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The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil
additive manufacturing, AI winter, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, brain emulation, Brewster Kahle, Brownian motion, business intelligence, c2.com, call centre, carbon-based life, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, complexity theory, conceptual framework, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, cuban missile crisis, data acquisition, Dava Sobel, David Brooks, Dean Kamen, disintermediation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, factory automation, friendly AI, George Gilder, Gödel, Escher, Bach, informal economy, information retrieval, invention of the telephone, invention of the telescope, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job satisfaction, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, lifelogging, linked data, Loebner Prize, Louis Pasteur, mandelbrot fractal, Mikhail Gorbachev, mouse model, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, oil shale / tar sands, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, phenotype, premature optimization, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, remote working, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Robert Metcalfe, Rodney Brooks, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, selection bias, semantic web, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, speech recognition, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, strong AI, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, Ted Kaczynski, telepresence, The Coming Technological Singularity, Thomas Bayes, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Y2K, Yogi Berra
When the body detects a pathogen the T cells and other immune-system cells self-replicate rapidly to combat the invader. A nanotechnology immune system would work similarly both in the human body and in the environment and would include nanobot sentinels that could detect rogue self-replicating nanobots. When a threat was detected, defensive nanobots capable of destroying the intruders would rapidly be created (eventually with self-replication) to provide an effective defensive force. Bill Joy and other observers have pointed out that such an immune system would itself be a danger because of the potential of "autoimmune" reactions (that is, the immune-system nanobots attacking the world they are supposed to defend).42 However this possibility is not a compelling reason to avoid the creation of an immune system. No one would argue that humans would be better off without an immune system because of the potential of developing autoimmune diseases.
There have been discussions and proposals to guide AI development toward what Eliezer Yudkowsky calls "friendly AI"30 (see the section "Protection from 'Unfriendly' Strong AI," p. 420). These are useful for discussion, but it is infeasible today to devise strategies that will absolutely ensure that future AI embodies human ethics and values. Returning to the Past? In his essay and presentations Bill Joy eloquently describes the plagues of centuries past and how new self-replicating technologies, such as mutant bioengineered pathogens and nanobots run amok, may bring back long-forgotten pestilence. Joy acknowledges that technological advances, such as antibiotics and improved sanitation, have freed us from the prevalence of such plagues, and such constructive applications, therefore, need to continue. Suffering in the world continues and demands our steadfast attention.
The limiting factor would be the actual movement of the front of destruction. Nanobots cannot travel very quickly because of their small size. It's likely to take weeks for such a destructive process to circle the globe. Based on this observation we can envision a more insidious possibility. In a two-phased attack, the nanobots take several weeks to spread throughout the biomass but use up an insignificant portion of the carbon atoms, say one out of every thousand trillion (1015). At this extremely low level of concentration the nanobots would be as stealthy as possible. Then, at an "optimal" point, the second phase would begin with the seed nanobots expanding rapidly in place to destroy the biomass. For each seed nanobot to multiply itself a thousand trillionfold would require only about fifty binary replications, or about ninety minutes. With the nanobots having already spread out in position throughout the biomass, movement of the destructive wave front would no longer be a limiting factor.
3D printing, additive manufacturing, agricultural Revolution, Bill Joy: nanobots, Brownian motion, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, conceptual framework, continuation of politics by other means, crowdsourcing, dark matter, double helix, failed state, global supply chain, industrial robot, iterative process, Mars Rover, means of production, Menlo Park, mutually assured destruction, New Journalism, performance metric, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, Thomas Malthus, V2 rocket, Vannevar Bush, zero-sum game
., Amendments to Definitions, National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2008, 110th Congress, 2007–2009. 206the 2004 National Nanotechnology Initiative Strategic Plan: National Science and Technology Council Committee on Technology Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology (December 2004) (www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/nano/reports/sp_report_nset_final.pdf). 207published an article on future technologies in Wired magazine: Bill Joy, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us,” Issue 8.04 (April 2000): 238–262. 208The principal fear is that it may be possible to create: R. E. Smalley, “Nanotechnology, Education, and the Fear of Nanobots,” in Societal Implications of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, a report from a National Science Foundation workshop on September 28–29, 2000 (www.wtec.org/nanoreports/nanosi.pdf). Here and in Scientific American, Smalley repeated, elaborated, and reinforced misconceptions that came out of popular fiction. 208equated APM . . . with swarms of dangerous nanobots: R. E. Smalley, “Of Chemistry, Love and Nanobots,” Scientific American 285, no. 3 (September 2001): 76–77 (cohesion.rice.edu/naturalsciences/smalley/emplibrary/sa285-76.pdf).
