A Rapidly Improving World


Jürgen Schmidhuber of the Swiss AI lab is building not just intelligent machines, but creative ones.


 From solving tricky problems such as Arabic and Chinese handwriting, Schmidhuber has moved on to a bigger challenge -- developing the optimal human problem solver. Or to put that more clearly, the optimal machine for solving human problems.

His team has developed a formal theory of fun and creativity. A creative artificial intelligence looks for what he describes as "unexpected regularities." Schmidhuber explains that such are the payoff of all creative endeavors, whether it be theoretical physics or telling jokes.

If he is correct, if a machine can be optimized to discover the next big Aha!, then there is no field of human endeavor wherein humans will long remain the dominant player. That doesn't sound like a Better All the Time scenario, but I think it is.

Schmidhuber says that we should not think of it as us versus them, echoing what Stephen Gordon said on the same subject on last night's FastForward Radio. They will be us -- a part of us, an extension of us. And we, in time, may become a part of them.

Whatever that ultimate relationship may be, what is coming is an explosion of creative problem-solving unlike anything we have ever seen before. The possibilities really are beyond our comprehension. Here we apply the paradigm of abundance to change itself, specifically to positive change.

Imagine a world wherein solutions to long-term problems or novel life-changing inventions arrive as frequently as smart phone apps do in this world. But that analogy might not be sufficient, come to think of it. Imagine game-changers occurring as frequently as YouTube videos; as frequently as blog posts; as frequently as Tweets.

The tagline for the old Better All the Time, back when it was a regular feature at the Speculist, was "dispatches from a rapidly changing, rapidly improving world." Here we're talking about a world that is changing (that is to say, improving) faster than we can imagine. We'll run up against the ultimate limitations of our own ability to perceive and process information -- and the world will go right on getting better.

Then we either will have to become one with the machines, or be augmented by them, or simply be okay with knowing that from then on, our experience of the world will be a smaller and smaller slice of the reality.

A wonderful slice, no doubt, but a small one.


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