Sam GhandchiSingularity Topics with Kurzweil's Comments
Sam Ghandchi
http://www.ghandchi.com/900-singularity-kurzweil-eng.htm

مباحث سینگولاریته با کامنت های کورزویل
http://www.ghandchi.com/900-singularity-kurzweil.htm

The following articles touch on different topics relating to the Singularity theory of Ray Kurzweil. My thanks to Mr. Kurzweil for taking the time to read them and providing his valuable comments regarding each article. I have added Ray's comments, with his permission, to the top of each article in red color. The articles are listed chronologically from newest to oldest.

 

Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,

Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher
IRANSCOPE
http://www.ghandchi.com
http://www.iranscope.com
December 10, 2013
 

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I. Kurzweil's PRTM Next Step in AI

http://www.ghandchi.com/730-kurzweil-prtm-eng.htm

Kurzweil's Comment 11/18/12: Thanks, Sam. Looks good! Very much appreciated. All the best, Ray

 

Ray Kurzweil's new book How to Create a Mind about Artificial Intelligence (AI) has just been published (1). The book examines topics that have long been the subject of discussion in the AI community (2).

Nowadays one does not need to discuss writings such as Turing's monumental 1936 paper to draw attention to AI (3). Anybody making a query on Google wants the search engine to respond like a human, i.e. to understand what the inquirer is asking and to use the vast information it has at its disposal to respond appropriately. People are not afraid of such engines; rather, they wish it would work like a superhuman. In other words, after over half a century, AI is increasingly implemented in tools like Google search engine, albeit with its current limitations, and that luddites are disappearing at least in this area.

Kurzweil in his new book goes back to the basics which have been mostly missing in the literature of the field for two decades. When the word AI was coined by John McCarthy of Stanford, two distinct views of AI were easily discernible. The first was that of McCarthy himself. McCarthy, the inventor of the LISP language that was widely used by AI practitioners in the early days, viewed human reasoning as a non-monotonic logical system. Simply put, this means that if we say a dog is an animal with a tail and if later we see a dog that does not have a tail, then in this logical model, we consider the new case as an exception.

In contrast, Marvin Minsky of MIT, who is considered the founder of AI, had a different view of intelligence. He proposed a theory of frames, which was expounded in his monumental book Society of Mind, published in 1988. According to Minsky's view, when we say a dog is an animal with a tail, we create a frame in our brain corresponding to this understanding and once we run into a case where a dog does not have a tail, we just modify the frame.

In his new book, Kurzweil proposes a new theory to describe human reasoning called Pattern Recognition Theory of Mind (PRTM). Kurzweil shows the crux of his theory by writing that "each of our routine procedures is remembered as an elaborate hierarchy of nested activities" (4). He gives the excellent example of how easy it is for us to remember the alphabet in its sequence but how hard it is for us to recite it in reverse (5). His PRTM model is not speculative but rather is based on his extensive work on reverse engineering the brain. Thus it surely can be used by AI practitioners to better simulate human thinking.

I believe Kurzweil's model is based on how the brain of most abstract thinkers works, referred to by NLP theorists as cerebral people. Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), a field founded by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, is not viewed as a science in many academic circles, and some personal issues that came up early in that field made it especially controversial. Ignoring the psychology-related claims made by NLP, I believe it offers a structure where we can see that not all human brains work the same. For instance, when Kurzweil describes how he remembers seeing a woman pushing a baby carriage during his morning walk, he writes, "I cannot recall what either of them was wearing or the color of their hair. (My wife will tell you that this is typical.) Although I am unable to describe anything specific about their appearance, I do have some ineffable sense of what the mom looked like" (6).

The reality is that visual people do not need to pay attention to the details of someone's appearance, but when asked to remember those details, they may easily retrieve them. By contrast, non-visual people must pay attention to those details to remember them later. Maybe the former group has what is sometimes referred to as photographic memory when at its best. At any rate, most people referred to by NLP theorists as 'visual' people think this way, but those who are referred to as 'auditory' or 'kinesthetic' people happen not to think this way. Cerebral people may belong to any of these three groups. Now would these factors make a difference to Kurzweil's PRTM when he tries to reverse engineer the brain? It does not seem to be the case, because he is focusing on pattern recognition regardless of whether the patterns are perceived visually, auditorily or kinesthetically. Thus the methods described in his book should not change even when considering this difference. Nonetheless this factor may change how we explain some of the research work that Kurzweil has presented in his book. This is why I think that further research should be conducted on the mechanisms by which visual people are able to remember those aforementioned details without having paid attention to them and which are missing in non-visual people.

