Re: Clueless Bio Futurists

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Thu May 17 2001 - 07:55:42 MDT

I wrote:
>The following futurist discussion seems completely
>clueless to me. Humanity and its descendants will change
>so fast that they will completely dominate changes in the
>biosphere. Within a thousand years, there probably won't
>be a substantial biosphere that we would recognize.

Curt Adams responded:
>Looks like procedings from a conference I attended last year.
>They're not clueless, given that you reject a singularity
>and anticipate human expansion will follow a sigmoid curve.
>While we all agree the sigmoid is unlikely until we bump
>the limits of nature, others disagree. A lot genuinely
>believe we'll knock ourselves off soon.

Assuming a sigmoid anytime soon is clueless, and I say
this just based on standard economics, not any special
singularity concept. The world economy has been doubling
every 15 years for a century now, and just continuing that
growth for another two or more centuries should make
an enormous dent in the biosphere. If we knock ourselves
off, we'll likely take much of the biosphere with us.

>Some actually kind of agree with you. Jeremy Jackson
>predicted in his presentation that within a century or
>so there would be no creature left in the oceans larger
>than a minnow and most of the coastal ocean would be
>choked with various kinds of algae overgrowth. Earth
>-as-neglected-swimming-pool. ...

Glad to hear it. Did you try to get them to think about
large human growth scenarios?

Anders Sandberg:
>until recently the whole idea of discussing the future of evolution was out
>of bounds. So this colloquium is actually a step in the right direction.


>... in most cases the future state of the biosphere would be totally
>contingent on human values, not natural evolution. ...

I'm not sure I agree, at least if you mean the values of humans today.
If the values of our descendants are selected by a "natural", i.e.,
undesigned and out of control, evolution (as in some uploads scenarios)
and those values determine the state of the biosphere, then natural
evolution will determine the state of the biosphere. Just not the
kind of natural evolution biologists now have in mind.

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-4444
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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