On Friday, September 10, 1999 11:55 PM Spike Jones email@example.com wrote: Subject: alex's local maxima
> About a week ago Alex Bokov posted something that has been
> rattling around in my brain ever since: that our society is threatened
> by hitting local maxima and stagnating. Perhaps this is a greater
> threat than military nanotech or singularity.
I'd hate to see stagnation, but, if we could outlast it (if our lifespan is longer or infinite), then such local maxima would not be a greater threat than military nanotech or other horror scenarios.
Also, remember, it is "local." It mgiht be that some of these might not be overcome immediately... For instance, science in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance and up until the Enlightenment was shackled with a partially religious metaphysics. We can view this as one part of human knowledge having reached a local maxima. Yet by the time of 19th century, the religious shackles were being thrown off.
I think this might point to how we might make it through such problems. Advances might proceed quickly in one area while in others they are either slow, nonexistent, or there are some reversals, but the overall state of the system might be to move forward. This is similar to the way Philip Kitcher believes math progresses in his _The Nature of Mathematical Knowledge_ and also the way disequilibria move in an economy (see Estaben Thomsen's _Prices and Knowledge_).
Even so, it might be possible that civilization reaches such a pass, as Spike is fearing, that further advances (from within) are not possible. The question then should be how to distinguish between a system which can further evolve from one which is stuck.
As for the example of cars and traffic, more people are telecommuting, working from home, or tailoring their hours. I live in New Jersey, one the worst traffic areas on Earth, yet I've managed to work around this problem. (Also, the problem has created a market for books on tape and such. I listened to _The Age of Spiritual Machines_, for instance.:)