Re: Major Technologies

Anders Sandberg (
08 Jan 1999 20:36:30 +0100

"Billy Brown" <> writes:

> In general, however, I think you are correct. If we consider a range of
> possible innovation speeds, there is a distinct danger zone in which
> technology advances faster than our institutions can adapt, but not fast
> enough to allow the inventor to solve all problems himself. This
> environment is likely to panic governments and other powerful organizations,
> and has a high probability of leading to irrational, cataclysmic abuse of
> nanotech.

The danger zone begins here. Note how the internet causes panic reactions in society? And it still grows over the span of *years*. I think the timescale society manages to adapt lies on the order of half a decade, maybe a decade (with variations for culture, neophilia, planning etc), and faster growth causes irrational reactions - including positive reactions like hype and a naive embrace of the new.

I don't think there is an upper end to the danger zone, simply because I regard the "...and then the owners of the technology take over the world" solution only work if they are *far* ahead of everyone. And if there is anything we are learning from current technological development is that the differences are *shrinking* rather than increasing between the cutting edge groups, since they all rely on the same pool of collective data, need to buy in know how and share ideas. You need to postulate a radical shift in development (like automatic AI design), and even then it is by no means clear how this would mesh with the economic and social factors underlying the development of the technology. And finally, taking over the world (for whatever good reason) is nontrivial since by assumption there is technology around that is extremely close to breaking your power-monopoly, and if you fail to round up it *all* (including completely non-obvious avenues of research and activity) you might get a nasty (and possibly irrational) surprise. If omnipotence of different kinds can pop up arbitrarily fast, you will not remain god for long. This is an extremely unstable situation, and I would definitely say that the danger zone never ends.

(Wow! I managed to avoid calling it a Hollywood Meme! :-)

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y