Re: Gender issues (was HUMOR: Anti-cryonics philosophy)

Eugene Leitl (
Thu, 23 Jan 1997 20:44:27 +0100 (MET)

On Thu, 23 Jan 1997, Omega wrote:

> [...]
> Eugene Leitl,
> > The gender specialization _will_ become obsolete after we shed the
> > protein/DNA matrix, but this is still many decades/centuries off.
> Decades/centuries? Peter Russel in his fairly recent book

Yes. I first typed 'decades', wrote on, thought, then came back and added

> 'The Global Brain Awakens' makes a fairly strong case that we
> humans repeatedly underestimate the rate of change when
> exponential growth curves are involved. I tend to agree with

I know that. It's just that I don't believe that an exponential (or
hypergolic hyperbolic) curve describes future developments adequately.
(I wish it did, since liquid nitrogen is _very_ cold, and my belly
(emotion) does not buy everything my head (ratio) tells it about
identity conservation). The whisky is good, but the steak is substandard.

> him. Decades I would agree with (if the number of them were low)
> but, IMO, not centuries.
> There is also the possibility that technological development may
> end up being hyper-exponential (with time) when "qualitative" and
> "non-continuous" breakthroughs (e.g. as in that often mentioned

Oh yes, Singularity is a nice concept. Saturation sounds much less
interesting. And developmental discontinuities (plateaus), caused
to JIT-unavailabilty of next-generation technologies sound outright
grim. So I'm a killjoy. Sue me.

> "hardware vaporware" that will suddenly boost computer/communication

"Vaporware"? One might be tempted to take it verbatim.

> speeds by factors of thousands that I keep hearing is right around
> the corner) not to mention unexpected cross-fertilizations between
> different disciplines.

Yes, there's a lot of things happening. However, I think that
superintelligent machines are the key, and these will need truly
impressive hardware, which will need oodles of cash and manpower for R&D,
which industry might be unwilling (local optimization), and the state
unable to spend and a couple decades to hatch (wet neurosci results,
molecular manufacturing, macroscopic von Neumann probes, etc.) which is
simply is not happening.

Maybe we need better PR.

> Maybe it won't in fact be hyper-exponential, but I feel that your
> conclusion still falls under what I would call the default way
> of estimating the future that Russel describes as flawed. What
> do you think, do I have the beginnings of a compelling case?

Eliezer makes a very good point, one which maestro Vinge described
in the blooming of the Blight at the beginning of AFUTD: each subsequent
second grew longer and longer. Arithmetically, the argument is
impeccable: a fast machine can be used to build a yet faster machine,
which in turn... However, remember the reasons why Lem's 'GODs' in
"Fiasco" were so tiny. Wormhole building is accessible (if at all) at
very high energies, which take vast structures, which take some time to
build. There might be even a natural barrier (killjoy, killjoy), the
grapes might be hanging a trifle too high for natural life (spake Michio
Kaku in "Hyperspace").

So relativistic physics sets us a barrier. Building megascale physical
structures a yet another. Moreover, the future is in flux. We can't be
certain of anything. We all might be dead or thrown back noticeably by
2030, because of a natural, or, engineered pandemia, a society breakdown,
a global war for resources, whatever (Boulding's War Trap, Population
Trap, Entropy Trap in the "Great Transition" (1964)). The only certain
thing about the future is that it is uncertain. Trivially? True.

> [...]
> --
> Omega