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The Singularity is a term you’ll find in science, science fiction and artificial intelligence. It was coined by mathematician John von Neumann to define a theoretical moment when the artificial intelligence of computers surpasses the capacity of the human brain. The term is borrowed from physics and quantum mechanics, where the term gravitational singularity is used in the study of black holes. These events are all considered singular because we are unable to predict what happens next; the disruptive degree of change associated with the event is simply too great for our current body of knowledge.

The Turing Test and the Definition of Artificial Intelligence

Alan Turing was a code-breaker in World War Two and a pioneer in digital computing. He posited that it would one day be possible to build a computer that would be able to behave much like a human. Specifically, he believed it would be able to learn, and to apply that learning to solve problems beyond its program. He suggested that the best way to recognize success – the singularity some people speak of today – was to put the computer to a test. Engage the computer in a conversation with multiple users for an extended period of time. If the computer convinces at least 30% of the users that they are communicating with a “real person,” the computer passes the test. While some have suggested that it is time to update the Turing Test, it still excites us when a computer comes close to passing. Want to see how one person interacted with this “intelligent” computer program? Read this interesting transcript and decide for yourself.

Augmented Cognition – The Flip Side of Artificial Intelligence

While computer scientists will continue to pursue true artificial intelligence, another area of exploration is yielding more immediate returns. Augmented Cognition is the use of neuroscience to determine a subject’s cognitive state in order to enhance it, usually with computers. To me, this is the flip side of Artificial Intelligence. Instead of trying to make a computer act like the human brain, we add capabilities to our brains by connecting them to computers.

In other words, by marrying our brains to computers, human beings may become the Singularity.

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How does AI affect the learning professional?

As learning professionals, we need to think about how we can use artificial intelligence to help people learn faster, perform better, retain memories longer, and hopefully become more human in the process. Many organizations are already implementing chatbots and other machine learning technologies to accelerate and personalize the learning experience.

Where Do We Go From Here?

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It is hard to say when the Singularity will occur, or whether we will even recognize it when it happens. It may be that our convergence with computers will be so gradual that we never see a sharp line, but more of a blending – like colors turning from one shade to another.

When does blue become blue-green?

When does a biological computer become a brain?

When do we stop being human and become something new?

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The Internet of Everything Is Us

It has been said that we are living in the era of the Internet of Everything, meaning that everything will become smarter through connection to the Internet. I’m not sure that the authors of this term realized they were not just talking about toasters and automobiles.

They were talking about themselves.

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