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Category: Science & Technology

We’ve seen a few of these in a variety of papers, this time it’s Time magazine’s turn to carry the life and times of Ray K and the singularity. Not much is new here to those who have been following the field, but it is a good read (especially for those who have not yet been exposed to the meme) as well as doing a good job at least in showing how much unnoticed progress has been made in the last few years.

Definitely worth a read.

I was  asked a few months ago to answer three questions for the new “Rough Guide to the Future” which has just come out in print: Looking at the future of humanity (with no particular timeframe), what’s a. your highest hope; b. your best bet and c. your view as to what’s likely to happen in view of answers a. and b.

As this is a futuristic publication I naturally veered to the singularity aspect of what I see in humanity’s future, particularly the merging with AI, of which I wrote of extensively here. Some would call this about as far-fetched as can be (heck, some of my closest peeps constantly jibe me about this), but read the article here on the site and judge for yourself…

Now, while they did manage to get my job title wrong, I think it came out quite well.

Of course, any publication that I contribute to deserves a full-fledged plug, so if you want to read the experts’ opinion on what’s to come in a variety of fields, and this includes some very serious people and not just frenzied geeks like myself, you can order yourself a copy  here.

A few months ago I cycled down to “downtown” Strasbourg and got myself a spanking new HTC Desire. Now this baby (below) is a great phone, miles better than its predecessor which I had (the Magic) – but it came with two downsides.First was the need to change my contract to the local Orange franchise – that it, what used to be France Telecom. I thought I knew a cutthroat mobile company before but boy, was I wrong. These guys, as it’s emerged in the last few months, are amazingly good at finding new and innovative ways of fleecing you from your money. And no matter what snazzy package you choose, the costs will always surpass this, sometimes by a lot! And not due to excessive talking…

However, that is a well-known problem which seems to blight Orange affiliates in many countries. What I did not expect, however, was that after choosing a not-at-all affordable package and phone (on what is supposedly an open-source OS-based phone) I got a phone which was 1. filled with integrated, non-removable software from the mobile provider and 2. that I was forced to rely on the same provider for software updates, i.e. updates to the Android OS. Now, anyone’s frustration from being forced to have non-removable apps he or she didn’t ask for bloating their newly-purchased mobile is one thing. Being forced to rely on a local provider for important OS updates, while the same company has a clear incentive not to upgrade so you are forced to return periodically and get a new device – totally sucks!

And so, as ever, I dove online in search of a solution, only to discover a myriad of souls across many countries in the same predicament – apparently mobile providers are uniformly nasty! I was happy to discover that one can a. ROOT his/her device and gain complete control over it – using either simple, one click processes or complex ones which take hours or days to figure out if it’s your first time . b. having done so, FLASH new software updates without relying on any company’s generosity (replying only on the wonderful open source community).

Hallelujah! Viva the revolution 👿

I’ve since also rooted and upgraded my old Magic, upgrading to Froyo before handing it over to my sister so she joins the Android crowd rather than the monotonous self-satisfied Legion of Jobs zombies.

A few useful links for you if you’re setting out to reclaim your droid:

  1. The Unlockr: a great repository for numerous mobile how-to’s, including notably rooting and flashing HTC devices
  2. UnRevoked – if you’ve got a relatively recent Android phone, this is the easiest one-click solution for rooting and taking control of your device.
  3. Leedroid – a great ROM developer – currently on Froyo (Android 2.2):
  • This is the web repository for all the relevant downloads.
  • This is the latest (as of writing) thread on the ROM release. Naturally, it’s on XDA developers, a wonderful website which you probably know and use if you’re not an Android noob, or will if you’re in the process of learning the ropes like I was a few weeks ago.

Oh. And in any case, mobile bloatware, provider control of OS updates, etc. etc…I’d stillrather get an open source Android-based device than yet another iPhone every day of the week!



So, with a nod to a previous post I put on here a few months ago regarding how much it makes sense and looks likely that cars will start driving themselves soon enough, with technology emerging today that could see this done in coming years – it seems that things are indeed moving quickly in this direction.

I read a short article a few days ago from the NYT reporting that Google is a company who’s working on this and has gotten quite advanced…surprising when you think of the nature of the company, that this development has come from the mogul of search rather than from a Toyota or Mercedes. In any case, it’s a welcome piece of news and if things keep advancing this quickly we may be chauffeured around by automatic cars sooner than we thought!

It does make you wonder whether Goog is looking at this from a general geeky “wouldn’t it be cool if…” point of view or whether they actually see a business in this which fits in with their model. They say they don’t have a plan, and looking at the time horizon this may be true. It does make sense however that if people spend time in their car and are not driving it – they have more time to spend online and thus are more exposed to advertising. However, car automation is way out of Google’s core business…interesting to see what comes out of this one…

If you’ve read my previous posts and the two singularity articles I’ve added to the site, you will know that in my opinion (and many others) there are two main avenues through which the singularity will emerge, when it does.

The first, and most widely considered (both scientifically and in the public/media view), will follow the development of what is known as “Strong AI” or “artificial general intelligence”. That is, the generation of an artificial intelligence which exceeds human intelligence,  coupled with this entity acquiring the ability to improve itself or develop an improved iteration of strong AI.

singularityThe route generally postulated in this case is that this AI and the ones it begets recursively improve themselves, rapidly reaching levels of intelligence ungraspable by us one-human-brain-power beings. Following this Singularity event, they either vanish into another dimension, build killer robots and destroy humanity, harvest humans as batteries and employ multiple copies of Hugo Weaving as unsuccessful agents or perhaps other realistic scenarios.

The slightly less well-covered route, though, is that prior to machines achieving supra-human intelligence, a way is found to link the human brain to machine components, followed by integrating the two – machines in the human body and multitudes of bodies and minds in a global cyborg consciousness. Thus, effectively rendering “us” and “them” inseparable. As a result, when strong AI does emerge, any advance made in intelligence levels will directly affect humans too. In effect, we will become part of the machine, able ultimately to transfer our consciousness to digital form and achieve the same leaps in intelligence levels as they emerge from the self-improving machines, or indeed be part of these improvements.

So which of these two possibilities (which are by no means categorically the only way things are set to pan out – there could be many variations in between, or completely different outcomes – remember, this is conjecture!)  is more likely? Which is better for humanity’s future?singluarity

Unfortunately, the advance rate in the bio and medical sciences naturally lags that in AI and related fields, due to the inherent restrictions on research in humans. Thus, one is forced to take a pessimistic outlook with regard to the likely sequence of events.  Ultimately an effective permanent link between man and machine will be made, but the question is whether it will still be relevant by the time it is established.

It must be remembered, though, that technological breakthroughs do happen. Should the field of brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) and the multitude of technologies which comprise and surround it receive sufficient attention and funding, the chances of a beneficial sequence can increase profoundly, increasing the chance of the survival of humanity…or should I say, post-humanity.

It is clear, though, that making the connection to machine intelligences will radically change humanity. Thus, the question of which route is more preferable depends on your outlook: do you want to see humanity evolve, or are you content with us staying just the way we are, even if this renders us evolutionarily irrelevant? Are bacteria disappointed not to have evolved?

So, if you are of the belief that we must and will evolve – make a contribution: donate, write to your congressman, or just become a researcher! The future is almost here… 🙂