Event Detail

Thu Nov 4, 2010
204 Dwinelle Hall, 1–3 PM
Working Group in the Philosophy of Mind
David Chalmers (Australian National University and New York University)
A Conversation about the Singularity

In 1993, Vernor Vinge, a professor of mathematics and computer science (though perhaps better-known as a writer of science fiction), presented a paper at a NASA-sponsored symposium titled “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era.” The paper’s abstract begins: “Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.”

Since the publication of Vinge’s paper, the idea of the “Singularity” has become a favorite of the popular media (and many members of the internet’s lunatic fringe). Perhaps the most notable contribution to the Singularity literature to date is Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near (2005); it was met with a combination of adulation and alarm in the popular media, while garnering markedly less attention within academia.

Still, the idea of the Singularity itself could be seen as originating within academic philosophy, in the form of I. J. Good’s 1965 article “Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine.” Good considers the possibility of the eventual creation of “ultraintelligent machines,” and speculates that “the first ultraintelligent machine [will be] the last invention that man need ever make.”

More recently, David Chalmers (NYU/ANU) has offered us “The Singularity: A Philosophical Analysis” (http://consc.net/papers/singularity.pdf), in which he suggests that philosophy has ignored the questions raised by the Singularity to its own detriment.

Please join us this Thursday as Chalmers leads us in a conversation about the Singularity.