The Technological Singularity: A brief explanation

The phenomenon that is being called the ‘Technological Singularity’, if or when it happens, will change our lives in a drastic and fundamental way, so what is it exactly?

Scientists use the term singularity to refer to a question to which they don’t have any answers, such as what happens beyond the event horizon of black hole or the condition of the universe before the big bang. We simply don’t have the tools or knowledge to describe these things, so we copout and say that it’s unexplainable.

But technology is explainable, surely? We’re the ones who built it the first place, yes? Well… no, not really. The Technological Singularity will happen when we create a self improving computer system that is ‘smarter’ than a human, even just fractionally smarter. The system then works on itself, improving exponentially until (in a relatively short period of time) it becomes a super-intelligence, vastly more complex and powerful than a human mind. As the super-intelligence will be so far beyond us, or anything we can imagine, we simply can’t predict what sort of impact it will have on our world.

Can you imagine what sort of answers we could get out of such a system? A unifying theory of the universe, perhaps? Faster than light drive technology for our spacecraft? Unlimited clean energy? Or (knowing what we’re like) weapons capable of ever greater destruction? Will the super-intelligence even bother to talk to such limited beings as humans?

A lot of these questions cannot be answered, and others depend a lot on the environment that the singularity arises in. I think we’d all prefer that the singularity gets kicked off by a group of independent scientific researchers rather than a belligerent military and thankfully there are some people working towards that. The Singularity Institute is a forum of scientists working towards speeding up the Singularity and getting it started under peaceful conditions.

Even given the best possible scenario for the Singularity, it will still have a drastic effect on our society. A lot of people are already having problems adapting to the incredible pace of technological change, what will it be like when the Super-Intelligence puts it foot on the gas? We all need to ask ourselves if we’re ready for this, because it is coming… whether we are or not.

In the news:

Options Dwindling For Mars Spirit Rover – NASA’s having serious problems getting it’s little robot friend out of a ditch… a call to AAA (alien automobile association) might be in order ^^

Wii Balance Board Gives $18,000 Medical Device a Run For Its Money – A fine example of gaming making technology more accessible to everybody. Go Nintendo!

Google Phone Could Drive Apple Into Allegiance With Microsoft – for a company with the motto “Don’t be Evil”, Google seems to be leaning towards the dark side quite a lot. First it was the whole drama over China and it’s censorship laws and now they’re pushing Apple into cooperation with the borg? Not cool, guys!

Legend – The first book written by David Gemmel is out in a 25th anniversary edition. If you haven’t read this yet, do so!


Well, there you have it… another post down. If you found it illuminating, entertaining or even just irritating, please use the link below to post a comment.


I’ll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there’s evidence of any thinking going on inside it.” – Terry Pratchett.



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