Political Singularity

Politics 2018 vs 2040

“Political singularity” is a hypothetical event where global and national politics centers almost exclusively on issues related to post-human intelligence and power.

Most of the attention will likely center around a single set of related questions:

Will we decide to enhance human brains (will super-intelligent cyborgs be created)?

Will we decide to create post-human artificial intelligence?

Who will control these technologies (who will be wielding them vs. merely being a “user”)?

Essentially, when post-human intelligence becomes remotely viable or within view, it will be the preeminent concern, chiefly because the transition to the singularity will be either the best or worst things to happen in the known universe (from a utilitarian perspective).

Once technology reaches a specific threshold of capability, people of the world will be downright “spooked” by it and enamored with it.

In 2011, studying cognitive science during my Masters at UPENN, I saw research involving the remote control of moths and beetled, by controlling their brains with electric signals. That same vein of research has continued in the years afterward, allowing for relatively dextrous control over beetle movement:

For most of you reading this, watching the video above isn’t enough to send you into a panic – but there is a threshold that would send you into a panic. Who knows what will be the straw that breaks the camels back (i.e. the event that makes the entire developed world turn to post-human intelligence the preeminent political concern), maybe:

  • When artificial intelligence becomes indistinguishable from humans in physical movement and dexterity
  • When artificial intelligence can create artificial “persons” with memory and the ability to carry our conversations with the same tact and intelligence as humans – on any topic
  • When scientists in China augment their soldiers with enhanced memory and focus, removing their need for sleep for up to 100 hours with only minimal side effects
  • When instead of remote control beetles (see above), scientists develop remote-controlled cats or dogs, prompted to run, jump, or bark/meow with the push of a button

The transition to a political singularity might be gradual, but my guess that a series of pivotal events will bring the political singularity about. It might simply be a jarring or troubling scientific breakthrough (like what I’ve listed above), but I think it’s more likely that it will be a Pearl Harbor-like tragic event, though hopefully on a very small scale.

The prospect of becoming a subservient species to a higher intelligence is an ultimate threat – worth doing anything to prevent. The prospect of becoming or creating God is an ultimate opportunity – worth doing anything to fight to achieve. This will drive up the efforts for substrate dominance, and control of / development of artificial intelligence.

It’s easy to see how easily this would turn into a conflict between the nations or groups that want to create – or do not want to create – post-human intelligence. Hugo de Garis’ book “The Artilect War” painted a picture of pro-AGI and anti-AGI human conflict back in 2005. It’s my belief that this prediction will one day be seen as prophetic.

Writing this in 2018, it sure would be nice to see people fighting about something other than Donald Trump’s latest tweet, immigration, or whether gender is biological or merely a social construct. On the other hand, it’s no relief to be at the precipice of passing the baton of species dominance to something beyond ourselves. A catch 22, I suppose.


Header image credit: sh.wikipedia.com