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Why the Singularity Cannot Happen

Modis, Theodore

The concept of a Singularity as described in Ray Kurzweil's book cannot happen for a number of reasons. One reason is that all natural growth processes that follow exponential patterns eventually reveal themselves to be following S-curves thus excluding runaway situations. The remaining growth potential from Kurzweil's ''knee'', which could be approximated as the moment when an S-curve pattern begins deviating from the corresponding exponential, is a factor of only one order of magnitude greater than the growth already achieved. A second reason is that there is already evidence of a slowdown in some important trends. The growth pattern of the U.S. GDP is no longer exponential. Had Kurzweil been more rigorous in his fitting procedures, he would have recognized it. Moore's law and the Microsoft Windows operating systems are both approaching end-of-life limits. The Internet rush has also ended—for the time being—as the number of users stopped growing; in the western world because of saturation and in the underdeveloped countries because infrastructures, education, and the standard of living there are not yet up to speed. A third reason is that society is capable of auto-regulating runaway trends as was the case with deadly car accidents, the AIDS threat, and rampant overpopulation. This control goes beyond government decisions and conscious intervention. Environmentalists who fought nuclear energy in the 1980s, may have been reacting only to nuclear energy's excessive rate of growth, not nuclear energy per se, which is making a comeback now. What may happen instead of a Singularity is that the rate of change soon begins slowing down. The exponential pattern of change witnessed up to now dictates more milestone events during year 2025 than witnessed throughout the entire 20th century! But such events are already overdue today. If, on the other hand, the change growth pattern has indeed been following an S-curve, then the rate of change is about to enter a declining trajectory; the baby boom generation will have witnessed more change during their lives than anyone else before or after them.

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