The Singularity Principles

The Singularity Principles

Steering the adoption of fast-changing technologies

These pages review:

  • Why the Singularity Principles are sorely needed;
  • The source and design of these principles;
  • The significance of the term “Singularity”;
  • The content of the Singularity Principles;
  • How these principles are expected to evolve;
  • How these principles can be put into practice, all around the world;
  • The likely outcomes if these principles are followed;
  • The likely outcomes if these principles are not followed.

Design

The Singularity Principles are designed:

  • To steer humanity’s relationships with fast-changing technologies;
  • To manage multiple risks of disaster;
  • To enable the attainment of remarkable benefits;
  • Thereby, to help humanity approach a profoundly positive singularity.

The formulation of the Singularity Principles draws upon diverse insights from:

  • Scientists, technologists, and engineers;
  • Entrepreneurs, designers, and artists;
  • Humanitarians, activists, and economists;
  • Educators, ethicists, and psychologists,
  • Philosophers, rationalists, and lawyers;
  • Historians, sociologists, and futurists;
  • Transhumanists, effective altruists, and singularitarians.

Many of these insights have been expressed and debated at meetings of London Futurists over the years.

The Singularity Principles were first presented, under that name and with the same general format, in Chapter 17, “Singularity”, of the 2021 book Vital Foresight: The Case for Active Transhumanism. That’s the final (culminating) chapter of a 642 page book. The preceding 16 chapters of that book set out the challenges and opportunities that the Principles need to address. They also draw together the underlying ideas that shape the Principles. The Principles are the recommendations that arise from those chains of analysis.

The Principles have evolved since that time and continue to evolve. These pages provide the most up-to-date information.

The applicability of the Principles

To start with, these principles can and should be applied to the anticipation and management of the NBIC technologies that are at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution: nanotech, biotech, infotech, and cognotech – four interlinked technological disruptions which are likely to grow significantly stronger as the 2020s unfold.

However, the same set of principles can and should be applied to the anticipation and management of the core technology that will probably give rise to a fifth industrial revolution, namely the technology of AGI (artificial general intelligence), and the ASI (artificial superintelligence) that will likely follow fast on the footsteps of AGI.

The emergence of ASI is known as the technological singularity – or, more briefly, the Singularity.

In other words, the Singularity Principles apply both:

  • To the longer term lead-up to the Singularity, from NBIC technologies,
  • And to the shorter-term lead-up to the Singularity, as AI approaches the power of AGI.

In both cases, anticipation and management of possible outcomes will be of vital importance.

The short form of the Principles:

Here’s the short form of the Singularity Principles.

As we develop and interact with increasingly powerful technology, we should be sure we know:

  1. The goals that we’re hoping to accomplish – rather than us merely drifting along in some direction because it sounds nice, or has some alluring features, or it seemed like a good idea the last time that strategy was reviewed;
  2. What are the products and methods that are most likely to serve these goals well – rather than us persisting with products or methods that happen to make us feel comfortable, or which have given us some good results in the past;
  3. How we will manage any surprises arising en route to our goals – rather than us being caught flat-footed as the victim of inertia or denial, when unexpected signals start showing on our radars.

These are important high-level points. But we need to dig deeper into how to apply them. That’s covered in the detailed version of the Principles.

The four areas covered by the Principles

In summary, the Singularity Principles split into four areas:

  1. Methods to analyse the goals and outcomes that may arise from particular technologies;
  2. The characteristics that are highly desirable in technological solutions;
  3. Methods to ensure that development takes place responsibly;
  4. Evolution and enforcement:
    • Principles about how this overall set of recommendations will evolve further over time
    • Principles for how to increase the likelihood that these recommendations are applied in practice rather than simply being some kind of wishful thinking.

