Illustration: Vsevolod Shvaiba, Dryad of Spring, lithograph, 70×100 (sheet), 2021
The authorship of the Singleton theory belongs to the Swedish philosopher, Professor Nick Bostrom. Bostrom is Director of the Institute for the Future of Humanity at Oxford University.
He is engaged in analyzing the patterns of historical and technological development, trying to predict and model the reality in which people are likely to live.
IS SINGLETON AN EVOLUTIONAL RESULT?
It is not easy to literally translate the term singleton, although intuitively everyone who is familiar with the English language understands what it is. Singleton is the process of converting to one thing, to the number one. For example, you can imagine how, in the process of development, all the inhabitants of the city would take and evolve into a certain single Singolian one day.
Something similar, according to Bostrom, is happening in human history. In his book Superintelligence. Trends, Dangers, Strategies he argues that intelligent life on this planet is organized as a single whole, and therefore, must have some kind of a common goal.
The philosopher draws attention to the fact that the historical tendency is that humanity is, as it were, concentrated in social organizations of a higher and higher level. If we look at the history of societies, we will see how they develop from small groups of hunters and gatherers to rural settlements, then to city-states, then nations appear, the UN…
NEW WORLD ORDER
It is logical to assume that this pattern of history is fundamental and will continue further. It is obvious that power, control, management will be concentrated in larger, global entities. But this concentration has a natural limit – singleton. Bostrom proposes to present it using existing metaphors.
For example, such as the New World Order, the World Government or Artificial Intelligence that monitors the global order, governs the world of people and even life on the planet as a whole… Singleton can be guided by groups of influential politicians, machines based on artificial intelligence, corporations or even totalitarian leaders having a powerful military resource at their disposal .
CONSPIROLOGY AND SINGLTON
It is clear that the attitude towards this kind of metaphor, especially among supporters of conspiracy theories, will be negative. It turns out that if the emergence of a singleton is inevitable and has an objective character, then the establishment of a global dictatorship in one form or another is inevitable.
However, Bostrom believes that a singleton itself cannot be either negative or positive: it is just an instrument of aggregation and management, an extremely compact management complex that will create an intelligent life on Earth in the course of its evolution.
The scripting of the singleton shows that it really can be both “bad” and “good”. But according to which scenario social development will proceed, Bostrom does not undertake to predict. At the same time, it is clear that the emergence of the Internet and social networks, globally interconnected systems of observation and communication, molecular nanotechnology create the mental basis for the Singleton in the general human population.
DISASTERS – SINGLTON’S CATALYST
Although the growing complexity of the system makes it difficult to coordinate between different cultural realities and peoples, technological solutions related to artificial intelligence, as well as catastrophic events, can help to overcome this problem.
As an example of it, Bostrom cites World War I, from which the community of nations was born, and World War II, to which the UN was the answer. Likewise, a new single global command centre may emerge as a response to the next global threat. Now you and me may identify such a threat in the coronavirus pandemic. In the future, it may become another epidemic, climate change or, for example, cyber attacks.
PROS AND CONS OF SINGLETON
A “good” singleton will help humanity to say goodbye to the arms race and fierce competition for outer space. The threat of a global war between everyone will become a thing of the past. World military spending, which in 2020 amounted to more than $ 1.980 trillion, can be reallocated to solve pressing global problems, to prevent the same climate catastrophe.
An AI-powered singleton can control the emergence and the use of unwanted technological developments and disrupt history into dystopia. However, the “bad” singleton itself can become the embodiment of a dystopia like the one we see in Terry Gilliam’s famous Brazilian film.
A single entity that controls everything in the world can significantly reduce the capabilities of the individual, taking away his freedom. Over-concentration is not equal to efficiency; it may well hinder social mobility and democracy. In some scenarios, the singleton spawns terrifying dictatorial regimes, to which Genghis Khan, Hitler and Napoleon together are inferior in brutality.
Singleton can make our world not only simpler, but also more complex – it will require additional bureaucracy to maintain it. It will lead to corruption, high spending, high tax rates and slower growth in all areas.
The main problem of AI is that as a singleton, it itself can eventually become that global threat, the opposition of which can unite humanity. Today, many people are aware of it. We remember that Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk, as well as several hundred other people of world renown, signed the collective letter. It says that artificial intelligence is a new threat, comparable in scale to nuclear weapons.
Hawking formulated this position as follows, “Success in artificial intelligence will be the greatest event in human history. Unfortunately, it may also be the last one”. Analysts conclude that AI is capable of a treacherous move if it discovers a way that humans might not expect to achieve its ultimate goal. The stronger it becomes, the more actions cause a sense of satisfaction in its creator…
One day the system will become so intelligent that it will solve the task in the most complete and reliable way – by implanting electrodes into the pleasure centres of the creator’s brain, which will make it guaranteed and finally happy.
NOTHING HAS BEEN DECIDED YET
To reassure readers a little, note that the singleton is a pure abstraction. Yes, it is capable of solving all major global problems on its own. Yes, it can have endless possibilities that will lead to irreversible consequences. But its regime in this case can be very different: democracy, tyranny, autocracy (that is, the absolutism of AI), a set of tough global laws subject to failure-free execution.
It may or may not carry the characteristics of familiar forms of human governance. Likewise, it does not have to be totalitarian in nature – it can function as a global democratic state. Moreover, the formation of a singleton in a multipolar world is not a foregone conclusion. But the problem posed by Bostrom is different: if the professor turns out to be right and the singleton does appear, will humanity accept it or oppose it?