What happens when we die? Do we rot into the ground, or do we go to heaven (or hell, if we’ve been bad)? Experiments suggest the answer is simpler than anyone thought. Without the glue of consciousness, time essentially reboots.
In Vernor Vinge’s version of Southern California in 2025, there is a school named Fairmont High with the motto, “Trying hard not to become obsolete.” It may not sound inspiring, but to the many fans of Dr. Vinge, this is a most ambitious — and perhaps unattainable — goal for any member of our species.
Dr. Vinge is a mathematician and computer scientist in San Diego whose science fiction has won five Hugo Awards and earned good reviews even from engineers analyzing its technical plausibility. He can write space operas with the best of them, but he also suspects that intergalactic sagas could become as obsolete as their human heroes.
The problem is a concept described in Dr. Vinge’s seminal essay in 1993, “The Coming Technological Singularity,” which predicted that computers would be so powerful by 2030 that a new form of superintellligence would emerge. Dr. Vinge compared that point in history to the singularity at the edge of a black hole: a boundary beyond which the old rules no longer applied, because post-human intelligence and technology would be as unknowable to us as our civilization is to a goldfish.
Site – http://www.nytimes.com
In a 1964 article on searching for extraterrestrial civilizations, the Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev suggested using radio telescopes to detect energy signals from other solar systems in which there might be civilizations of three levels of advancement: Type 1 can harness all of the energy of its home planet; Type 2 can harvest all of the power of its sun; and Type 3 can master the energy from its entire galaxy. Fossil fuels won’t get us there. Renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal are a good start, and coupled to nuclear power could eventually get us to Type 1. Yet the hurdles are not solely — or even primarily — technological ones. We have a proven track record of achieving remarkable scientific solutions to survival problems — as long as there is the political will and economic opportunities that allow the solutions to flourish. In other words, we need a Type 1 polity and economy, along with the technology, in order to become a Type 1 civilization.
Site – http://www.latimes.com
Across cultures, classes, and aeons, people have yearned to transcend death. Bear that history in mind as you consider the creed of the singularitarians. Many of them fervently believe that in the next several decades we’ll have computers into which you’ll be able to upload your consciousness—the mysterious thing that makes you you. Then, with your consciousness able to go from mechanical body to mechanical body, or virtual paradise to virtual paradise, you’ll never need to face death, illness, bad food, or poor cellphone reception.
Now you know why the singularity has also been called the rapture of the geeks.
The singularity is supposed to begin shortly after engineers build the first computer with greater-than-human intelligence. That achievement will trigger a series of cycles in which superintelligent machines beget even smarter machine progeny, going from generation to generation in weeks or days rather than decades or years. The availability of all that cheap, mass-produced brilliance will spark explosive economic growth, an unending, hypersonic, technoindustrial rampage that by comparison will make the Industrial Revolution look like a bingo game.
Site – http://www.spectrum.ieee.org
The technological singularity takes place when the human race succeeds in creating an A.I being more intelligent than any human could ever be. Let us call it Alpha. Since the act of creating Artificial Intelligence is a task that benefits directly from the intelligence level of the creator, this more-intelligent-than-men being would surely be faster and more efficient at creating his own A.I being, let us call him Beta. This second generation being would too be better than its predecessor, and could in turn create a third one, Gamma, who is even more powerful, and so on. As capacity increases, the median generation time decreases, resulting in an exponential rate of evolution that quickly becomes asymptotic, at which point it becomes difficult to speculate further.
Site – http://www.youtube.com
It could be the weirdest and most embarrassing prediction in the history of cosmology, if not science. If true, it would mean that you yourself reading this article are more likely to be some momentary fluctuation in a field of matter and energy out in space than a person with a real past born through billions of years of evolution in an orderly star-spangled cosmos. Your memories and the world you think you see around you are illusions. This bizarre picture is the outcome of a recent series of calculations that take some of the bedrock theories and discoveries of modern cosmology to the limit. Nobody in the field believes that this is the way things really work, however. And so in the last couple of years there has been a growing stream of debate and dueling papers, replete with references to such esoteric subjects as reincarnation, multiple universes and even the death of spacetime, as cosmologists try to square the predictions of their cherished theories with their convictions that we and the universe are real.
Site – http://www.nytimes.com
The fantasy worlds of his bestselling Eighties novels were uncannily prophetic, but where does the sci-fi writer go for inspiration when the future catches up on us? More than 20 years after he coined the term ‘cyberspace’, he talks to Tim Adams about the shape of things that came to pass. The present has recently caught up with William Gibson. The great prophet of the digital future, who not only coined the word ‘cyberspace’ in his debut novel Neuromancer in 1984, but imagined its implications and went a long way to suggesting its YouTube and MySpace culture, has stopped looking forwards. ‘The future is already here,’ he is fond of suggesting. ‘It is just not evenly distributed.’