Re: Singularity or Holocaust

Thu, 26 Feb 1998 13:47:38 -0500

I do not believe anyone, regardless of their power base, will be able to
effectively prepare in such a manner as to increase their survival chances at
and after a technological singularity event.

If a singularity event were to occur, life would be extremely different. I am
not saying it would be necessarily incomprehensible to those who were around
after the event. But my guess is we can not imagine the changes a singularity
would cause before it occurs and thus we would have a hard time effectively
planning for such an event.

Vinge's idea of a technological singularity looming in the future is based on
the exponential tendecies of technological progress over time. In mathematics,
a singularity is a point where mathematic modelling no longer works. I think
the best way to view a technological singularity is as a mathematical
singularity. In this sense, I view a technological singularity not as a point
where technological progress becomes infinite but as a paradigm shift. Our
conception of technological progress can not comprehend the environment at or
after a singularity event. Thus when we attempt to graph it or manifest it in
some way we come up with "infinity". The singularity event where a black hole
is formed is equally incomprehensible to our current conception of the laws
that govern the universe. Many theorists believe that to fully understand what
takes place at the black hole singularity (and at the possible singularity that
existed near or before the point where the universe was the Planck time in age)
requires a dramatic shift (paradigm shift) in our understanding of the universe.

Would I survive a technological singularity event? Maybe, but not without
being changed by it. Perhaps the lithmus test will be whether people can adapt
to the post-singularity environment after the singularity occurs. Perhaps
we'll need drastically enhanced intelligence, mental resources, or other
characteristics completely strange to us now.

About concerns of a holocaust, I made a post a month or so ago about what
meaning transhumanism had in a future where the Strong AI hypothesis ended up
being true. I think a technological singularity could produce similar
concerns. Every method Vinge proposed to get us to such an event involved
drastic changes in the way we are now. I am not saying this would necessarily
be a "bad" thing. But it would serve as a virtual holocaust of the way we are
now. Terms such as transhuman imply some residue of humanity surviving. Its
possible the future will result in a posthuman era where whatever you define as
"human" is no longer discernable in the resulting lifeforms. But all of this
hinges on factors we have no real control over. If a holocaust of humanity
resides in the future then there is little we can do to avoid it. Such a
holocaust, if it is to happen, will ride in on the apparently inexorable tide
of technological progress.

Doug Bailey