Re: The Singularity

Robin Hanson (
Mon, 20 Jul 1998 12:04:44 -0700

Dan C. wrote:
>However, it's IMO impossible to assign a probability to any action the
>SI may choose to take that isn't precluded by the laws of physics. ...
>... no reasonable way to defend any particular choice. ...

I responded:
> You probably can't think of a reasonable way to calculate the temperature
> of a black hole either, but that doesn't mean other people can't do it.
> Do you mean to claim more than that *you* *now* haven't thought of
> something you like?

Dan responded:
>I can in fact think of a reasonable way to calculate the temperature of
>a black hole: I can consult the literature or I can consult an expert,
>and after I have done so I can reasonably expect to be able to evaluate
>the result from first principles. I cannot consult the literature or
>an expert on the motivational psychology of SIs, and if I could do so
>I doubt that I could evaluate the result from first principles. ...

Similarly, Eugene L. said:
>Robin, I'm not sure I get your meaning, but I certainly agree with
>Dan's position. I'm not even sure Darwin still holds in the SI domain,
>I'm not certain of anything. I do not see how anyone who goes on two
>legs can sensibly speculate about that _hypothetic_ future entity/state
>... but just now this is entertainment. We need the pre-SI models to
>dynamically adjust our trajectories as we fall into the Singularity,
>... but we should not try to forecast too far too soon.

And in response to my queries for clarification, wrote:
>... (Btw, would you let me have a copy of your algorithm
>of assigning these numbers to actual events forecast? Big thanks).
>... but point (still) is: you can't be sure what
>actually happens. Personally, I would adhere to more conservative
>scenarious (you'd be surprised), but no one can't be certain. No,
>sir. Not even Robin Hanson.}

I interpreted both of your initial statements as rejecting inquiry into things post-singularity. It seems as if you both think we *can't* possibly know anything, so we shouldn't try. Then in response to my queries for clarification, you ask me to show you prediction textbooks with formulas derived from first principles.

0) I submit my paper, as giving

mathematical predictions derived from first principles regarding an important aspect of post-singularity behavior. 1) Humans have a vast amount of knowledge and insight, only the tiniest

fraction of which can be expressed as equations derived from first principles. It's a big mistake to say we know nothing about a subject if no such equations are presented.
2) Even if we knew nothing about a subject, that wouldn't mean

we couldn't learn something if we put our minds to it. You need a much stronger argument to reject inquiry other than we don't know anything now.
3) Human insight isn't indexed much by year of applicability. The best

experts in banking now know things relevant for forecasting post singularity banking. People who understand art well know things relevant for forecasting post-singularity art. Just becasuse there isn't a book called "Post-singularity banking and art" Doesn't mean people don't know things relevant for this. 4) For a subject a broad as "post-singularity", insight just isn't very

discrete, since there is so much relevant knowledge. We know more about the year 2098 now than we did in 1898, and likely will know more ten years from now. Our insight improves incrementally, so there is no cliff beyond which we know *nothing*. I see no "horizons," analogous to where the curve of the Earth makes human visual resolution suddenly fall to uselessness.

Robin Hanson RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884 140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-2627