04 October 2012


One of my favorite amusements/escapes is the reading of fiction. I probably average fifty per year. Thanks to Costco I can feed this addiction fairly reasonably.

I recently picked up "Phantom" by Ted Bell in paperback for $5.99.  It's the story of a mad scientist (Darius), working for Iran,  creating a computer capable of controlling the world. Unfortunately, the machine soon achieves super intelligence and turns on his creator. The hero (Alex Hawke) is an English aristocrat, working for MI6, who is so rich he has his own Gulfstream and a sailing ship 320 feet long, masts ten stories high and weaponry the U.S. military would envy. As you might imagine Hawke saves the day with his larger than life toys. The story is pretty simplistic and corny but fine fodder for light escapism.

What I did find very interesting, and got me to musing, was the last part called "Afterward" in which the author talks about this thing called The Singularity which is apparently very real. Scientist are at this very moment working on a computer that will transcend human intelligence. The Singularity is the moment at which this happens. These ultra-intelligent machines will be called "artilects" and will ultimately be a billion times more intelligent that humans. According to the author achievement of the Singularity could be as little as ten years away.

The movie trailer for The Singularity is Near will give you somewhat of a visual what might happen. Naturally, it only shows the positive implications of achieving the Singularity and it's some pretty cool stuff.

To this old duffer this is some pretty scary stuff. Like everything else that has ever been invented such ultra-intelligent machines can be either a boon or a bain. Such a machine could come up with cures for every known illness and end aging. It could also invent a strain of virus for which there is no cure and wipe out every human on the planet. As in this novel, the machines could could break with their masters and all humanity would be at their mercy. We are told that this couldn't happen as safeguards are built into the systems. But,  I say Murphy to that.

Paul Allen, of Microsoft fame says The Singularity is Not Near and I sure hope he's right. Because I don't think I'm ready for it. I love my totally human existence. I love my life in the Montana wilderness. I am quite content to begin and end and my end isn't that far off. If I were twenty I would probably embrace it. What choice would I have?

©Kinsey Barnard

1 comment:

Leo Victorino said...

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More power Kinsey!