[extropy-chat] Collective Singularities (Was: Desirability of Singularity)

Anders Sandberg asa at nada.kth.se
Mon Jun 5 02:44:08 UTC 2006

Damien Sullivan wrote:
> For practical purposes, yeah.  I was thinking of the jump to being
> approximately Turing-complete, though, being able to be arbitrarily
> precise and complex in our reference to the world, including references
> to past and future and things not present, and ability to trade complex
> instructions.  Biologists like to talk about gradualism, but computer
> science actually gives us some hard jumps, and reasons for humans and
> dogs to not be on the same plane.

I think the jump is more like a sigmoid, but still sharp enough to be
dramatic. Working memory puts a bit of a limit on the Turing-completeness
- we are 7+-2 register machines :-)

> It doesn't encourage belief in a plane above ours, though.

Yes, I have tried to bring it up around the philosophers here but with no
luck yet (mostly, likely, because of me phrasing my question badly). From
an ethical standpoint this is relevant, since if there is nothing above us
then  if moral is something that can be discovered or deduced all
posthumans will be equivalent in potential understanding of morality. But
maybe there are moral truths or decisions that can only be reached using
quantum computing? (OK, that is likely just an exponential speedup, not
something new).

> As for energy efficiency of the brain, I don't know.  Even my numbers
> gave three orders of magnitude, yeah.  An evolutionist might suspect
> we're missing something: is anything else in biology that
> thermodynamically crappy?  Metabolism compares well to our heat engines,
> AFAIK.  Plants turn about 1% of sunlight into sugars but I suspect
> they're limited by the difficulty of extracting CO2 from 1/10,000
> concentrations -- CO2 as the rate limiter, not energy, though one could
> wonder why nitrogen wasn't sucked out and used as a storage mechanism.

Probably too inert as a gas, breaking its triple bonds costs a lot and
nitrogen fixation is expensive.

> But computation is a millionth of potential limits?

We may not have needed much for most of evolution and are now trapped in a
bad solution like the insect trachea. Ion pumps and channels as
transmission mechanisms are extremely old, probably far far before
precambrium and with single-celled precursors. Our ancestors may have run
into that alley a billion years ago, when it was no problem.

Anders Sandberg,
Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

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