Re: Singularity: Human AI to superhuman

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Sat, 12 Sep 1998 20:30:44 -0500

Hal Finney wrote:
> I first learned of Vinge's Singularity concept in his novel Marooned in
> Realtime. This novel deals with survivors who were in stasis and missed
> the Singularity, which left the world mysteriously absent of human life.
> From the information in the novel given by the character who lived closest
> to the Singularity, it does not appear to have been caused by advanced AI.
> Instead, it is a matter of technology allowing for telepathy-like powers
> which create a group mind. It appears that Earth was on its way to
> binding everyone together into a super-intelligence which would have
> powers far beyond the individuals involved.
> I don't know if Vinge advances this hypothesis seriously in his nonfiction
> writings but it does appear that he originally conceived of a Singularity
> through other paths than AI.

True. "Run, Bookworm, Run", the first story in _True Names And Other Dangers_, was centered on intelligence enhancement. "True Names", the second story, was about intelligence enhancement through neurocomputer interfaces; so was the Realtime series. Only in _A Fire Upon The Deep_ do we meet Powers of pure AI.

But. Intelligence enhancement is a Slow Horizon, with a relatively long takeoff time; intelligence enhancing technology enhancing intelligence, a two-stage cycle. Great for _stories_, because dealing with a pure-AI one-step-cycle Power requires a great big Zone.

In real life, I expect the Singularity to occur due to AI. Although I have also written guides to neurosurgical intelligence enhancement, the methods require years of lead-time, and for true effectiveness must begin in infancy. There might be a few Specialists writing the Last Lines of Code, but we will not actually be the Singularity.

--         Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.