I found Kurzweil's How to Create a Mind to be an excellent exposition of AI as it is today with all of its potentials, and after decades of not having a treatise of fundamentals in the field, it was refreshing to see such a masterpiece published by Kurzweil, who is the most pioneering thinker of the field in our times.

S.G.

November 19, 2012


Footnotes:
1. Raymond Kurzweil, How to Create a Mind, Viking, 2012
2. Understanding Self-consciousness: Differentiating Humans from other Sentient Beings http://www.ghandchi.com/699-SelfConsciousnessEng.htm
3. Turing and AI http://www.ghandchi.com/439-TuringEng.htm
4. Raymond Kurzweil, How to Create a Mind, Viking, 2012, Page 33
5. ibid, Page 27
6. ibid, Page 29

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II. Accelerated Returns in Food Production

http://www.ghandchi.com/710-AcceleratedReturnsEng.htm

Kurzweil's Comment 6/8/12 Thanks, Sam. My "law of accelerating returns" is indeed an economic theory, and it would be a good idea to address this specifically to economists in terms that they will respond to. Best, Ray

Kurzweil's Comment 8/19/12: Excellent. Can we post this on www.KurzweilAI.net? Best, Ray

This article was simultaneously published in KurzweilAI.net:

http://www.kurzweilai.net/accelerated-returns-in-food-production

 

Ray Kurzweil's "law of accelerating returns" is a very viable economic theory that can be used to address many of the issues that economists are facing in our times, but unfortunately most university departments of economics pay very little attention to it, whereas the old economic theories are not able to answer issues that global economy has been facing since the inception of computer revolution of the last thirty years (1).

In fact, when global economy is struggling with issues such as chronic unemployment and the traditional economists are consulted about it, their answers are repeating the same solutions that have failed over and over again, whereas Kurzweil's theory opens a new way of thinking to fix the economy (2).

It may be a good idea to address specific issues from the angle of theory of accelerated returns and ask economists to respond and start a dialogue on this new futurist approach of Kurzweil to seek solutions for the problems facing humanity in our times. Challenges of food production in the global economy, at the time when some countries in Africa are facing famine year after year, show the need for a new understanding to help us to come up with working solutions.

In the industrial society of the last 300 years, agriculture was the last to be industrialized and much less than the crafts in the cities. Agriculture not only produces food but it also grows crops such as cotton that are used to make clothing. In other words two of the three basic needs of humans have been historically produced by agriculture over the millennia, and this fact did not change much in the industrial society. Only in the later part of industrialization have we seen synthetic materials used for garment production. And food production mainly remained in the sphere of agriculture until recently.

Since space colonization in the last half century has proven to be a lot more distant to achieve than previously thought, the land on Earth is pretty much the limit of what is available to humanity for the foreseeable future and therefore traditional agriculture becomes increasingly problematic. Maybe improvements in desalination of water and expanding arable land into the deserts can help but the limitations of useable land is a reality that humanity will be facing more and more despite the efforts at controlling the population. All of this means that we need to rethink the way we produce food.

Basically, food production is made of crop cultivation and animal husbandry. The former is being improved in two ways today. One is by trying to expand arable land or considering multistory buildings for growing crops, also known as vertical farming. The other is by using genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Currently, companies like Monsanto are creating genetically modified crops such as drought-resistant corn that are used right now in the drought-hit areas of corn production in the US. Not only do GMOs address hazards like drought but they improve the yield of various crops by orders of magnitude.

Animal husbandry is the other component of food production. Not only do cattle contribute to air pollution but the land it uses is becoming less economically feasible to keep and companies in more advanced countries are moving such production to less developed countries. An alternative is using tissue engineering to create in vitro meat.

Currently a tissue-engineered hamburger costs about $300,000 and it may seem formidable and humorous to propose it as an alternative. But this is exactly why we should look at Kurzweil's law of accelerated returns. Forty years ago it seemed like a dream to think that every individual would have a computer on their desk. But in 10 years, PC’s were made and nowadays not only in the advanced countries but all over the world one can see computers on every individual's desk and $99 PC's are no longer wishful thinking.

Production of meat by tissue engineering not only can bring abundance of meat production in the world, but it can free up land to be used for building homes. Looking at developments like this may seem incredible when viewed with the glasses of old economic theories but just like the way personal computers and cell phones took over the world in such a short time, law of accelerated returns can be our guide to see these potential developments for food production in the world.

 

S.G.

