Video Friday — Technological Singularities: An Overview

H+ readers will enjoy this video from Gennady Stolyarov.

Gennady discusses three technological singularities that have already happened and discusses their effects and impacts on human existence. Mr. Stolyarov starts by explaining the  concept of a technological Singularity and his understanding that humankind has already experienced three such Singularities in the form of the Agricultural, Industrial, and Information Revolutions. The next Singularity will come about due to a convergence of technologies such as artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and biotechnology (including indefinite life extension).

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 1.06.52 PM

Comment here and on Gennady’s YouTube page:


  1. Klaus, the original concept of the technological singularity by John von Neumann was broader than just a projection for AI. The Wikipedia page “Technological singularity” provides the following: “In 1958, regarding a summary of a conversation with von Neumann, Stanislaw Ulam described ‘ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.’” This is a richer definition and incorporates the convergence of multiple areas of technology. It considers, for instance, the future interaction of improved AI with biotechnology and nanotechnology.

    • Correct, and a full detailed exploration of the origins of that statement will be found in the book I am working on at the moment.

      Some additional academic references that may be of interest:

      Robin Hanson’s seminal paper suggests that “A world product time series covering two million years is well fit by either a sum of four exponentials, or a constant elasticity of substitution (CES) combination of three exponential growth modes” which he terms “hunting,” “farming,” and “industry.”

      We might consider various descriptions and models for growth. Anders Sandberg presents a great summary of commonly considered models.

      The actual evidence in information technologies is for *super exponential* growth which would lead to a true mathematical singularity event in finite time. Empirical evidence is presented here that a super exponential model fits better than an exponential one to observed growth in IT.

      A recent and very interesting paper suggests considering many singularity like events across history and in relation to various technologies, and not just “computation” but also other areas of advance such as accurate timekeeping are considered: Accurate timekeeping is critical to navigation and enabled exploration of the oceans and discovery of the Americas ny European explorers during the age of sail, and moreover, is required for the proper operation of all modern communication systems.

      See also:

  2. interesting video, but isnt it so that “singularity” is a rather narrow term for the moment AI improves themselves and technology so fast that it is not possible anymore for human mind to control or even grasp it? (and so possibly replacing human as the dominant species in the current form?)

    • The term “Singularity” is catchy and therefore likely to become widely used as a descriptor for the transformation of our societies by AI, nanotechnology, biotechnology, etc. Concepts associated with the Singularity will then have considerable influence on all forms of long-term planning and political groups will have no choice but to provide their own definition of Singularity to guide policy-making in a direction that makes sense to them. It will therefore no longer be relevant who used the term first and in which context. I am grateful to Gennady for defining Singularity in a way that makes sense to me and that provides a promising starting point for rational planning of our future.

Leave a Reply