Lawrence THE HANDLE, which varies in length according to the height of its user, and in some cases is made by that user to his or her specifications, is like most of the other parts of the tool in that it has a name and thus a character of its own.
Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity — technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.
For complete details, see below. Until I return to a further explanation, however, do read the first sentence of this paragraph carefully. Now back to the future: Our forebears expected the future to be pretty much like their present, which had been pretty much like their past. Although exponential trends did exist a thousand years ago, they were at that very early stage where an exponential trend is so flat that it looks like no trend at all.
So their lack of expectations was largely fulfilled. Today, in accordance with the common wisdom, everyone expects continuous technological progress and the social repercussions that follow. But the future will be far more surprising than most observers realize: Bill and I have been frequently paired in a variety of venues as pessimist and optimist respectively.
When people think of a future period, they intuitively assume that the current rate of progress will continue for future periods. However, careful consideration of the pace of technology shows that the rate of progress is not constant, but it is human nature to adapt to the changing pace, so the intuitive view is that the pace will continue at the current rate.
Even for those of us who have been around long enough to experience how the pace increases over time, our unexamined intuition nonetheless provides the impression that progress changes at the rate that we have experienced recently.
So even though the rate of progress in the very recent past e. It is typical, therefore, that even sophisticated commentators, when considering the future, extrapolate the current pace of change over the next 10 years or years to determine their expectations. But a serious assessment of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential.
In exponential growth, we find that a key measurement such as computational power is multiplied by a constant factor for each unit of time e.
Exponential growth is a feature of any evolutionary process, of which technology is a primary example. One can examine the data in different ways, on different time scales, and for a wide variety of technologies ranging from electronic to biological, and the acceleration of progress and growth applies.
What it clearly shows is that technology, particularly the pace of technological change, advances at least exponentially, not linearly, and has been doing so since the advent of technology, indeed since the advent of evolution on Earth.
I emphasize this point because it is the most important failure that would-be prognosticators make in considering future trends. That is why people tend to overestimate what can be achieved in the short term because we tend to leave out necessary detailsbut underestimate what can be achieved in the long term because the exponential growth is ignored.
The Law of Accelerating Returns We can organize these observations into what I call the law of accelerating returns as follows: Evolution applies positive feedback in that the more capable methods resulting from one stage of evolutionary progress are used to create the next stage.
As a result, the rate of progress of an evolutionary process increases exponentially over time. In another positive feedback loop, as a particular evolutionary process e.
This results in a second level of exponential growth i. Biological evolution is one such evolutionary process. Technological evolution is another such evolutionary process. Indeed, the emergence of the first technology creating species resulted in the new evolutionary process of technology. Therefore, technological evolution is an outgrowth of—and a continuation of—biological evolution.
A specific paradigm a method or approach to solving a problem, e. When this happens, a paradigm shift i. If we apply these principles at the highest level of evolution on Earth, the first step, the creation of cells, introduced the paradigm of biology.
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