The invention of artificial superintelligence might result in unfathomable changes to human civilisation

The technological singularity is the hypothesis that the invention of artificial superintelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilisation.

Why always ‘hypothesis’? I feel like all I hear are guesses and proposed explanations. Can’t we know?

It’s only ‘an educated guess’ cause we have such limited evidence, it can only be a starting point for further investigation.

It bothers me.

But of course it has to be a hypothesis! Nobody knows what will happen. But like with fiction as inspiration and especially science fiction, that often becomes before science fact! Hypothesis comes before we find out that it is a fact. What the singularity is supposed to be is: an upgradeable intelligent agent, which is basically a computer running artificial general intelligence.

The ‘self aware’ type?

Yes general artificial intelligence is the super smart one. The one we haven’t managed to make. Self aware in a sense. The singularity means that the general AI would enter a "runaway reaction" of self-improvement cycles, with each new and more intelligent generation appearing more and more rapidly, causing an intelligence explosion and resulting in a powerful superintelligence that would, qualitatively, far surpass all human intelligence.

So it would keep rebuilding itself smarter and smarter each time?*

Yes and then in theory it could happen so fast, and it would be so much smarter than humans that it would be able to take over the world! Or maybe make the world a better place, and solve our problems. Just depends on what ‘it’ will want.

But where does that idea even come from? Sci-fi? Who made this hypothesis?

Singularity is a general term that describes a situation or event where all the normal rules completely break down and no longer apply. A black hole is a kind of singularity. It's an astronomical singularity. It's specific to a particular event where the normal rules of space and time break down and no longer apply.*

Who coined the term?

It was John von Neumann that first used the term "singularity" in the 50s in the context of technological progress causing accelerating change.*

Technology speeding up change in society.

He said: "The accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, give the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue”.

The singularity then also means that it would be such a big change that the world would never be the same.

Another guy, called J. Good said that in an intelligence explosion, a future superintelligence will trigger a singularity. The singularity is what we will achieve when we make a superintelligent AI. Science fiction author Vernor Vinge said that this would signal the end of the human era, as the new superintelligence would continue to upgrade itself and would advance technologically at an incomprehensible rate.

Leaving us in the dust. Then when can we expect this to happen?

Nobody knows, but probably in this century.