Re: The Singularity

Eugene Leitl (
Tue, 21 Jul 1998 15:59:24 +0400 (MSD)

Hi Robin,
Robin Hanson writes:
> Similarly, Eugene L. said:
> >Robin, I'm not sure I get your meaning, but I certainly agree with
> >scenarious (you'd be surprised), but no one can't be certain. No,
> >sir. Not even Robin Hanson.}
> I interpreted both of your initial statements as rejecting inquiry into
> things post-singularity. It seems as if you both think we *can't*
> possibly know anything, so we shouldn't try. Then in response to my

In fact I even think the assumptions we can do useful future synoptics over decades of dramatic growth are _dangerous_, since presenting a mirage of "I can engineer my future strategies sensibly". Otoh, I can incorporate the shrinking window of predictability into my strategy planning just fine (not too much good this will do to me also, I fear).

> queries for clarification, you ask me to show you prediction textbooks
> with formulas derived from first principles.
> 0) I submit my paper, as giving
> mathematical predictions derived from first principles regarding
> an important aspect of post-singularity behavior.

Thanks. Web connectivity is still crippled, but I'll try to access it. For the future, please consider presenting your papers also in nonproprietary, canonical Internet publishing format: gzipped (and soon bzipped?) PostScript. has set de facto standards.

> 1) Humans have a vast amount of knowledge and insight, only the tiniest
> fraction of which can be expressed as equations derived from first
> principles. It's a big mistake to say we know nothing about a subject
> if no such equations are presented.

I think this is a dangerous position. You can't communicate intuitive insights, verbalizations are unwieldy to prepare and even more to consume. A graph or a table of numbers are much more succinct, and less prone to misinterpretation. I'm notoriously wary of number toters, and those who believe (analytical) mathematics is perfectly applicable to the real world (usually it isn't). Yet, I think much could be gained if there was a common communicable calculus/formalization. Perhaps an augmenting reality device (current model: wearable with a HUD/Twiddler/myopotential input) could be instrumental here, since requiring to be able to project graphical stuff upon semiintuitive cue.

> 2) Even if we knew nothing about a subject, that wouldn't mean
> we couldn't learn something if we put our minds to it. You need a
> much stronger argument to reject inquiry other than we don't know
> anything now.

The bulk of past predictions now seems ludicrous. A tiny minority was more or less accurate, yet the contemporaries had not the benefits of ours: backsight. They couldn't tell shit from shinola, nor can we now.

> 3) Human insight isn't indexed much by year of applicability. The best
> experts in banking now know things relevant for forecasting post
> singularity banking. People who understand art well know things
> relevant for forecasting post-singularity art. Just becasuse there
> isn't a book called "Post-singularity banking and art" Doesn't mean
> people don't know things relevant for this.

If there is no banking nor art after the Singularity, extrapolating from past human insight is worth shit. If anything, a biologist specializing in food network ecology, or an ALife researcher would be the ones to listen to. However, point is even their forecasts are totally unreliable.

> 4) For a subject a broad as "post-singularity", insight just isn't very
> discrete, since there is so much relevant knowledge. We know more
> about the year 2098 now than we did in 1898, and likely will know
> more ten years from now. Our insight improves incrementally, so
> there is no cliff beyond which we know *nothing*. I see no
> "horizons," analogous to where the curve of the Earth makes human
> visual resolution suddenly fall to uselessness.

My interpretation of the Singularity is that you do not see nothing unusual if you traverse it as an observer (provided, personae persist during the process), things just grow a lot more hectic, as does the rat race. However, you emerge a god from the other side (orelse the Singularity has not occured, and even relatively conservative predictions are perfectly applicable), which is perfectly incomprehensible for an nonparticipating mehum observer. This all assuming there is a thing as a Singularity, of course.