Re: Incomplete Singularity

From: Adrian Tymes (
Date: Wed Oct 11 2000 - 22:55:49 MDT

Anders Sandberg wrote:
> The problem is relevant not just for the Singularity but any knowledge
> economy: if there are no strong rules against changing social class,
> but doing so depends merely on an act of will/ambition/ability, the
> resulting situation will still have some who due to their own values,
> passivity, culture or whatever remain down. The door is open, but they
> either think it is closed, to hard to get past or that remaining is
> good. The problem with this division is that it cannot be redressed
> using traditional means like redistributing money or rights, but would
> need some ways of redistributing or improving ambition (the later
> might actually be doable, by creating a more practically optimist
> social atmosphere). And even then we would have the people who do not
> wish to rise to the heavens.

Which I see every day, which is part of what prompted this thought. I
know computers, and have at least a basic understanding of what one can
do with them. I even work in an ecommerce firm that's trying all kinds
of new technologies. My co-workers could do their jobs better, and thus
make the company (and, through our stock options, themselves and myself)
richer, with even a fraction of my understanding of the company's
systems than without. I attempt to impart this understanding where the
benefit becomes significant (for instance, to marketers who write
requirement specifications totally at variance with reality), but am
occasionally faced with a lack of understanding as to why I'm telling
them this - even when I spell out my reasons in plain English.

I understand my job, and though I am not an expert in what they do, I at
least try to understand their jobs. I have even done parts of their
jobs, on occasion as necessary (for instance, defending the customer's
point of view in engineering meetings). They make no such apparent
effort in return.

It has gotten to the point where I have taught otherwise non-technical
people the basics of programming, such that they can write simple "Hello
World" programs...and, more to the point, simple utilities that increase
their productivity. But I can only teach the willing; the others simply
stare, uncomprehending, at the increased productivity and free time that
those I have taught gain.

And it is far from just programming. For instance, marketers are
supposed to be on top of what our competition is doing and planning how
we can beat them, and yet, according to the executives, it is I who sees
almost the majority of useful ways we can extend our services, both in
new features and in new markets. (And this is in a company of over 100,
not counting contractors.) Though, to be honest, I suspect they're
counting innovations I merely inspire others to think up.

In short, the possibility I outlined at the start of this thread is but
a major exaggeration of the world I personally face today. I do not
take this as proof that the Singularity has already started, but it is
tempting to do so. Main fact weighing in favor: the Singularity is, if
I understand it correctly, the point where no one can make reasonable
predictions about the future. Already, most of my friends have given
up trying to predict their personal lives, or what tech will be
available, even one or two years ahead.

> What might happen is of course that the posthumans (or people of the
> new economy or whatever) want to make sure people staying behind do
> this due to their own values as a rational decision, rather than just
> due to mistaken information, habit or something else. Hence they will
> want to give an unbiased image of what they are missing out on (here I
> will just assume ethical posthumans; posthumans with an ideological
> axe to grind is another matter of course). Education becomes very
> relevant.

But, unless one can comprehend the way forward, how can one not have
mistaken information about it? And if those who choose not to advance
do (or seem to) universally not truly comprehend the way forward, how
can one disprove that it is the lack of comprehension itself which
causes people to stay behind?

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