that the future is far more different than we can imagine. Our second top ten list plays off ideas from Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is near, Hans Moravec’s Mind children and Robot, and the work of Vernor Vinge. Onward Singularitarians!

  1. Accelerating returns: S-curves of change are occurring much more rapidly, forcing humans to cope with unexpected resource diversity. Much of this exists in the form of bona fide forms of abundance, for which there are few or no means of effective absorption and equitable distribution.
  2. Advances in genetics: By many definitions of creation, including those within religious systems and conservative science, humans are about to become as gods.
  3. Advances in nanotechnologies: Richard Feynman pointed out a basic new direction for R&D: toward the much, much smaller. After a clumsy start that attempted to blend Newtonian mechanics with nanomachinery, the field has broadened and moved into chemistry, circuitry, and molecular self-assembly.
  4. Advances in robotics: The more spectacular advances in robotics are occurring at the level of microelectromechanical systems. In many ways less sophisticated than nanobots, mems offer the potential for a myriad of near-term applications, including some within the human body.
  5. Advances in computational capacities: According to Ray Kurzweil, reverse engineering of the human brain is on a path to duplicate the brain’s circuitry within one or two decades. Cost estimates of such systems are projected to follow the now-familiar downward curve even as capabilities skyrocket.
  6. Advances in understanding human intelligence: Intelligence may need to be redefined as higher-order domains of potential and capability rather than properties specific only to humans. Dovetailed intelligent humans and smart machines have already begun to generate a gradual equation of organic and inorganic intelligence potentials and capabilities.
  7. Virtual reality is beginning to complement reality: In a yin-yang manner, virtual reality (VR) and classical reality (CR) are dovetailing as well as coexisting. Distinctions between VR and CR may gradually dissipate as the properties of both are defined and measured empirically and as more blended systems and experiences are created.
  8. Paradigm shifts in thought and the senses are emerging as important cultural software: It will become ordinary to speak of paradigm changes outside the boundaries of cognition. Knowledge and innovation workers must change their thinking and feelings both anticipatorily and reactively to create opportunities and cope with sudden changes.
  9. The future is more difficult to imagine than ever before: The more information that becomes available through trends, scenarios and visions, the more that numerous alternative futures can be created. Alvin Toffler recognized this in 1967, but it is an insight that continues to provoke claims that humans are incapable of entertaining more than a handful of future alternatives, most of them utopic (all too “unlikely”) or dystopic (all too “likely”).
  10. Accelerating technological change is accelerating social change: Technological advances routinely change our cultural norms, political systems, economics, and modes of thinking. New cultures are routinely created, both as new configurations of blends of existing cultures (transcultures) and innovative, designed, personal cultures (postcultures).

Top ten global trends that force us to rethink education

ten-days-sm.pngWe open our ten days of top ten lists with a list of global trends that force us to rethink education. What does the future hold for today’s students in the 21st Century? In a future driven by globalization, knowledge, innovation, and accelerating change, education will need to be re-missioned to meet new needs:

  1. A global, knowledge-based society: Ubiquitous and ever-opening access to information creates a need for skilled workers who can transform information to meaningful, new knowledge.
  2. The innovation-based society is emerging: Successful members of society will create innovative- and contextually-relevant applications for new knowledge.
  3. Knowledge and innovation-based jobs are moving to India and China: Western companies have already learned that it makes sense to move industrial jobs offshore. Today, many companies are beginning to move their creativity and R&D jobs to markets with lower labor costs.
  4. Personal success in the innovation society will require novelty at the individual level: Standardization and centralization at the workplace will give way to individualization and decentralization. Employees will be viewed and rewarded for their creative inputs as individuals, not for the roles they could play as proceduralized automatons.
  5. Technology changes human relations: Advances in technology allow people to interact in new ways that were previously obscured by geographical, economic or social boundaries.
  6. Jobs that exist today will not necessarily exist when today’s students finish school: Why do we insist on preparing students for jobs that existed before they were born instead of for jobs that will exist when they finish school?
  7. An ageing population: Advances in sanitation, nutrition and medicine have extended life expectancy in many countries. The life span, about 127, is now the object of research and development. Should people be helped to live 2,500 years, or even “forever”?
  8. Globalization: Tom Friedman is right. The world is flat. The phenomenon of globalization compels students and schools to compete on a global scale.
  9. Change is accelerating: The doubling time of information is now under one year. In 20 years or less doubling time may drop to a few weeks. If our cultural institutions don’t change at least as fast, what will happen to our senses of identity and security? How can we become situated in the future as much as the present or past?
  10. The Singularity is almost here: Human-surpassing intelligence will guarantee that the future is far more different than we can imagine. Are we supplying students with the creative skills required to thrive in a future that demands routine human creativity?

Ten days of top ten lists


Education Futures is about to transform and grow a bit, with a refocus on content, an additional editorial blogger and the introduction of guest bloggers. Expect big changes starting in July.

A ten-day kickoff for Education Futures’ new direction is coming up! Beginning Monday, top ten lists of ideas and resources will be posted each weekday that help us to rethink education in a New Paradigm of global change as we progress toward the 22nd Century. Global trends, the Technological Singularity, Leapfrogging, and other ideas and resources for building successful education futures will be shared.

See you on Monday!

Singularity Institute blog launched

The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence (SIAI) has launched a blog covering research and outreach updates, videos, articles, papers, events, goals, and relevant science and technology news.

SIAI is a not-for-profit research institute in Palo Alto, California, with three major goals: furthering the nascent science of safe, beneficial advanced artificial intelligence (self-improving systems) through research and development, research fellowships, research grants, and science education; furthering the understanding of its implications to society through the AI Impact Initiative and annual Singularity Summit; and furthering education among students to foster scientific research.

Reason interviews Vernor Vinge

Reason Magazine published a rather interesting interview with Vernor Vinge, touching on issues that interest libertarians. In regard to government control, or efforts to slow the Technological Singularity, he states:

There is a national interest, and not just in America, in providing the illusion of freedom for the millions of people who need to be happy and creative to make the economy go. Those people are more diverse and distributed and resourceful and even coordinated than any government.

That’s a power we already have in free markets. Computer networks, supporting data and social networks, give this trend an enormous boost. In the end that illusion of freedom may have to be more like the real thing than any society has ever achieved in the past, something that could satisfy a new kind of populism, a populism powered by deep knowledge, self-interest so broad as to reasonably be called tolerance, and an automatic, preternatural vigilance.

Short of physical disasters or failures in technology, Vinge believes the Singularity is inevitable. Barry Mahfood argues that it’s happening gradually…

The "great Singularity debate"

ZDNet is running a blog story on the Singularity Summit at Stanford University. Particular attention in the article is focused on the debate between Ray Kurzweil and Douglas Hofstader on utopian versus dystopian futures:

Kurzweil acknowledged that Singularity could lead to an unappealing or cataclysmic future, but he believes his vision will have a soft landing. If the technologies were considered too dangerous, it would require a totalitarian society, would deprive people of the benefits of technology innovation and drive it underground. In his view, narrow relinquishment of dangerous information and investing in defenses is a morely likely, or hopeful, outcome.

Meanwhile, Hofstader:

expressed the ‘human’ concern of uploading ourselves into cyberspace, becoming software entities inside of computing hardware as our destiny. “If that’s the case how will the entire world, enviroment in which we live be modeled,” he asked. “What does it mean for humans to survive in cyberspace, and what is the core of a person. It’s not clear what a human being would be in such an environment.”

Read the full post on ZDNet.