|Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's|
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These pages contain the complete manuscript of the new book
Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny,
written by John J. Xenakis.
This text is fully copyrighted. You may copy or print out this
material for your own use, but not for distribution to others.
Comments are invited. Send them to mailto:email@example.com.
After reading this book you're probably convinced that we're going to have wars forever, with major new world wars every 80 years or so. By the year 3000, we'll have had about a dozen more world wars. Right?
Well, no, not exactly.
If you didn't read the last chapter carefully, then you might have missed the following sentence:
This is not science fiction. It's as mathematically certain to happen as anything involving human behavior can be. Today, this technology is under active development at MIT, IBM, Dow Chemical, Dupont, Bayer, and numerous other colleges and corporations, along with startups with names like Chemat and Nanoslayers. And this technology is being funded by the American, European Union, Japanese and other governments. Researchers around the world are competing to be the first to create the technology to make super-intelligent computers a reality.
Is this really credible? I know that it is. As a technologist and software developer, I can tell you what algorithms to implement in computer software so that the result is a computer that is "self-aware," invents things, makes decisions, sets goals, achieves goals, talks and listens to people and understands them, designs marketable products, creates works of art, writes the "great American novel," does windows, and so forth -- pretty much anything that a human being can do. In addition, I can tell you how to design the computer so that it can improve itself and make itself more intelligent -- something that human beings cannot do. If I know how to do this today, then why don't I do it? I can't, because computers aren't yet powerful enough to implement these brute force algorithms. However, computers will be powerful enough by the 2020s.
The point where computers become more intelligent than human beings is being called "the Singularity" by many writers. As we've said, the Singularity is expected to occur in the 2030 time frame.
Once computers are more intelligent than human beings are, then things will change rapidly. For one thing, computers will then rapidly become far more intelligent than human beings, because they'll be able to research and invent better versions of themselves. Within a few decades, computers will be as much more intelligent than human beings as human beings are more intelligent than dogs and cats.
On a personal level, many parents who are considering whether to have children should factor this development into their decision.
On a public policy level, many public policy areas have to be reevaluated. A good example is environmental policy. Intelligent computers can perform environmental cleanups that human beings can't do.
There are many unanswered questions. Computers will be intelligent, will be able to do research, will be able to fight wars, will be able to kill human beings and each other, and will be able to make more intelligent versions of themselves. But will they have "feelings"? Will they be "alive"? Will they have "a soul"? Can they be found guilty of murder if they kill someone?
|Once computers are more intelligent than human beings are, then things will change rapidly|
There are real questions as to whether the human race can survive the arrival of intelligent computers much past the year 2030 or so. If humans do survive, it will be because intelligent computers have decided to keep us around -- as pets or as scientific experiments or whatever. Who knows?
The issues surrounding the Singularity are well known to people in the technical community, and science fiction authors have been writing about it for years.
The Singularity is still "below the radar" for the public. I think this will change within the next few years, when something happens to bring the subject into the news. And since this is a "problem" that will not go away, but is as inevitable as sunrise, there's even a possibility of public panic and riots and demonstrations in some parts of the world, reminiscent of the Luddites in England in the early 1800s, who expressed their anger at the Industrial Revolution by going around destroying "high tech" wool and cotton mills.
Once the Singularity occurs and intelligent computers are able to improve themselves, humans will no longer have any role in their development. All we can do is have a role in the development of the first intelligent computers, and hope that our influence will last through future generations. That's why we should be thinking about this now.