From: Dan Fabulich (
Date: Wed Nov 15 2000 - 22:53:32 MST

Nicq wrote:

> > Well, the easy answer is that we may put the finishing touches on a
> > Friendly seed AI which will set nanites to work for us. But I'll do a
> > little more work, since I doubt that will satisfy you.
> I'm afraid of two possibilities-
> 1. John Horgan's predictions regarding the end of scientific progress will
> come true- and we will be unable to develop a Transhuman AI that may save us
> and we will end up destroying our planet through war and environmental
> damage.
> 2. All these precautions and ideas for programming an ethical AI fail, and
> we end up enslaved to a superconsious, survivalist computer that sees us as
> little more than tools or servants.

Hmmm. That looks pretty bad, no doubt of that. Of course, under
those circumstances, there's no WAY we're going to make it.

In that case, our only hope for our civilization to survive is to get
out into space; once we do that, we've done pretty much all we can.

> Resource depletion will occur in my lifetime- the Earth being swallowed by
> the sun will not.

You're wrong about that. Dying in a large scale war? Possible.
Wacky diseases? Could be. Other unpredictable causes of death? It

But *resource depletion* will not happen during your lifetime.

Understand what it would require in order for total resource depletion
to take place.

Beforehand, all of our energy resources would gradually grow scarce.
Oil wells, for example, don't dry up all of a sudden. They start
pumping less and less oil until eventually they run out.

This means that the price of oil will gradually rise. (Even though,
for now, it's falling, in the long term.)

Now consider various energy alternatives, which are more expensive
than oil. No one uses them right now. They're too expensive. But if
the price of oil were to rise above the price of those, we'd start
using those. All of those would have to run out.

Consider, as well, various energy alternatives which we could develop
by throwing a lot of money at the problem, including more efficient
solar energy, geothermal energy, wind energy, safer nuclear energy,
and the energy we can access by mining off-planet, dropping things
into black holes, building large solar panels on the far side of the
sun (or other nearby stars), etc. No one invests in these
technologies very much right now, because oil is so cheap. If the
price of oil were to rise, however, the relative price of investing in
these technologies would fall. That would lead the market to invest
in these more. As energy became more scarce, we'd invest more and
more in these technologies until they began to pay off.

And, obviously, they *would* pay off (some of them, at least).
There's lots of energy out there in the galaxy, and if we have to pay
to get it, we will. For this not to happen, capitalists, investment
bankers in particular, would have to pass up more profitable
alternatives, en masse. This will NEVER happen.

Julian Simon has argued, (rightly, I think,) that we'll never run out
of oil, because the price of extracting the last however-many-billions
of gallons of oil from the earth's crust will remain too high,
relative to the cost of alternative forms of energy, for us to bother.

Not to mention the fact that our oil reserves may, in fact, be
refilling themselves, if you take Thomas Gold seriously. Of course,
that would only mean that the Earth has hundreds of times more oil
potential than even the most optimistic geologists might guess, only
enough to last thousands of years; so, I suppose, we could still run
out eventually.

But, again, you'd be wrong to imagine that the earth will run out of
oil and that only THEN will we look for more energy, like you and I do
when we run out of laundry. The process is gradual, as oil gradually
rises in price and alternative fuel sources gradually look more and
more profitable.

So, assuming we don't die by some other means (a big assumption),
resource depletion is NOT your problem. We're much more likely to
ruin the earth in a hundred other ways than run out of resources. We
have to focus on the REAL threats, including real threats to the
environment; let those wily capitalists figure out how to keep the
party going. (They're the ones with the most to gain, and the most to

> My father is a multimillionaire, I attend a private college, I own an
> expensive computer, expensive clothing, etc. etc. Yet for some reason, I
> feel incomplete. I'm frequently depressed (I've been to two
> psychotherapists- both say I'm fine and that I don't need medication), and
> no matter how much I study, my life just feels more insignificant and
> pointless. Yet, at the same time, I see many people with far less material
> wealth than I that seem far more satisfied, happy, and purposeful.
> > * [The noble savage is not a myth, but he's hardly the norm. Spare me
> > your hamlet of paradise story; *most* hamlets are hellholes.]
> I've never been a believer in the idea of the "Noble Savage". I believe
> that any utopian political philosophy, whether it's that of Rousseau, Marx,
> or Rand, can only lead to disaster.

Well, of course, I must point out that you're looking at a rich
depressed person, you, all the time, and that the happy poor, like
boxcar 6s, are more visible than the hopeless ones. So you may not be
observing a representative sample.

At any rate, I agreed that the connection between happiness and wealth
is weak. It still holds, by and large, [I've yet to hear anyone
assert that we ought to make the poor happier by making them poorer!]
but no one will doubt that you can show me some happy hamlets and
miserable millionaires. They're just not the norm.

Wealth makes life better, but not perfect, or even good, necessarily.

> True enough. But tell me, what is art?

Heh. NO, I refuse. ;)

> If you deny spirituality, you've pretty much dissolved any meaning
> of the artistic experience.

Well, of course, you'd be going too far if you said that nobody can
ever find meaning without spirituality. I assert that, here at least,
you're surrounded by purposeful happy atheists. Some of us even have
an appreciation for art. Most of us have found (or made!) meaning in
our lives. Make of that what you will.

Personally, I'm a pragmatist. My answer to those who talk of
spirituality is the same Laplace gave to Emperor Napoleon, when His
Grace asked Laplace why his astronomy did not include any mention of
God. "Sire," he supposedly replied, "I have no need of that

Now, maybe I'm wrong about that. Maybe I DO have a need of that
hypothesis that I've overlooked. Or maybe I'm right about me, but
wrong in thinking that *most* people don't need that hypothesis.
(Maybe people like me are special.) Or maybe I'm even right about
most people, but wrong about artists. All this would surprise me, but
I've been deeply surprised like that before.

Still, one doesn't have to get spiritual to find some external
overrinding force to guide one's life. Take Truth, for example,
and/or Beauty. They don't require any formally spiritual entity.
Truth can just be all the true ideas, and Beauty can be all and only
the most beautiful things, without any need to call upon spiritual

Or you could commit yourself to the happiness of the people. Or to
Democracy. Or Freedom. We all know how much high quality stuff has
come on the table in the name of Freedom.

Remember those postmodernists? Post-Nietzschean existentialists,
mostly. No spirituality, no god, just us, just you and I, engaging
with the art. I find the picture heroic. Maybe even Romantic. Or
bathetic, which can be quixotically heroic, sort of. ;)

Alternately, you can make it your goal in life to figure out what the
real goal is. (Call that your Interim Goal; see if it leads you

But, if you can't stand any of those, you can always be a
spiritualist. We extropians, along with many others, are committed to
your freedom to believe whatever you want (or, more sensibly, whatever
makes sense to you). We *think* that we're right, but it might turn
out that there just have to be some people who think that we're wrong
in order for society to work right.

So, how can art survive Singularity? I wouldn't worry about it.
Instead, worry about how it can survive the Earth, and what we're
doing to it (or just about to do to it).

It's doomed, after all.


      -unless you love someone-
    -nothing else makes any sense-
           e.e. cummings

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