Ming the Mechanic:
The Collective Intelligence Singularity

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 The Collective Intelligence Singularity2011-02-23 23:12
11 comments
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I don't really believe in The Singularity, in the sense that there's a rapidly approaching point in time when computers become much smarter than humans, so much smarter that they take over the control of the further evolution of society.

Generally speaking, the idea that there's an accelerating curve of machine intelligence, leading to the machines taking over some time soon seems a little silly to me. There's an accelerating curve of processing power, and there's an accelerating curve of many other interesting things. But if you're talking about conscious machines, there's simply no curve. No computer has been shown to have any kind of consciousness whatsoever. None. Neither has any other machine we've constructed. You can program computers. Given more processing power and better algorithms, you can program computers to solve more and more problems in more flexible ways, running on their own more of the time. That's great. But to simply hope that somewhere along the way, bing, a miracle happens and suddenly they become conscious as well, that's a little naive. It would at least make sense to first try to understand what consciousness is.

But there are other singularities that are likely to happen relatively soon which are equally interesting, and much preferable. Most interesting to me would be the collective intelligence singularity which might well be just a couple of years away. I.e. there's a point where we, as a group, a society, a planetary population, become smarter than any one of us. Not only that, but smarter than any one of us is able to understand. We right now already have a hard time understanding the world, but the collective intelligence isn't yet particularly clever. At some point it might actually really, really start working, and we'll not be able to understand exactly why.

For that matter, this could very well happen in 2012. You know, since many of us are looking towards some kind of cataclysmic event happening then. So, instead, it might very well be a monumental leap forward in our collective evolution. Not the end of the world, but the end of a world that can be dominated by individuals. A world where 6 billion people actually are smarter than any 1, 10, 100 or 1000 people, however rich and powerful and smart they are.

You see it beginning to happen right now, in the form of a series of uprisings against authoritarian governments. None of these revolutions are terribly intelligent, but they surely demonstrate that a large group of people is stronger than one strong guy and his hired hands. That's surprisingly something new. The masses can get rid of the guy at the top, even and particularly if he is a billionaire and a mass-murderer, and then they can actually self-organize in constructive ways.

The global Collective Intelligence is certainly technologically amplified. The Internet is its nervous system. In all its forms: SMS, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, e-mail etc. But it is important to realize that it is not something foreign that is going to "take over". It is all of us. We The People. Humanity.

The fact that a few desperate dictators keep trying to shut down or control electronic communication among "their" people will ensure that the network will evolve more rapidly to the point where it really can't be shut down.

There are many things going on right now that are leading in the same direction. WikiLeaks makes it a bit harder for the few to hide big bad things from the many. Natural catastrophes accentuate the need for rapid ad hoc self-organization. Who knows what is going on? Are the people I know safe? How can I help?

It is becoming harder to lead large populations along based on lies, and it is becoming easier for large populations to figure out together what is going on and what needs to be done.

Collective Intelligence is emerging. It needs to develop more internal complexity, of the good kind, more connections, a more fine-grained neural network. But that can happen very quickly. There's nothing essentially new that needs to be invented first.

It will take most of us by surprise. Then again, it won't. It will take those few people by surprise who think it is up to them to make the world work, by owning or ruling most of it. The rest of us will be a bit surprised too, but at the same time we have an intuitive sense of it. No matter what political observation we think we adhere to, most of us have a sense of being part of The People, and we'd be quite satisfied to see that suddenly The People seems to know how to act in a sensible way. Things seem to strangely be getting better.

So, here's my prediction: Before the end of the year 2012, next year, there will be a widespread realization that something profound has changed. Together we are undeniably more than any one of us possibly can be. People in power can no longer keep their sordid secrets, and for that matter, suddenly nobody can stay "in power" through the traditional means. Big problems get sorted out by self-organized networking. Suddenly, the more people get involved in something, the better the outcome tends to be. It is puzzling, and nobody can easily put their finger on how or why it changed. The best solutions are typically found, and the truth tends to emerge.

It is a singularity because, once it happens, there's no way back. You can't shut it off any longer. And none of us can completely understand it, or predict what it will do next. But at the same time, we will probably increasingly have a shared feeling of it. Because, again, it is us.


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11 comments

24 Feb 2011 @ 00:09 by bushman : Could be :}
I kind of think everyone already knows, they probably also know that change is going to hurt bad, more people with no homes, lots of economic bad times. I think lots hope the machines will rule them as long as they get food and a warm place to live. Does a machine need to accualy be concious? AIs and nanobots, once someone makes a self repairing/self replicating machine, where the nanobots are linked via the net, I really dont think a machine needs to be concious when if its AI decides it needs a specific device update and decides hmm, I need to send out my bots and update the infastructure so I can be more dependable, it could one day decide to take us out as well, if we try to shut it down. Since the point of firewalls and antivirus, is all about self preservation. I still think the 2012 event if any will be solar and/or cosmic, so many cycles within cycles. I would think over the eons, humanity has kept track. But as well, we see lots of animals here that seem to be gaining itellegets, they look at you and they seem to be thinking stuff. More and more animals seem be useing tools more. And there is plenty of past proof of things on this planet takeing huge evolutionary leaps, like folage plants, to now they make flowers. :}  


24 Feb 2011 @ 00:47 by ming : Machines
Yeah, we could be very well taken care of by automatic, self-repairing, self-replicating machines. That, yes, don't really need to be conscious, as long as they're reasonably flexible and fault-tolerant. And we could very well call that Artificial Intelligence. We might even have sensible conversations with the machines, like with IBM's Watson, and they might respond appropriately to what we ask for. But conscious, that's quite a different matter. I'm not against it, I'd prefer for everything to be conscious. But somebody has to come up with something quite a bit more clever than self-learning algorithms.

