Re: The Singularity

Dan Clemmensen (
Tue, 07 Jul 1998 22:26:52 -0400

Bryan Moss wrote:
> Iím always hearing the Singularity mentioned on
> this list but Iím not sure if I understand the
> concept fully. There are several different
> scenarios Iíve heard:
> 1) The point where population growth apparently
> goes infinite and that *something* must happen at
> this point. For instance, we all upload and we
> really can have an infinite population. This, I
> think, is stretching statistics a little too far.

It certainly indicates that the trends that we are extrapolating must somehow undergo a change sometime in the near future. In that sense, we are talking about a relatively sudden (i.e., within 20 years or so) change in a set of trends that appear to have been reasonable invariant for a long time (millenia). Yes, this is just playing with numbers. It's still interesting.
> 2) Artificial Intelligence speeds up the creation
> of more powerful computers and intelligenceís.
> This seems wrong because hardware and software
> power is already a major factor in the increase of
> hardware and software power. There is no reason to
> suggest this trend would suddenly change.

Yes, computer hardware and software have been contributing to the development of the next generation of computre hardware and software, but this is a relatively recent trend. Software and hardware development productivity is horrible, and IMO we are still taking baby steps. A breakthrough is not unreasonable.
> 3) A Super Intelligence emerges from a distributed
> network, such as the Internet. I think this goes
> against current network/software/hardware models
> and that a distributed intelligence would only
> emerge under certain (possibly engineered)
> circumstances that current trends in hardware,
> software and the economy would not support.

In my personal model, the SI is not purely an emergent phenomenon of the net. The net serves as the raw material for a directed augmentation of an initial proto-SI that first emerges as the result of a catenation of a set of development tools and a human programmer.

> Otherwise it is just treated as the point beyond
> which we cannot predict (sometimes called the
> Horizon). Although the curves are certainly moving
> upwards I see no evidence that we should get ready
> for a sudden surge in power, the collapse of world
> government, the onslaught of Super Intelligenceís,
> etc.

OK, let's take something very simple: Moore's law. We all know that Moore's law is simply an observation of a historical trend and cannot be assumed to have any predictive power, but the trend is quite robust and has already survived through several technological generations. Furthemore, it's fairly easy to see the next several steps, getting us through the next 20 years without recourse to fundamental breakthroughs. 20 years of Moore's law gains us another factor of a million in each of several computer capability parameters.

Instead of asking a radical singulatarian such as myself to comment, please allow me to ask you to predict the effect of this level of computing capacity on society.