Essay of the Day: Promises and Perils on the Road to an Omnipotent Global Intelligence

* Article: Return to Eden? Promises and Perils on the Road to an Omnipotent Global Intelligence. By Francis Heylighen, 2013

Abstract

“The concept of Singularity envisages a technology-driven explosion in intelligence. This paper argues that the resulting suprahuman intelligence will not be centralized in a single AI system, but distributed across all people and artifacts, as connected via the Internet. This “global brain” will function to tackle all challenges confronting the “global superorganism”. Its capabilities will extend so far beyond our present abilities that they are best conveyed as a pragmatic version of the “divine” attributes: omniscience (knowing everything needed to solve our problems), omnipresence (being available anywhere anytime), omnipotence (being able to provide any product or service at negligible cost) and omnibenevolence (aiming at the greatest happiness for the greatest number). By extrapolating present trends, technologies and evolutionary mechanisms, the paper shows that these abilities are likely to be realized within the next few decades. The resulting solution to all our individual and societal problems can be seen as a return to the “Garden of Eden”, the idyllic state of abundance and peace that supposedly existed before civilization. In this utopian society, individuals would be supported and challenged by the global brain to maximally develop their abilities, and to continuously create new knowledge. However, side effects of technological innovation are likely to create serious disturbances on the road to this utopia. The most important dangers are cascading failures facilitated by hyperconnectivity, the spread of psychological parasites that make people lose touch with reality, the loss of human abilities caused by an unnatural, passive lifestyle, and a conservative backlash triggered by too rapid changes. Because of the non-linearity of the system, the precise impact of such disturbances cannot be predicted. However, a range of precautionary measures, including a “global immune system”, may pre-empt the greatest risks, and thus secure our eventual return to Eden.”

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