You are on page 1of 5

The Technological Singularity and Recursion Christian Wilk

Abstract My paper assumes that the Singularity will eventually happen. With Singularity I refer to a moment in time where mind-uploading, i.e. substrate-independent minds (SIMs), will become possible. It is important to point out that it is not necessary or relevant for this paper that the mind processes have to be fully understood on every level of abstraction. n understanding of the mind on the basis of I!" behaviour would be sufficient. #he #echnological Singularity is mostly addressed from a viewpoint of improving the condition of biological, human life as it is right now. $ut actually, who says that biological life will be important at all before or after the Singularity has happened% &othing really points to that. 'rom my viewpoint, the Singularity as defined above will trigger off endless, parallel worlds which will then be the ecosystem for virtual minds and will be the basis for running simulations of different socio-economic scenarios in less than realtime. $ut if we will be capable of doing that, who can actually deny or proof contrary that something li(e that hasn)t been done with us already (World-insidethe-World idea)% *iven that we will run endless numbers of these simulations to find answers to pressing socio-economic issues, what ma(es us thin( that the societies we simulate, are not going to develop li(e we did, and actually start their own simulation% What we enter then is a recursive world or computation. #he +uestion then however is, what are we computing, or what ,is) computed% Is the meaning of the world the solution to a recursive function system based on recursive function theory and the fi-point theorem of .naster-#ars(i% Key Words: Singularity, recursion, many worlds, future, humanity, simulation, beyond, meaning, mind uploading, SIM. ***** 1. Premise In the conte-t of this paper I assume that mind-uploading has become possible. #he ability to move the functions of minds from brains to other types of materials, other substrates, to become substrate-independent minds (SIMs) is one of the

The Technological Singularity and Recursion

__________________________________________________________________ fundamental pre-conditions for the #echnological Singularity as described and foreseen by /ay .ur0weil. #his paper describes a (ind of thought e-periment and is to some e-tent playing with thoughts off the beaten trac( of regular scholastic research. It tries to thin( beyond the #echnological Singularity, which .ur0weil - as described in 1aul llens essay 2#he Singularity Isn)t &ear3 - sees as 2so incomprehensible to us that we cannot even rationally guess how our life e-periences would be altered3. 2. Criti ue o! the common "ie# o! the Technological Singularity In most publications on the Singularity, its proponents do not get tired to emphasi0e and highlight the varied and unlimited possibilities such a development would bring upon each individual)s life while approaching the Singularity. Some e-amples are enhanced sensory capabilities such as night-vision, increased sensory resolution, the ability to cope with enormous amounts of data due to increased processing power and speed combined with access to all the (nowledge of the world instantaneously, up to the promise of eternal life. 4owever, what is rarely addressed with its full ramifications is the transformation of identity and the slow erosion of the concept of ,I). "ne could even +uestion if there would remain anything that could be called ,I) anymore. 5very new technology is introduced for a particular reason, namely for improving a certain process or condition. nd the improvement is usually measured in increased savings of resources, gain of earnings, speed etc. *iven the current socio-economic conditions - and nothing points to the fact that those will change fundamentally in the future as political changes occur at a pace several degrees slower than the current pace of technological development - every newly introduced technology e-erts a certain (ind of pressure to be adopted and forces the ones who decide not to do so to the margins of society. Seen in this light, the every so often assertion proclaimed by the Singularity advocates that it would be everybody)s own decision to adopt these cognitive enhancers and amplifiers is merely self-delusion. #a(en these conditions together, the possibility of SIM and the socio-economic pressure to adopt it, what follows then is that for several reasons given below, society will progressively move from an accumulation of individuals to a state where the individual minds and s(ills eventually will be merged into some greater entity, commonly called the *lobal $rain. t that stage it will be difficult to retain one)s individuality or the whole idea of ,I) has to be rethought and redefined. *iven that a *lobal $rain would derive its sensory information from all its e-tensions, either in biological or technological form, instantaneously from all over the globe, it might develop an identity of itself as embodied in the form of planet earth.

