Singularity discussion has begun

Robin Hanson (
Mon, 07 Sep 1998 12:57:45 -0700

Welcome everyone to the promised singularity discussion, which began on the 6th, and will end on the 19th. (We have had two posts so far, by Eliezer S. Yudkowsky and den Otter.)

I have two roles here, one as editor/fascilitator and another as participant. I'll try to make clear which hat I'm wearing in each post. In this post, I'm wearing an editorial hat.

Our discussion so far, the comments and Vinge's replies, are thoughtful and informative. But they also impress on me how broad this singularity topic remains. In my experience, singularity conversations typically haven't gone into enough depth on any one topic to really make much intellectual progress. So my hope in creating this discussion was to try to create a critical mass of focus and attention. It's not clear that this will happen, but I'm still hopeful.

With this hope in mind, let me encourage participants to focus on a few central issues, rather than following all interesting associations evoked by the "singularity" concept. And let us try to make some real contact, rather than posturing at a distance. Let us try to make clear what are the claims we are debating, before we get too far into debating them. And let us try to offer evidence and analysis for or against various positions, rather than just declaring our beliefs.

Of course I may have misjudged the whole situation. What do the rest of you think of the state of the debate on singularity? What do you think is most needed to clarify these issues?

Robin Hanson RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884 140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-8614