UPDATE: My article below was just re-published by India Future Society.
My following article below was originally published by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET):
Near the end of May of this year I came into contact with Russell Swanborough, Managing Director of ScIAM (Science of Informational Management), a software company located in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mr. Swanborough is also a member of the Lifeboat Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging scientific and technological advancements, while helping humanity survive from any possible existential risks said technological advancements may incur.
I first became aware of ScIAM through an obscure blog, claiming the company to have developed what is known as “Human Intelligence Emulation” (HIE). Essentially the blog argued that the company was paving the way towards the Singularity via HIE. Rather strong claims, I thought. Too strong for me to simply toss it to the side, thinking it to be another bogus misunderstanding of what the Singularity actually purports to bring about. So I went on Google, typed in a search query of the company’s name*, and came across their website. “Website under construction,” it says next to it. Not a good sign for a company claiming to have developed HIE.
Fear not though, I located their email address and decided to contact them immediately, hoping to better understand the company and what they actually claim to have designed. 24 hours later, I receive a response.**
One of my very first questions I’d sent to the company was whether or not the obscure blog’s claims of their company developing software that acts like a human was true. In which the company’s Managing Director, Mr. Swanborough, responds, “the HIE claims are true. We have developed and tested the architecture and the functionality and can apply HIE in any situation where a human is normally found.”
Curiosity is at an overwhelming level by now, as I’m subconsciously battling myself between “This is fascinating!” and “What a load of bullshit!”
Either way, I couldn’t stop here. I had to continue my questioning until Mr. Swanborough gave me what I was searching for. His remarks of what the HIE supposedly achieves struck a chord in me, because one of the more popular thinkers of the Singularity, Ray Kurzweil, has constantly noted that technology like this wouldn’t show up for another 2-3 decades, as his exponential growth charts on information technologies show. So how then has a software company not many have heard of, located in South Africa, developed a technology not expected to arise until much later?
“We have worked on this for nearly four decades,” Mr. Swanborough says. “Whilst I respect Mr Kurzweil – despite attempts to engage him on this subject – he is not working on a similar architecture. HIE is based on the unique science of ScIAM. I think (and this is my opinion) that he is attempting to simulate a human brain at the neuron level whereas we are emulating the human mind at a functional level. His appears to be a bottom-up approach, so to speak, whereas ours is a top-down approach.”
In other words, the software developed mimics human thought and actions. Advanced A.I., indeed, but is it true? Fortunately, Mr. Swanborough was kind enough to send me the company’s overview document, “For the new ScIAM Human Intelligence Emulation user,” which goes into how HIE operates.
Since I’ve provided the entire document, I won’t go into how HIE works in its entirety, but I will provide you the basic gist. Essentially, HIE operates through human-like thought processing and decision making. It scans the information and resources available, builds up a thought construct using the information and resources available, and then develops an efficient and intelligent solution. Not only that though, it also supposedly responds to whatever objections you may attain, or even additional information you may acquire at a later period, and then accommodates these to further its decision making’s efficiency and accuracy. Memory storage is also another big advancement in which ScIAM’s HIE supposedly adheres to. Anything it works on, it remembers.
Figure 1, as was originally provided in ScIAM’s overview document, operates as followed: “The Sensorium gathers and scans inputs (Steps 1 to 7) for extremes of good and bad (like a sensory radar) and passes appropriate interpreted Intelligence (Step 8) to the Apices for comparison with existing Knowledge (Step 9) and the derivation of appropriate Strategy (Step 10) and then to manage (Steps 11 to 13) any resulting suitable good Action (Steps 14 to 18) and correct any anomalies (Steps 19 and 20), whilst learning from the results (Steps 21 to 23) and keeping stakeholders informed (Step 24).”
This intelligent software isn’t yet available to the general populace it would seem, but will in the next few months, along with an actual demonstration by the company itself. When exactly is not yet known.
When I decided to further my investigation, Mr. Swanborough was again kind enough to send me his company’s foundation document, which as I’ve come to find out was the final publication by the late author Victor Serebriakoff, who was also a member of the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world known as Mensa. The foundation document is titled, The Future of Intelligence: Biological and Artificial. Apparently Mr. Swanborough and Mr. Serebriakoff were good friends and partners in ScIAM company’s activities in developing HIE.
Through this publication, you’ll come to understand the company’s reasons for developing HIE and their goals for such a technology. Whether or not it’ll be a success, or even whether or not it exists, depends on the company’s transparency and promises of actual, tangible demonstrations of this new technology.
As for their website, in which is still under construction, during my first email exchange Mr. Swanborough had informed me they were re-modeling a new website to better accommodate the software they’ve developed, in which was planned to be done by the end of June. Now that we’ve reached August, and still no functional ScIAM company website, I’ve since been reassured by Mr. Swanborough that the website will be up and running soon, though is currently delayed due to “priority issues”.
While I remain skeptical of ScIAM’s HIE development, the ideas alone presented in both their overview and foundation documents are fascinating enough to make me want to believe that HIE is real and is coming very, very soon. The implications for such a technology is beyond what we could possibly imagine, making it all the more exciting and terrifying! Though, as an optimistic tech junkie, I lean more closely to exciting than terrifying. As their overview document concludes in what HIE could provide for the world:
“Suitable uses might include the control of robot spacecraft, the monitoring of intelligence, the identification of alien intelligence, the controlling of fusion reactions, the running of multi-national corporates and, literally, any other applications.”
So has the Technological Singularity arrived? ScIAM company’s next move may just provide us the answer.
*When searching for the company’s website, I had to use their old company name ‘Sciam Solutions’.
“For the new ScIAM Human Intelligence Emulation user,” ScIAM
Serebriakoff, V. and Swanborough, R. The Future of Intelligence: Biological and Artificial. ScIAM, 2013.