Re: making microsingularities

Date: Wed May 23 2001 - 11:24:54 MDT

Eugene Leitl, <>, writes:
> We've talked about using microsingularities as catalysts for
> matter->energy conversions before. One of the suggestions to generate them
> was to focus giant energy densities on small regions of spacetime...
> Now this time machine wannabee people say photons warp space more if
> slowed.

(There's one thing I don't understand about this. Photons don't "really"
get slowed when they pass through a material medium, whether a window pane
or a Bose-Einstein condensate. At some level what happens is that they
are constantly absorbed and re-emitted, with the net effect of slowing
the wave front. Relativistic effects don't normally slow down with
the slowed photons; you can go FTL in a material medium, for example,
which is what causes Cherenkov radiation. So I don't see how slowing
photons in this artificial way can have any effects in terms of time
travel or other relativistic phenomena.)

However my main point was that when I read your subject line I thought you
meant microSingularities, not miniature black holes. A microSingularity
in the social sense would be a microscopic version of what we mean by
a Singularity. What would that be?

Imagine a discipline of Singularity Engineering. Usually we think of a
Singularity as something which sweeps over a society, producing global
changes of an extraordinary degree. But there could be many kinds
of Singularities. It might be possible to alter the trajectory of a
society as it moves towards a Singularity and affect the outcome.

This is essentially what Eliezer is trying to do with his Singularity
Institute. He hopes to create a "Friendly" AI and have that lead to a
Friendly Singularity. As the prospects for success improve, and other
people start to see the potential, they may set up their own rival
efforts to influence the Singularity in other ways.

This leads to thinking of a Singularity as not being something which just
happens to us, but rather as something we can shape and control. Maybe we
could start and stop our progress towards Singularity. You could even
imagine a society which goes Singular for a while, then drops back into
a more historically normal state. It would be like one of those comic
books where some guy can turn on super-powers for a while then goes back
to being ordinary. What's that? An asteroid coming to destroy the earth?
This looks like a job for... SuperHumanity!

>From this perspective, what would be a microSingularity? It would be a
Singularity whose effects were limited. Imagine an AI which had virtually
unlimited potentiality but which used its powers only in limited ways.
A genie which grants only three wishes, or a special-purpose machine
to view anywhere on earth in the distant past, might be examples.
You could have devices or regions with near-magical powers, without
necessarily seeing the entire cosmos restructured into a new form.

Clearly, creating a microSingularity would be uncertain and risky and
could easily backfire. It's not at all clear that you could create
a system with such incredible power and still hope to constrain it in
such specific ways. Still, it's not fundamentally different from trying
to constrain an AI to be Friendly; it's just a finer level of control.
If Singularity Engineering is possible at all, it may be possible to
create microSingularities as well.


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