Meanwhile, the leaders pushing for the proposal gave every sign of believing that APM-level fabrication technologies meant nanobugs, false promises, and nonsensical threats, and they seemed to think that these ideas were all of a piece and nothing more than a pernicious error. My name had already been tarred by the mythology, and now Bill Joy had inadvertently set me up for attack. Public documents offer a glimpse of the state of mind in the leadership’s inner circle. In a report from a September workshop, their de facto scientific spokesman, Richard Smalley,* indicated what they saw as the threat: The principal fear is that it may be possible to create a new life form, a self-replicating nanoscale robot, a “nanobot”. . . . These nanobots are both enabling fantasy and dark nightmare in the popularized conception of nanotechnology. . . . We should not let this fuzzy-minded nightmare dream scare us away from nanotechnology. . . . The NNI should go forward.
In other words, the clamor was all about nanorobotic bugs, funding, fear, and politics, far from anything reality based; in 2001, in the pages of Scientific American, Smalley explicitly equated APM, in the most general sense, with swarms of dangerous nanobots (potentially intelligent and conspiratorial, no less). Around that time, in his congressional testimony and other statements, atomically precise fabrication swung back and forth between being essential and impossible while my role in the field, in his view, swung from my being the man he acknowledged as inspiring his enthusiasm for nanotechnology, to my being an ignorant fellow, beyond reach of reason, and guilty of scaring “our children” with tales of monster nanobots that he claimed were my invention. (Smalley subsequently spoke out against Darwin.) One can see how panic layered on top of confusion like this could lead to rash actions, and why the NNI’s leaders might have tried to push hard against the ideas they perceived as a threat, yet what happened went beyond this.
agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Albert Einstein, Asilomar, augmented reality, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, blue-collar work, British Empire, Brownian motion, cloud computing, Colonization of Mars, DARPA: Urban Challenge, delayed gratification, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, friendly AI, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hydrogen economy, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, industrial robot, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of movable type, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, John Markoff, John von Neumann, life extension, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, Mars Rover, mass immigration, megacity, Murray Gell-Mann, new economy, oil shale / tar sands, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, planetary scale, postindustrial economy, Ray Kurzweil, refrigerator car, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, telepresence, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, trade route, Turing machine, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, Wall-E, Walter Mischel, Whole Earth Review, X Prize
In summary, a replicator does not violate the laws of physics, but it would be difficult to create using self-assembly. By late in this century, when the techniques of self-assembly are finally mastered, we can think about commercial applications of replicators. GRAY GOO? Some people, including Bill Joy, a founder of Sun Microsystems, have expressed reservations about nanotechnology, writing that it’s only a matter of time before the technology runs wild, devours all the minerals of the earth, and spits out useless “gray goo” instead. Even Prince Charles of England has spoken out against nanotechnology and the gray-goo scenario. The danger lies in the key property of these nanobots: they can reproduce themselves. Like a virus, they cannot be recalled once they are let loose into the environment. Eventually, they could proliferate wildly, taking over the environment and destroying the earth.
As the decades pass, there will be plenty of time to design safeguards against nanobots that run amok. For example, one can design a fail-safe system so that, by pressing a panic button, all the nanobots are rendered useless. Or one could design “killer bots,” specifically designed to seek out and destroy nanobots that have run out of control. Another way to deal with this is to study Mother Nature, who has had billions of years of experience with this problem. Our world is full of self-replicating molecular life-forms, called viruses and bacteria, that can proliferate out of control and mutate as well. However, our body has also created “nanobots” of its own, antibodies and white blood cells in our immune system that seek out and destroy alien life-forms. The system is certainly not perfect, but it provides a model for dealing with this out-of-control-nanobot problem.
