Exploding AI’s “Singularity” Myth

  • George Gilder: “Contrary to popular belief…
  • … [AI] is not creating rivals for the human brain”
  • The myth of “singularity”
  • What a difference a month makes?
  • Powell swaps “transitory” for “frustrating”
  • A grim COVID byproduct
  • Riffing on U.P. jokes… A longtime reader is here for The 5’s satire… And more!

“These days everyone believes that artificial intelligence (AI) is the… thing that will change the world and determine the wealth and power of nations,” said futurist George Gilder at The 5 in 2019.

Mr. Gilder is the bestselling author of Wealth and Poverty — one of the most cogent arguments for capitalism around. Not only that, Gilder’s a legendary futurist who predicted the personal computer, the microchip, the internet and more.

George’s enthusiasm for artificial intelligence as a game-changing technology comes with a few caveats. “AI is proving good for specific niches.” George says: “And they are important niches — recognizing faces, interpreting speech, implementing an advertising algorithm.

“[AI] is not creating rivals for the human brain,” he claims.

“It’s easy to imagine a future in which the role of humans steadily shrinks. The basic problem with that idea is the misunderstanding of what computers do.

“Computers shuffle symbols,” George says. “As philosopher Charles Peirce observed more than a century ago, the links between computational symbols and their objects are indefinite and changing.

“Programmers have to enforce an interpretive scheme between symbols and objects,” he says.

“The links between symbols and objects have to be created by human minds.”

Most recently, George expands on his ideas about artificial intelligence in his book Gaming AI.

AI

And on Wednesday, George sat for an interview with the Independent Institute’s Executive Director Graham Walker who says: “I was utterly fascinated by the way that you can take up the standard [AI] challenge, and kind of turn it in a direction that people don’t expect

“I mean, the standard challenge you mentioned early in the book is that some people think that AI is going to be for sure a demotion of the human race,” says Mr. Walker. “On Page 20 of your book… you quote the late Stephen Hawking, who pronounced the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.

“And a lot of people talk about a ‘singularity’ to come,” Walker adds. “And this was really predicted way back at Bletchley Park.”

“Elon Musk,” George interjects, “says that AI is more dangerous than nukes!” But getting back to the WWII codebreakers of Bletchley Park, Gilder responds: “Alan Turing’s colleague Jack Good said that artificial intelligence [would] be the last invention we’ll ever have to make. Because true artificial intelligence would be capable of creating machines — intelligent machines — that can outperform the original artificial intelligence.

“And thus release a cascade of… intelligence through the universe; the theory was it would culminate in the so-called singularity, which I think [is] supposed to be where artificial intelligence… takes up where we left off (and says goodbye to us).

“The singularity is where the creative intelligence surpasses the human mind and makes the human mind obsolete.” But George counters: “The idea that somehow AI competes with human minds is a fundamental illusion.”

Walker concurs: “You don’t seem to be as much of a doomsayer…

“You comment… that technological and economic advances tend to have a comparatively greater impact [and] benefit to the worse-off because [they] have further to go up. And so the comparative improvement can be greater. That’s intriguing.”

Walker continues with an example: “A few years ago I was in East Africa,” he says, “traveling around Kampala and some of the rural areas in that part of Uganda. Of course, the standard of living obviously is much lower than the United States.

“I saw people clearly struggling… although there was a lot of economic activity. At the same time, every single person… in every little shop and on every little byway or alleyway had a cellphone.”

“Every single person has a cellphone,” George says, “and increasingly it’s a smartphone. And that means a supercomputer. That means an underestimation of their real standard of living.”

Mr. Walker agrees: “They’re using smartphones as a medium of payment and exchange [to] greatly simplify monetary transactions. It was really quite stunning.”

George says: “Like all computer technology has done throughout history, contrary to popular belief, AI will create jobs rather than destroy them.”

Or as George writes in his book Gaming AI: “An explosion of productivity does not mean an evaporation of work. AI will make people more productive, and thus more employable.

“It will create new and safe and more interesting work. It will generate the capital to endow new companies and new ventures, as new technologies have done throughout history.

“What it will not do is create a mind,” George concludes.

[Ed. note: George Gilder is a name you might recognize. He’s been called America’s No. 1 futurist for a reason: He predicted the microchip, personal computing and even the smartphone.

And now he’s looking forward to a technology that “will rewrite the rules of what is possible,” according to one Silicon Valley insider.

It’ll soon power cutting-edge tech from companies like Apple, Samsung and Intel… George and his team call it the “UberNet” And it’s creating a $15.1 trillion stock market opportunity that might help some early investors make substantial money.

All you need to do to gain access is click here.]

What a difference a month makes? On this first day of October, the market has snapped to attention with the Dow leading the way, up 1.5% to 34,350. Also in the green, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq — up 1.2% and 0.70% respectively.

And oil continues to gain momentum ahead of an OPEC+ meeting Monday; a barrel of WTI is up more than 1% to $75.84. Precious metals? Gold is nominally in the green — up $2.80 to $1,759.80 per ounce — but silver has rallied about 2.4% to $22.50.

And what China crackdown? Pfft… Bitcoin approaches $50,000, up over 9% at the time of writing.

The September ISM Manufacturing Index notched a headline number of 61.1, above the consensus 59.6.

Remember, anything above 50 indicates growth, so the number is strong. Especially when “companies and suppliers continue to deal with an unprecedented number of hurdles to meet increasing demand,” says ISM chair Timothy Fiore.

“All segments of the manufacturing economy are impacted by record-long raw materials lead times, continued shortages of critical materials, rising commodities prices and difficulties in transporting products.”

