Re: Singularity or Holocaust?

Robin Hanson (hanson@econ.Berkeley.EDU)
Fri, 27 Feb 1998 10:35:40 -0800

Anders Sandberg <> writes:
>What we know is that a lot of growth curves are nearly exponential
>(interestingly no longer the population curve, ...
>One of my favorite devices is "exponential change makes differences
>grow exponentially". ...
>There are equalizing forces too. ... are these forces
>enough to keep the differences finite? I doubt it.
>I will try to model this like N coupled differential equations,
>where the solutions Y_n(t) are growing exponentially but linked by
>diffusion terms. Something like
>Y'_n = k*Y_n + l*(sum Y_i - N*m*Y_n) = (k-lmN)Y_n + l*sum Y(i)
>... if the sigmoid theory of technological growth holds, then the
>Powers will reach a point of diminishing returns ...
>everybody eventually reaches the
>same technological ceiling. At this point ordinary economics likely
>takes over again, there is no real point in struggling with each other
>since it is more profitable to wotk together at solving the remaining

I applaud Sanders for trying to grapple with important questions, but
I'd like to remind him and everyone else that none of these questions
are beyond "ordinary economics", and that economists have done an
awful lot of work trying to model economic growth processes.
I strongly encourage anyone seriously interested in addressing such
questions to read this literature, and to start modeling future growth
using straightforward variations on standard economic growth models,
rather than just making up functional forms.

More concretely, see the Journal of Economic Literature, section
"O4 Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity." Or browse:

One of these days I plan to learn this field better, but I sure wish
some extropian type would beat me too it :-).

Robin Hanson
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-8614