Monday, 24 April 2017

Technological Singularity : What An Average Nigerian Should Know

Be forming slay queen or yoruba demon till you wake up one day to a world where you have no jobs, courtesy of technology. Can I say this in a harsher way? While I try to figure that out, lemme announce to you that we are approaching a period of dramatic shifts in thinking and super intelligence explosion - singularity.
Singularity is a point where nothing seem to make sense. Singularity has become a subject of discourse within the last two decades, largely because of the efforts of two thinkers - Vernor Vinge, a scientist cum science fiction writer and Ray Kurzwell, author of the book, 'Singularity Is Near'. The efforts of John Von Neumen, I.J Good and other scholars aren't ignored.   
Vernor Vinge in 1993 wrote that, "within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create super human intelligence, shortly after, the human era will be ended." Ray Kurzwell in his book defined singularity as "a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its' impact so deep, the human life will be irreversibly transformed. ...this epoch will transform the concept that we rely on to give meaning to our lifes, from our business models to the cycle of human life, including death itself."Kurzwell went ahead to speculate 2045 as the year computer based intelligence will significantly exceed human intelligence. 
A scarier way to look at singularity would be the definition of singularity by Kevin Kelly, the founder of Wired Magazine. He defines singularity as "the point at which all the change in the last million years will be superceded by the change in the next five minutes. "One can't even begin to imagine the possibility of a five minutes change trumping advancements that happened within a million years. It is quite unthinkable, as unthinkable as ATM must have been for those who existed before the 1970s when ATM was introduced. And as unthinkable as Google, Facebook, YouTube, GoFundMe and other groundbreaking technology of recent years must have been to those who existed before them. I am almost certain that no one ever imagined or thought that we would be clicks away from just about anything we want. Atleast, not in the way it is.   
Before you run off claiming this to be a sign of end time, let me remind you that, that was the exact reactions of a lot of Nigerians to ATM a few years ago. Nigerians at some point wrote off social media as a sign of end time and regarded signing up to social media as a way of selling one's soul to the devil. While I do not intend to argue singularity being a sign of end time, I would point out that  being expectant of this change would position us to make better use of artificial intelligence.   
Let's look at a few pointers to singularity being near.
1. Robots are doing human jobs : This is not happening in Nigeria presently, but would someday. Unimate, the first industrial robot was used in  General Motors Assembly Line in 1962. Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) was launched in the 1970s. Baxter and Sawyer are robots that can work safely around humans and as well as learn new tasks within minutes. All thanks to Rethink Robotics. Recently, Adidas announced that it would start marketing its first series of shoes manufactured by robots. Xiamomingbot, a robot owned by Toutiao, a Chinese media outlet reported the 2016 Olympics writing over 450 articles. Washington Post employed Heliogrief, a robot that covered the 2016 US elections. Your my? I would be saying oh my too, if I just came across this info. Lol. Need I also mention military robots? "The Day A Computer Writes A Novel, a book written by a robot was accepted for submission for the Hoshi Shinichi Literary Awards in Japan. And I could go on and on.   
2. Ever heard that genes could be edited? : Ever imagined that the genes of mosquitoes can be edited so they no longer carry malaria or so that they can carry another virus? Well, that's a possibility. In 2005, the US government started compiling the Cancer Genome Atlas. This allows doctors target cancer based on the genes rather than target the organ affected. With the tool CRISPR, scientists can edit genes easily thereby helping to render virus inactive and regulate cell activity. How worse or better can technology get? You are beginning to imagine science fiction become reality? This of course gives us hopes and as well as create fears. Wouldn't Artificial Intelligence work against us? How much autonomy do we allow robots? 
Again, from the singularity speculations AI is meant to improve itself, and create better versions of itself and of course keep improving itself. Doesn't that sound like we being relegated to the back by our own creations? This brings us to a point where we are choiceless about collaborations with computers and robots.   
Be ready and see only opportunities from the beautiful change that threatens our dear life and all that we know is all I can say.

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