Anyway, an evolutionary leap is lurking somewhere here, and they're usually quite a surprise, so it can be hard to guess what exactly it will look like.  



24 Feb 2011 @ 13:16 by a-d : KNow what YOU want
Your life to look like!..... what events are acceptable as GOOD LIFE in your opinion..... how hard can that be????? and then declare consciously that THAT is indeed what YOU CHOOSE to manifest as YOUR LIFE..for the Highest Good of ALL!... with NO (other/further ) conscious effort on your part.... EVENTUALLY what you chose WILL manifest!...That IS how the Cosmic manifestation LABORATORY works!... WHY IN HELL ACCEPT Wars and mayham as Cosmic necessity of truth when it is so ONLY because enough many people so CHOOSE because of IGNORANCE!... (and
because something in that by chem chosen ignorance floats their VIP -"Boat"!!!) ... You cant keep people away FOREVER from what is written in their very basic Life DNA !!!...can you??? (Let's see now if the BOOT LADY will come and post a few "Buy this, buy that" in her efforts to scramble NCN!!!... She is SOOOOOoooo pitiful!)  



24 Feb 2011 @ 23:21 by ming : Knowing what one wants
Intriguingly, the collective thing starts coming together at approximately the same time that we individually commit to what we want. There's little collective intelligence in all of us just copying each other and trying to behave correctly. But if we get the courage together to actually choose to do what we feel we need or want to do, a higher order intelligence comes into play at the same time. True community and cooperation comes out of freedom.  


24 Mar 2011 @ 22:23 by Sasha @188.2.148.91 : I agree!
I think on these lines a couple of years now. i do realize the incredible power of networked minds, and think that this could easily create some kind of superinteligence albeit I see it as unconscious power.
On another thought, if this collective superinteligence can be thought of as a kind of being, perhaps some strange personality, what happens with different traits of this personality? What happens if there are like in most of us dark secrets, wishes, instincts?  



16 Apr 2011 @ 06:18 by Econ Democracy @108.8.52.153 : A few concerns about your predictions
1. You speak of 6 billion but the current population is 6.9 billion so if you must round to the nearest billion as you have, it would be 7 billion, not 6.

That is a relatively minor oversight, what's more worrisome is

2. By 2012 the rules won't be able to rule? Do you really believe for a second that corporations will not continue to "rule" that is, have the overwhelming and massive influence that they do now, in a mere8 to 20 months? It would be wonderful if it were true, but an honest assessment of the probability of that (or, say, the end of all wars) is, "extremely low probability"

3. "We right now already have a hard time understanding the world, but the collective intelligence isn't yet particularly clever"

The problems of our world are mostly due, not to a lack of "cleverness" of the whole civilization/collective, but rather, to a lack of wisdom.

Society continues to find ways of being more and more "clever" going from hand-saw to chain-saw of a branch, without the Wisdom to see or notice that it is cutting off the branch it is sitting on.  



19 Apr 2011 @ 20:40 by ming : Concerns
Yes, the Earth's population is closer to 7 billion. Aside from that, I'm not sure where you're going with your concerns.

Yes, I actually believe that corporate rule very well could come tumbling down like a card house, soon, just like the regimes in some Middle Eastern states that surely looked invulnerable just a few months ago. Nobody predicted what is happening. At the same time, yes, if you extrapolate the current situation linearly, there would be nothing that indicates that the power of corporations is falling apart, or that it would any time soon. Not surprising, because we aren't talking about gradual, linear changes at all. We're talking about sudden "catastrophic" changes, where things have stacked up for a long time, and when the avalanche happens, it happens quickly, taking us in a quite different direction. Evolution doesn't happen gradually.

There are, however, many signs of how the current system is being saturated, how things just can't be twisted much longer in the same direction. Like, you might notice the sudden increase in news stories or opinion pieces that are complaining about "the 1%" in the U.S. who own most of the country and who're doing great, despite that everybody else is having a crisis. And who, btw, aren't paying any taxes. Things are becoming more polarized than they've been for a long time.

Yes, we need wisdom more than cleverness. But it might well turn out to be possible to have collective wisdom, and collective wisdom might turn out to be more important than individual wisdom. That would surely be something new.  



21 Apr 2011 @ 20:53 by Parabanger @75.85.5.43 : Consciousness
Consciousness is not something we have, it's something of which we partake. Consciuosness is the web of language and culture in which we are all embedded. In that sense consciousness IS our collective intelligence. A single human being raised in isolation would never develop a theory of mind and would never become conscious: the experiment would be unethical on a human being, but may someday be performed on a line of robots that seem conscious.  


9 May 2011 @ 18:22 by Lalo Martins @188.102.131.164 : yes.
I've been saying something like that for years. Things like the telephone, then email, then Google, then IM, then twitter, draw our intelligence closer together and more able to work in tune; a singularity is IMO much more likely to emerge from that than an artificial intelligence.  


5 Jul 2011 @ 12:20 by taranga @212.183.128.72 : coo-ee are you still with us Ming?
or have the shoes trampled you into silence?  


29 Aug 2011 @ 06:53 by Timberland botas @216.218.249.46 : hola,
me llamo cristina,soy de EspaƱa, mucho gusto !
me gusta este sitio!
saludos  



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