is the theoretical emergence of greater-than-human superintelligence throughtechnological means.
Since the capabilities of such intelligence would be difficult for an unaided human mind tocomprehend, the occurrence of a technological singularity is seen as an intellectual event horizon, beyond whichevents cannot be predicted or understood.Proponents of the singularity typically state that an "intelligence explosion",
where superintelligences designsuccessive generations of increasingly powerful minds, might occur very quickly and might not stop until the agent'scognitive abilities greatly surpass that of any human.The term was popularized by science fiction writer Vernor Vinge, who argues that artificial intelligence, humanbiological enhancement, or brain-computer interfaces could be possible causes of the singularity. The specific term"singularity" as a description for a phenomenon of technological acceleration causing an eventual unpredictableoutcome in society was coined by mathematician John von Neumann, who in the mid 1950s spoke of "everaccelerating 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." The concept has also been popularized by futurists such as Ray Kurzweil, who cited vonNeumann's use of the term in a foreword to von Neumann's classic "The Computer and the Brain."Some analysts expect the singularity to occur some time in the 21st century, although their estimates vary.
Kurzweil writes that, due to paradigm shifts, a trend of exponential growth extends Moore's law from integratedcircuits to earlier transistors, vacuum tubes, relays, andelectromechanical computers. He predicts that the exponentialgrowth will continue, and that in a few decades the computingpower of all computers will exceed that of human brains, withsuperhuman artificial intelligence appearing around the sametime.
Many of the most recognized writers on the singularity, suchas Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil, define the concept interms of the technological creation of superintelligence, andargue that it is difficult or impossible for present-day humansto predict what a post-singularity would be like, due to thedifficulty of imagining the intentions and capabilities of superintelligent entities.
The term "technologicalsingularity" was originally coined by Vinge, who made ananalogy between the breakdown in our ability to predict whatwould happen after the development of superintelligence andthe breakdown of the predictive ability of modern physics atthe space-time singularity beyond the event horizon of ablack hole.
Some writers use "the singularity" in a broader way to referto any radical changes in our society brought about by newtechnologies such as molecular nanotechnology,
although Vinge and other prominent writers specifically statethat without superintelligence, such changes would notqualify as a true singularity.
Many writers also tie thesingularity to observations of exponential growth in varioustechnologies (with Moore's Law being the most prominentexample), using such observations as a basis for predicting that the singularity is likely to happen sometime withinthe 21st century.