technological singularity

The Terminator - Buy at AllPosters.comI realised, in the shower (where I do all my thinking), that none of the software I use at work does any work for me. Basically all it does is provide a digital alternative to me writing things down on paper. Or typing on paper. Or adding up on my fingers and toes. In short, I don’t think we’ve come very far from when I first started work, way back when.

One of my first jobs involved me doing labour reconciliation by hand. This meant I had to take the completed job sheets from a joinery factory we made kitchens, bathrooms, and laminated tops, and add up all the budgeted hours forcast to complete the jobs. This required me to tease out the hours costed into the components. Next, add up all the hours it took to produce the work completed. Finally, taking one from the other and a secret incantation or two and I ended up with a percentage number that was an indication of whether the factory was operating on time budget or not. Doing this by hand – and I mean ‘by hand’ – without the use of a calculator was a lengthy exercise, and one fraught with fear on my part as maths was not my strength by any stretch of the imagination.

I’d expect that today there will be some swifty software that allows you to enter at the dispatch point the products shipped and it would give you a real time indication of the effectiveness, and be able to give you the ratios with yesterday, last week, last month, last quarter, last year, etc. It wouldn’t be that difficult, and I would think it would be incredibly valuable for manufacturers. I did get quite good at calculating in hours and minutes, and this has helped me with my current role where – some 30+ years later the software that I have to use for logging my time is incapable of doing the calculation for me. Amazing.

Back to the shower I could see that, in my current role, the only thing missing was a green visor and armbands to stop my sleeves from wearing. If I added a nice wig and some buckled shoes I could scoot out at lunchtime and meet Captain Cook. Sure, I’d have to wash the ink spatters from my goose-quill pen off my hands, but really no difference. Same back to the time of Marco Polo. The software is a long, long way from being intelligent. Worse, much of it is made in the image of its creator – i.e. dumb, dumb, dumb.

So, I’m afraid, (or perhaps not, if Terminator is an indication) that the technological singularity is quite some time in the future. The technological singularity is the last tool humanity ever makes. It’s the smart tool, the one that’s smart enough to make another tool. From wikipedia:

Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an ‘intelligence explosion,’ and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.

Whilst this sounds like a great idea, I suspect our predilection for forming committees, having meetings, not taking minutes, not going to meetings, and goodness knows, the critical cuppa tea break will be our final barrier against super or even just ordinarily intelligent machines. The numbing boredom should be enough to paralyse any alien stupid enough to try to land, let alone attack.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *