A substantial leap in the computer’s ability was reported today in The New York Times. I personalized the term “computer’s” because this was a big step towards Machines Who Think: A Personal Inquiry into the History and Prospects of Artificial Intelligence, by Pamela McCorduck, and the computers are now creating individuated personalities. They are now displaying something that is similar to individuated learning and consciousness. John Markoff‘s article Scientists See Promise in Deep-Learning Programs sketches out the leading edge of computer mental skills, sometimes called the bleeding edge because it so often hasn’t maintained its life and bled to death. But now perhaps it should be called the scabby edge, because it is healing over, as computers are becoming more skilled in some human tasks than humans. The final line in the article mentions the recently developed technology will scale with the continuing fabulous trend in chip power. Now when they promise twice the power next year, that will translate immediately into recognizably more intelligent behavior by the computers.
The Singularity was a term borrowed from astronomy for computer application and popularized by Ray Kurzweil to bring into greater clarity the concept of our technological world going into a condition of near infinite progress. (A comic aside – I attended a conference where Kurzweil was speaking and during a break, I happened to be standing in the pee line and he was behind me. I got out of the line and went to the back of it. For me it was a moment of personal transcendence. “No man has greater respect for another man, than that he will let that other man pee first.” The other two people above at one time I considered personal friends.) We now have better access to all the good things the world has to offer than ever before, and it’s rapidly getting even better. But, because of the scalability of these newest neural-net programs, things will be programmed into computers which will work much better, even with our existing computers.
Where will humanity be in a few years? We now have humanity-wide collaborative problem solving, where a huge and motivated group of people, say with a particular disease, scattered randomly throughout the world, can explore many solutions to their common problem. In the recent past, a single scientist or typical research group would have very little breadth in their searches, and perhaps not even as much depth as the collective group. I’m already involved several of those types of projects: intestinal cleansing for colonoscopy, cardiovascular embolism cleansing and prevention, quick control of severe itching, revivification from cold-death, arterial dilation for migraine prodrome control and many others, like the Earth Ark Project, Jack the Ripper and scientific hoaxes. Together we interactive members of our world humanity are discovering new wrinkles and cures most if not all of our problems.
The collaboration of the new neural nets and the collaborative networks of linked humans will create a noticeable spurt of knowledge, the like of which we have never seen, but which I suspect we will quickly learn to enjoy and expect. Two days ago I was moaning over TIME’s inability to perceive anything happening this past year for their annual Person of the Year 2012. Perhaps it’s just their problem of trying to sip out of a fire hose.