Christian Wilk

<

__________________________________________________________________ $ut even stages preceding a full merger into some (ind of super-organism pose several challenges to the concept of self-identity. If ,I) create several copies of ,me), some of them embodied in biological bodies, some in other forms and physical shapes, and some in purely virtual form, and if ,I) remain the conductor of those entities, yet each of them provides sensory feedbac( based on their particular ,embodiment), with ,me) synthesi0ing those information streams into something meaningful, then what am ,I)% I do not support the idea that a biological body is a precondition for identity, but I claim that our current understanding of identity will be turned completely upside down and that the idea of ,I) as a coherent, definable and identifiable entity will have to be abandoned and eventually will become obsolete. #he only way to retain an identifiable individuality will be reserved for the small percentage of affluent people who will be able to afford it. Introducing SIMs will drive down prices, but also the value attributed to wor(. In turn it will be necessary for people to ma(e use of SIMs, i.e. to create copies of their mind and use them as additional wage earners as one single ,original) mind will become insufficient to earn a decent living. #he further growing global population will ma(e it more and more difficult for people to 7ustify a biological e-istence and therefore having a biological embodiment will become a lu-ury good instead of a birthright. It is well (nown that there are problems for which an analytical solution e-ists, that is, they are computable, and problems for which inherently no solution at all e-ists. #his is even true for some well-defined, analytical problems (i.e. the tiling problem), but of course certainly true for cases that are often called problems, yet are merely cases of preference and ta(ing one out of a multitude of possible decisions. #his is true for simple scenarios li(e where to go on holiday ne-t season, but also true for societal problems and the +uestion how humanity or this planet would evolve in case of a certain event, for e-ample climate change, tampering with 8& without really (nowing the ramifications etc. #he most obvious would then be to run a simulation and use all SIMs as input for that simulation. In other words, to create a copy of this world and their inhabitants at a certain point in time and to progressively compute the simulation in less than realtime. 9ess than real-time in this scenario means that time is compressed by a certain factor, for instance a compression of :;;; would mean that one year in the simulation would correspond to :;;; in its parent-world. Some of these simulations might be closed-loop, i.e. its inhabitants would and could not (now that something li(e an e-ternal parent-world outside of their own world e-ists, and some might allow e-change and connections with its outer parent-world. #he only limitation might be that the computational power of this world or the universe is insufficient to shoulder an unlimited number of parallel simulations of whole societies in less than real-time. I will not address this +uestion here further.

>

The Technological Singularity and Recursion

__________________________________________________________________ 'or more information on this topic, the reader is referred to Seth 9loyd and his writings on the computational universe. $. Thesis: %ntering the Recursi"e Cycle #hese simulations would then be used to e-plore various alternative socioeconomic scenarios and bac(trac( from their results to the present, in order to support prudent decision-ma(ing. s there are no limitations as to how the world should loo( li(e and who its inhabitants should be, all (inds of simulations are imaginable. Simulations could for e-ample be launched with different initial conditions but with the same life rules as to see how different scenarios evolve differently. "ther parameter constellations are imaginable= same initial conditions, yet different world rules, or static vs. dynamic world rules etc. Simulations could start from different points in time, some might even aspire to replicate the $ig $ang and in that way simulate the world from its very beginning. "ne certain (ind of these simulations, a closed-loop simulation which starts off at a point in time before the invention of computers and simulations, would be very interesting from a philosophical vantage point as it would have repercussions to its parent world and the whole idea of e-istence. ssuming that one of these simulations, one which was not given any prior (nowledge about computation and simulations, develops in a similar way than its parent world, that is the simulation would itself launch such simulations as described above. We then enter a recursive cycle. 'rom this moment on when we will observe such an event we then cannot deny anymore or prove contrary that our world itself is not already a simulation itself. &. Recursion and 'eaning /ecursion is the process of repeating items in a self-similar way. #he most common application of recursion is in mathematics and computer science, in which it refers to a method of defining functions in which the function being defined is applied within its own definition. recursive function calls itself recursively on preceding input (n-:) and processes the result of the recursive call by the current input (n), until reaching the base case, which is the case where the function is not defined in itself anymore and actually returns results. recursive function can either terminate or continue to run endlessly. It terminates only if with every recursive call the recursive algorithm changes its state and moves towards the base case. 'rom a mathematical viewpoint a recursive function that terminates is the solution of a fi-point e+uation. ccording to the .naster-#ars(i theorem the least

Christian Wilk

__________________________________________________________________ fi-point of a montone function can be used to define its meaning ? its programme semantics. (. Conse uences #he +uestion then arises= if the world is a recursive process, will it terminate and what is it that is computed% #he +uestion who is computing, I)m afraid will still be elusive to us. @ more to be added until the conference

)ibliogra*hy
llen, 1aul. The Singularity Isnt Near, accessed May A, 6;:<, http=!!www.technologyreview.com!view!>6BA<<!paul-allen-the-singularity-isnt-near! .ur0weil, /ay. The Web Within Us: Minds and Machines Beco e !ne, accessed May C, 6;:<, http=!!www.(ur0weilai.net!the-web-within-us-minds-and-machinesbecome-one .ur0weil, /ay. "ur#$eil Res%onds: &ont Underesti ate the Singularity, accessed May A, 6;:<, http=!!www.technologyreview.com!view!>6BC:C!(ur0weil-respondsdont-underestimate-the-singularity! .ur0weil, /ay. The Singularity is Near' When (u ans Transcen Biology' &ew Dor(= 1enguin, 6;;E. 9loyd, Seth. #he Fomputational Gniverse, accessed http=!!www.edge.org!<rdHculture!lloyd6!lloyd6Hinde-.html May :;, 6;:<,

Christian Wil+ is a computer scientist, visionary and independent research consultant based in $ang(o(. With a bac(ground in computer science, linguistics and the visual arts he pursues pro7ects at the intersection of technology, philosophy and creativity.