Also out today, core PCE — the Fed’s favorite inflation measuring tool — rose 3.6% in August from a year ago, the biggest jump in over three decades. At 0.3%, the monthly gain was barely higher than the 0.2% economists estimated.

“The rise in inflation came as personal income increased 0.2% for the month,” CNBC says, “in line with estimates but indicative that real income is falling as inflation rises.”

You mean the real economy is ever more disconnected from the Fed, Wall Street and D.C. bureaucrats? Imagine that… By the way, Powell has switched out inflation adjectives from “transitory” to “frustrating.”

This is a grim COVID byproduct…

The Financial Times reports: “A study of death records across 29 countries, spanning most of Europe, the U.S. and Chile, found 27 nations experienced reductions in life expectancy in 2020 at a scale that wiped out years of progress on mortality, according to research led by scientists at the University of Oxford.”

The study at Oxford’s Leverhulme Center for Demographic Science defines “life expectancy as the average age to which a newborn would live if current death rates continued for their whole life.”

And the disparity between men and women is palpable, with men bearing the largest declines among most of the 29 countries sampled.

Covid

Among these countries, the U.S. is exceptional: “The largest declines in life expectancy were observed among males in the U.S., who experienced a decline of 2.2 years relative to 2019 levels,” FT says. “American women’s life expectancy declined by 1.65 years in 2020, when compared with the previous year.”

“To contextualize, it took on average 5.6 years for these countries to achieve a one-year increase in life expectancy recently: progress wiped out over the course of 2020 by COVID-19,” says study co-author José Manuel Aburto.

We said it was grim…

“Facebook Inc. will invest $50 million… to responsibly build the so-called metaverse,” says Reuters, “a digital world where people can use different devices to move and communicate in a virtual environment.”

To wit, Facebook is leaning into augmented reality and virtual reality — recall, Facebook acquired Oculus VR, maker of headsets, in 2014. The social media platform is now working on smartglasses and wearable technology.

At the same time, “Facebook has also been criticized frequently over its impact on online safety,” notes our tech-investing specialist Ray Blanco.

“[Facebook’s] new XR Programs and Research Fund will invest the money globally over two years to ensure metaverse technologies are ‘built in a way that’s inclusive and empowering,’” says Reuters.

The company also promises to “encourage competition” in the burgeoning metaverse, according to a Facebook blogpost. Umm… Scout’s honor?

“Speaking of Facebook,” Ray says, “the social media company recently halted its plans to build an Instagram for kids.

“After receiving sharp criticism from both users and policymakers, Facebook announced it’s pausing work on the project,” he says. The company’s global head of safety — and improbably named — Antigone Davis was shuffled before Congress yesterday (virtually, of course)…

Tweet

… as has the Zucker-boss himself multiple times over the years.

As Ray notes: “This is not the first time Facebook has received criticism over its social media platform’s effect on mental health,” he says. “In fact, the pause comes after a recent Wall Street Journal report showed Facebook repeatedly found its Instagram app is harmful to teenagers.”

We guess it’s back to the metaverse drawing board for Facebook… Mind, Ray will have ways to invest in this nascent space in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned…

Plucked from the digital mailbag, a reader writes:“I’ve enjoyed your U.P. stories! After living in Illinois through grade school and Wisconsin in high school, my 10 years in Houghton, Michigan, were like coming home.

“Then I moved back to the Chicago area, but I guess I really wasn’t done moving farther north. A year and a half later, I found myself in Ester, Alaska, just outside Fairbanks. After 31 years here, I think I’ve increased my latitude sufficiently. But I have to say that Fairbanks’ climate beats anywhere I’ve ever lived in the Midwest — cold without the wind and humidity off the Great Lakes is a much better deal!

“Ah, the Aino and Toivo jokes! I do miss those, as I miss maple trees in the fall.

“In Wednesday’s post, though, I was surprised you didn’t make reference to all Finnish words being accented on the first syllable. That’s the No. 1 rule I give to people trying to pronounce a Finn name. It never fails to surprise folks.

“Loving The 5. Thanks!”

And more riffing on Aino and Toivo jokes…

“I’m from northern Minnesota (fairly close to the U.P., actually). Here Ole and Lena catch the flak. They are generally regarded as Norwegians, but the jokes are the same.”

Another reader adds: “Funny! Sounds like the Max and Moritz jokes I heard when stationed in Germany.”

Finally, a friend of The 5 says: “As I read Thursday’s edition, I was smiling and laughing almost all the way through. I do believe I read your publication more for satire than news.”

[Ouch? We do try to take a “spoonful of sugar” approach — a little levity never hurts! But since our contributor is a longtime reader, we assume he’s learned something over the years.]

“On a slightly serious note,” he continues, “the power production problem faced in China goes a long way toward explaining why they shut down the Bitcoin industry.

“Loved the Finnish joke. Not being from Michigan, I had no idea they were even ‘a thing.’

“And finally, here’s the answer to your rhetorical question: pitchfork suppliers. (Who knew they came in so many varieties?)”

Ahh! Perfect for when we’re feeling “pitchforky” (as Dave would say).

You all enjoy the weekend! We’ll be back at it Monday.

Best regards,

Emily Clancy
The 5 Min. Forecast

P.S. One of America’s best connected technology forecasters — who’s worked with two presidents and had his Amazon account set up for him in-person by Jeff Bezos — recently created a presentation to explain “UberNet.”

In it, he reveals why so many Silicon Valley insiders are so excited… and explains which companies are likely to come out on top when the “UberNet” changes America as we know it.

Just hit this link for more details.

Emily Clancy

Emily Clancy

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