I often ponder our place in the Universe at large.
There are many angles to probe this compelling idea from. The first angle came about in the mystic and esoteric circles. We are part of a grand cosmological scheme, a Universe unfolding its capacities to the extreme, spanning from the very most fundamental inert matter to the highest ordering of that matter into a self-referential biological matrix and beyond.
Is intelligence an accident? Is the gradient of complexity from hydrogen to complex organic matter a neutral, natural, consequence of the convergence of fundamental principles of the operation of the Universe? Is that the essence of existence, or is that perception a product of a thinking, highly organized brain evolved to see patterns?
Given our place, we can see only imperfectly back into history and forward in time. The larger the number of variables we seek to integrate and make sense of, the more we tax our faculties, and thus the farther off course the end result would be if we were able to compare it with the actual outcome far in the future. The trajectory of technology is simply too counter-intuitive for us to grasp.
Given the pattern I see, capability is compoundable and scalable. Forgive how sophomoric this sounds. We will begin with the element Hydrogen. This reactive gas accumulates in space and is considered the most abundant element in the universe. Under the right conditions, they fuse into higher elements, giving off tremendous amounts of heat and light, becoming stars. The convergence of gravity, matter, magnetic and tidal forces create an entirely new hierarchy of elemental organization that previously never existed. This, in turn, gives rise to more and more complex organization. At each turn in the evolution of matter, the speed increases while the time scale shrinks by orders of magnitude.
As a massive star burns hydrogen, it is also fusing hydrogen into helium. Over time, the helium will fuse into higher elements such as carbon, oxygen, nickle, calcium, ect. At some point, the star exhausts its energy and supernovas, fusing these elements into yet higher ones such as iron.
A planet with specific conditions is needed to continue up the hierarchy of complexity. This includes amino acids, proteins, and all organic compounds requiring the energies of heat, light, gravity, electromagnetism in amounts within a relatively small and controlled margin. Molecular engines such as DNA and RNA make this process more self-directed and recursive creating a controlled trajectory for further elaboration of complex molecular arrangements.
The brain is the crowning achievement at this stage in the game, representing the very most advanced and sophisticated evolution of matter. Our brains are exponentially more recursive and broad a biological learning machine, repeating the pattern of augmentation of its own capacities.
We will soon breach the next turn in spiral and create something far more advanced than us. We will create a superintelligence.
Now that I have illustrated the pattern inherent in the unfolding of the universe, of which we are brief pinpricks of light before its great eye, I would like to bring it full circle and then elaborate on the concept of a Superintelligence.
First, a definition: “Let an untraintelligent 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 far left behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control”.
With the advent of symbol systems of language and mathematics, we far surpass all animals and remain the apex predator on this planet. The concept of a predator may well soon be outdated as the social and relational paradigm between intelligent, self-aware beings shifts into something far more expansive. The capacities of this next-order-of-magnitude intelligence may well be as relatable and comprehensible to us as our lives are to bacteria.
How will we change in the coming decades? The recursive improvement process rests on conscious minds that consciously evolve, as opposed to the old system that relied on molecular engines such as DNA to select for adaptation in an environment for survival. This system cascaded in complexity until it was able to support conscious life forms. Now we are able to draw from it. Intelligence compounds upon molecular machines. The new input for one cycle of growth is this new intelligence with all of the information distilled down from the older paradigm into only that which has worked the most effectively. We are approaching a new ordering of matter, and thus intelligence, that is post-biological.
All of our technology is at this point is more closely linking machine learning and computing with an increasingly nuanced understanding of our biological selves.
Part 2 coming