In a post-singularity future, is open-source the only feasible model for software development? Or maybe a completely new model?

And conversely, would the technological advancements be fast enough to support singularity, using a non open-source model?

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    $\begingroup$ Does your post-singularity future have a population of uploaded humans as software, a population of entirely artificial intelligent agents, or both? $\endgroup$
    – trichoplax
    Dec 16, 2014 at 0:32

3 Answers 3


If you define a singularity as the time when Artificial Intelligences (AIs) are smarter than human beings, then it is possible that software development will be based on proprietary secrets. I.e. that rather than copyrighting or patenting software, they will hide it from others by not sharing the source with anyone. This is especially so since the software in question might be part of the AI.

Part of the reason for this is that it is unclear that human copyright and patent law could be applied to AI-written code. Note that Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie once accidentally implemented the same function and did so with identical code. Obviously, one could not declare copyright over the other as the implementation was determined by the requirements of the function. This seems more likely to happen with two AIs which might be using identical code writing algorithms. How could humans apply human law to such a situation. Only the AIs would be qualified to judge (smarter than us, remember?).

This seems most likely if AIs are first developed by corporations where the imperative is to build leads on the competition. If AIs are first developed by academia, an open source model seems more consistent. If AIs are developed by both, then I would expect the open source model to win out over time. The corporate AIs might refuse to contribute back, but they will have to use the open source versions as their own base. With more programmers, the open source versions are likely to become superior over time. The corporate AIs might eventually be forced to contribute back just to avoid having to backtrack every time an open source revision obsoletes their own proprietary changes.

It's also unclear if there will be one AI or many. It's possible that any AIs will merge together to form a more powerful AI. If that's so and all code is written by the AI, perhaps the question is simply moot. The stupid humans won't be able to understand the code, and the AI itself will be singular.

So open source is not the only possible model. It really depends on what kind of AI we have. If you want all your AIs to use open source, that's perfectly reasonable. If you want your AIs to use a more secretive model, that's also reasonable. If you want your AI to not care about such bourgeois concepts as legal models, that's also reasonable. If you want to discuss a world where open and closed source competes, that's reasonable but should probably be relatively close to the singularity event. You have options.


The whole point of a singularity is that software has become sentient and begun to develop itself. To some extent, asking an AI "how do you develop software" is like asking a human, "how does your immune system do molecular drug design". A lot of what we might think of as software development would be AIs creating software agents to perform specific tasks, which might happen below the level of conscious thought.

Collaboration between AIs on some sort of difficult intellectual problem would involve sharing representations of logic and data, which we might think of as open-source software development.

On the other hand, an AI might well keep code secret and "closed-source" for security reasons. This would certainly apply to the code which ran its own mind -- the last thing you want is somebody hacking your brain. Alternatively a small group of AIs might want to run a project without outside interference, so they would adopt "closed-source" coding and other security measures, for exactly the same reasons a software development company might do it today.


It depends. If a singleton turns the planet into paperclips, it's a moot question.

If we live in a society of uploaded minds with no qualitative improvements on the original, expect things to continue much as before, except perhaps faster than before, and with a second AI boom possible in the future.

If we live in a society with many (non-uploaded) AIs, things get more interesting. Imagine 20,000,000 telepathic Einsteins. You'd want to avoid duplicating work, and you can pass information along in binary format with zero communication loss. Presumably, some sort of interchange standard would either predate the AI or be quickly put in place to take advantage of the obvious efficiency gains. If one AI has the skill to drive a helicopter, they all do. If one AI learns how to fold proteins and create nanotech, they all do. Some skills might be simply left in a common repository. Now whether that will be open-source or not will depend on the incentives to these players.

  1. Is innovation expensive computationally?
  2. Is competition for computing resources fierce, or are they in a post-scarcity world with endless computing power there for the taking?
  3. Are the AIs programmed to pursue their own disparate goals, or do they all share a broad set of values?

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