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March 13, 2008

The Singularity Effect

The Singularity Effect
© iStockphoto.com / Konstantin Inozemtsev

The A.I. Effect describes a human cognitive bias to discount improvements made in the science of Artificial Intelligence. Problems that in the past that were seen as extremely difficult, or intractable, are now seen in retrospect as having obvious solutions which no longer need to be described in terms of artificial intelligence.

Similarly, I believe that a "Singularity Effect" describes the discounting of advances in other technology areas such robotics, genetics, nanotechnology, etc. Consider how some of these technologies would have appeared to an observer from even 50 years ago:

  • A camera which can detect and focus on faces, wait for people to smile before taking a picture and (soon) associate individual faces with names for indexing and future searching.
  • A neckband that translates silent vocalizations into speech. Although this device does not directly read human thoughts, two people using this device coupled with wireless capabilities would essentially appear to be telepathic - certainly to observers from decades past.
  • A computer operating system which achieves continuous speech recognition at normal speech rates and with high accuracy. It continually improves its accuracy by training itself on the speaker.
  • A neuroheadset which gives a computer a limited ability to read a game player's thoughts and emotions.
  • A tool accessible from anywhere for free which can generally search the most important areas of human knowledge and translate it to and from the most widely used languages, all within seconds.

Welcome to the Singularity!