The principles in each of these four areas have the following names:

  • Analysing goals and potential outcomes:
    • Question desirability
    • Clarify externalities
    • Require peer reviews
    • Involve multiple perspectives
    • Analyse the whole system
    • Anticipate fat tails
  • Desirable characteristics of technological solutions:
    • Reject opacity
    • Promote resilience
    • Promote verifiability
    • Promote auditability
    • Clarify risks to users
    • Clarify trade-offs
  • Ensuring development takes place responsibly:
    • Insist on accountability
    • Penalise disinformation
    • Design for cooperation
    • Analyse via simulations
    • Maintain human oversight
  • Evolution and enforcement:
    • Build consensus regarding principles
    • Provide incentives to address omissions
    • Halt development if principles not upheld
    • Consolidate progress via legal frameworks

For more details

Please view the following pages for more information:

(the remaining links will be made live shortly)

Credits

The graphic illustration on this page includes a design by Pixabay member Ebenezer42.

Recent Posts

RAFT 2035 – a new initiative for a new decade

The need for a better politics is more pressing than ever.

Since its formation, Transpolitica has run a number of different projects aimed at building momentum behind a technoprogressive vision for a better politics. For a new decade, it’s time to take a different approach, to build on previous initiatives.

The planned new vehicle has the name “RAFT 2035”.

RAFT is an acronym:

  • Roadmap (‘R’) – not just a lofty aspiration, but specific steps and interim targets
  • towards Abundance (‘A’) for all – beyond a world of scarcity and conflict
  • enabling Flourishing (‘F’) as never before – with life containing not just possessions, but enriched experiences, creativity, and meaning
  • via Transcendence (‘T’) – since we won’t be able to make progress by staying as we are.

RAFT is also a metaphor. Here’s a copy of the explanation:

When turbulent waters are bearing down fast, it’s very helpful to have a sturdy raft at hand.

The fifteen years from 2020 to 2035 could be the most turbulent of human history. Revolutions are gathering pace in four overlapping fields of technology: nanotech, biotech, infotech, and cognotech, or NBIC for short. In combination, these NBIC revolutions offer enormous new possibilities – enormous opportunities and enormous risks:…

Rapid technological change tends to provoke a turbulent social reaction. Old certainties fade. New winners arrive on the scene, flaunting their power, and upturning previous networks of relationships. Within the general public, a sense of alienation and disruption mingles with a sense of profound possibility. Fear and hope jostle each other. Whilst some social metrics indicate major progress, others indicate major setbacks. The claim “You’ve never had it so good” coexists with the counterclaim “It’s going to be worse than ever”. To add to the bewilderment, there seems to be lots of evidence confirming both views.

The greater the pace of change, the more intense the dislocation. Due to the increased scale, speed, and global nature of the ongoing NBIC revolutions, the disruptions that followed in the wake of previous industrial revolutions – seismic though they were – are likely to be dwarfed in comparison to what lies ahead.

Turbulent times require a space for shelter and reflection, clear navigational vision despite the mists of uncertainty, and a powerful engine for us to pursue our own direction, rather than just being carried along by forces outside our control. In short, turbulent times require a powerful “raft” – a roadmap to a future in which the extraordinary powers latent in NBIC technologies are used to raise humanity to new levels of flourishing, rather than driving us over some dreadful precipice.

The words just quoted come from the opening page of a short book that is envisioned to be published in January 2020. The chapters of this book are reworked versions of the scripts used in the recent “Technoprogressive roadmap” series of videos.

Over the next couple of weeks, all the chapters of this proposed book will be made available for review and comment:

  • As pages on the Transpolitica website, starting here
  • As shared Google documents, starting here, where comments and suggestions are welcome.

RAFT Cover 21

All being well, RAFT 2035 will also become a conference, held sometime around the middle of 2020.

You may note that, in that way that RAFT 2035 is presented to the world,

  • The word “transhumanist” has moved into the background – since that word tends to provoke many hostile reactions
  • The word “technoprogressive” also takes a backseat – since, again, that word has negative connotations in at least some circles.

If you like the basic idea of what’s being proposed, here’s how you can help:

  • Read some of the content that is already available, and provide comments
    • If you notice something that seems mistaken, or difficult to understand
    • If you think there is a gap that should be addressed
    • If you think there’s a better way to express something.

Thanks in anticipation!

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