But one way to overcome this problem is to create a nanobot, a still- hypothetical molecular robot. These nanobots have several key properties. First, they can reproduce themselves. If they can reproduce once, then they can, in principle, create an unlimited number of copies of themselves. So the trick is to create just the first nanobot. Second, they are capable of identifying molecules and cutting them up at precise points. Third, by following a master code, they are capable of reassembling these atoms into different arrangements. So the task of rearranging 1026 atoms is reduced to making a similar number of nanobots, each one designed to manipulate individual atoms. In this way, the sheer number of atoms of the body is no longer such a daunting obstacle. The real problem is creating just the first one of these mythical nanobots and letting it reproduce by itself.
23andMe, 8-hour work day, Albert Einstein, Anne Wojcicki, artificial general intelligence, attribution theory, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, Clayton Christensen, dark matter, East Village, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, Frank Gehry, Googley, income per capita, indoor plumbing, Jeff Bezos, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, personalized medicine, Peter Thiel, placebo effect, post scarcity, Ray Kurzweil, rolodex, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Singularitarianism, smart grid, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Thomas Malthus, upwardly mobile, World Values Survey, X Prize
Just like coal blackened the skies when humans first started burning it, there are concerns that the earth could become littered with nanodust. Some even see a day when tiny and intelligent nano robots, or “nano-bots,” would be able to self-replicate and pose a danger to all life on earth. This leads us then to an important question: is nanotech the coal of the second industrial revolution, and could its use lead to greater destruction than we have ever seen before? PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE VERSUS INNOVATION Perhaps the most famous critic of nanotechnology is Bill Joy, a cofounder and former chief scientist of Sun Microsystems. In a Wired magazine article in 2000, Joy worried that “we are being propelled into a new century with no plan, no control, no brakes.” Specifically, he worried about robots, engineered organisms, and nano-bots that can self-replicate. “A bomb is blown up only once,” he wrote, “but one bot can become many, and quickly get out of control.”62 Such a scenario was scary enough for fiction writer Michael Crichton to seize upon as the main theme for his 2002 book Prey, in which a cloud of predator-programmed nano-bots escape from the lab where they were made.
Fahy, Michael D. West, L. Stephen Coles, and Steven B. Harris (New York: Springer, 2010), pp. 685–805. 60 Prachi Patel, “Nano Sponge for Oil Spills,” MIT Technology Review, June 2, 2008, www.technologyreview.com/nanotech/20846/. 61 “First Generation Prototype,” SeaSwarm, 2010, http://senseable.mit.edu/seaswarm/ss_prototype.html. 62 Bill Joy, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us,” Wired, April 2000, www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy_pr.html. The idea that nanobots will get out of control and consume all of the earth’s biomass is often referred to as the “gray goo” problem. 63 The Charlie Rose Show, November 26, 2002, www.michaelcrichton.net/video-charlierose-11-26-02.html. 64 See Bill McKibben, Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age (New York: Henry Holt, 2003). 65 For more on issue self-replicating technology, or the “gray goo” problem, see Robert A.
“A bomb is blown up only once,” he wrote, “but one bot can become many, and quickly get out of control.”62 Such a scenario was scary enough for fiction writer Michael Crichton to seize upon as the main theme for his 2002 book Prey, in which a cloud of predator-programmed nano-bots escape from the lab where they were made. When television interviewer Charlie Rose asked Crichton why he chose self-replicating technology as his subject, Crichton replied that he wanted to write about the “Frankenstein” of today. “The monster of today would look very different,” he said.63 Yet self-replicating nanotechnology is not likely to be created anytime soon, and making decisions based on scenarios such as Crichton’s Prey would be foolish. Nevertheless, radical environmentalists such as Bill McKibben argue that because new technologies could get out of our control, we should stop pursuing them.64 But banning technology doesn’t usually work as a safety mechanism.
