Society Beyond the Era of Cognitive Computing …

This week I got stuck during transit back home and watched the movie “Bladerunner” by Ridley Scott. blade_runnerI have seen this movie often before, am still intrigued by it’s plot and it always makes me start to think about the future of technology, mankind and where this will lead to? Technological Singularity is something that pops up here. Taken the description from Wikipedia, Technological Singularity is a hypothetical event in which an upgradable intelligent agent (such as a computer running software-based artificial intelligence (today even cognitive abilities) enters a ‘runaway reaction’ of self-improvement cycles, with each new and more intelligent generation appearing more and more rapidly, causing an intelligence explosion and resulting in a powerful superintelligence whose cognitive abilities could be qualitatively as far above humans, as human intelligence is above ape intelligence. Ray Kurzweil elaborated more about Singularity in his book The Age of Spiritual Machines age-of-spiritual-machinesin 1999 and the “The Washing Machine Tragedy” from the “The Cyberiad” short stories by Stanislav Lem is a much earlier thought on this development, but even worth to read aspect about this tipping point.  What me always drives to think about this: we are coming closer and closer to the technical ability to reach the point of Singularity, but how are we dealing here with the non-technical side? And this is not only about the legal implications – Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” might help here 😉 –  it is much more about the implication this has on our society and very much on us as human beings. It is kind of philosophical, yet becoming very practical. If we see Cognitive (paired with concepts as Quantum Computing) as a natural next step in evolution leading to a next major transition as the appearance of RNA, DNA, multicellularity, culture and language did during the timeline of evolution without us being aware about, isn’t the convergence of unique human abilities and technological possibilities something we should focus on much more as we are aware that this is happening? To my perception we are very much looking on the technological side and push the development, which is good (I achieved a master degree and PhD in computer sciences, so what else can you expect 😉 ) in the first place, yet seeing us struggle with many basics aspects to live together as humans in our huge variety of cultures and societies, I wonder if we can cope with the next step in evolution, despite the fact it will materialize in 10 years or in 40. Are we in here looking into this in IBM somewhere?

Jaron Lanier - Who Owns the Future

(note: a further suggested reading on aligned topics about the impact of

digitilization on life and scociety is “Who Owns The Future” by Jaron Lanier.)

Wonder what thoughts on this are out in my network? Thank you for sharing!


  1. Nurcan

    With no master degree and no PhD in computer sciences, what can you expect from me on this… 😉 Very interesting thoughts of yours though and to make things even more complicated: Technology making communication “easier” than ever, quicker, everybody reachable everywhere and any time, thus bringing people together to share all their good and bad moods/thoughts/ideas; productivity under any condition. So, we should be happier than ever before, but why then is the incidence of psychiatric conditions and mental illnessess increasing with almost the same slope? Obviously, there is a “natural maximum speed and complexity tolerance” within homo sapiense, and he/she would act wise by not over-stressing these limits. However, this is increasingly impossible in a world community that overpowers eventual “limits” on a daily basis.

    • Nurcan, I agree very much with your statement “… there is a “natural maximum speed and complexity tolerance” within homo sapiense …”! And there are obvious many benefits brought by the technological developments, yet to my observation this outpaces the development we humans, our cultures, societies did in over the centuries. If singularity will happen, I hope that machines will adhere to Asimov’s three principles I mentioned to help us by what today is called assisted thinking when you use systems able to apply cognitive processes to enhance your thinking.

  2. Alison Hartmann

    I share your thoughts and concerns about “the dark side” of technology. My interest in this area is focused on physiology and emotional well being. There is increasing research in this area, from the – sometimes conflicting – evidence of physiological changes that mobile phones produce ( to the increased emotional pain that can be inflicted by mobbing online. Thank you for the insight into the concept of singularity….which made me think even more about the direction of advances in technology. It also begs the question for me of who will profit from it and who will attempt to control it to gain power?

    • Hi Alison, thank you for your comment. And yes the book “Who owns the future?” by Jaron Lanier I refered to is exactly about your question “…who will profit from it and who will attempt to control it to gain power?”. -L.

  3. Jörg Adam

    Hallo Lutz, ist die “neue schöne Welt” mit dem ausschließlichen Gebrauch der englischen Sprache verbunden? Ok zu Deinem Post:
    a) Ich vermisse in Deinem Text zum Thema Singularität die Erwähnung der Autoren Vernor Vinge und Charles Stross.
    b) Irgendwie ist das Phänomen Singularität auch langweilig. Einmal weil wir sie nicht begreifen werden, des Weiteren weil die Entwicklung irgendwann doch eine Endpunkt findet.
    c) Hat die Entwicklung zur Singularität eine degressiven Verlauf oder den einer Hyperbel?
    Oder anders gefragt: Gilt “natural maximum speed and complexity tolerance” auch für die Prozesse der Singularität? Wenn ja, dann degressiv. Oder steckt hinter jeder Ebene bekannter Phänome immer wieder eine neue, so dass die Entwicklung ewig weitergehen kann?

    Jetzt in broken Englisch:

    Hello Lutz, do we have to use exclusivily Englisch in in the “brave new world”? No my comment to your post:
    a) I miss the mention of the authors Vernor Vinge an Charles Stross in your text to the matter singularity.
    b) In some way the phenomen singularity is boring. Once cause we won´t be able to understand it, further cause the development will find an endpoint.
    c) Will the development of singularity have an degressive curve or like an hyperbola?
    Or asked in another way: Is “natural maximum speed and complexity tolerance” also valid for processes of singularity? If yes, then degressive, or will there be ever new phenomenons after each level of knowledge which guarantee the never ending process?

    • Jörg,
      thank you for your comment! Well re a) I don’t read anything written by the authors you mentioned, yet I don’t have any doubts that the concept of singularity is unique to the sources I quoted. Re b) not sure if there will be an endpoint, I would see it more as a maximum of an development, which might end up in another development, as industrial area is succeeded by the digital area. Re c) not sure, as there might be as well a change of the characteristics of these processes on to what we see in actual developments.

  4. Pingback: Cognitive Singularity … | Deacon Blues

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