Key success factors
This chapter looks at a number of what can be called “key success factors” for the Singularity Principles, meaning the factors that are likely to have the biggest influence on whether these principles will meet their objectives, or will, instead, turn out to be ineffective.
In some cases, these key success factors can boost voluntary acceptance of the principles. In other cases, they can boost enforced compliance.
These factors can be listed as:
- Public understanding
- Persistent urgency
- Reliable action against noncompliance
- Public funding
- International support
- A sense of inclusion and collaboration.
Voluntary acceptance occurs when people are sufficiently motivated by a genuine desire to follow the set of recommendations. This desire can be boosted by:
- A vivid awareness of the risk pathways – specific ways in which technology development projects could, despite positive intentions, result in catastrophic outcomes
- A clear understanding of the connections between the various recommendations of the Singularity Principles and the outcomes that are likely to arise
- An appreciation that the restrictions recommended by these principles will not hinder the timely development of truly beneficial products – so there is no good reason to oppose these restrictions
- A recognition that everyone will be compelled to observe the same restrictions, and cannot gain any meaningful advantage by breaching the rules; therefore, everyone is in the same boat.
The likelihood of voluntary acceptance can be increased by an ongoing programme of public discussion and mutual education. If successful, this programme will lead to more and more people understanding:
- The benefits likely to arise if the Singularity Principles are followed
- The risks arising if these principles are not followed.
If successful, this programme will also:
- Dispel the misunderstandings and exaggerations of the Singularity Shadow
- Assist people to overcome the psychological traits that lead to Singularity denialism.
Support for adopting and subsequently adhering to the Singularity Principles depends, not just on a better public understanding of what’s at stake, but also on how the public feels about the issues involved.
A judicious combination of fear and wonder can generate and maintain a very useful sense of urgency:
- A persistent fear of the dreadful catastrophes that may occur in the absence of adoption
- A persistent wonder at the possibility to participate in the remarkable world of sustainable superabundance that can be attained through the wise application of the technologies of NBIC and AGI.
Education and discussion about the Singularity Principles needs to keep both the fear and the wonder alive in the public consciousness – preventing these feelings from being submerged under distraction, intimidation, or confusion.
Reliable action against noncompliance
The enforcement aspect of conformance to the Singularity Principles supplements the voluntary aspect. Once people perceive that free-riders can gain no advantage by evading these principles, but will instead be penalised, it will increase their own readiness to comply.
Reliable action against noncompliance includes:
- A “trustable monitoring” system that is able to detect, through pervasive surveillance, any potential violations of the published restrictions
- Strong international cooperation, by a network of different countries that sign up to support the Singularity Principles, to isolate and remove resources from any maverick elements, anywhere in the world, that violate these principles.
Public acceptance of trustable monitoring can accelerate once it is understood that the systems performing the surveillance can, indeed, be trusted; they will not confer any inappropriate advantage on any grouping able to access the data feeds.
Many of the Singularity Principles depend upon skilled resources being available to carry out key tasks. In some cases, these resources may be provided by commercial companies. However, to ensure that these resources can take a sufficiently independent stance, they are likely to need to be supported by public funds.
The principles in question include:
- Insist on accountability
- Penalise disinformation
- Design for cooperation
- Analyse via simulations
- Build consensus regarding principles
- Provide incentives to address omissions
- Halt development if principles are not upheld
The funding is necessary to provide:
- Appropriate salaries and other incentives
- Suitable training
- Sufficient support staff, IT systems, and other assistance.
Public support for such funding will depend on:
- The degree to which the public understands the need for such funding (see previous sections)
- Confidence that these funds are being deployed in an effective, unbiased way, free from corruption, self-serving officials, or any excess of bureaucracy.
The same factors that are key to the success of the Singularity Principles in any given country also need to apply on the worldwide arena. Otherwise:
- Companies (or countries) that wish to accept the principles will be concerned about being placed at a competitive disadvantage; their concern is that companies (or countries) that skimp on the application of effort and resources to conform with the principles may build technology that reaches the market more quickly and, at least in the short term, appears to have better performance
- Companies (or countries) that evade the principles may create technology with a catastrophic error mode whose failure would impact, not just their local area, but the entire world.
What is required is the application on the world level of the same factors from individual countries:
- Public discussion and public education, leading to public buy-in, despite ideological or other tensions between different countries
- Monitoring of potential infringements
- Removal of resources from entities that are detected as violating the principles.
Adoption of these practices won’t happen at the same speed over the entire world. However, it can start with smaller groups, such as the G7 group of nations, and expand in stages from there.
A sense of inclusion and collaboration
Any set of regulations that is perceived as being imposed from outside inevitably raises suspicion and distrust. People will think to themselves that they are being asked to give up some important freedoms, or to do without valuable products and services, mainly for the benefit of apparent “elites” or “outsiders”.
Accordingly, the Singularity Principles need to be understood as being in the shared interest of all citizens of all countries on the planet – with no-one left behind against their will. It needs to be understood that the benefits arising from adherence to these principles will reach everyone, and will be dramatic.
Moreover, when people notice what appears to be shortcomings or problems with any of the principles, they should feel a desire to be part of the solution to whatever issue they have observed, rather than standing back from the process and expecting it to fail.
In other words, what will make the Singularity Principles stronger and more effective is when people in all walks of life are ready to offer constructive suggestions for refinements and improvements to these principles, in a spirit of positive collaboration.
Indeed, given the scale of the challenges faced, constructive suggestions for refinements will surely be needed.
The final set of chapters of this book look forward to what could be core topics in that envisioned forthcoming collaborative discussion.