Re: The Spike

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Thu, 14 Aug 1997 05:47:17 -0500

Damien Broderick wrote:
> After I'd explained to one Perth radio interviewer that during the next 50
> years the whole of the economy will be destroyed and remade by
> nanotechnology, obliterating work as we know it, that the body would be
> rewired and retrofitted by genetic engineering, and that the brain would be
> augmented by artificial intelligence adjuncts smarter than humans, she
> remarked thoughtfully, heading straight for the key issue:
> `Hmm. And Damien, tell me, what will people be wearing in 2050?'
> `Silver lycra unisex jumpsuits, you imbecile, surely everyone knows that,'
> I didn't say.

This probably isn't the last time you'll be asked that question, or something
similar to it. My opinion is that when someone asks such a question, it
indicates they have Failed To Get The Point. Shock treatment is indicated;
you should twist their question and make up a coherent, yet strange answer.
Anyway, this is what I'd have said... bearing in mind that the following may
contradict my postulates, but not yours:

"Well, fashions come in cycles. Around 2050, I'd expect a Back-To-Nature
movement to get started. People would shuck their tentacles and start wearing
good-old-fashioned human bodies again. The problem is, a lot of them -
particularly the poor ones - might not be able to. A human body is pretty
expensive to maintain, since you have to run it off of food instead of
electricity. And a lot of people will be living inside computers; they won't
be able to afford real bodies to begin with. And some of the children raised
inside computers wouldn't be able to operate a human body if they had one.
So, as usual, you'll see the rich dressed up in elaborate fashions, followed
by a descending hierarchy of imitations. The real rich will have genuine
1990s-style human bodies with genuine biology, although the brain will
probably still be up-to-date... fashion may make people look like idiots, but
frontal lobotomies will never become popular. Anyway, next you'll see
middle-class people with lookalike bodies, bodies that seem human on the
outside but run off of electricity. Then there'll be virtual human avatars
for the people living inside computers. The children who grow up inside
computers probably won't even be able to operate those, since they're used to
four-dimensional environments or whatever; so they'll rebel and keep on
pushing the bounds of weird new modifications. Needless to say, I really
don't have the faintest idea of what they'll come up with. For all I know,
the Back-To-Nature movement could be in 2040 or 2060; but it's the only
fashion trend that I, an unmodified human, would be even vaguely able to understand."

--       Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.