Sandberg 1, Yudkowsky 0

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Thu, 21 Aug 1997 23:56:03 -0500

Last December, there was a thread on this list called "Singularity-worship".

It was Sandberg, I believe, who started it off, and said:

> The Singularity concept has all the earmarks of an idea that can lead to
> cultishness, and passivity.

And I replied with words to this effect:

"To me, the Singularity means that we don't need to worry about the far
future; we can concentrate on the near-term stuff."

It struck me as being truly fantastic that someone could read about the
Singularity and then sit back and wait for it. The Singularity validated, not
invalidated, our current efforts.

Well, a professor I know read "Staring", liked it, and then said: "Perhaps
I'll retire, since everything I do is going to be obsoleted anyway."

And I said:
"But isn't what you're doing useful right now? (Which it was, since he was
working on more efficient chickens.) Won't it help get to the Singularity by
feeding more people?"

And he said:
"Hmmm, you're right. Well, guess I won't retire then."

With regards to this whole conversation,
I can only express my feelings in one way:

???? ???? ????
? ? ? ? ? ?
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I can't really claim to understand what happened, or how to prevent it -
but it looks like Sandberg was right; the "Singularity" CAN lead to passivity.
Insofar as there IS going to be a Singularity, cultish or not, does anyone
have suggestions on how the concept could be presented so as to avoid a repeat
of the above error?

--       Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

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