Re: Singularity: The Moore's Law Argument

Damien R. Sullivan (
Fri, 18 Sep 1998 12:44:25 -0700 (PDT)

On Sep 18, 11:13am, Robin Hanson wrote:

> >Every couple of years, computer performance doubles. ... That is the
> >proven rate of improvement as overseen by constant, unenhanced minds,

We've been here before. "Constant, unenhanced minds"? Programs which can help layout a chip's design, and simulate the operation of that design before it is built, are a big enhancement. I build chip C0 and use it to design the faster C1 which helps me design the faster C2 and so on...

> >progress according to mortals. Right now the amount of computing power
> >on the planet is ... operations per second times the number of humans.
> >The amount of artificial computing power is so small as to be
> >irrelevant, ... At the old rate of progress, computers reach human-

Irrelevant to the grand total of intelligence, perhaps. Not irrelevant to the above loop; I don't think we could build current chips without their predecessors. Not in two years at least, and possibly not at all if keeping track of a PPro's design would exceed a human's attention span, even with the help of lots of paper. (An important cognitive enhancement.)

The thing about all that human intelligence is that most of it is not being applied to the specific fields where computers are relevant, so comparing total computing to total human thought is misleading. Most human intelligence is supporting the overhead of being human -- visual and auditory processing, including peripheral and background processing looking out for the unexpected; language processing; the ability to toss crumpled paper into the wastebasket from odd angles; surviving office politics; and so on.

I don't know how to do it myself, but it'd be interesting to estimate how the thought an Intel engineer can actually commit to chip design compares with the power of the chip (or chips) he is currently using.

Crude model: the mortal brain comes up with scenarios, evaluates them, and remembers them. The paper-enhanced brain uses external memory, freeing part of itself for more creativity and criticism, and allowing larger and more accurate storage than would otherwise be possible. The modern brain uses computers to evaluate more complex scenarios than otherwise possible, with superhuman speed and accuracy (and similar advances in memory), freeing the brain to just come up with ideas. The next step is obvious. But would it be explosive, as opposed to exponential? I don't see why.

-xx- Damien R. Sullivan X-)