Question for Marc Andreessen

A few weeks ago, Marc Andreessen invited his readers to submit a question to him. Here’s mine:

My question is whether you think a technological singularity of the type Vernor Vinge has proposed is likely in the near-term future? If so, what shape do you think the singularity is likely to take? If not, why do you think it won’t occur?

I hope you have time to answer. My own (outsider’s) perspective is that an awfully large number of people (Google, Ebay, Wikipedia, etc) now seem to be working more or less directly towards such a singularity, and it is very suggestive that more and more of the world’s resources are being directed toward this end. Of course, Ebay, Google etc don’t look at it that way, but from the perspective of a posthuman historian 50 years from now that may well be how it looks.

Andreessen hasn’t replied, but I think this fact about the growing commerical utility of AI is fascinating. Here’s a couple of quotes from Google co-founder Larry Page that could easily be quoted by my putative posthuman historian:

We have some people at Google who are really trying to build artificial intelligence and to do it on a large scale […] to do the perfect job of search you could ask any query and it would give you the perfect answer and that would be artificial intelligence […] I don’t think it’s as far off as people think.

You think Google is good, I still think it’s terri ble. […] There’s still a huge number of things that we can’t answer. You might have a more complicated question. Like why did the GNP of Uganda decline relative to the weather last year? You type that into Google, the keywords for that, and you might get a reasonable answer. But there is probably something there that
explains that, which we may or may not find. Doing a good job doing search is basically artificial intelligence, we want it to be smart.

It’s interesting that the Director of Google research, Peter Norvig, wrote what appears to be the standard text on artificial intelligence. He’s also got a pretty interesting page of book reviews.


  1. You should check out Accelerando by Charles Stross. It’s a tough novel to read but has some interesting speculations concerning the purported coming computational singularity and humanity.

    On a slightly different tack, do your recent posts about black holes and computational singularities have anything to do with your recent Science paper on the link between quantum computation and geometry? Please feel free to email me if this is something you do not wish to discuss in a public forum.

  2. Accelerando is one of my favourite books! If you don’t already read it, Charlie Stross’ blog is a lot of fun! (See my blogroll).

    No, the stuff about black holes isn’t related to the QC as geometry stuff. I just thought it’d be fun to think some more about quantum gravity, and the black hole post is one of the consequences.

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