[extropy-chat] Futures Past

Damien Broderick thespike at satx.rr.com
Mon Oct 10 05:42:15 UTC 2005

At 06:14 AM 10/10/2005 +0100, Russell W wrote:
>On 10/10/05, J. Andrew Rogers wrote:
>The very notion of the Singularity as most transhumanists conceive it is, as
>best as I can tell, premised on the same poor reasoning that Harvey is
>pointing out.
>The Singularity as most people conceive of it essentially requires a hard
>take-off(*) of some type in an environment that is not qualitatively
>different than what we have now in many respects.  It is the old fallacy of
>looking at a technology in isolation and forgetting that every other
>technology in society will co-evolve with it.
>Actually I'm inclined to agree with all this; I'm not a believer in the 
>"superintelligent AI pops out of someone's basement into a world that 
>otherwise looks mostly like today" scenario, and I was never a great fan 
>of Singularity definitions based on unpredictability (then we've had 
>zillions of them) or incomprehensibility

Okay, here's my book's popularized definition, adapted from Vinge:

< History's slowly rising trajectory of progress over tens of thousands of 
years, having taken a swift turn upward in recent centuries and decades, 
quickly roars straight up some time after 2030 and before 2100... Change in 
technology and medicine moves off the scale of standard measurements: it 
goes asymptotic, as a mathematician would say...
           So the curve of technological change is getting closer and 
closer to the utterly vertical in a shorter and shorter time...
           At the Spike, we can confidently expect that some form of 
intelligence (human, silicon, or a blend of the two) will emerge at a 
posthuman level. At that point, all the standard rules and cultural 
projections go into the waste-paper basket. >

The penultimate sentence is the key. "Human, silicon, or a blend of the 
two... at a posthuman level".

Here's Ray K's short opening definition (p. 7) :

< It's a future period during which the pace of technological change will 
be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly 
transformed. Although neither utopian nor dystopian, this epoch will 
transform the concepts that we rely on to give meaning to our lives, from 
our business models to the cycle of human life, including death itself. >

That last clause, of course, is a slightly disguised way of saying "death 
will become optional". This will be rather more disconcerting than the 
arrival of the Internet, but only from our point of view, and I should 
think even from the point of view of those formerly mortal alive at the time...

Damien Broderick

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