The Coming Technological Singularity

 The Coming Technological Singularity:
                      How to Survive in the Post-Human Era
                                Vernor Vinge
                      Department of Mathematical Sciences
                         San Diego State University

                           (c) 1993 by Vernor Vinge
               (Verbatim copying/translation and distribution of this
              entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this
                            notice is preserved.)  
                    This article was for the VISION-21 Symposium
                       sponsored by NASA Lewis Research Center
                and the Ohio Aerospace Institute, March 30-31, 1993.
               It is also retrievable from the NASA technical reports
                         server as part of NASA CP-10129.
                    A slightly changed version appeared in the
                    Winter 1993 issue of _Whole Earth Review_.

                   Within thirty years, we will have the technological
              means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after,
              the human era will be ended.

                   Is such progress avoidable? If not to be avoided, can
              events be guided so that we may survive?  These questions
              are investigated. Some possible answers (and some further
              dangers) are presented.

         _What is The Singularity?_

              The acceleration of technological progress has been the central
         feature of this century. I argue in this paper that we are on the edge
         of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. The precise
         cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of
         entities with greater than human intelligence. There are several means
         by which science may achieve this breakthrough (and this is another
         reason for having confidence that the event will occur):
            o The development of computers that are "awake" and
              superhumanly intelligent. (To date, most controversy in the
              area of AI relates to whether we can create human equivalence
              in a machine. But if the answer is "yes, we can", then there
              is little doubt that beings more intelligent can be constructed
              shortly thereafter.
            o Large computer networks (and their associated users) may "wake
              up" as a superhumanly intelligent entity.
            o Computer/human interfaces may become so intimate that users
              may reasonably be considered superhumanly intelligent.
            o Biological science may find ways to improve upon the natural
              human intellect.

              The first three possibilities depend in large part on
         improvements in computer hardware. Progress in computer hardware has
         followed an amazingly steady curve in the last few decades [16]. Based
         largely on this trend, I believe that the creation of greater than
         human intelligence will occur during the next thirty years.  (Charles
         Platt [19] has pointed out the AI enthusiasts have been making claims
         like this for the last thirty years. Just so I'm not guilty of a
         relative-time ambiguity, let me more specific: I'll be surprised if
         this event occurs before 2005 or after 2030.)..


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