Re: Extropian Form Letter (was: an exhortation to action)

Kennita Watson (
Sat, 30 Nov 1996 23:31:33 -0800

>> 1. Computers double in power every two subjective years.
> The easiest argument to understand. Attention-catcher.

I think "subjective years" is a bad choice of terms. It requires a
human-accessible definition. From what I can tell, in a "subjective
year" a given computing entity can do the same amount of computation
as a (an average? trained?) human could do in one calendar year. Pick
a term more based in that objective measure. Psychotics can live
subjective years in varying amounts of time, and besides, the term
"subjective" has a lot of baggage that you probably don't want to
waste time in your form letter shaking off.

>> 2. Recursive intelligence amplification.
> Another easy argument. Both give the flavor of the Singularity.

How can this be easy when

>> 11. Intelligence amplification.
> Part and parcel of the Singularity, but hard to convey.
>> 12. Runaway positive feedback of IA.
> Ditto.

these are hard? I find 11 pretty easy -- starting with chips that
connect to your brain and help you calculate or just give you more
memory, etc. For some accessible ideas on this, I suggest you read _The
Gentle Seduction_, a collection of short stories on nanotech, etc.,
by Marc Stiegler.

>> 3. Defines "Singularity."
> Having a snappy name and a simple definition is a memetic advantage.
>> 4. Is this a good thing? Names factions.
> First thing that occurs to everyone: Will it affect me?
>> 5. Doomsday faction.
> Seems to be the instinctive reaction; could be true.
> Catches reader's attention through a possible threat.

If you can describe three factions, make this the middle one, so it
gets the memetic advantage neither of being first nor of being last.
Utopia, Doomsday, and Realism might be a good breakdown.

>> 6. Uploading faction.
> Defusing the instinct; making the Singularity attractive.
> We don't want federal bans on nanotech.

Nope, sorry. I'm an extropian and immortalist already, and _I'm_ not
convinced that uploading is all that attractive -- I _like_ having
a body. Nanotech on the other hand I like.

>> 7. Intro to nanotechnology.
> Nanotechnology may be the best way of conveying the upheavals brought
> about by the Singularity. We can't simply say that the Singularity
> erase human society; we have to show it.

The people you're talking to are humans. Most of them won't like the sound
of that one bit, not to mention that it will sound millenial/apocalylptic,
or like just another woo-woo "Strange Universe" segment.

>> 8. Nearness of nanotechnology.
> Short-term threats/goals get more attention.

This I like well enough.

>> 9. Nanotechnology replaces economy.
> SHOW that the Singularity will replace human society...

How about "transforms" -- to a different kind of economy; say, one based
on abundance rather than on scarcity. I am convinced that economies will
always exist; the forms of them that we have now may simply become obsolete.

BTW -- you can't _show_ a damn thing. You can make a more or less
convincing argument that it will happen, but "show" implies concrete
examples, and the whole point of the Singularity is that we don't know
what will be on the other side.

>> 10. Gray goo problem.
> It's not all roses. The reader has a right to know, and again the
> threat of destroying the planet can grab the attention, although
> not quite so much after all the false alarms.

I'd leave this out of an introductory letter. Alarmism is for missionaries.

>> 13. Replacement of human society: End of History.
> The Singularity is not one of your petty memes.

Thrillsville. The end of history; just what I wanted. Foo. Show me
how it will be the beginning of a new, better history, and I might
want some.

>> 14. Singularity provides Interim Meaning of Life.
> Ditto. One of the ways to hook a meme in the mind is by
> making previously established memes dependent on it.

According to your Web page, the interim meaning of life is to get to
the Singularity as soon as possible. From your description, I'm in
no hurry. Explain to people how their lives will be incredibly, even
unimaginably enriched, or this will not sound tempting.

>> 15. Summary: History is about to end.
> The meme as we want it to spread, once all symbolic groundwork
> is laid.

Are you aware of how easily this will get lost in the noise of crackpots
standing on streetcorners with "The End Is Near" signs as the Millenium
approaches? Maybe the problem is that your symbolic groundwork isn't
as solid, or as inviting to walk on, as you think.
>We are not giving a complete explanation! We are not debating!
>We are creating and packaging a meme and our sole goal
>is that it infect a majority of the human race ASAP!

I DO NOT want a majority of the human race infected with a "History
is about to end" meme! Singularity and nanotech would be completely
lost, and only the catch-phrase would remain, and it could be just
the thing to cause some nut, or some group of nuts, to try to wipe
out all humans ASAP.

Incidentally, the Singularity page reads like a religious tract and a
math thesis mixed freely. If that's what you want, great, but realize
that most people won't have the capacity, much less the attention span,
to read and understand it.

I suppose I could comment further, but I've spent too much time on this
already, and will probably just be denigrated for my trouble. Oh well.
As a long-time Libertarian Party member, multiple-time candidate for
office, technical writer, and budding student of social psychology,
I've had to deal with presenting (sometimes unpopular) ideas in a
palatable and clear way, and I draw on my experiences to try to save
you some frustration and disappointment.


Kennita Watson | The bond that links your true family is not one of blood,| but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do
| members of the same family grow up under the same roof.
| -- Richard Bach, _Illusions_