August 19, 2012

 

Footnotes:

1. Social Justice and the Computer Revolution http://www.ghandchi.com/238-SocialJustice.htm

2. How to Fix the Economy? http://www.ghandchi.com/677-EconomyEng.htm

 

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III. Two Paths beyond Singularity

http://www.ghandchi.com/701-TwoPathsBeyondSingularityEng.htm

Kurzweil's Comment 7/24/12: I agree that hardware alone is not sufficient but my key point is that we are making exponential gains in mastering the software of life and intelligence as well. I disagree that biological intelligence will be better than nonbiological intelligence at anything come the 2030s.

 

Ray Kurzweil in his magnum opus entitled The Singularity is Near predicts that by 2045 humanity will pass a point of Singularity (1).

 

Kurzweil suggests that by 2027 computers will work at the speed of 10 19 CPS, bypassing the speed of the human brain, and by 2045 humans that are not augmented by artificial intelligence will not be able to compete. He further shows that human progress in the 21st century will be equal to 20,000 years, meaning that the 100 years of this century, that we are now living in, are equal to moving forward 10 times all the 2000 years of the history of the past. In other words, if it took 10,000 years for carriages and horse roads to expand over the Earth, and 100 years for automobiles and highways, for computers and the Internet just a decade was enough to connect the Earth (2).

 

Beyond the upcoming singularity, there are at least two paths for humanity to advance:

 

First is the path of what has hitherto been referred to as “work” in all human civilizations. This role can better be fulfilled by a non-biological intelligent tool. Already, products like vision systems simulating the work related to our sense perceptions, expert systems simulating work related to our knowledge and expertise, and language translators are examples of such devices. We could get to a point of downloading our brain onto these artificial devices soon (3).

 

Second is the path of modifying genes and biological structures of our body even to the point of using nanobots, as Kurzweil notes, not only to overcome diseases but also to make us resistant to radiation or to live without oxygen (4).

 

Why should this path of a new biological variant be pursued? Biological entities are much more capable than non-biological intelligent tools in their self-learning of the external world. If we were to use Kant’s terminology, the former is better at *synthetic* truth whereas the latter is better at *analytic* truth. The above fact is not going to be any different even when we pass the human CPS speed. Even right now, less advanced biological entities, which have lower CPS speed than their non-biological counterparts, are better at the former.

 

Thus it seems that both paths of human advancement will be important in the post-singularity world, and we should not drop one in favor of the other.

 

S.G.

July 19, 2012

 

Footnotes:

1. The Singularity is Near http://singularity.com/

2. Singularity and Us http://www.ghandchi.com/423-SingularityEng.htm

3. Intelligent Tools the Cornerstone of a New Civilization http://www.ghandchi.com/353-IntelligentToolsEng.htm

4. New Human Variant is Needed http://www.ghandchi.com/653-HumanVariantEng.htm

Related Article

Kurzweil was Right again
http://www.ghandchi.com/1199-kurzweil-right-english.htm 
بازهم حق با کرزوایل بود
http://www.ghandchi.com/1199-kurzweil-right.htm

 

 

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IV. Understanding Self-consciousness: Differentiating Humans from other Sentient Beings

http://www.ghandchi.com/699-SelfConsciousnessEng.htm

Kurzweil's Comment 11/15/10: Dear Sam, It is remarkable how much people identify with their visual appearance. When I changed myself into Ramona for my 2001 TED presentation, even though the technology was fairly crude by today’s standards, it did give me the idea that my true identity is not my visual appearance, that we can and will change that. We need deeper mirrors. All the best, Ray *

New research shows rhesus monkeys are able to recognize themselves in the mirror. In spite of this discovery, the power of self-awareness is an important distinction of human mental powers from those of other intelligent beings. We do not know about the power of self-awareness in the common ancestor of humans and rhesus monkeys, but there is no doubt that our self-consciousness is way beyond that of primitive humans.

For example, while rereading an article which we have written years ago, we can recall ourselves at a different time and space. Tool-making, language and writing have played a role in development of human self-consciousness throughout history. With the start of modern times and growth of individuality, self-consciousness has developed further. The brief statement of Descartes “I think therefore I am” is a good description of the importance of self-consciousness for the modern human. Surely, the modern human acting with higher self-awareness in society thinks more independently than those humans who were a part of a “mass” in the Middle Ages.

More than ten years ago Ray Kurzweil made a robot called Ramona that was supposed to help his website readers in his place. It is interesting that the robot was made as a woman to simulate Mr. Kurzweil. Kurzweil narrates that in this experience he noticed how much people identify with the visual appearance. He continues that real identity is not equal to visual appearance and thus we need deeper mirrors.*

What we have written in a book, when rereading at a different time and place, is an identity of ours that has nothing to do with our visual appearance. If we have written a music piece, even at its time of composition, we have used our auditory system to create it, and later, to listen to it, without using our sense of sight.

