Startups and the Singularity: Which Boston Innovators Are Believers?
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“I’m sure tech will be brought into [the] body, and that soon,” says Christopher Ahlberg from the Web analysis and prediction firm Recorded Future. “Singularity though… Nah.”
In case you’re wondering, there isn’t really a big point here. But as it turns out, the more interesting responses tend to come from the skeptics. Maybe that’s just because if you agree with Kurzweil and Vinge, or are open to their arguments, there isn’t as much to say.
“I don’t think it will ever come,” says Jason Jacobs of mobile-health startup FitnessKeeper. “Machines will get smarter and smarter, but unlike humans, they will never have a soul. We do need to be careful though, because as they get smarter, they are an increasingly powerful force. This force can be incredibly beneficial if used for good, but also destructive if it gets into the wrong hands.”
Jacobs brings up a much-ballyhooed point: that the singularity, if it ever occurs, could bring about massive destruction and the end of civilization. But there are those who disagree with that outcome (and would probably side more with Kurzweil’s utopian view), even as they cast doubt on its fundamental premise. “I don’t believe in the concept of a singularity as [Vinge] predicts,” says Mike Tuchen of security software firm Rapid7. “I agree we’re seeing an incredible pace of technological progress but don’t see that as inevitably causing a cataclysm.”
Anytime you talk about tech predictions, of course, you have to remember how bad humans are at imagining all the things that could change in the future. Could many of us even see beyond the event horizon of the iPhone in 2007? By that token, some entrepreneurs are hedging their bets. “We tend to limit our view to existing constraints, and when structural changes take place our constraints totally change. So I would say, nothing in this field is really impossible,” says Iker Marcaide from peerTransfer, a financial ed-tech startup.
And, speaking of ed-tech, what about those Boundless guys who started all of this? What do they think of the Singularity? On a recent afternoon, chief exec Ariel Diaz sat in a conference room spinning his intellectual web. “I’m a huge believer in it,” he said. “It’s up to the user to figure out if it’s constructive or destructive. But if it can happen, it will happen. Within my lifetime.” But, he adds, “I think it will sneak up on us in terms of what it looks like.”
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