Re: Singularitarians

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Thu, 03 Jun 1999 12:47:44 -0500

Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:
> > The Singularitarians are as extreme as transhumanism gets - does anyone
> > dispute that? - and I'm as extreme as Singularitarians get, and I, at
> > least, don't think your average guy is going to notice much difference
> > between me and Robin Hanson.
> I thought Robin was a Singularity skeptic--one of the few things
> I agree with him about.

That's my point. Here on Extropians, Robin and I represent opposite ends of a spectrum. Is your average technophile going to notice a difference? Some. A science-fiction fan? More. An average guy? Very little. To the average guy, Robin Hanson and I are arguing over who dots the 'i' and crosses the 't' - both of us are talking about essentially indistinguishable gigantic upheavals.

> I remember the panel discussion at Extro3,
> when everyone seemed to more or less agree with Carl Feynmann's
> model of an intelligent being inventing a more intelligent being
> and so on, Robin was the only one to say "Wait a minute; people
> don't create things in isolation, economies create things."
> Of course it may well be that a Singularity will be achieved when
> we get to the point of doubling the whole economy in a short time.

Like I said in the Singularity Debate, it's really a matter of what you're using for an analogy. If you view the Singularity as a sort of super-technological-advance, like the jump between 1000 A.D. and 2000 A.D. but more so, then you'll get impressive positive feedback and a shortened doubling time. If you view the Singularity as a super-evolutionary-advance, like the jump between Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon but more so, then you get ultra-feedback and unknowability.

In modern days, an economy can accomplish more than any one person, so most things get done by an economy. It doesn't mean that "people don't create things", just that most of us find it convenient to let others in on the fun. (More vividly: What does a Moravecian bush tree need with an economy? A bush tree *is* an economy walking on two (billion) legs, brains and brawn.) If a transhuman *could* create positive feedback all on vis lonesome, then adding an economy of transhumans just makes things faster...

> But more on topic (there was a topic here, wasn't there), I think
> it can be good to measure public reaction to ideas, and indeed some
> previously radical Extropian ideas are becoming less so. Perhaps
> we are stagnating. If one is not being attacked by the public as
> an extremist, then one isn't thinking forward enough.

I dunno about you, but exposure to my favorite question - "If computing power doubles every eighteen months, what happens when computers are doing the research?" - can still reduce people to a state of catatonic shock.

           Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Running on BeOS           Typing in Dvorak          Programming with Patterns
Voting for Libertarians   Heading for Singularity   There Is A Better Way