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Friday, November 21, 2008

Computing Power To Equal Human Brain by 2025

Or in the case of Kid Various, has already been equaled by the TRS-80 in 1978.

“Deep Blue has roughly the processing capacity of a lizard, and the early Blue Genes has roughly the processing capacity of small rodent,” said Dr Harrison. “If you want to get to the processing capacity of a human being, I think you need something like 10 petaFLOPS.”

How fast it that? The fastest version on the Blue Gene runs at 500 teraFLOPS, which means about 500 trillion mathematical operations per second.

That's pretty much in line with Kurzweil's predictions. And what's more, by 2040, you'll have a computer on your desktop that equals the processing power of all biological intelligence on the planet.

At this point, Singularity scenarios play out.

We're almost there.

The trick is, as Al Fin points out, is to keep the Enlightenment project going for another critical 30 to 50 years.

The more sanguine examiners of the tech singularity concept are less likely to see The Singularity as inevitable. Many developments within society and government could short-circuit The Singularity, sending into terminal mode. Imagine a world government ruled by a Vladimir Putin, Josef Stalin, or Mao. Imagine world science, academia, media, and governance being taken over by dysfunctional post-modernist irrationality. Imagine the default human society--stratification by wealth, knowledge, power, and a profound inertial resistance to change.

Persons who believe firmly in the inevitability of The Singularity might be surprised to learn that the default human society is the closed society, resistant to change. Most of them have never known anything but open societies, born of western civilisation's restless urge to expand intellectual horizons. They live in an exceptional time, in an exceptional society, yet somehow believe it to be the human default. That type of blindness comes from forgetting to study history.

The distinction is important, because a default society perpetuates itself, whereas an exceptional society must constantly fight against entropy. We are only a few hundred years beyond the European Renaissance, two hundred years beyond the early industrial revolution, a hundred years into the era of human flight, fifty years into the age of semiconductors. And already, the sub-structure of western civilisation is showing signs of reversion to the default.

We've been running the Enlightenment experiment now for about 400 years, we just need to keep it running a little longer. The achievement of the Singularity is dependent on retaining our open society model. Pre-modern and post-modern societies do not have the capability to get to this point because of structural flaws in their design, specifically the closed nature and anti-competitive strains of their society. If we fall to the Counter-Enlightenment (onwhose precipice we seem to be recklessly dancing) or even fall to the pre-modern, we will lose this unique opportunity to achieve the human potential.


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