Original article was published by Craig Brett on Artificial Intelligence on Medium
We Have 5 Years, Then It Gets Weird
The machines have been coming for a while now. But this is the time when they truly arrive.
When Ray Kurzweil wrote ‘The Singularity is Near’ about 15 years ago, one of the ideas that jumped off the page was his explanation of the Law of Accelerating Returns.
This is the powerful idea that technological progress isn’t just improving all the time, but that it’s speeding up all the time.
This means all of the tech progress in the 20th Century would be matched by the progress we make between 2000 and 2014. And then we would double this progress again by 2021, and then keep doubling in shorter and shorter time periods until you couldn’t keep track and man would meld with machine at a point called the Singularity.
There’s a famous example of this idea involving the long and tedious mapping of the human genome. At first it was a slow and difficult process. After 7 years only 1% of it was complete. Critics threw their hands in the air and said it would take centuries to complete. What was Kurzweil’s response?
“Wow, we’re almost done.”
And he was right. The genome was mapped just 7 years later, and the cost fell from a billion dollars for one person’s genome to less than $1000.
The Law of Accelerating Returns is sometimes hard to picture because many of us live within bubbles of little visible change while the world is changing dramatically around us. It’s somewhat like living inside a single note of music and not realizing this note is part of a symphony — and that this symphony is being played faster and faster.
But if there is a really powerful example of change right before our eyes it is GPT-3. I wrote about this last week and today I’m even more convinced that this a world-changing event.
If you’re not familiar with GPT-3, it’s an artificially intelligent platform that can reproduce human language, writing and design with almost perfect accuracy. Instantly.
For example, it can rewrite Harry Potter in the style of Ernest Hemingway, design a website, write your emails, create a spreadsheet, produce copywriting better than the best copywriters and much more. All within seconds of being asked.
It’s a mind-blowing technology that will affect millions of jobs. Somewhat alarmingly, one of the founders said GPT-3 is just a “glimpse” of what’s coming.
And now another founder of the company behind GPT-3, the guy with a finger in every technological pie — Elon Musk, said a few days ago that there is much stranger things to come.
“We’re headed toward a situation where AI is vastly smarter than humans, and I think that time frame is less than five years from now. But that doesn’t mean that everything goes to hell in five years. It just means that things get unstable or weird.”
Think about that statement for a second. One of the most reliably intelligent and prescient people on our planet — someone who is sending rockets into space while reinventing the auto industry — just said that within 5 years AI will be vastly smarter than people and as a result the world will be unstable and weird.
And what are we doing about it? Almost nothing. Read the papers, watch TV and scroll through social media — what do you see? Meaningless nonsense that is designed to provoke emotional responses that make us all less happy, less united and more ignorant of the really important changes happening around us.
We’re more than a single note of music. We’re all part of a powerful song playing that’s getting more complex, more rewarding — and more worrying. It won’t stop. It’s speeding up.
It’s time to start thinking about it