Just what is a singularity? Merriam-Webster defines a singularity as follows:
1. : something that is singular, as
a : a separate unit
b : unusual or distinctive manner or behavior : a pecularity
2. : the quality or state of being singular
3. : a point at which the derivative of a given function of a complex variable does not exist but every neighborhood of which contains points for which the derivative does exist
4. : a point or region of infinite mass density at which space and time are infinitely distorted by gravitational forces…
We will be talking about singularities in the sense of definitions 3 and 4. Definition #3 defines a mathematical singularity in terms of algebraic functions and differential calculus. In non-technical terms, it simply means a dimensionless point. Definition #4 is the physics definition of a singularity, derived from Einstein’s general relativity, describing, e.g., the theoretical origin of the universe in the big-bang theory.
In his 2006 non-fiction book about artificial intelligence and the future of humanity, futurist Ray Kurzweil uses the term the Singularity, in the sense popularized by Vernor Vinge in a 1993 essay "The Coming Technological Singularity”. Kurzweil introduces what he calls a law of accelerating returns and predicts a rapid increase in technology, leading to a technological singularity that will transform humanity by enhancing our physical lives with genetic alterations, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence. Once the Singularity has been reached, Kurzweil says that machine intelligence will be more powerful than all human intelligence combined.
My short story about “Kurzweil’s Singularity” is fictional, of course, but it raises some serious questions. The current materialistic scientific paradigm is based on some assumptions that may or may not be true. One such assumption is that consciousness ‘emerges’ only when a certain level of complexity arises either from natural biological evolution or human technology. But what does emergence mean? Is consciousness a localized field of some sort? Is it some form of energy that we haven’t yet discovered? Is consciousness something from nothing, or is it created in some way, originating at the point when there is sufficient complexity of a specific type? If so, created from what? If fields of consciousness are created from energy, there may be ways to determine where that energy comes from. We can ask the following questions:
Is there less mass or energy associated with the structure of an organism when consciousness arises, or more? If there is less that would indicate that the organism’s consciousness is created, at least in part from some of the mass and/or energy of the organism. On the other hand, if there is no difference or there is more, that would indicate that consciousness is being created from mass and/or energy from the surrounding environment. The answer to these questions could be determined experimentally, if the moment of the awakening of conscious awareness can be determined. In the case of an AI machine like the one postulated in science fiction stories, this should be easy to do.
Consciousness, as we experience and observe it, seems to be associated to some extent with all sorts of organic life forms in different ways, depending on the ability of each specific life form to express it. An ant, e.g., exhibits consciousness differently than a bird or a bear, but all three are aware of their surroundings, and awareness is at least one indication of the presence of consciousness. There is also very convincing evidence that plants have some level of awareness. Does the obvious association of consciousness with life mean that organic life and consciousness are one and the same thing, or that life is a requirement for consciousness? Can, or does consciousness exist without life? Some quantum physicists have suggested that a form of consciousness may exist in elementary particles, because particles seem to ‘know’ what other particles are doing in situations like the double-slit and delayed-choice experiments. It seems that with the current scientific paradigm, we don’t know much about consciousness or its relationship to organic life, and yet life and consciousness are what most defines us as human beings.
Considering the theory favored by AI enthusiasts, that consciousness emerges from physical complexity, the most important question is: does physical complexity produce consciousness, like clouds produce rain; i.e., is the relationship between physical complexity and consciousness causal, or was consciousness there all along, just waiting for the right combination of electro-chemical-physical conditions through which it can become manifest? Using TRUE quantum unit analysis, we have shown that the latter is correct. Consciousness is primary.
The current scientific paradigm is based on the unproven metaphysical assumptions of materialism. Strangely enough, it has led to the conclusions that the universe originated in a mathematical singularity, and in the case of epiphenomenal consciousness, that consciousness originates from a singularity, in other words, reality is something from nothing, which is a strange position for materialists, since the basic assumption of materialism is that the material universe is the only objective reality. This logical contradiction that the physical universe originated from a non-physical source, i.e. nothingness, eliminates materialism as a viable basis for a scientific paradigm. TDVP replaces materialism by demonstrating that reality consists of three forms: mass, energy and consciousness, interacting in a 9- dimensional domain of space, time and consciousness. See posts on TRUE quantum units and TRUE analysis.