Re: Near-Term Scenarios -- Nanotech

GBurch1 (
Sat, 23 May 1998 08:37:15 EDT

In a message dated 98-05-17 22:22:24 EDT, Damien Broderick wrote:

> >> I also believe that there is at least a chance that the availability of
> >> nanotech-built massively parallel supercomputers will enable a path to
> >> AI, which in turn could permit a nanotech control system that can
> >> us to build complicated stuff. You appear to think this unlikely?
> >Not necessarily unlikely, but definitely not certain. I agree that it
> >make HARDWARE cheap and progress in hardware very fast. However, I don't
> see
> >the necessary link to the development of SOFTWARE.
> The link is self-bootstrapping genetic algorithms of emerging orders of
> complexity and power.
> <waves hands airily>

My gut tells me that you are right, but your humor is premised on the sense of
my uncertainty. Perhaps I have missed some important new development, but the
DEFINITE correlation of speed with ultimate capability via genetic algorithms
seems to have the distinct flavor of hand-waving to me (to mix metaphors).

A critique of this idea occurs to me after only part of one cup of coffee this
morning. I can imagine that employment of genetic algorithms alone might
entail an accretion of inefficiency through multiple generations of
algorithmic evolution that eventually either offsets gains in hardware speed
or even effectively nullifies it.

More probable seems a subtler loss of the ability to control the specific
direction algorithmic evolution takes as it progresses in complexity. Perhaps
there is a dynamic tension between control and evolution that could offset
much of the speed-derived gains, such that the necessity to intervene in the
process to check-and-direct with human (even augmented human) intervention in
the algorithmic evolutionary process imposes a relatively low upper limit on
at least the first stages of "SI fetal development".

Rather enjoying the atypical role of progress-skeptic, I remain,

Yr. obt. srvnt.,

Greg Burch <>----<>
Attorney ::: Director, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
"Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must
be driven into practice with courageous impatience."
-- Admiral Hyman G. Rickover