[ExI] nobel prize and other premature notions

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Tue May 8 10:50:25 UTC 2012

On 07/05/2012 23:34, spike wrote:
> Today we look at Mr. and Mrs. Ehrlich's notion of the population bomb 
> and their predictions, and oh, were they silly, so wrong, etc.  But in 
> retrospect, it isn't entirely clear to me they were wrong exactly, but 
> rather just too pessimistic on the timeframe of their predictions.  
> Perhaps they really had the right idea to some extent, just didn't 
> really model it correctly.  Perhaps in the very long run, Malthusian 
> population dynamics really do apply to this overcrowded planet, but 
> the model is far more complex than a jar of fruit flies.

Robin Hansons model of the upload population explosion (and the 
"dreamtime" we are currently living in) have a similar Malthusian 
dynamics, it is just that we are living before it really kicks in 
(possibly for anthropic reasons, if you buy the simulation argument). 
That it might involve rapid outward expansion doesn't change its 
resource-constrained nature (potential exponential population growth, 
polynomial resource growth).

> What other examples can we think of where the initially presented 
> model is too simple but perhaps contains some truth?

In many ways most scientific theories are like that. Darwin's original 
theory just got the macro stuff right, but he was completely wrong about 
genetic transmission (mostly because he did not know it was done by 
discrete units) - but once that is corrected his model works fine.

Anders Sandberg,
Future of Humanity Institute
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

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