Towards an era of singularity, where machines will out-think humans


SoftBank’s Vision Fund recently invested in CloudMinds, a Chinese startup developing a “cloud brain” or cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI). To build this cloud AI, the four-year-old startup is looking to pool in the power of millions of robots by connecting their “brains” to the cloud and letting them perform different tasks simultaneously. The company has already put on the market a cloud brain-powered smart robot called XR1.

SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son, futurist Ray Kurzweil and many computer scientists and science-fiction writers believe machines will one day surpass humans — in numbers and thinking power.

Startups like CloudMinds are gearing up for that era, commonly referred to as singularity — not the cosmological event where space-time collapses to form a black hole, but a tipping point for the human race when machines will become exponentially smarter than Homo sapiens through the development of artificial general intelligence.

Son, the Japanese tech investor, thinks singularity will hit humankind by 2047, while Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, is betting on machines matching human intelligence by 2029 and singularity happening by 2045.

There are naysayers, too. Like Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who thinks singularity could lead to human extinction. But optimists believe this will be the era of abundance and health. Humans will live longer with implants and may even be uploading their thoughts to the cloud.

Kurzweil feels machines will also make humans smarter on their way to singularity. In one of his lectures, he said machines may not be inside our bodies yet, but by 2030, we will be able to connect to the cloud our neocortex — the part of our brain that powers sensory perception, motor commands, reasoning, thought and language.

So, humans may either become extinct or singularity, where machines out think us will usher in an era of abundance and ultra smart life. The 2020s will take us closer to a reality that might be somewhere in between these two extremes.


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