Is the Singularity Actually Far?

Neuroscientist David Linden thinks so.

I contend that our understanding of biological processes remains on a stubbornly linear trajectory. In my view the central problem here is that Kurzweil is conflating biological data collection with biological insight.

It’s clear that Linden doesn’t buy into Kurzweil’s contention that every aspect of every science will soon (comparatively) become digitized, and subject to some version of Moore’s Law.  This includes high-level biological insight, not just growth in data sets.  Perhaps he believes that kind of insight must remain analog, forever beyond the reach of computer modeling.

Linden compares simple computer graphics illustrating a neuron to the complexity revealed by thinly sliced sections of the brain.  Clearly, our technology right now can’t model fine grained real reality.  Today’s technology isn’t up to the task Linden sets for it.  But Kurzweil says accelerating technology means today’s level of capability will sharply rise tomorrow.

Linden argued for what he calls a realistic linear view of progress in neurology.  He also argues that we are nowhere near understanding how genes work together to produce our body’s infrastructure, even though we’ve made great advances in compiling lists of genes in the genome.  However, if mere linear growth in understanding is what had actually occurred in the past, we would be nowhere near the technological capability and scientific insights exhibited today by neuroscience.

This essay reveals how difficult it is for experts in a given scientific or technological field to get out of the linear mind-set.  Perhaps a close study of recent advances in neuroscience would be helpful in illustrating the power of accelerating technological and scientific growth.

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