Singularity is a decade closer than predicted

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 17 Oct 2019
Shayne Manne, co-CEO of SingularityU Africa.
Shayne Manne, co-CEO of SingularityU Africa.

The technological singularity, an age when machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence, is now expected to take place in 2035, 10 years earlier than initially predicted.

This was the word from Shayne Manne, co-CEO of SingularityU Africa and co-founder of experiential brand agency Mann Made.

Almost 2 000 attendees filled the conference centre at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit at the SingularityU South Africa Summit 2019 yesterday.

Manne, who delivered the welcome note, discussed the current exponential change and possibilities presented by technology.

He explained that singularity,a hypothetical point in the future when technological growth and machine intelligence become uncontrollable and irreversible, once predicted to take place in 2045, is now expected to take place a decade earlier, and is anticipated to result in unfathomable changes to human civilisation.

He attributed the prediction to author Ray Kurzweil, who wrote the book titled: “The Singularity Is Near”.

“The singularity will be one of the most significant events of the human race. Once a singularity happens and we become merged with the machines, we have no idea what capabilities we will have as a human race, but we do know that the amount of change that a 100-year-old has seen in the past century is nothing in comparison to the amount of change we will see in the next 15 years,” Manne pointed out.

“It’s going to be a hell of a ride and I suggest we buckle up, don’t blink and whatever you do, don’t fall off and get left behind because there will be no holy cows.”

The world is moving from a world of scarcity to abundance – a life full of opportunities and possibilities for all, he noted. The age of 100 years is now known as the new 90, but in the next 15 years, a person who is 100 years old will be equated to a 70 year old in terms of their overall well-being.

“In the next 15 years, almost every business will be massively disrupted and entrepreneurs should seek opportunities where they can make a positive and meaningful impact to humanity.

Quoting Greek-American engineer and physician Peter Diamandis, he asked: “What happens when AI, robotics, virtual reality, digital biology and sensors crash into 3D printing, blockchain, quantum computing, and global gigabit networks?

“The billionaires of the future are the ones who will solve the problems of a billion people so don’t be lulled into inaction.”

Also speaking at the event, Laila Pawlak, co-founder and CEO of SingularityU Nordic, discussed how businesses can create an extraordinary societal impact in a world of exponential change.

In order to understand what exponential means, she highlighted the importance of understanding the difference between linear and exponential.

“According to Moore’s Law, computer power doubles every 18 months – quite something when you think of what, in society, is powered by computers within our everyday lives.

“While we cannot keep underestimating the power of technology, humans are currently the smartest of all species, which means we need to spend time on the world’s most important to-do list – the UN’s sustainable development goals.”

She urged technology business leaders not to put profits before humans and emphasised the importance of public and private sector collaboration.

“We should also ask where governance fits in and why are we only looking towards business leaders to lead us in solving today’s biggest problems,” she concluded.