Quotation: Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.
Creator: Vernor Vinge, prize-winning science fiction author; retired professor of computer science at San Diego State University
Context: In 1993 NASA sponsored a symposium titled “Vision 21: Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering in the Era of Cyberspace”. Vernor Vinge introduced the term “technological singularity” and predicted a cataclysmic change in human society resulting from the construction of superintelligent agents by 2023: 1
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.
Vinge outlined four pathways that lead toward surpassing human intelligence:
- 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.
- Large computer networks (and their associated users) may “wake up” as a superhumanly intelligent entity.
- Computer/human interfaces may become so intimate that users may reasonably be considered superhumanly intelligent.
- Biological science may find ways to improve upon the natural human intellect.
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- 1993, Proceedings of Symposium Vision 21, Held in Westlake, Ohio on March 30-31, 1993, Cosponsored by the NASA Lewis Research Center and the Ohio Aerospace Institute, NASA Conference Publication 10129, Article: The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era by Vernor Vinge (San Diego State University), Section: Abstract, Quote Page 11, Published by NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Office of Management, Scientific and Technical Information Program. (Accessed May 7 2018 via archive at ntrs.nasa.gov) ↩