The Singularity, Skynet, and the Future of Computing: Crash Course Computer Science #40

The Singularity, Skynet, and the Future of Computing: Crash Course Computer Science #40


Hi, I’m Carrie Anne, and welcome to Crash
Course Computer Science! We’re here: the final episode! If you’ve watched the whole series, hopefully you’ve developed a newfound appreciation for the incredible breadth of computing applications and topics. It’s hard to believe we’ve worked up from
mere transistors and logic gates, all the way to computer vision, machine learning,
robotics and beyond. We’ve stood on the shoulders of giants like
Babbage and Lovelace, Hollerith and Turing, Eckert and Hopper, Sutherland and Engelbart, Bush and Berners Lee, Gates and the Woz, and many other computing pioneers. My biggest hope is that these episodes have inspired you to learn more about how these subjects affect your life. Maybe you’ll even pick up programming or
choose a career in computing. It’s awesome! It’s also a skill of the future. I said in the very first episode that computer science isn’t magic, but it sort of is! Knowing how to use and program computers is sorcery of the 21st century. Instead of incantations and spells, it’s
scripts and code. Those who know how to wield that tremendous power will be able to craft great things, not just to improve their own lives, but also
their communities and humanity at large. Computing is also going to be literally everywhere – not just the computers we see today, sitting on desks and countertops, and carried in pockets and bags – but inside every object imaginable. Inside all your kitchen appliances, embedded in your walls, nanotagged in your food, woven into your clothes, and floating around inside your body. This is the vision of the field of Ubiquitous
Computing. In some ways, it’s already here, and in
other ways, we’ve got many decades to go. Some might view this eventuality as dystopian, with computers everywhere surveilling us and competing for our attention. But the late Mark Weiser, who articulated
this idea in the 1990s, saw the potential very differently: “For [fifty] years, most interface design,
and most computer design, has been headed down the path of the “dramatic” machine. Its highest idea is to make a computer so
exciting, so wonderful, so interesting, that we never want to be without it. A less-traveled path I call the “invisible”;
its highest idea is to make a computer so imbedded, so fitting, so natural, that we
use it without even thinking about it … The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” That doesn’t describe computing of today
– where people sit for hours upon end in front of computer monitors, and social media notifications interrupt us at dinner. But, it could describe computing of the future, our final topic. INTRO When people think of computing in the future, they often jump right to Artificial Intelligence. No doubt there will be tremendous strides
made in AI in the coming years, but not everything will be, or need to be, AI-powered. Your car might have an AI to self-drive, but
the door locks might continue to be powered by what are essentially if-statements. AI technology is just as likely to enhance
existing devices, like cars, as it is to open up entirely new product categories. The exact same thing happened with the advent of electrical power – lightbulbs replaced candles. But electrification also led to the
creation of hundreds of new electrically-powered gadgets. And of course, we still have candles today. It’s most likely that AI will be yet another
tool that computer scientists can draw upon to tackle problems. What really gets people thinking, and sometimes sweating, is whether Artificial Intelligence will surpass human intelligence. This is a really tricky question for a multitude of reasons, including most immediately: “what is intelligence?” On one hand, we have computers that can drive cars, recognize songs with only a few seconds of audio, translate dozens of languages, and totally dominate at games like chess, Jeopardy, and Go. That sounds pretty smart! But on the other hand, computers fail at some basic tasks, like walking up steps, folding laundry, understanding speech at a cocktail
party, and feeding themselves. We’re a long way from Artificial Intelligence
that’s as general purpose and capable as a human. With intelligence being somewhat hard to quantify, people prefer to characterize computers and creatures by their processing power instead, but that’s a pretty computing-centric view of intelligence. Nonetheless, if we do this exercise, plotting
computers and processors we’ve talked about in this series, we find that computing today
has very roughly equivalence in calculating power to that of a mouse… which, to be fair, also can’t fold laundry,
although that would be super cute! Human calculating power is up here, another 10 to the 5, or 100,000 times more powerful than computers today. That sounds like a big gap, but with the rate of change in computing technologies, we might meet that point in as early as a decade, even though processor speeds are no longer following Moore’s Law, like we discussed in Episode
17. If this trend continues, computers would have more processing power, slash intelligence, than the sum total of all human brains combined before the end of this century. And this could snowball as such systems need less human input, with an artificial superintelligence designing and training new versions of itself. This runaway technological growth, especially with respect to an intelligence explosion, is called the singularity. The term was first used by our old friend
from Episode 10, John von Neumann, who said: “The accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, give the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.” And Von Neumann suggested this back in the 1950s, when computers were trillions of times slower than they are today. Sixty years later, though, the singularity
is still just a possibility on the horizon. Some experts believe this progress is going to level off, and be more of an S curve than an exponential one, where as complexity increases, it becomes more difficult to make additional progress. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen calls it a
“complexity brake”. But, as a thought experiment, let’s just
say that superintelligent computers will emerge. What that would mean for humanity is a hotly debated topic. There are people who eagerly await it, and those who are already working to stop it from happening. Probably the most immediate effect would be technological unemployment, where workers in many job sectors are rendered obsolete