The Transhumanist Reader by Max More, Natasha Vita-More
23andMe, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, brain emulation, Buckminster Fuller, cellular automata, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, combinatorial explosion, conceptual framework, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological principle, data acquisition, discovery of DNA, Douglas Engelbart, Drosophila, en.wikipedia.org, endogenous growth, experimental subject, Extropian, fault tolerance, Flynn Effect, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Gehry, friendly AI, game design, germ theory of disease, hypertext link, impulse control, index fund, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, lifelogging, Louis Pasteur, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral hazard, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, P = NP, pattern recognition, phenotype, positional goods, prediction markets, presumed consent, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, RFID, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, silicon-based life, Singularitarianism, stem cell, stochastic process, superintelligent machines, supply-chain management, supply-chain management software, technological singularity, Ted Nelson, telepresence, telepresence robot, telerobotics, the built environment, The Coming Technological Singularity, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, Upton Sinclair, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, Whole Earth Review, women in the workforce, zero-sum game
., terrorists) who would have all the expertise. The siren calls for broad relinquishment are effective because they paint a picture of future dangers as if they were released on today’s unprepared world. The reality is that the sophistication and power of our defensive technologies and knowledge will grow along with the dangers. When we have “gray goo” (unrestrained nanobot replication), we will also have “blue goo” (“police” nanobots that combat the “bad” nanobots). The story of the twenty-first century has not yet been written, so we cannot say with assurance that we will successfully avoid all misuse. But the surest way to prevent the development of the defensive technologies would be to relinquish the pursuit of knowledge in broad areas. This was the primary moral of the novel Brave New World. Consider software viruses.
Lingering problems from our waning industrial age will be overcome. We will be able to reverse remaining environmental destruction. Nanoengineered fuel cells and solar cells will provide clean energy. Nanobots in our physical bodies will destroy pathogens, remove debris such as misformed proteins and protofibrils, repair DNA, and reverse aging. We will be able to redesign all of the systems in our bodies and brains to be far more capable and durable. And that’s only the beginning. There are also salient dangers. The means and knowledge exist in a routine college bioengineering lab to create unfriendly pathogens more dangerous than nuclear weapons. Unrestrained nanobot replication (“unrestrained” being the operative word here) would endanger all physical entities, biological or otherwise. As for “unfriendly” AI, that’s the most daunting challenge of all because intelligence is inherently the most powerful force in the Universe.
I had a few questions and/or comments (depending on whether I’m understanding what you said correctly). Your lecture had a very high idea density, so I may have misheard some details. With regard to cryonics reanimation, I fully agree with you that preserving structure (i.e., information) is the key requirement, that it is not necessary to preserve cellular functionality. I have every confidence that nanobots will be able to go in and fix every cell, indeed every little machine in every cell. The key is to preserve the information. And I’ll also grant that we could lose some of the information; after all, we lose some information every day of our lives anyway. But the primary information needs to be preserved. So we need to ask, what are the types of information required? One is to identify the neuron cells, including their type.
3D printing, additive manufacturing, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, AI winter, algorithmic trading, Amazon Mechanical Turk, artificial general intelligence, assortative mating, autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, basic income, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, Bernie Madoff, Bill Joy: nanobots, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Chris Urmson, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, collateralized debt obligation, commoditize, computer age, creative destruction, debt deflation, deskilling, diversified portfolio, Erik Brynjolfsson, factory automation, financial innovation, Flash crash, Fractional reserve banking, Freestyle chess, full employment, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, Gunnar Myrdal, High speed trading, income inequality, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, informal economy, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Kenneth Arrow, Khan Academy, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, labour mobility, liquidity trap, low skilled workers, low-wage service sector, Lyft, manufacturing employment, Marc Andreessen, McJob, moral hazard, Narrative Science, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, obamacare, optical character recognition, passive income, Paul Samuelson, performance metric, Peter Thiel, Plutocrats, plutocrats, post scarcity, precision agriculture, price mechanism, Ray Kurzweil, rent control, rent-seeking, reshoring, RFID, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, secular stagnation, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, single-payer health, software is eating the world, sovereign wealth fund, speech recognition, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, strong AI, Stuxnet, technological singularity, telepresence, telepresence robot, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Future of Employment, Thomas L Friedman, too big to fail, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, union organizing, Vernor Vinge, very high income, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce
In Engines of Creation, Drexler called it the “gray goo” scenario and noted ominously that it “makes one thing perfectly clear: We cannot afford certain kinds of accidents with replicating assemblers.”19 Joy thought that something of an understatement, writing that “[g]ray goo would surely be a depressing ending to our human adventure on Earth, far worse than mere fire or ice, and one that could stem from a simple laboratory accident.”20 Yet more fuel was thrown on the fire in 2002 when Michael Crichton published his best-selling novel Prey—which portrayed swarming clouds of predatory nanobots and opened with an introduction that, once again, quoted passages from Drexler’s book. Public concern over gray goo and feasting nanobots was only part of the problem. Other scientists were beginning to question whether molecular assembly was feasible at all. Most prominent among the skeptics was the late (and aptly named) Richard Smalley, who had won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work on nano-scale materials. Smalley had come to the conclusion that molecular assembly and manufacturing, outside the realm of biological systems, was fundamentally at odds with the realities of chemistry.
