Re: Singularity Blindness

From: BigBooster (
Date: Tue Oct 23 2001 - 15:54:54 MDT

At 10:27 PM 10/23/2001 +0200, Anders Sandberg <> wrote:
>While I think Natasha's analysis makes a lot of sense, there might also
>be an additional cultural cognitive factor: in general people are not
>good at making complex future scenarios. You imagine change along one
>variable, and see the consequences ("given the increasing population and
>transportation needs, in the future all cities will be choked on horse
>manure"). But to really make a good future model (even for short range
>planning like how to organise one's day) you need to take both several
>variables into account and how changes cause further changes (the
>response to limited resources is economic incentives for finding new
>resources or better ways of using them, making the original shortage
>temporary). Most people seem to be fairly unusued to this on a large
>scale - they do it all the time in everyday thinking but do not apply it
>to thinking about the big picture. I think this is mainly cultural
>thing, there has so far not been any training or even need for it. But
>things are changing, and more and more people seem to be able to run
>scenario planning through their heads quickly and efficiently.

 From John Smart <>:

"...Even if they anticipate that the singularity speculation may be correct,
they know that human beings do not easily model exponential change.

As Arthur Clarke, Francis Crick, and now, Ray Kurzweil have proposed,
this may be primarily because human cognitive (and perhaps, perceptual)
systems appear to be built to make quasi-linear models, at least on a
first quantitative approximation, whereas the computational elements
and general systems of our local environment exhibit exponential
emergences and other natural non-linearities. So it is that humanity
only unevenly—and often unrealistically—incorporates exponential
expectations within its psychology, as we now wisely do, for example,
in our expectations for next year's computer products, and less wisely,
in our expectations for the short-term performance of many technology

Even if humans are wired to directly perceive reality in a nonlinear manner,
as some cognitive scientists propose (recall that human organisms are
themselves nonlinear systems so their emergent computational
architecture must, at least on a fundamental level, also be nonlinear
itself), it is nevertheless true that exponential systems, before they reach
the "blowup" phase of their growth, appear to be linear systems, and so
we, as slow modelers of fast systems, are continually taken by surprise
in the ferocity of their emergence. As an example, you may recall the
famous chess board metaphor, involving 64 doublings of rice grains,
with only one grain placed on the first square. This system appears
quite tame until a bit past the middle of the board, when it suddenly
produces an entirely unexpected and overwhelming effect, bankrupting
the King, and overwhelming the surface of the Earth in a sea of rice.
So it will apparently soon be with local computation."

Frederick Mann

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