That swell spike (was: Re: The non-existence of posthumans)

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Sun Feb 25 2001 - 19:32:19 MST

At 11:39 AM 25/02/01 -0800, Max More wrote:

>I'm something of a Singularity
>skeptic, though it does depend on how the term Singularity is defined. I
>expect a powerful swell, rather than a sudden spike.

I think this is a matter of perspective. The metaphor of a spike struck me
(as apparently it had struck some other people previously) when I sketched
several technological curves starting and remaining fairly flat thousands
of years ago and beginning their extraordinary bound upward only a few
hundred years back, or even a few decades ago. On that scale, what we
experience here and now as a powerful swell *is* a dramatic spike.

It's true that in Vernor Vinge's fictional anticipation in MAROONED IN
REALTIME, the exponential rate of technical advance self-bootstraps at such
a dizzying rate that at last, within days, hours or perhaps seconds, AI and
group-mind potentiated change seems literally to have caused the
intelligences of the solar system to transcend into some other order of
being. At any rate, they vanish overnight, leaving only their enigmatic
detritus behind like an abandoned snake skin.

Is that the sort of shape a Singularity must have? I think Eliezer believes
so. I'm agnostic on the matter, because I don't know what time lags will be
imposed by the balkiness of the world in instantiating such repeated
upgrades and even paradigm dislocations. I'm *hoping* that the Spike, as I
blurrily perceive it, *will* look and feel from the inside as a powerful
swell we can surf. But even if our repeatedly augmented abilities make that
feasible, the swell will probably graph as a spike (IMHO) on any diagram
with a larger historical horizon than a century.

Damien Broderick

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