Saturday, June 28, 2014

Why bother studying molecular biology if the singularity is coming?

Perhaps I’m just being hopelessly optimistic, but I believe Ray Kurzweil’s singularity is going to happen, and while it may not happen on his particular timetable, I would not be surprised to see it in my lifetime. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, the singularity is when the power of artificial intelligence surpasses our own, at which point it becomes impossible to predict the future pace of change in technology. Sounds crazy, right? Well, I thought it was crazy to have a computer play Jeopardy, but not only did it play, but it crushed all human challengers. I think it’s a matter of when, not if, but reasonable people could disagree… :)

Anyway, that got me thinking: if artificial intelligence is the next version/successor of our species, and it’s coming within, say, 50 years, then what’s the point of studying molecular biology? If we consider a full understanding of the molecular basis of development to be a 50-100 year challenge, then what’s the point? Or cancer? Or any disease? What’s the point of studying an obsolete organism?

In fact, it’s unclear what the point is in studying anything other than how to bring about the super-intelligent machines. Because once we have them, then we can just sit back and have them figure everything else out. That spells doom for most biomedical research. You could make an argument for neuroscience, which may help hasten the onset of the machines, but otherwise, well, the writing’s on the wall. Or we can just do it for fun, which is the only reason we do anything anyway, I suppose…

1 comment:

  1. The singularity is not here yet, until we find the cure for cancer and live forever. Science is still in business!