ElI5: What is a singularity?


ElI5: What is a singularity?

In: Physics

The word has two meanings, that are loosely related:

In science a singularity is a point in space time where all the mass of an object is compressed into a very small space, a single point. This is what some believe is at the center of a black hole, or what existed before the big bang.

I mention the black hole because this is why there word is used by futurists. See, a black hole has a radius around it where it’s gravity prevents anything that gets that close from escaping, even light.

So you can’t see anything beyond the event horizon of a black hole since it’s light doesn’t escape.

Futurists have taken the “cant see anything past this point” and applied it to their ability predict what vector technology is growing towards. Once technology is advancing so fast you can’t even imagine where its going or how it will end up, that’s a technological singularity.

Its generally believed among futurists that once AI can design and improve the next generation of AI it will spark a runaway cycle of AI improvement where the AI will be so much smarter than any given person that they and their creations will extend well beyond human understanding. That’s why many believe the (technological) singularity is near at hand, since AI is coming along.

In mathematics a singularity is, informally, a place where trends break down. Suppose you have a smooth function *f(x)* that you cannot define directly, but you know in as much detail as you like how it behaves near x=0. If it goes infinite at x=2, you cannot use your knowledge around x=0 to project it beyond x=2.

The technological singularity (as I understand) was so named circa 1990 because various trends looked like getting so weird around 2035 that we cannot project them beyond that time.

(small EDIT for more clarity)