If you invent a breakthrough in artificial intelligence, so machines can learn, that is worth 10 Microsofts. --Bill Gates
This past weekend I was invited by Bruce Klein to attend not only the 2007 Singularity Summit, but the pre-Summit cocktail party at the home of Peter Thiel in San Francisco's Marina district. While, admittedly, I had previously lacked a deep knowledge of The Singularity, I did understand this: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Future of Humanity was something that I needed to pay attention to, and learn more about.
And that, I did. Gratefully so. From the brief conversations I had with several of the speakers at the cocktail party (thanks to Susan Fonseca-Klein for gracefully leading the way) to the intense education I received during the Summit's first day, I realized the extreme importance of AI, how it affects and relates to our future, and present, and how important it is that others gain an understanding -- and why they should pay attention, too.
In its simplest definition, the Singularity is "the technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence." As MIT's Dr. Rodney Brooks explains,
The singularity period will encompass a time where a collection of technologies were invented, developed and deployed in fits and starts, driven not by the imperative of singularity itself, but by the normal economic and sociological pressures of human affairs.
This, then, summarizes the reason I have made this a priority:
it seems like a good guess that many supporters of the Singularity have in common a sense of being present at a critical moment in history; of having the chance to win a victory for humanity by making the right choices for the right reasons. Like a spectator at the dawn of human intelligence, trying to answer directly why superintelligence matters chokes on a dozen different simultaneous replies; what matters is the entire future growing out of that beginning.
As Seth Godin once said, "it is the edges that people stand in line. It is the edges where people notice you." Singularity, then, is the fringes. And it is in the fringes where the few 'see' and act on the present future. It is in the fringes where most, because it is so foreign, can't 'see' it - and turn away.
In the coming days and weeks, I will continue posting on this topic, the speakers, and the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. I will also continue my education, and share what I learn, here. For more interesting coverage, see the AP, Wired, Forbes, and bloggers Renee Blodgett (great seeing her again), Dan Farber, the Daily Galaxy and Betterhumans.