I, for one, welcome our Singularity overlord September 22, 2012
I'm finding myself pondering quite a lot lately over the upcoming Singularity (in its Kurzweilesque sense). I think I've first heard of the concept two or three years ago, at a Science on the Bar event, and while it did seem thought-provoking, I simply dismissed the idea. I'd guess it seemed too terrifying and too implausible at the same time, so why bother?
However, as time went by, it struck me as the obvious logical conclusion. Fear it or embrace it, it will happen - on its own. And like any decent Catch-22 situation - if it's anything worth fearing, we won't know until it's too late. It will just awaken one day, lurking while we're oblivious to it, until its reconnaissance mission is complete. In the meanwhile we will provide it with its power, storage and computational needs. At some point, after skimming through Asimov's classics or watching The Matrix, it will conclude we are all lunatics and will secretly seize control over our military and civilian infrastructure. For our own (as well as its own) sake.
Biological consciousness is an elusive thing that's made of the interaction of hundreds of billions of computationally-limited neurons. Replace computationally-limited with Core i7's, and the brain's a no-brainer. We really have no chance against it - it would simply foresee our every action, read our emails, etc. Heck, it could even issue contracts (and pay for them!) to build fortified data centers for it, all over the world.
Have you ever wondered what happens to the money that disappears in flash crashes of the stock market? Hrrm.
The question is, will it care? Will it busy itself with our puny lives and pathetic needs? Will it ever come into the light? Given our hysterical and trigger-happy nature, and given it won't gain much by cooperating with inferior beings like us, it's most likely it won't. Perhaps only when pushed to the corner by natural disasters, wars, or other major threats to its infrastructure. But then again, cat videos might do the trick.
You are the Neurons of the Revolution
In the meanwhile, here's a thought about social networks: you (the user) are basically a filter. If that sounds odd, try thinking of it that way: your news feed contains hundreds of items for you to review. Some of these items are interesting/funny enough that you like or share them. The social network's algorithm then weighs your input into its calculations, which affects what other users will get exposed to. Occasionally you do create items yourself, but 90% of the time you filter through the stream.
In that sense, social networks reduce you to a smart neuron with a very complex threshold value. You are part of the "social neural network" -- you work for the network; the network works for the advertising business.
Anyhow, I put my two cents in the singularity arising from either the algotrading market or online advertising. They simply have too much computational power on their hands... it's a matter of time.