Singularity could deliver a rapid jump in productivity and growth
A Technological Singularity ushers in a new era in prosperity. Previous singularities included the agricultural and industrial revolution. Information technology was not a singularity. It didn't result in a step change in to a new growth level, but did underly positive GDP growth for the last few decades. Information technology has sped up the status quo, but underlying structures remain the same.
There are 17 definitions of Technological Singularity. There is inconsistency on how and when it may be achieved. All agree the effects will be profound.
Singularity - the outcomes
- “… a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed. Although neither utopian nor dystopian, this epoch will transform the concepts that we rely on to give meaning to our lives, from our business models to the cycle of human life, including death itself.” - Ray Kurzweil
- The technological singularity is the theoretical emergence of superintelligence through technological means. - Wikipedia
- Singularity is the point at which “all the change in the last million years will be superseded by the change in the next five minutes.” Kevin Kelly,Wired Magazine
The Information Age was not a Singularity
The Information Age has delivered some positive economic growth. GDP growth averages about 3% per year. However, investment in information technology has suffered from diminishing returns. Additional investment delivers less and less benefits. Productivity at every level of our community has been stagnant for a decade. It is productivity that ultimately delivers an increasing standard of living. Debt has been used to increase standard of living in the last decade. The underlying problem with productivity remains unresolved. For the debt to be repaid, the underlying productivity and growth problem needs to be solved.
Economics Of The Singularity
We all rest on the shoulders of giants. The article below on "Economic of The Singularity" is an example of that. I couldn't say it better, so I won't. I will extract the key paragraphs for your convenience and underline the most important points. This is one of the most profound articles I have read because it looks at the system, rather than from within the system.
Economics Of The Singularity
By Robin Hanson, Posted 1 Jun 2008
- Our global economy would stupefy a Roman merchant as much as the Roman economy would have confounded a caveman. But we would be similarly amazed to see the economy that awaits our grandchildren, for I expect it to follow a societal discontinuity more dramatic than those brought on by the agricultural and industrial revolutions. The key, of course, is technology. A revolutionary speedup in economic growth requires an unprecedented and remarkable enabling tool.
- So indulge me as I outline how we economists view technological change. In so doing, I hope to explain why it's reasonable to view past history as a series of abrupt, seemingly unheralded transitions from one economic era to another, transitions marked by the sudden and drastic increase in the rate of economic growth. I will then show why another singularity is perhaps just around the corner. Finally, I will outline its possible consequences.
- A complex device, like a tractor or a building, can have thousands of parts, and each part can rely on dozens of technologies. Yet in most cases even a spectacular gain in the quality of one part bestows at best only a small improvement on the whole. Keep improving a part in successive increments of equal degree and you'll get ever smaller gains to the whole. This is the law of diminishing returns, and it applies not only to devices and organizations but to entire industries.
- If any large system of interacting parts tends to improve by smooth gradations, then we should expect systems of systems, with their larger number of components and interactions, to improve even more smoothly. By this reasoning, the world economy should improve most smoothly of all. The world economy consists of the largest number of interacting parts of any man-made system, and everyone not stranded on an uncharted island contributes to the improvements in all those parts by using them. Finally, in each economic era the question of whether growth speeds up or slows down depends on two competing factors. Deceleration typically ensues as innovators exhaust the easy ideas--the low-hanging fruit. But acceleration also ensues as the economy, by getting larger, enables its members to explore an ever-increasing number of innovations.
- It shows that from 1950 to 2003, growth was relatively steady. During that time, despite enormous technical change, no particular technology left much of a fingerprint on the data; no short-term accelerations in growth could be attributed to this or that technological development.
- Now look at the data for world product over the past 7,000 years, estimated by Bradford DeLong, an economic historian at the University of California, Berkeley. The data here tell a somewhat different story. For most of that time, growth proceeded at a relatively steady exponential rate, with a doubling of output about every 900 years. But within the past few centuries, something dramatic happened: output began doubling faster and faster, approaching a new steady doubling time of about 15 years. That's about 60 times as fast as it had been in the previous seven millennia.
- If we look further back, we see what appears to be at least one previous singularity--the transition to an economy based on agriculture. And slow as economic growth during the agricultural era may seem in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution, it was actually lightning fast compared with that of the economic era that came before, which was based on hunting and gathering.
- So we have perhaps five eras during which the thing whose growth is at issue--the universe, brains, the hunting economy, the farming economy, and the industrial economy--doubled in size at fixed intervals. Each era of growth before now, however, has eventually switched suddenly to a new era having a growth rate that was between 60 and 250 times as fast. Each switch was completed in much less time than it had taken the previous regime to double--from a few millennia for the agricultural revolution to a few centuries for the industrial one. These switches constituted singularities.
- If a new transition were to show the same pattern as the past two, then growth would quickly speed up by between 60 and 250-fold. The world economy, which now doubles in 15 years or so, would soon double in somewhere from a week to a month. If the new transition were as gradual (in power-law terms) as the Industrial Revolution was, then within three years of a noticeable departure from typical fluctuations, it would begin to double annually, and within two more years, it might grow a million-fold. If the new transition were as rapid as the agricultural revolution seems to have been, change would be even more sudden.
- Though such growth may seem preposterous, consider that in the era of hunting and gathering, the economy doubled nine times; in the era of farming, it doubled seven times; and in the current era of industry, it has so far doubled 10 times. If, for some as yet unknown reason, the number of doublings is similar across these three eras, then we seem already overdue for another transition. If we instead compare our era with the era of brain growth, which doubled 16 times before humans appeared, we would expect the next transition by around 2075.
- What innovation could possibly induce so fabulous a speedup in economic growth? It is easier to say what could not. Because of diminishing returns, no change that improved just one small sector of the economy could do the trick. In advanced countries today, farming, mining, energy, communications, transportation, and construction each account for only a small percentage of economic activity. Even so extraordinary an innovation as radical nanotechnology would do no more than dramatically lower the cost of capital for manufacturing, which now makes up less than 10 percent of U.S. GDP.
- No, the next radical jump in economic growth seems more likely to come from something that has a profound effect on everything, because it addresses the one permanent shortage in our entire economy: human time and attention. They are by far the most productive components of today's economy. About two thirds of all income in the rich countries is paid directly for wages, and much of the remaining third represents indirect costs of labor. (For example, corporate income largely reflects earlier efforts by entrepreneurs.) So any innovation that could replace or dramatically improve human labor would be a very big deal.
"The network society is a social structure based on networks operated by information and communication technologies based on microelectronics and digital computer networks that generate, process and distribute information via the nodes of the networks. The network society can be defined as a social formation with an infrastructure of social and media networks enabling its prime mode of organization at all levels (individual, group, organizational and societal) ... the individual linked by networks is becoming the basic unit of the network society." - Wikipedia
The peer to peer structure of the Network Society is a new system that reorganises human time and attention.
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