Re: more on Brand and the Singularity idea

Date: Mon Jan 15 2001 - 20:05:02 MST

Damien quotes Stewart Brand:
> `There are futurists, like Drucker, and those who pretend to be futurists:
> *futurismists*, exuding *futurismo*.
> `Futurismists are not bad people, and certainly not fraudulent. If anything
> they are captive of their goodness... Some hive off into sectlike groups,
> such as the Extropians--a 01990s [sic; Brand's little quirk] California
> enclave of bright and enthusiastic Singularity advocates who could hardly
> wait for the techno-Rapture. They have a classic case of what Paul Saffo
> calls *macro-myopia*: "we overexpect dramatic developments early, and
> underexpect them in the longer term".'

I don't think we should be blaming ourselves for this. Brand is at
fault here.

Either he doesn't understand Extropianism, in which case he should not
resort to easy slurs, or he does understand it and disagrees, in which
case he should not knowingly support false stereotypes.

My take on it is that he is supporting a philosophical position that
it is at odds with Extropianism, and that he has fallen into the trap
that says that the way to support your own view is to tear down those
who disagree. By disparaging Extropians he attempts to make his own
ideas about the future more acceptable.

It's a cheap tactic, reminiscent of some of the rhetorical trickery
employed by Bill Joy. I wouldn't be surprised if they're buddies.

And don't get me started on Danny Hillis. Years ago I worked for a
parallel processing company at the same time that Hillis was running
Thinking Machines. We worked our butts off trying to make real machines
that were useful on real problems while Hillis grabbed all the publicity
and a lot of the funding dollars with his impractical (IMO) designs that
required you to rewrite all your code from scratch. They had these demos
that were completely misleading, trivial particle systems that gave the
superficial impression that they were simulating fluid flow but which
were useless in practice because they didn't handle viscosity and other
important phenomena. Still, the demos looked cool, their machines looked
cool, and Hillis was a master of the press interview.

Our company ended up failing and Hillis' company ended up failing, so
it doesn't matter much anymore. But it was frustrating competitive
situation to be up against a company that was full of fluff and hype.
It leaves me with a predisposition not to be impressed with Danny Hillis.

Now someone's going to forward this mail to Hillis or Brand, and we'll
have another flame war.


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