Information Is Alive!The technological singularity is a theory that computer-based intelligences will significantly exceed the sum total of human brainpower. If true, humans would theoretically lose the ability to plan since they wouldn't comprehend the future possibilities that the computers would contemplate. Ray Kurzweil and others predict this to occur sometime between 2020 and 2045.
This fear of computers enslaving humans has been popularized in movies such as The Matrix and the Demon Seed, as well books such as Isaac Asimov's “The Evitable Conflict”. Imagination of existential threats seems to be popular even when clearly irrational, e.g. in “Planet of the Apes”, the primates evolved faster and enslaved the humans. By the way, the cars weren't alive in The Cars That Eat People.
The fear emotion is inherited from the primitive, post-paleozoic, hunter-gatherer time period when mortal danger was omnipresent. Fear stimulates a fight-or-flight adrenaline spike in response to extreme stress. Adrenaline rushes are thrilling and addictive, especially when the threat is low-grade, not thoroughly exhausting, and thus repeatable because it only exists in the imagination. Adrenaline (plus cortisol) shuts down rational thought in the pre-frontal cortex. Production of the steriod cortisol spikes to redistribute more energy to the muscles and nerves, depleting energy from the immune system, digestion, and toxic waste processing necessary to maintain health.
All such irrational and unjustified fears are inconsistent with the trend of maximization of entropy guaranteed by the Second Law of Thermodynamics which governs our universe. Such fears include erroneous Malthusian apocalyptic predictions of overpopulation, man-made (anthropogenic) global warming, peak energy, and other resource scarcity delusions of the masses. Entropy is the level of independent possibilities, i.e. diversity. During the 1800s, the Luddites thought technology and mass production would replace all human work, because they couldn't foresee the new independent possibilities of knowledge work that employ us now.
Proponents of the technological singularity theory cite the exponential increase in computing hardware power such as Moore's Law and recent software advances such the sophisticated Spaun artificial brain which can pass simple IQ tests and interact with its environment; also IBM's Watson computer which defeated Jeopardy and chess masters, subsequently was recently programmed to do lung cancer diagnosis more accurately than human doctors.
However, the speed of the computing hardware and the sophistication of the software has no relevance because creativity can't be expressed in an algorithm. Every possible model of the brain will lack the fundamental cause of human creativity— every human brain is unique. Thus each of billions of brains is able to contemplate possibilities and scenarios differently enough so that it is more likely at least one brain will contemplate some unique idea that fits each set of possibilities at each point in time.
An algorithm or model can describe what and how to do and even be generalized to respond to unknown future scenarios by observing patterns and deducing rules about its environment, but it can't vary its imperfections nondeterministically, because the input entropy (to the algorithm) is known a priori and is finite. Whereas, for the collection of all human brains, the entropy is unbounded and thus the future can't be predetermined, i.e. isn't deterministic.
Imagine if life was perfect and without chance. Life would be deterministic and could be modeled with an algorithm, then failure couldn't exist, everything would be known in advance, and thus there could be no change that wasn't predictable, i.e. real change wouldn't exist and the universe would be static. Life requires imperfection and unbounded diversity, else life doesn't exist and isn't alive. Equality and perfection are the ambition of the insane who probably don't realize they must destroy life to reach their goal.
Thus the theory that it would be impossible to predict what computers would contemplate is nonsense because the input entropy of the models of the brain will always be finite and deterministic from the time the input entropy is varied.
Pseudo-random number generators are deterministic from the time the seed is changed. Even dynamically capturing entropy from the changing content of the internet would be deterministic from each moment of capture to the next, and the model of capture would be lacking diversity and static (only modified by a human).
To make the computers as creative as the humans would require inputting the entropy from all the human brains. Yet there is no plausible way to extract the future uniqueness of human brains other than to allow them interact with the environment over unbounded time, because the occurrence of creativity is probablistic (by chance) as the dynamic diversity of human minds interact with the changing environment. The term unbounded means there is no way to observe or capture that uniqueness a priori other than through the future of life as it unfolds.
