Re: Singularity-worship

James Rogers (
Mon, 02 Dec 1996 13:00:53 -0800

At 11:08 AM 12/2/96 -0800, you wrote:
>Anders Sandberg wrote:
>>OK, it is time for my bi-monthly reaction: I HATE THIS SILLY MEME!
>>Recently, there have been far too much singularity-worship here on the
>>list. Many extropians unfortunately see it as inevitable, easy and Destiny
>>itself. It isn't. It is a neat idea invented by Vinge that has caught our
>>imagination and fits in with *some* trends we see. There is IMHO no more
>>real support of it than the inevitability of the dictatorship of the
>>proletariat; if there are, I would like to see a well-researched paper
>>about it.
>I hate to put up a "me-too" post, but I'm distressed at the way
>discussion of the Rapture, er, I mean, Singularity, and discussion
>of meme-propagation strategies has taken over the list. I named my
>page about memetics "Meme Workshop" for a reason; the attraction
>of memetics is not merely in finding and propagating excellent
>memes, it is in creating *new* excellent memes, and that takes
>work: study, research, experimentation, thinking, and feeling. Lyle
>puts the lie to Ecclesiastes even while defending it, and in that
>he sets a good example.
>I have always disliked the typical mundane dictum "That's just
>science fiction stuff", but seeing the way the list has been going
>lately really makes me want to point out that the "Singularity"
>really is just science fiction stuff. No one agrees on exactly what
>it is or exactly when it's going to happen, and even those who
>agree on what it means don't agree on whether or not it would be
>a Good Thing.

Too me, the Singularity stuff is kind of an easy way out. Its like an
excuse not to do anything because "the Singularity will do it". Whether
Singularity happens or not, we should act as though Singularity will never
happen, if only to get things done. I personally am doubtful about
Singularity anyway, so it doesn't really impact my predictions or decisions.

>As for work, I am curious about how many subscribers to this list
>are involved in any of the various free software projects such as
>GNU, Linux, or the Debian distribution packaging project. Lately
>I have come to a realization that the success of Unix over other
>programming environments (and here I'm talking about success with
>programmers, not success with users) is a consequence of the fact
>that it was designed to evolve in a way that constructivist-rationalist
>operating systems such as Windows NT were not. I would not be at
>all surprised if the future evolution of free Unixen is intricately
>intertwined with other future technological developments, even
>though I know all about the shortcomings of Unix (it's not all that
>hot at realtime stuff, the main process forking mechanism is
>inefficient, the security model puts too much demand on skilled
>system administration, etc), but this is where my own interest has
>been taking me lately. I am particularly interested in the various
>attempts to transmogrify Unix into a distributed operating system
>(such as Plan 9, its offspring, and Gnu's HURD).
>What Debian is doing for the evolution of computer software seems to
>me to be something roughly analogous to Cairns-Smith's hypothesized
>cutover from clay crystals to DNA molecules. The Debian project is
>coming up with a standardized system of interchange of "genetic"
>(memetic, really) information between computer systems, so that
>operating-system modules can be exchanged and improved fairly easily.
>Unfortunately, intellectual property restrictions impede this process,
>but fortunately, intellectual property restrictions are strictly
>Opinions? Comments?

I've been working on free Linux software off and on. I think the free and
open system encourages the rapid evolution of the software and OS. And
quite frankly, it runs rings around my Sparcstation, in both speed and
flexibility. In my case, I have been working on a free, large-scale
relational database system for Linux. Something equivalent in both power
and flexibility to Oracle Workgroup Server 7.3, while being more closely
integrated with Internet technologies than the Oracle servers. I have
looked at extending the Linux OS to something of a native distributed
request broker architecture, mostly for my own amusement.

I cannot wait for the day when free Unix goes head to head with The Big Guys.

But this is getting a little off-topic...

-James Rogers