[extropy-chat] "The Singularity Myth"

Russell Wallace russell.wallace at gmail.com
Sun Mar 19 15:53:20 UTC 2006

On 3/19/06, Technotranscendence <neptune at superlink.net> wrote:
> On your aircraft taking off metaphor: neat, and that would depend on the
> length of the runway, no?  :)

Thanks! Yes indeed. Opinions differ on that one of course; some people think
we've as little as a decade of runway left, some think we have centuries.
Samantha in this thread suggests 50 years; I think the world has a bit more
inertia than she does, changes both good and bad being slower, so my guess
would be 100. I could of course be wrong; predictions of future dates are
notoriously inaccurate.

It might prove interesting to examine "crash and burn" outcomes.  (I reckon
> there are more than grey goo or SkyNet -- or various permutations of
> civilization-destroying wars.)

Yep. Here's my reckoning of the top three ways we might fail to reach
Singularity, and instead start sliding down the road to extinction. (The
first two would be pure "whimper" outcomes in Nick Bostrom's terminology -
the aircraft "crash and burn" metaphor breaks down on that one.)

1. De facto world government forms, with the result that progress goes the
way of the Qeng Ho fleets. (The European Union is a disturbingly large step
on this route.)

2. Continuing population crash renders progress unsustainable. (Continued
progress from a technology base as complex as today's requires very large
populations to be economically feasible.)

3. Future political crisis leading to large scale war with nuclear or other
(e.g. biotech or nanotech) weapons of mass destruction results in a
fast-forward version of 2.

(When I posted these to SL4, I got groused at by someone who's angry at some
American political group called the "neoconservatives" who apparently are
wont to talk about the above issues, so disclaimer: The above is intended
purely as discussion of the existential risks which may be facing humanity;
it is not intended as advocacy of the neoconservative or any other partisan
political agenda.)

Regarding cryonics, the harm would be lost effort put into cryonics.
> Admittedly, that would be very small for almost all people, but it's still a
> cost -- or, in your terms, a "harm."  It's not zero, though it might be
> tiny.

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