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

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Mon Feb 26 2001 - 07:26:35 MST

On Mon, Feb 26, 2001 at 01:32:19PM +1100, Damien Broderick wrote:
> 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

Speed of light lag.

If no means of circumventing C is discovered prior to the singularity,
the speed of light will put an ultimate damper on the rate at which
information transfer can take place within the zone that is transcending.
You can cram more bits down a channel by increasing the clock speed, but
you can't circumvent its latency.

If a good chunk of the transcending entities are scattered across a radius
of light-minutes or light-hours rather than light-milliseconds (as is the
case for our current planet-bound civilization) then the pace of singularity
change will be retarded by several orders of magnitude.

Note that this assumes that there's a hard transition from one mode
of growth to another. If there isn't, if we don't come up with a
fundamentally more powerful way of thinking (rather than simply thinking
faster), we may simply end up with a very rapid period of progress --
the steepest part of a sigmoid curve -- followed by a plateau. Life on
the plateau should be fun, but not as qualitatively different from what
we understand today as some people expect.

-- Charlie

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