Drexler then accused Smalley of misrepresenting his work, and noted that Smalley himself had once said that “when a scientist says something is possible, they’re probably underestimating how long it will take. But if they say it’s impossible, they’re probably wrong.” The debate intensified and became more personal, culminating with Smalley accusing Drexler of having “scared our children” and then concluding that “while our future in the real world will be challenging and there are real risks, there will be no such monster as the self-replicating mechanical nanobot of your dreams.”21 The nature and magnitude of nanotechnology’s future impact will depend in large measure on whether Drexler or Smalley ultimately prove to be correct in their assessment of the feasibility of molecular assembly. If Smalley’s pessimism prevails, then nanotechnology will continue to be a field focused primarily on the development of new materials and substances. Dramatic progress in this arena has already occurred, most notably with the discovery and development of carbon nanotubes—structures in which sheets of carbon atoms are rolled into long, hollow threads with an extraordinary range of properties.
Tiny particles were in, atomic precision was out.”18 At least from Drexler’s perspective, it was as though the nanotechnology ship had been hijacked by pirates who then proceeded to throw the dynamic molecular machines overboard and sail away with a cargo composed entirely of materials built from tiny, but static, particles. Under the purview of the NNI, virtually all the nanotechnology funding went to research based on relatively traditional techniques in chemistry and materials science; the science of molecular assembly and manufacturing ended up with little or nothing. A number of factors were behind the sudden shift away from molecular manufacturing. In 2000, Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy wrote an article for Wired magazine entitled “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us.” In his article, Joy highlighted the possibly existential dangers associated with genetics, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence. Drexler himself had discussed the possibility of out-of-control, self-replicating molecular assemblers that might use us—and just about everything else—as a kind of feedstock. In Engines of Creation, Drexler called it the “gray goo” scenario and noted ominously that it “makes one thing perfectly clear: We cannot afford certain kinds of accidents with replicating assemblers.”19 Joy thought that something of an understatement, writing that “[g]ray goo would surely be a depressing ending to our human adventure on Earth, far worse than mere fire or ice, and one that could stem from a simple laboratory accident.”20 Yet more fuel was thrown on the fire in 2002 when Michael Crichton published his best-selling novel Prey—which portrayed swarming clouds of predatory nanobots and opened with an introduction that, once again, quoted passages from Drexler’s book.
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Drexler worried that such a situation could, however, grow quickly out of control as assemblers began to convert all organic matter around them into the next generation of nanomachines in a process he famously called the “gray goo scenario,” one in which the earth might be reduced to a lifeless mass overrun by nanomachines. How might such a doomsday scenario play out? Let’s say in the future billions of nano-bots were released to clean up an oil spill disaster in an ocean. Sounds great, except that a minor programming error might lead the nano-bots to consume all carbon-based objects (fish, plants, plankton, coral reefs) instead of just the hydrocarbons in the oil. The nano-bots might consume everything in their path, “turning the planet to dust.” To understand just how quickly this might happen, consider the example Drexler provides in his book: Imagine such a replicator floating in a bottle of chemicals, making copies of itself …[T]he first replicator assembles a copy in one thousand seconds, the two replicators then build two more in the next thousand seconds, the four build another four, and the eight build another eight.
Bridges and airplanes might be made from the material one day, and it will likely have a profound impact on the world of electronics. According to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, nanotechnology “will leave virtually no aspect of life untouched and is expected to be in widespread use by 2020.” Perhaps nanotech’s greatest contributions may come in the field of medicine, where a therapeutic nano-bot, a thousand times smaller than a cancer cell, could enter the bloodstream with nanoscale gold particles enlaced with anticancer drugs, bringing them directly to the precise location of a tumor. Moreover, nanotechnology, like synthetic biology, can be a form of programmable matter—matter that can change its physical properties such as shape, density, and conductivity based on user input or autonomous sensing.
