The advent of ‘Singularity 99’

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The advent of ‘Singularity 99’

Pandora’s Box is finally open: 2014 is likely to be recorded as the year that humanity has crossed the river of no return. Artificial intelligence (AI) has come out of the box. With the name tag, “Deep Learning,” the AI technology that resembles the human thinking and decision-making process has been introduced. Just as a network of countless neurons perceives, processes and judges information, a computer can perceive, infer and decide by itself. The future when a computer surpasses human thinking is approaching.

How exciting is it? Just as the industrial revolution freed much of humanity from physical labor, the information revolution will free us from the mental labor of working our brains, right? Computers can take care of most white-collar jobs, and they would largely take over services that require advanced professional knowledge, such as medicine and law. When tremendous computing power is combined with an AI algorithm, humanity will experience a maximum efficiency that we never could have imagined.

In the future, when machines replace all physical and mental labors, humans are not required. Computers can produce, sell, teach, learn, seek, choose and improve themselves. Aside from emotional, aesthetic or ethical decisions, all other decisions can be made by computers with relatively weak AI. Perhaps, as we saw in the movie “Her,” strong AI can even make emotional decisions, like whom we should or should not date.

As AI becomes more advanced, there will be an intellectual explosion, or an advent of super-intelligence that surpasses human intelligence.

Scientists call it “singularity.” Just like a black hole, the future after singularity is beyond human deduction.

Indeed, will this day come? Most people seem to consider it a theme out of a sci-fi novel. But what was once a mere scientific theory is increasingly compelling to scholars. It’s a matter of timing, and the advent of singularity is the logical conclusion of a computer’s progress.

It is a version of future that most people don’t welcome. The servant we hire to do chores gradually becomes smarter and eventually drives us out. According to Ray Kurzweil, the director of engineering at Google who oversees AI development, this day will come in 2045. While scholars have different views, the dominant prediction is that singularity will arrive within the century. Computers are leading humanity into a whole new world.

We can already see signs of singularity around us. While the world is expanding thanks to the technological advancement, many people are lost. Technological advancement guarantees endless opportunities and benefits to the 1 percent, who own the technology, while the remaining 99 percent are likely to become part of the surplus. In fact, many college graduates are struggling to find jobs.

Governments are spending astronomical sums to boost the market, but the economy shows no sign of rebounding. The culprit of polarization is technology.

Until now, discussions on technology have mostly focused on convenience and the improved human capacity that technological progress brings. However, there hasn’t been a discussion on the majority of mankind who possess the functions that are being replaced by technology. In a world where 1 percent are programmers and super-managers, what will the remaining 99 percent do?

Will they just consume what machines produce? Where will they derive an income? What will become of the future of a democracy supported by the middle class? How will they be taxed? Will business giants like Google provide social infrastructure on behalf of the state, wherein we become the citizens of Google?

We cannot give up. We cannot let less than 1 percent of the population decide the future of humanity. It is important to use new technologies to make money and make the country richer and stronger.

But at the same time, we need to study the effect of new technology on our lives. There needs to be an ethical, political, legal, philosophical and educational discussion.

What problems will we have in a world where drones fly everywhere? Who is liable when a driverless car gets into an accident? How far should brain-enhancement technology be allowed to advance?

There are so many issues that mankind needs to resolve.

Singularity 99 is a platform that seeks ways for the 99 percent of the humanity to live alongside technology and keep human dignity. We are not technology haters. Rather, we want to do our best to seek and develop technology that benefits humanity. There is no future without technology. But it is still our share to choose which technology to develop and adapt, and come together, refusing to give up on the sliver of hope for the future. We believe that human hearts are more important than Pandora’s Box.

We need new education for the new era. The education of the industrialization period cannot navigate the future. The industrialization-era education that focused on reading, writing and calculation wouldn’t be helpful in the information era. The standardized education that “produces” students from a conveyer belt would be actually harmful. It will just kill creativity. Industrial manufactured goods will not sell in the market anymore.

New education should be fresh in terms of content and the method of delivery. Instead of focusing on language arts, English and mathematics, a curriculum that builds on creativity should be developed. One-way, standardized teaching should be replaced by interactive learning. Today, experiments and research on new education are pursued around the world. The direction of future education should focus on three major elements: personalization, network and creativity. Now, we set out on our journey in search of new education.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff

*The author is the director of the Art Center Nabi.

by Roh Soh-yeong

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