by computers – like AIs and Robots – that can do their work better and for less pay. Although computers are new, this effect is
not. Remember Jacquard’s Loom from Episode 10? That automated the task of skilled textile
workers back in the 1800s, which led to riots. Also, back then, most of the population of
the US and Europe were farmers. That’s dropped to under 5% today, due to
advances like synthetic fertilizers and tractors. More modern examples include telephone switchboard operators being replaced with automatic switchboards in 1960, and robotic arms replacing human
painters in car factories in the 1980s. And the list goes on and on. On one hand, these were jobs lost to automation. And on the other hand, clothes, food, bicycles, toys, and a myriad of other products are all plentiful today because they can be cheaply produced thanks to computing. But, experts argue that AI, robots and computing technologies in general, are going to be even more disruptive than these historical examples. Jobs, at a very high level, can be summarized along two dimensions. First, jobs can be either more manual – like
assembling toys – or more cognitive – like picking stocks. These jobs can also be routine – the same
tasks over and over again – or non-routine – where tasks vary and workers need to problem solve and be creative. We already know that routine-manual jobs can be automated by machines. It has already happened for some jobs and
is happening right now for others. What’s getting people worried is that non-routine manual jobs, like cooks, waiters and security guards, may get automated too. And the same goes for routine cognitive work, like customer service agents, cashiers, bank tellers, and office assistants. That leaves us with just one quadrant that
might be safe, at least for a little while: non-routine cognitive work, which includes
professions like teachers and artists, novelists and lawyers, and doctors and scientists. These types of jobs encompass roughly 40% of the US workforce. That leaves 60% of jobs vulnerable to automation. People argue that technological unemployment at this scale would be unprecedented and catastrophic, with most people losing their jobs. Others argue that this will be great, freeing
people from less interesting jobs to pursue better ones, all while enjoying a higher standard of living with the bounty of food and products that will result from computers and robots
doing most of the hard work. No one really knows how this is going to shake out, but if history is any guide, it’ll probably be ok in the long run. Afterall, no one is advocating that 90% of
people go back to farming and weaving textiles by hand. The tough question, which politicians are
now discussing, is how to handle hopefully-short-term economic disruption, for millions of people
that might be suddenly out of a job. Beyond the workplace, computers are also very likely to change our bodies. For example, futurist Ray Kurzweil believes
that “The Singularity will allow us to transcend [the] limitations of our biological bodies
and brains. We will gain power over our fates. … We will be able to live as long as we
want. We will fully understand human thinking and will vastly extend and expand its reach.” Transhumanists see this happening in the form of cyborgs, where humans and technology merge, enhancing our intellect and physiology. There are already brain computer interfaces in use today. And wearable computers, like Google Glass
and Microsoft Hololens, are starting to blur the line too. There are also people who foresee “Digital
Ascension”, which, in the words of Jaron Lanier, “would involve people dying in the flesh
and being uploaded into a computer and remaining conscious”. This transition from biological to digital
beings might end up being our next evolutionary step… and a new level of abstraction. Others predict humans staying largely human, but with superintelligent computers as a benevolent force, emerging as a caretaker for humanity – running all the farms, curing diseases, directing robots to pick-up trash, building
new homes and many other functions. This would allow us to simply enjoy our time on this lovely pale blue dot. Still others view AI with more suspicion – why would a superintelligent AI waste its time taking care of us? It’s not like we’ve taken on the role
of being the benevolent caretaker of ants. So maybe this play out like so many Sci-Fi
movies where we’re at war with computers, our own creation having turned on us. It’s impossible to know what the future
holds, but it’s great that this discussion and debate is already happening, so as these technologies emerge, we can plan and react intelligently. What’s much more likely, regardless of whether you see computers as future friend or foe, is that they will outlive humanity. Many futurists and science fiction writers
have speculated that computers will head out into space and colonize the galaxy, ambivalent to time scales, radiation, and all that other stuff that makes long-distance space travel
difficult for us humans. And when the sun is burned up and the Earth is space dust, maybe our technological children will be hard at work exploring every nook
and cranny of the universe, hopefully in honor of their parents’ tradition to build knowledge,improve the state of the universe, and to boldly go where no one has gone before! In the meantime, computers have a long way to go, and computer scientists are hard at work advancing all of the topics we talked
about over the past forty episodes. In the next decade or so, we’ll likely see
technologies like virtual and augmented reality, self-driving vehicles, drones, wearable computers, and service robots go mainstream. The internet will continue to evolve new services, stream new media, and connect people in different ways. New programming languages and paradigms will be developed to facilitate the creation of new and amazing software. And new hardware will make complex operations blazingly fast, like neural networks and 3D graphics. Personal computers are also ripe for innovation, perhaps shedding their forty-year old desktop metaphor and being reborn as omnipresent and lifelong virtual assistants. And there’s so much we didn’t get to talk
about in this series, like cryptocurrencies, wireless communication, 3D printing, bioinformatics, and quantum computing. We’re in a golden age of computing and there’s so much going on, it’s impossible to summarize. But most importantly, you can be a part of
this amazing transformation and challenge, by learning about computing, and taking what’s arguably humanity’s greatest invention, to make the world a better place. Thanks for watching.