These programmable materials can also self-assemble like strands of DNA, taking a bottom-up approach whereby molecules adopt a defined arrangement—an achievement commonly employed by nature but heretofore beyond the common reach of human engineering. Though largely at the research-and-development stage today, nanoscale machines will make it possible to create nano-robots—further accelerating the already exponential changes going on in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence, someday creating robots a thousand times smaller than our own cells. These nano-bots will have huge implications for the field of robotics, able to build anything from rocket ships to injectable medical devices. Nanotechnology will also be immensely impactful in the world of computer processing, allowing us to build computers that are mindblowingly powerful—a nano-computer the size of a sugar cube could have more processing power than exists in the entire world today. But small things can come with very large risks.
Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century by P. W. Singer
agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Atahualpa, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bill Joy: nanobots, blue-collar work, borderless world, clean water, Craig Reynolds: boids flock, cuban missile crisis, digital map, en.wikipedia.org, Ernest Rutherford, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Firefox, Francisco Pizarro, Frank Gehry, friendly fire, game design, George Gilder, Google Earth, Grace Hopper, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, if you build it, they will come, illegal immigration, industrial robot, interchangeable parts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of gunpowder, invention of movable type, invention of the steam engine, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, job automation, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Law of Accelerating Returns, Mars Rover, Menlo Park, New Urbanism, pattern recognition, private military company, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, robot derives from the Czech word robota Czech, meaning slave, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Schrödinger's Cat, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, strong AI, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Wisdom of Crowds, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Wall-E, Yogi Berra
While the idea has been bandied about in such fiction as Michael Crichton’s novel Prey, many think it could come to fruition in the coming decades. Boston College researchers have already built a chemically powered nanomotor that is just seventy-eight atoms in size, while those at a university in the Netherlands have made a solar-powered engine just fifty-eight atoms in size. Tiny engines allow tiny machines. And tiny machines may mean teeny-tiny robots, or “nanobots.” A major advancement in these happened in 2007, when David Leigh, a professor of chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, revealed that he had built a “nanomachine,” whose parts consisted of single molecules. When asked to describe to a normal person the significance of his discovery, Leigh said it would be difficult to predict. “It is a bit like when stone-age man made his wheel, asking him to predict the motorway,” he said.
“Things that seem like a Harry Potter film now are going to be a reality.” Such machines are still fairly limited in military applications; early models can only do things like copy a plant’s photosynthesis or move a molecule of water around. But military analysts see the potential of these prototypes’ one day becoming weapons that work at the molecular level, such as tiny missiles that could truly hit with pinpoint precision or nanobots designed to deconstruct a target from the inside out. Such minuscule designs actually mandate that the systems will have to have high autonomy, carrying out their missions without human controllers. First, to be useful, the robots will have to be “organic” to the team. That is, they will have to be relatively easy to use, not require special training, and if the goal is to saturate the battlefield, not require each and every small robot to have a soldier somewhere having to stop his mission and fly it.
Mims, Norman Ministry of Trade and Industry, Japanese Minority Report (film) Minsky, Marvin Mirsad (drone) Mitchell, Billy MITRE company Mobile Detection Assessment Response System (MDARS) Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System (MAARS) Moffett, William Moltke, Helmut von (the elder) Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (Lewis) Monroe, Marilyn Montecito (computer) Moore, Gordon Moore’s law Moravec, Hans Mori, Masahiro mothership concept MQ-8 Fire Scout (robot) mud battery MULE (Multifunction Utility/Logistics and Equipment Vehicle) Mullen, Michael Multi-Function Agile Remote-Controlled Robot (MARCBOT) Murphy, Eddie (actor) Murphy, Edward (researcher) Murphy’s law Murray, Scott Musharraf, Pervez Myers, Mike My Lai massacre MySpace Nagl, John Nagle, Matthew Nahikian, Edward nanobots Napoleon I, emperor of France National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) National Center for Defense Robotics National Defense National Defense Authorization Act of 2001, National Institutes of Health National Missile Defense National Science Board National Science Foundation National Security Council Naval Academy, U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center Naval War College Navlab Navy, U.S.
