Artificial Intelligence

Leading climate change economist assesses chances of a singularity, concludes it is “not near”

Tom HarperSeptember 15th 2015
What It Is

Many economists believe in a theory called stagnation, which posits that economic growth will slow because of resource depletion and declining productivity. But Nordhaus believes that the opposite idea — the singularity — is worth study, because if artificial intelligence ever crosses “some boundary” it could have serious implications for the economy. Therefore Nordhaus has written one of the first academic papers to seriously look at economic implications for the singularity.

The Implications

If the rapid advance of artificial intelligence is starting to attract mainstream economists, we can only expect the amount and quality of singularity research to improve. According to Nordhaus, if we were to see a singularity, we’d find several economic markers, including accelerating productivity growth, rising share of capital, increasing decline of capital goods prices, and four other indicators. According to Nordhaus, we’re only seeing the appropriate economic conditions in two of seven indicators.

From the paper: “So the conclusion as of today is that the Singularity is not near. This conclusion is based on several tests that place the theory of the Singularity within the context of economic growth theory. Much of the computer science literature on the Singularity examines the growth in specific sectors or processes (such as flops or storage), but the economic perspective insists that the growth must be weighted by the economic valuation of the good or service.”

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