Re: Responses to Joy in Wired

Date: Wed Jun 14 2000 - 12:33:24 MDT

Brian Atkins writes:
> If they follow along our path then soon they will have to get into the
> whole singularity stuff, and whether or not accelerating it might provide
> another path for us instead of relinquishment or "wait and see" approaches.
> Have they even done one article on the singularity before?

They had an interview with Vinge back in 95, but searching their archives
doesn't reveal much else.

One thing I did notice in the comments was that several people focused
on one or another of Joy's troika: biotech, nanotech, and AI. As I
commented earlier, IMO these three technologies have very different
properties in terms of their threats, and it is unfortunate that Joy
has started off the conversation by lumping them together.

With nanotech the main fear is misuse. There may be nanotech accidents
but they are likely to be more restricted in scale because most nanotech
will not be self-replicating, as that would make it relatively bulky
and slow.

With biotech the main concern at this time is accidents, although misuse
is also something to watch for. Biotech is inherently self-replicating
and so any mistakes could have widespread consequences. Biotech based
weapons are probably an even greater danger, but they are not new and
so Joy couldn't have stirred up much fear by talking about them.

Then with AI the problem is not replication or misuse, but more likely
it is the subtle challenge of living in a world in which humans may
not be the most intelligent entities. Obviously such a world has
enormous potential for benefits, but there could easily be significant
problems as well. As with nanotech, it is the transition period where
the greatest dangers lie, as we try to chart a course to a safe haven
where the technology is mature.

Hopefully the ongoing debate about these issues will begin to consider
these nuances as we move beyond Joy's fearmongering.

Wired has set up "an email address" (whatever that means - a mailing
list?), (rather discouraging name, that), "so that
readers can receive updates and alerts on issues and events related to
the article, and to GNR technologies in general." I sent in a subscribe
message but didn't hear back yet. Maybe this will be an opportunity to
make our views heard.


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