This is why in meditation all our senses and thought are used to bring us a deeper understanding of ourselves. It is interesting that Descartes founded the scientific method itself as a form of self-consciousness. He narrates it in Discourse on Method as days of meditation as if it were some kind of self-awakening.

In fact, writing, composing music and drawing paintings have made deeper kinds of self-awareness possible. But today, thanks to new technologies, there is the possibility for newer evolvement of self-awareness. Self-consciousness perhaps has a genetic foundation, but these environmental factors likely contribute to its growth. And it can grow in AI by self-learning algorithms.

When a person calls someone on the phone or sends an email and receives a response, without the sender or receiver ever seeing each other, self-awareness is developing separate from visual appearance; contrary to the delayed experience of books, here the immediacy of everyday conversation is possible. With the growth of smartphones, this strength in the means of communications is reaching the dimensions of face to face conversation.

Can’t we expect the human self-consciousness to develop like a geometric series? Hasn’t the Internet turned into something like a deeper mirror that Kurzweil is talking about? If modern democracy evolved with independent, individual thinking in the West, can't we hope that cyberspace lets humans globally develop a deeper view of themselves beyond visual appearance?

 

S.G.

July 16, 2012

 

Footnotes:

* http://www.kurzweilai.net/ask-ray-the-future-of-human-self-awareness-deeper-mirrors 
Kurzweil continues the above thought in technical details in his following upcoming book, which is the result of his research in reverse engineering of the brain, due to be out in October 2012. Ray Kurzweil, How to Create a Mind, The Secret of Human Thought Revealed (Viking, October 2012)

http://www.ghandchi.com/730-kurzweil-prtm-eng.htm

 

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V. New Human Variant is Needed

http://www.ghandchi.com/653-HumanVariantEng.htm

Kurzweil's Comment 2/6/11: Thanks, well done, Sam.

 

In the industrial society of the last three centuries, the visionaries of both capitalism and socialism focused their attention on economics. Adam Smith was the economist for capitalism and Karl Marx was for socialism. The modern futurists such as Ossip Flechtheim (1) and Bertrand De Jouvenel (2), after the end of WW2, who came to the conclusion that neither capitalism nor socialism provide the framework to solve the issues of freedom and economic justice, focused on the need to go beyond the industrial society itself; nonetheless, they had their focus on *economics*. And later, Daniel Bell, the prominent theorist of Information Society in his book The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, still had his focus on economics and in fact considered his work as the next volume of Marx's Capital. Also, futurists like F.M. Esfandiary (3), FM-2030, discussed human engineering, but still such changes were seen as long term factors impacting current social development, and the global change was still viewed as the development of the information society.

 

Ray Kurzweil has shown us the imminence of major changes in human body and mind in his seminal work The Singularity is Near (4), where he predicts the Singularity to be around 2045.  For my own part, in 1985, viewed Intelligent Tools to be imminent to be the cornerstone of production both with regard to what the tools had been and what humans had done as tools (5). But today, thanks to the eye opening work of Kurzweil, I see that the human, as far as its needs are concerned, must become a new variant in order to achieve a just and free world.

 

It is interesting that all pre-Kurzweil futurists including FM-2030 focused on economic theory, whereas Kurzweil has made his mission not only to predict the *nearness* of Singularity but actually to try to play a major role in how this change will usher in. Although he does not say that he is being an agent of the new upcoming mutations for a new human variant, it seems inevitable to me to conclude from his work that this is what he sees as imminent. 

 

Hitherto, all mutations were basically errors at the genetic level, and viable mutants survived, whether their predecessors vanished or continued to live in parallel (6).  Formerly, humans have artificially started new species, such as by grafting trees or making new dog species, which hardly differ from their predecessors in terms of basic needs, but instead differ in some traits such as fur color or facial features. But now we have the advent of new genetic modification by gene therapy and site-directed mutagenesis to make mutants that can be significantly different from existing species.  Using these methods, a new human variant should be significantly different in its *basic needs* from its predecessor exactly because of the economic factor in the global reality, which is talked about the least by those who correctly see this evolutionary change in the horizon.