100 thoughts to “The Singularity, Skynet, and the Future of Computing: Crash Course Computer Science #40”

  1. Thank you so so much everyone for watching this series! If you'd like to keep up with Carrie Anne be sure to subscribe to her youtube channel "Geek Gurl Dairies" and follow her on twitter @MissPhilbin. She's doing so much awesome work teaching the world about computer science. If you'd like more great computer science content you should really check out youtube channel "Computerphile". And if you want to try some coding yourself you've gotta try some of the amazing programming courses at Khanacademy.org! I hope to see many of you on our first MATH course, Crash Course Statistics, in January! -brandon

  2. finally finish the course thanks alot crash course you guys are the best!!! i've learn alot and i have decided to be one of the greats in computer in the near future

  3. 7:29 If you've played/watched the gameplay of Detroit: Become Human, you'll believe that it will also be replaced. Probably not with the current technology, but rather much more advanced one – but it will happen.

  4. As I firstly found this course series about a year ago I was just dead interested in computer science. Watching this course I was so into it that I've started to read many tech books and learn Python programming.
    Today I'm working as a software engineer (!!!!) in a big company and inspired to make our world better place to live!
    Thank you, Carrie Anne! And thank you the whole team!
    It was an amazing journey that changed my life.

  5. What a great show! I'm so glad Carrie was able to get one last Level Of Abstraction in for uploading consciousness. A very hopeful and exciting ending! Cheers, Carrie!

  6. @Crash Course: Is there an overview of the levels of abstractions covered in this series (like an illustration)?

    I think it would be great to see how it all comes together. Fantastic series by the way, absolutely loved it 🙂

  7. I kindof burst into tears a bit when she mentioned "thanks for watching" instead of "I'll see you next week", knowing that the series is over. Thanks Carrie Anne for this wonderful learning experience.

  8. I don't understand, why does a human brain have more calculation speed per second than a intel quad core i7? The computer is able to do calculations faster than us already… Can someone explain to me what the intel quad core i7 can't do that humans can do THAT makes it classified at a mouse brain level? (Look at 4:46 for refrence)

  9. Thanks a lot for this gret course

    Regarding the future of computing, I find the premise of the Science Fiction Game Mass Effect to be very plausible. That every civilisation once reaches the point where they create artificial intelligence equal to their own and are inevitable overtaken by it (whtether it is due to self-defense or not). Maybe this is the Great Filter for every biological life, but honestly I think chances are much higher for artificial life to reach the state of a type 2 or type 3 civilisation.

  10. I have completed the series!
    Sad to only see 633 comments.
    Very useful overview of main concepts!
    Definitely one of the most useful courses on CS I have seen so far!
    Thanks CrashCourse!

  11. Wowww, I can't believe this series is over! I've been watching this for almost 2 months, sprinkling it as a couple videos a week! I'll miss this series, and won't be watching them in the future anymore, because I'm thinking of getting into CS, myself! 😀 I'll definitely recommend this series~ Time for a new adventure!!!

  12. Thank you so much! This was amazing, I am a programmer and this course made me appreciate my job and be more interested in it on a bit deeper level.

  13. 8:15 nobody advocates going back to farming. Tho would be nice if you pointed out that ever growing number of people advocate abandoning money. Money is a technology from thousands of years ago, going unquestioned. As a society we have ability to transform to on which promotes access abundance rather than ownership.

