Singularity

It took time to find an old fashioned phone booth; almost as if I was on a scavenger hunt. The phone rang five times by pre-arrangement and all I had to do was say ‘hello’ and ‘yes’ to the request for fulfilling a mission. The mission: tell the story of a major scientific futuristic conference which I recently attended, Singularity Summit NYC, and keep readers smiling. I got involved in Singularity a few years ago as part of expanding my mind the old fashioned way; keep shoving information into it.  Science agrees; perhaps you can create new cerebral pathways. Lyndon Johnson was President; as a sophomore in college (1965 with a buzz cut hair style) I decided not to age traditionally, so I still play beer pong and cerebrally shove. Now I have long hair; go figure.

So what’s Singularity? What if intelligence (computers) we create could create even greater intelligence? And do we want a wise guy computer in 33 years to clone itself into a smarter computer that passes us humans by and are we aware of all the possibilities if it happens?  Remember Stanley Kubrick’s movie ‘2001,’ the unkind computer HAL takes over the space ship. Singularity might be that day in 2045 when machine and man become one entity. These are the notions that anchored the sixth annual two-day scientific Singularity Summit in New York City, which attracted 600 international scientists, technologists and businesspeople to hear global intellects discuss the future.  Think about this: the computer in our cell phone today is a million times cheaper, a thousand times more powerful and a hundred thousand times smaller than a computer from 1965 when I had that buzz haircut.  Singularity Summit watches latest developments in science and technology and what it means for the future of intelligence.

I’m a big fan of highlights at 11 PM. So here we go. Ken Jennings, who won 74 times in a row on ‘Jeopardy’, spoke as did the two IBM scientists who created the computer ‘Watson’ which defeated Jennings on television. Watson's "parents," IBM scientists David Ferrucci and Dan Cerutti, originally thought how neat it would be to make a computer to beat him. When Jennings was at IBM and preparing to challenge Watson on "Jeopardy!" he thought his being there "was an away game for humanity."

One of my pet goals is living to 150 years. Sonia Arrison, a futurist at the Pacific Research Institute, believes that by attacking end-of-life diseases such as Alzheimer's, medical advances could nearly double human life expectancy to 150 years. Hanging around the press room at the Summit, I heard one scientist say that if we can make it the next 15 years in basically good shape, technology will take us right to 150. I asked about my still playing tennis at that age. “Why not,” was his quick response.  Then I pondered the dilemma of never being able to get court time with everyone playing forever. What am I to do?

Physicist and NY Times bestselling author David Brin remarked during his question/answer segment that he'd like to see someone fund another clock, set up next to the National Debt clock, illuminating what our debt would be if we charged royalties for satellite communications, the internet and pharmaceutical research. And I thought if that happened we’d all become like ‘The Beverly Hillbillies,’ a whole country of millionaires and my new name: Jed Clampett Schwartz?

I think this bit was my favorite. Even how we as a society hand down justice may change through science:  Biophysicist Christof Koch talked about measuring our consciousness with an equation. In the lobby with a small group attentively listening (me), he said that one day "we'll even be able to see your dreams", provoking my instantaneous thought about a whole new field of matrimonial law, 'He dreamt, she dreamt.' Can you imagine Jay Leno, David Letterman and Judge Judy segments about the fights couples could have. “I saw your dream last night. I’m not happy.”

As a journalist, writer and denizen of the great state of Jersey shore histrionics, I was baffled how I was the only media person from the 130 mile coastline of the state to be at this Summit. Confession: another motivator for me to attend was the Jersey shore coastline train I took which affords wondrous views of a plethora of Jersey smoke stacks resting peacefully (no smoke or joke) on a myriad of factories which may inspire my new coffee table book project, ‘Smokestacks of New Jersey.’ See you in the book stores or better yet, on HooplaHa.

 

 

 

 

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