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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

The Singularity, the point at which we see runaway technological growth that result in unfathomable changes to human civilisation, is approaching, and we need to be prepared.

 

In 30 years, the Singularity, the point at which we see runaway technological growth that result in unfathomable changes to human civilization, will happen and artificial intelligence (AI), and all the devices it inhabits, will exceed human intelligence.

That was the prediction of Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son on Monday when he spoke at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, about the rapid advancement of AI.

 

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Son says that by 2047, a single computer chip will have an IQ of 10,000 – far surpassing the most intelligent people in the world, who by comparison often have paltry IQ’s of “just” 200 – oh how we scoff at those stupid geniuses… He also went on to say that by that stage AI will be capable of recursive self-improvement, something that we’re already, admittedly tentatively, seeing signs of, and take even more control of the smart technology and connected devices in the world – possibly even unleashing a flood of self-evolving, self-fabricating robots onto the world – descendants of the self-evolving, self-fabricating sausage robot I covered last month.

 

Masayoshi Son, MWC 2017 Keynote

 

However, like Elon Musk, Son thinks humans can partner with Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI), and even interface with it to augment ourselves – the interfaces for which, such as the Neural Lace, a nanotech device that wraps around your brain, and other Brain Machine Interfaces, are already emerging. That said though he also, like Musk, believes that humanity just needs to figure out what its role in the world will be before AI becomes singular, and before it becomes a threat, like so many experts, including Musk, are warning.

“One of the chips in our shoes in the next 30 years will be smarter than our brain. We will be less intelligent than our shoes. And we are stepping on them,” Son said, “I think this super intelligence is going to be our partner. If we misuse it, it’s a risk. If we use it in good spirits it will be our partner for a better life.”

“What should we call it,” he asks, “superintelligence. That is an intelligence beyond people’s imagination no matter how smart they are. But in 30 years I believe this is going to become a reality.”

 

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Son came to this conclusion by comparing the number of neurons in a brain to the number of transistors. He builds the comparison by pointing out that both systems are binary, and work by turning on and off. According to his predictions, the number of transistors in a computer chip will surpass the number of neurons in a human brain by next year – however, as many people are always keen to point out neurons and transistors are not equal – so you’ll need to produce a chip with more than 86 billion transistors in order to draw level with the human brain, and even then people will argue about whether or not it’s equivalent. And that is a while off. However, that said Son, for now at least, doesn’t seem to phased by the details – he’s more interested in the message.

“The point is that mankind, for the last 2,000 to 4,000 years, has had the same number of neurons in our brain. We haven’t improved the hardware in our brain,” he said.

He then gestured to a computer chip on his screen.

“But this, in the next 30 years, the number of transistors on this chip is going to be a million times more. If you have a million times more binary systems, I think they well be smarter than us.”

The occurrence of the singularity by 2047 is a prediction that’s broadly in line with Ray Kurzweil’s, Google’s director of Engineering, estimate. Kurzweil has been criticized for saying that he expects the singularity to occur around 2045, but some of his predictions about technology so far have been roughly in line with what we’ve seen on the ground, and if you flick through the virtual pages of this site you’ll see we’re already up to some crazy stuff so 2045 could be pessimistic.

 

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Recently Son’s company, among other Silicon Valley notaries such as Apple and Facebook, have poured over $100 billion into a new Softbank “vision Fund” that Son says is going to be used to help develop AI. And alongside that, Son’s also recently splashed $32 billion acquiring ARM, a leading British microchip design company, which apparently, he bought because it makes so many IoT chips, which Son said will help him better study what’s going to happen.

“If this superintelligence goes into moving robots, the world, our lifestyle dramatically changes,” he says, “we can expect all kinds of robots – flying, swimming, big, micro, run, two legs, four legs, a hundred.”

All types then. Why not eighty legs, just for fun? Going one step further he also went on to suggest that based on the number of devices connected to the internet, as well as smart cars, that the population of super-intelligent robots will surpass that of people in 30 years as well. And what’s not to love about that?

Bring it on! Er, then again…

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, award winning Futurist and Founder of the 311 Institute, a global futures think tank working between the dates of 2020 and 2070, is described as "The Adviser behind the Advisers." Regularly featured on AP, CNBC, Discovery and RT, his ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past five years as one of the world's foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive future. A rare talent Matthew sits on the Technology and Innovation Committee (TIAC) for Centrica, Europe’s largest utility company, and his recent work includes mentoring XPrize teams, building the first generation of biocomputers and re-inventing global education, and helping the world’s largest manufacturers envision, design and build the next 20 years of devices, smartphones and intelligent machines. Matthew's clients are the who’s who of industry and include Accenture, Bain & Co, BCG, BOA, Blackrock, Bentley, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, Du Pont, E&Y, HPE, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, UBS, the USAF and many others.

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