 

All the focus of economic, social and political thinkers in industrial society, and even before that, going to ancient thinkers, had been the issue of humans' basic needs. In other words, food, clothing and shelter are central to any social or political thought, because any sociopolitical model has to be able to provide the basic needs for the humans it is being proposed to manage. This factor even is at the heart of systems like slavery that required slave masters to be able to provide the minimum basic needs for more than themselves in order to own a slave. Now if the issues of the needs of the growing human population can be addressed by a variant whose needs could be modified, rather than trying to modify the socioeconomic reality to fit the existing needs, as has been the case for the last 10,000 years, in effect, we are solving the economic issue without really trying to come up with an economic model. In other words, rather than focusing on envisioning an economic model which can provide social justice for humans as they are, we will focus on envisioning a new variant whose needs can be addressed with the current state of technology and natural resources in the world. 

 

This proposal is not an exercise in science fiction but instead the real futurism for our time. What has remained of modern futurism of the turn of the 20th Century is nothing more than analytic forecasting, and there is hardly anything visionary in it. This is why Alvin Toffler himself ends up supporting Newt Gingrich for his vision of future US economy and social change (7), because frankly, forecasting about information society can hardly come up with any novel solution to the old structures of the industrial society, which in both its capitalist and socialist forms has long been nonfunctional.  Even in the largest economy in the world -- the U.S. -- poverty can be seen in the homeless sleeping in snow a few blocks from the White House in DC, and 47 million people without even basic healthcare are living in the U.S. And Europe with all its socialist tradition is not in any better shape either. European countries are even cutting retirement benefits when more people are living longer lives -- which is becoming bad news rather than good news -- because human needs are not changing although humans are able to live longer.

 

Not all mutations are good. Many mutations are deleterious or neutral. And we cannot wait for a specific desirable mutation to happen over the course of time (8) and in response to what Kurzweil calls *accelerated change*, humanity needs to work for *accelerated evolution* (9). Thus, we should not wait for inducing the desirable mutation. Any ethical system that considers such action as unethical will leave humanity vulnerable to the worst conditions, while we witness the accelerated growth of Information Society.  Obsolete ethics cannot provide the answer to the current dilemma of the human species, no matter how much it calls itself spiritual.  We need to change our ethical views, which are more of an obstacle, than our economic theory.

 

The centrality of needs rather than work is the major difference between what futurists are facing today and what the leading thinkers faced in 19th Century.

 

Planning for a new human variant is not limited to discussions for or against trans-humanism. Ray Kurzweil believes that we will not have trans-humans, but rather it will be the humans who will make the leap as Homo sapiens sapiens have done many times in the course of evolution. Others want to refer to this change as trans-humans. The point is not about traits as much as the needs. A new variant with suitable needs to the global reality is the epochal change that can make a just and free society feasible for humanity.

 

An example of an animal species with radically different basic needs from most other animals may be found in the Tardigrades, also known as water bears (10). Tardigrades are able to survive and reproduce in extreme temperatures, radiation, and space vacuums.

 

The discourse regarding a new human variant involves a mechanism for this transition.  One would need to induce mutations in the human genome in order to create changes in phenotype and develop new human traits, but how would one know what to mutate, especially if these mutations are hitherto unobserved?  Another issue is how to run experiments using accurate models and overcome any ethical barrier in order to observe the effects of various mutations on phenotype in humans.

 

Once this variant is developed, would it be a species or subspecies? In order to qualify as a new species, the variant must not be able to reproduce naturally and make fertile offspring with a typical human. We should research this, because if the new variant is able to do so, then it might be a new subspecies instead of a species.

 

S.G.

February 8, 2011

 

Footnotes:

1. http://www.ghandchi.com/iranscope/Anthology/Flechtheim.htm

2. http://www.ghandchi.com/iranscope/Anthology/Jouvenel.htm

3. http://www.ghandchi.com/368-transhumanismEng.htm

4. http://www.ghandchi.com/423-SingularityEng.htm

5. http://www.ghandchi.com/353-IntelligentToolsEng.htm

6. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110125172418.htm

7. http://www.ghandchi.com/642-JoeThePlumberEng.htm

8.Number_of_mutations_per_human_per_generation=(1*10^(9)mutations/nucleotide)(2*3.2*10^9nucleotides/individual)=6.4mutations_per_individual.

Number_of_mutations_per_population_per_generation=(6.4mutations/individual)(6.486*10^9individuals/population)=41.5*10^9mutations. So the one-half of DNA one inherits from his/her father or mother differs from theirs by 3 mutations. For chromosomal mutations versus point mutations (a nucleotide changes) see: http://www.1lec.com/Genetics/Chromosome%20Structure/index.html

9. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110124102921.htm

10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tardigrade

 

 

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