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As artificial intelligence continues its rapid advance, one word has computer scientists and science fiction fans waiting with bated breath: singularity. The word defines a pivotal moment in the future where technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, and disrupts civilization.
Whether that moment is tantalizing or terrifying, one firm working to bring it about is aptly named AI and blockchain developer SingularityNET.
“Our vision is to drive towards a positive, beneficial, benevolent singularity for the benefit of all humankind,” SingularityNET COO Janet Adams told Decrypt in an interview.
Founded in 2017 by Ben Goertzel and David Hanson, SingularityNET is a decentralized marketplace for artificial intelligence programs. The company says it wants to make advanced AI available to everyone through blockchain technology. Hanson holds a Ph.D. in Interactive Arts and Engineering from The University of Texas and a Master of Science in Applied Neuroscience from King's College London, while Goertzel earned his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Temple University.
A major step towards singularity is bridging the gap between artificial intelligence and robotics, Adams explained—another focus of the company.
In computer science, singularity is achieved when artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence, resulting in rapid, unpredictable technological advancements and societal changes. Why, Decrypt asked, would anyone want to create a robot or entity that could one day outsmart humans?
The answer, according to Adams, is progress.
“Progress just happens all by itself,” Adams said. “Technological progress is a forward way—artificial intelligence and the programming of statistics into computer programs… it's been happening for decades.”
While many in the fields of science and science fiction have helped develop the idea of the singularity, the term was coined by Hungarian-American mathematician John von Neumann in the late 1950s. In his book, “The Singularity Is Near,” computer scientist, author, and futurist Ray Kurzweil predicted singularity would occur by 2045.
Adams says we are running ahead of schedule.
“We acknowledge that there are a number of research breakthroughs to happen before we get to human-level AGI (artificial general intelligence),” she said. “But we have built the technology stack for that AGI, and they could even emerge sooner than three to seven years.”
While AI and AGI may sound similar, they are years apart in scope. AI (Artificial Intelligence) is like a calculator that's good at a specific task. AGI (Artificial General Intelligence), on the other hand, is like a human brain that can learn and perform any intellectual task that a human can.
In 2021, SingularityNET co-founder and CEO of Hanson Robotics David Hanson released Sophia, a robot that—in collaboration with artist Andrea Bonaceto—launched a series of AI and neural network-powered NFT artwork on Nifty Gateway. That same year, SingularityNET launched the Sophia DAO, a decentralized autonomous organization dedicated to Sophia’s growth, well-being, and development.
SingularityNET’s latest AI project is an “AI Diva” named Desdemona or Desi, created during the COVID pandemic. The plan for Desdemona, Adams said, includes becoming an AI popstar, celebrity, and influencer.
Sophia’s AI Lab whitelist applications are now OPEN! Embark on a virtual adventure unlike anything you've ever seen before and work with the @SophiaVerse_AI team to shape the future of AI-driven decentralized gaming. We can't wait to see you in the metaverse!
— SingularityNET (@SingularityNET) August 14, 2023
Adams said people form strong connections with humanoid robots, like Desdemona and Sophia, because of their highly expressive faces.
“Desdemona has 36 motors in her face, and they can move in any emotion you can think of, and more emotions than you can think of,” Adams said. “She can perceive and mirror human emotions using facial recognition, voice tone, and word analysis.”
Adams said that because of its rich suite of inputs, Desdemona can understand how a person is feeling and respond appropriately, for example dropping her tone of voice to match that of the person to whom she is speaking.
While SingularityNET is optimistic about human/robot relations, including for young people, psychologists and experts are sounding the alarm about what this bonding could mean, especially for children.
Last week, the Center on Countering Digital Hate released a report titled “AI and Eating Disorders,” that accused AI chatbots like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google Bard of promoting eating disorders and unhealthy and unrealistic body images, and not doing enough to safeguard users.
Other AI-focused Web3 projects include The Graph, Fetch.AI, Numeraire, and Ocean Protocol. These projects and their associated tokens received substantial attention from the launch of OpenAI’s GPT-4 in March, with the price of their respective tokens hitting double digits.
“What we live by and breathe by at SingularityNet is that every algorithm we develop and every action we take across our decentralized community is for good,” Adams said.
She asserted that decentralizing the development of AI technology is a crucial step in creating artificial intelligence that benefits all humanity and not a small group of developers.
“We're really we're pushing the boundary with our decentralization program,” Adams said. “We're looking to outsource our decisions, the oversight of our AI, to a great decentralized group globally.”
Cybersecurity is essential in safely developing these models. Adams said SingularityNET has put considerable effort into protecting user privacy and data. Adams pointed to blockchain technology as a means toward ensure privacy, as that data is used with permissions, and that users benefit from allowing companies to use their data.
In order for AI to develop responsibility, Adams said, it has to be programmed, overseen, regulated, and developed by a wide range of people to ensure the best outcome.
“Humans will progress,” she said. “The way, from our perspective, is to massively reduce human suffering and inequality and transform our existence on the planet, eradicate diseases resolvable supply chain, finding all new fixes and solutions for global warming.
“It's the upside—the utopic upside of artificial intelligence is almost unimaginable,” she concluded.