It seems to be accepted that intelligence
or otherwise—and ‘the singularity’ are inseparable concepts: ‘The singularity’ will apparently arise from AI reaching a, supposedly particular, but actually poorly-defined, level of sophistication; and an empowered combination of hardware and software will take it from there (and take over from us). However, such wisdom and debate are simplistic in a number of ways: firstly, this is a poor definition of the singularity; secondly, it muddles various notions of intelligence; thirdly, competing arguments are rarely based on shared axioms, so are frequently pointless; fourthly, our models for trying to discuss these concepts at all are often inconsistent; and finally, our attempts at describing any ‘post-singularity’ world are almost always limited by anthropomorphism. In all of these respects, professional ‘futurists’ often appear as confused as storytellers who, through freer licence, may conceivably have the clearer view: perhaps then, that becomes a reasonable place to start. There is no attempt in this paper to propose, or evaluate, any research hypothesis; rather simply to challenge conventions. Using examples from science fiction to illustrate various assumptions behind the AI/singularity debate, this essay seeks to encourage discussion on a number of possible futures based on different underlying metaphysical philosophies. Although properly grounded in science, it eventually looks beyond the technology for answers and, ultimately, beyond the Earth itself.
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