The Lights in the Tunnel by Martin Ford
Albert Einstein, Bill Joy: nanobots, Black-Scholes formula, call centre, cloud computing, collateralized debt obligation, commoditize, creative destruction, credit crunch, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, factory automation, full employment, income inequality, index card, industrial robot, inventory management, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, knowledge worker, low skilled workers, mass immigration, moral hazard, pattern recognition, prediction markets, Productivity paradox, Ray Kurzweil, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, strong AI, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, Thomas L Friedman, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, War on Poverty
These third-world factory workers will continue to churn out products that will be largely consumed by people in developed countries. Workers (consumers) in the West—supported by their lucrative online collaboration and piecemeal work—will be eager purchasers of these imports for decades to come. Ultimately, it is possible that advanced nanotechnology may begin to be deployed in the manufacturing sector. Nano-manufacturing will involve manipulating matter at the molecular and perhaps even atomic level. Selfreplicating “nano-bots” may be designed to build products from the ground up. Nonetheless, all those millions of low wage workers will remain indispensable to the production process. Does this viewof the future really seem more likely— more down to earth—than what I have presented? Can we expect this forecast to hold true decade after decade as technology continues advancing at its geometric pace? The reality seems to be that most people who forecast the future either cannot imagine, or are not willing to consider, a world in which human workers become increasingly superfluous.
If it broadens to the degree that machines begin to encroach on a substantial fraction of the jobs that support consumers, the viability of capitalism will ultimately be threatened—unless, of course, our economic rules are adapted to reflect the new reality. These issues are beyond the scope of this book. For a good introduction to this area, I’d recommend reading “Why the future doesn’t need us,” an article written by Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy for the April, 2000 issue of Wired Magazine. * Web: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy.html Copyrighted Material – Paperback/Kindle available @ Amazon About / Contacting the Author Martin Ford is the founder of a Silicon Valley-based software development firm. He has over 25 years experience in the fields of computer design and software development. He holds an MBA degree from the Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA and an undergraduate degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
3D printing, AI winter, Amazon Web Services, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, Automated Insights, Bayesian statistics, Bernie Madoff, Bill Joy: nanobots, brain emulation, cellular automata, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable, cloud computing, cognitive bias, commoditize, computer vision, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Danny Hillis, data acquisition, don't be evil, drone strike, Extropian, finite state, Flash crash, friendly AI, friendly fire, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, Loebner Prize, lone genius, mutually assured destruction, natural language processing, Nicholas Carr, optical character recognition, PageRank, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, prisoner's dilemma, Ray Kurzweil, Rodney Brooks, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, semantic web, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, Skype, smart grid, speech recognition, statistical model, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, strong AI, Stuxnet, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, Thomas Bayes, traveling salesman, Turing machine, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, zero day
Some think it would be better if ASI came first, because nanotechnology is too volatile a tool to trust to our puny brains. In fact, a lot of the benefits that are attributed to the Singularity are due to nanotechnology, not artificial intelligence. Engineering at an atomic scale may provide, among other things: immortality, by eliminating on the cellular level the effects of aging; immersive virtual reality, because it’ll come from nanobots that take over the body’s sensory inputs; and neural scanning and uploading of minds to computers. However, say skeptics, out-of-control nano robots might endlessly reproduce themselves, turning the planet into a mass of “gray goo.” The “gray goo” problem is nanotechnology’s most well-known Frankenstein face. But almost no one describes an analogous problem with AI, such as the “intelligence explosion” in which the development of smarter-than-human machines sets in motion the extinction of the human race.
Is it simultaneously the best time to be alive, and the worst? I’ve read almost every word Kurzweil has published, and listened to every available audio recording, podcast, and video. In 1999 I interviewed him at length for a documentary film that was in part about AI. I know what he’s written and said about the dangers of AI, and it isn’t much. Surprisingly, however, he was indirectly responsible for the subject’s most cogent cautionary essay—Bill Joy’s “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us.” In it, Joy, a programmer, computer architect, and the cofounder of Sun Microsystems, urges a slowdown and even a halt to the development of three technologies he believes are too deadly to pursue at the current pace: artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and biotechnology. Joy was prompted to write it after a frightening conversation in a bar with Kurzweil, followed by his reading The Age of Spiritual Machines.
