[extropy-chat] "The Singularity Myth"

Damien Sullivan phoenix at ugcs.caltech.edu
Sun Mar 19 06:30:40 UTC 2006

On Sat, Mar 18, 2006 at 10:30:04AM -0800, Lee Corbin wrote:
> John Grigg (starman) asks
> > > Is everyone here still a true believer when it comes to the Singularity?
> I am.  Although it's always necessary to state which flavor of it you
> think will occur.

Good caveat.  I wrote a Usenet post on various types:
It could probably have Robin's economic Singularity added to it, where there's
not vastly superhuman intelligence but mind copying creates unusual economic
and legal conditions.  I guess I touch on that a bit in the "cool technology"

> In 1990 or so Foresight circulated a questionnaire asking what year members
> believed a nanotech breakthrough (i.e. an "assembler") was most likely.
> I don't remember for sure, but they may have invited speculation about
> a big AI breakthrough as well. Even though I (nor anyone) used the term
> "singularity", (this was still pre-Vinge's use of the term)

Vinge used it in _True Names_ in 1987.  Wikipedia says he first hit print with
it in Omni in 1983.

> the idea had been in the air for at least a decade. I went on record

In _True Names_ Vinge refers to both _Blood Music_ and _Engines of Creation_.

> Calling the singularity (or "Singularity") a myth seems unfounded. It's
> hard to imagine any alternative (short of civilization collapse) over
> the next couple of hundred years.

AI never happens, or never becomes cheap enough to compete with humans in most
applications.  Or complexity turns out to rise faster than intelligence past a
point, so it in fact takes longer for a superhuman to become even smarter than
it did for a human.  Safe genetic engineering of humans is hard, and genetic
selection is either hard, or easy but limited in effect, boosting average
human intelligence by a few standard deviations but not increasing the
maximum much.  The smarter society runs more smoothly and sanely than we're
used to but is easy to understand, if a bit weird.

See?  Easy to imagine.

-xx- Damien X-) 

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