Re: The Spike, nanotech, and a future scenario

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Sun, 05 Oct 1997 23:55:45 -0500

Hal Finney wrote:
> Eliezer S. Yudkowsky writes:
> > More in the sense of potential than probability. I think that the most
> > probable time is actually 2008... using my oddest calculating method yet. I
> > figure that in the fifteen years between 1980 and 1995, the E.T.S. went from
> > 2035 to 2020. That is, each year the projection moves up by one year. If
> > this continues, the Singularity should occur in 2008. I find this argument to
> > be strangely compelling, perhaps because it sounds so meta.
> Actually I find that the Singularity stays about 20-30 years in the
> future. I'd like to see some evidence that anyone in 1980 predicted it
> to be in 2035, 55 years in their future. I don't think anyone even knew
> about the Singularity back then.

Going from memory (books lent out):
Vernor Vinge gave birth to the concept in 1979.
The first calculation with respect to human-equivalent AI was performed by
Hans Moravec and gave a result of 2035. I believe this was 1980 or
thereabouts, although it could be 1984.

> 20-30 years is enough time for significant changes in technology and
> in society. When the movie 2001 was made, it did not seem implausible
> that a space station, lunar bases, AI, and a manned mission to Jupiter
> could occur in that time frame. In fact, technology has not advanced
> as fast as was expected back then, at least not in those areas. AI has
> been 20-30 years away since the 1950's.

Yeah, but that was wild optimism, not an extrapolation based on previous rates
of progress.

> Personally, I think we are going to hit a big wall in computer technology
> in the next ten years. They can't keep making silicon features smaller
> indefinitely, the electric fields (voltage over distance, and voltage
> can't drop below the diode bias voltage which is an inherent aspect of
> the chemistry) if nothing else will cause problems. Other technologies
> will have to be developed to replace silicon. It may happen, but there
> is nothing which looks very practical as a replacement right now.

Yawn. Copper circuits, qubits, quantum transistors, STM, nanotech, diamond
disk drives, parallel processing, networked computing, etc, etc, ad Singularitum.

> But I am always suspicious of that 20-year prediction horizon. We can
> guess what will happen technologically in the next ten years, but beyond
> 20 we really have no idea. "Here there be dragons," and we are inclined
> to put our wonders safely in the 20-30 year period. In practice though
> things often take much longer than we expect.

2008? How safe is that?

--       Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.