Re: The Spike, nanotech, and a future scenario
Sun, 5 Oct 1997 19:20:58 -0400 (EDT)

There have been a few posts in this thread containing expressions to the
effect: "Why do people talk about (libertarian) economics and politics and
law so much? None of that will matter when the singularity arrives." Setting
aside for a moment discussion of just what the (or "a") singularity might be
(I would describe myself as a Reform Singulatarian, I suppose), I believe
that questions of economics, politics and law are all the more important in
the shadow of the singularity. On the one hand, we should care dearly about
how social systems will speed or retard technological develpment and, on the
other, at the advent of post-humanity we will be in sore need of guidance for
our conduct with enhanced power over nature and each other.

The measure of our social systems' vitality and freedom will correlate
directly, it seems, to the speed of technological advancement. More free
exchange of information should correlate to faster technological development.
A richer and more diverse economy should result in more leisure for the
spreading of tranhumanist ideas. More fluid legal systems should tranlate
into lower "transaction costs" in the formation and operation of enterprises
for carrying out the transhumanist agenda. True, these things may well
promise only incremental changes, but such changes have a way of adding up
and, at some point, reaching the stage of qualitative change.

I don't expect any sort of extropian/libertarian "revolution" prior to the
advent of real post-humaity. The possibility of conducting experiments on
smaller or larger scales MAY present itself, if anonymous digital commerce
develops far enough before other radical technological transformations occur
(such as nanotechnology or uploading). If such opportunities present
themselves, we ought to be ready for them, and discussions of economic,
political and legal theory are a good foundation, if we have the chance,
pre-singularity, to implement them.

However, where these contemporary discussions will really pay great dividends
is in the period immediately following the advent of powerful transhuman
technologies. Many social systems, the current nation-state among them, will
be significantly undermined if "mature" nanotechnology, significant
intelligence augmentation, artificial superintelligences or widespread, full
uploading come onto the scene quickly. But the need for social systems won't
evaporate. On the contrary, social actors with newly augmented powers will
be more than ever in need of reliable and acceptable social systems. Unlike
engineering and the sciences, TALKING about such things is in fact how social
systems happen.

Greg Burch <>----<>
Attorney ::: Director, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
"Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must
be driven into practice with courageous impatience."
-- Admiral Hyman G. Rickover