And the downside of robotics, which really refers to AI, is the most profound because intelligence is the most important phenomenon in the world. Inherently there is no absolute protection against strong AI.” Kurzweil’s book does underline the dangers of genetic engineering and nanotechnology, but it gives only a couple of anemic pages to strong AI, the old name for AGI. And in that chapter he also argues that relinquishment, or turning our backs on some technologies because they’re too dangerous, as advocated by Bill Joy and others, isn’t just a bad idea, but an immoral one. I agree relinquishment is unworkable. But immoral? “Relinquishment is immoral because it would deprive us of profound benefits. We’d still have a lot of suffering that we can overcome and therefore have a moral imperative to do that. Secondly, relinquishment would require a totalitarian system to ban the technology. And thirdly and most importantly it wouldn’t work.
The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts by Richard Susskind, Daniel Susskind
23andMe, 3D printing, additive manufacturing, AI winter, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, Andrew Keen, Atul Gawande, Automated Insights, autonomous vehicles, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, big data - Walmart - Pop Tarts, Bill Joy: nanobots, business process, business process outsourcing, Cass Sunstein, Checklist Manifesto, Clapham omnibus, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, commoditize, computer age, Computer Numeric Control, computer vision, conceptual framework, corporate governance, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, death of newspapers, disintermediation, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Filter Bubble, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, full employment, future of work, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Hacker Ethic, industrial robot, informal economy, information retrieval, interchangeable parts, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, James Hargreaves, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Joseph Schumpeter, Khan Academy, knowledge economy, lifelogging, lump of labour, Marshall McLuhan, Metcalfe’s law, Narrative Science, natural language processing, Network effects, optical character recognition, Paul Samuelson, personalized medicine, pre–internet, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, semantic web, Shoshana Zuboff, Skype, social web, speech recognition, spinning jenny, strong AI, supply-chain management, telepresence, The Future of Employment, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, Turing test, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, young professional
Now it costs a few thousand dollars.48 Companies like 23andMe, Navigenics, and deCODE offer commercial testing services from $99.49 In the field of ‘genome editing’, scientists search for problematic genes and actively intervene to change or remove them. Nanomedicine, the use of nanotechnology in a medical setting, is another field. Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman’s seventy-year-old prediction that we might one day ‘swallow the surgeon’50 has come true—there are already small nanobots that are able to swim through our bodies, relaying images, delivering targeted drugs, and attacking particular cells with a precision that makes even the finest of surgeons’ blades look blunt. (At Google X, one of Google’s research facilities, they are said to be developing a version of this.51) Non-humans are also playing a role. Engineers are developing a large number of sophisticated robotic systems that support patients (sometimes called ‘assistive robotics’).52 There are, for example, robotics that help paraplegics to walk, and prosthetics, controlled by patients, to replace lost limbs.53 Some systems also help practitioners.
Also see Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near, chs. 2 and 3. 20 Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near, 7–8. 21 Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near, 22–6. 22 Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near, 127. 23 Kurzweil, How to Create a Mind, 248–61. 24 The economic impact of this network effect is discussed by Michael Spence in his Nobel Prize lecture of 2001. See Michael Spence, ‘Signaling in Retrospect and the Informational Structure of Markets’, Nobel Prize Lecture, 8 Dec. 2001. 25 Jonathan Koomey et al., ‘Implications of Historical Trends in the Electrical Efficiency of Computing’, Annals of the History of Computing, 33: 3 (2011), 46–54. 26 See ongoing discussions on Kurzweil’s website <www.kurzweilai.net>. Also see Bill Joy, ‘Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us’, Wired (Apr. 2000). Kurzweil checks his own homework in ‘How My Predictions are Faring’, Oct. 2010 <http://www.kurzweilai.net/images/How-My-Predictions-Are-Faring.pdf> (accessed 27 March 2015). 27 See e.g. Joel Garreau, Radical Evolution (2005), and ‘Coming To an Office Near You’, Economist, 18 Jan. 2014. 28 See e.g. the work of Singularity University at <http://singularityu.org> (accessed 23 March 2015). 29 For a clear introduction to the cloud and cloud computing, and a clear indication of its mounting signifiance, see Kuan Hon and Christopher Millard, ‘Cloud Technologies and Services’, in Cloud Computing Law, ed.