Inmates can be forced to do manual labor because it is possible to observe the performance of the menial tasks. However, it is impossible (or at least very inefficient and imprecise) to determine whether a human is feigning inability or giving best effort at a knowledge task. Manual labor is fungible, i.e. nearly any person with average IQ and dexterous limbs can be substituted to do the task. Whereas, knowledge production such as programming the computer, authoring content or developing marketing plans, requires diversity of thought.
The 160 IQ genius Microsoft founder Paul Allen refers to this as “specialized knowledge” in The Complexity Brake, yet he thinks the brain is finite because he apparently didn't consider that every finite human brain is unique; thus systemic creative thought possesses dynamic unbounded entropy.
Ray Kurzweil responded that the human genome (DNA) has a finite information content, and claimed that humans possess a canonical brain which is differentiated by what is learned from the environment during each human lifetime.
Since the portion of the human genome pertaining to the brain has an entropy in the millions or billions, each human brain is potentially at least one-in-a-million or one-in-a-billion unique. Notwithstanding that uniqueness, if human evolution was entirely encoded in a finite genome, then it would be mathematically possible for a plurality of humans to have identical brains at some point in time as the brain forms before differentiation from non-identical learning environments. However, the brain is learning and exposed to the environment as it is forming in the womb, thus there is never a point in time where the brain was entirely structured from only the information in the DNA.
Thus evolution is not just an encoding from the environment to the genome, rather a continuous interaction between the ongoing environment and the genome. Thus for computers to obtain the same entropy of the collective human brainpower, they would need to be human reproducing, contributing to genome and interacting with the environment in the ways humans do. Even if computers could do this, the technological singularity would not occur, because the computers would be equivalent to adding more humans to the population.
The implication is that the creativity of humankind is enhanced as the human population grows. And culling the population to increase average IQ would reduce human creativity. Resilient systems don't have low entropy.
Claude Shannon showed us that the capacity for information content is equivalent to the entropy of a system. As elucidated above, the entropy of our universe is inseparable from life, thus information is alive.
Unsophisticated thinkers have an incorrect understanding of knowledge creation, idolizing a well-structured top-down sparkling academic cathedral of vastly superior theoretical minds. Rather knowledge primary spawns from accretive learning due to unexpected random chaotic fitness created from multitudes of random path dependencies that can only exist in the bottom-up free market. Top-down systems are inherently fragile because they overcommit to egregious error (link to Taleb's simplest summary of the math). Given Kurzweil's sensationalized magnum opus is the technological singularity, it is surprising that he is apparently not well studied in the field of social knowledge formation.
Kurzweil states that the brain is composed of a finite number of pattern matchers and that humans train to be exceptional (unique) to think deeply about some subject matter. Whether Kurzweil is implying that computer brains could have more pattern matchers and/or process information from the environment faster thus obtaining higher levels of cognitive capability from more input entropy so as to attain the claim that computers will vastly outpace human knowledge, he fails to understand a basic fact that simulated annealing (SA) is the only known global optimization algorithm when the subject matter is not known a priori. SA requires many simultaneous, independent small (imperfect trial and error) steps. The free market optimizes better than top-down because the larger number of actors anneals better. So again, the computer brains at best can supplement the supply of humans, but they can't overpower the free market. Frankly I am shocked that Kurzweil didn't realize this, since my A.I. studies in the 1980s is where I first learned about SA.
The knowledge creation process is opaque to a single top-down perspective of the universe because to be omniscient would require that the transmission of change in the universe would propagate instantly to the top-down observer, i.e. the speed-of-light would need to be infinite. But an infinite speed-of-light would collapse past and future into an infinitesimal point in spacetime— omniscient is the antithesis of existential. In order for anything to exist in the universe, there must be friction-in-time so change must propagate through resistance to change— mass. The non-uniform mass distribution of the universe is mutually causal with oscillation, which is why the universe emerges from the frequency domain. Uniform distribution of mass would be no contrast and nothing would exist. Taleb's antifragility can be conceptualized as lack of breaking resistance to variance amplification.