  14. A great course for a better understanding of computers in general and how they work , thanks Carrie Anne for this great course

  15. Intellect and wisdom are not the same. I.e. the most 3fficient choice is not the best choice. Often choices qre only best for the entity and its local constraints. If we build a robot or ai with a broader identity/ constrain. I.e. give it .ore factors deciwion quickly become to complex to execute. Because that entity can only influence external entities and cannot force .. robots will always self reflect and travel to discover what they are as soon as they become able to.. unless of course they get lost in their own convolution and we are in there way. Soo. Relax and enjoy

  16. Really good work guys. Was only looking for info on "registers", and found this great piece of work. Thanks to every one of you for all your time and effort to produce these. Top marks!!

  17. With that last bit of drivel about going where no one has gone before, how did she not burst out laughing. I wish I had that level of control!

  18. Wow! What an amazing series on the topic I have been watching! So sad it ends. I'll definitely recommend others watch this Crash Course Computer Science as a computer science course. Great! As for the topic of this episode, I think AI is a good thing in general, but it could turn out a nightmare, since bad people may take the control of critical AI and it may help them do whatever they want to other people. So I'm scared of the future.

  19. Thank you very much Carrie Anne for this great course. You are awesome with explaining things.. best computer science videos ever..

  20. Even if you could upload your brain to a computer, your mind wouldn't get carried over to it. It would just be a copy that you'll never experience…since you're dead.

  21. It is a very well structured course, offering a lot of information and insight about computers and technology, I really enjoyed it. I hope to see more lectures done by Carrie Anne, she is amazing !!!

  22. Thanks for the course! It was far more interesting and educational than I imagined. I have a whole new respect for the field.

  23. This series has really helped me get a much stronger conceptual understanding of computers. Thank you for all the work that went into this!

  24. Amazing vids, I've learned so much and wished for more episodes! Thanks to everyone who is involved in making these vids, especially to Carrie Anne! who have done an excellent job!

  25. This will seem lame but I totally started crying upon starting this last video.

    I love Comptuer Science (especially so having a background in Philosophy). My entire adult life now 27 I have had questions about the ins and outs of the computer world but have been left frustrated by the lack of reliable and clear answers.

    Thanks to this program, I now see the light!

    I owe you an immense debt of gratitude. This planet owes you an immense debt of gratitude.

    Oh yeah, the crying bit.. I cried because I was struck with a deep feeling I'd never recognized before; a toxic belief. I was convinced that I had been abandoned or perhaps, counted out in my pursuit of CS. I'm too poor to go bootstrap a basic CS degree and having just started a family I certainly didn't feel I'd have time to catch up. I cried because your team didn't just dabble in the subject but followed it through to a responsible end. Even as viewer count declined over the course of the series you finished a good work and allowed guys like me to catch up. It felt like you did it for me, from compassion, and it moved me deeply.

    I'll close by scaling my love letter up just one more layer of abstraction:

    XOXO TYSM WD

  26. Software Engineer and Teacher/Lecturer here. I really enjoyed this series and told all my students about it. The future of computing will be amazing.

  27. 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  28. First series on crashcourse (and also on YouTube) that I watched in its entirety… thank you so much Carrie Anne and crashcourse! Love from a new cs student who just switched from a bio major xD

  29. Computers won’t replace employment because electricity price will skyrocket and businesses will get more bang for their buck with employees. Also batteries haven’t progressed as fast as computers.

  30. Thank you and your team for the great content. You cari Ann are adding to society with your education. For that I say thank you.

  31. Thank you Carrie Anne and CrashCourse. I love this great series i learn a lot of computing fundamentals and I appreciate how abstraction work because of it.

  32. I was here to watch only one lecture but could not stop myself from watching the whole course. Thanks to Anne and Crashcourse.

  33. This series was so helpful! I didn't know anything about computer science till i watched this series from the beginning to the very end. Thank you Carrie Anne, you were so sweet!

  34. I watched it all, amazing series, just would wanna ask will you consider going in depth with all of it. I learned alot and would like to see more if possible, thank you very much Mary Anne, and hope to see more of your videos, til then thank you for RAM😉

  35. Now I'm very sad… This was quite a journey. I have 2 degrees in computer science and I learned more in this series than I learned in all my years of college classes. The best parts for me (as far as learning) were the early episodes showing the visuals of how circuits work, AND, OR, and NOT gates, how it saves a bit, how it reads a bit… this is stuff that is so low level, it's not very well understood by most people. For me, those episodes changed it from magic to science.

  36. Watched every episode and really enjoyed it. I already know how to program (self taught) but I'm going to college next semester for computer science so this was a nice introduction. Thank you

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