Re: The Spike, nanotech, and a future scenario

Michael Lorrey (
Mon, 06 Oct 1997 18:22:29 -0400

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.
> 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.
> 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.
> It's our old friend, the S curve. Right now the growth in performance
> looks exponential, just as the increase in sewing machine speeds (or
> virtually any other industrial performance measure) looked exponential
> at one time. But they hit a limit back then, and we will probably hit
> a limit ourselves now.

THough, the current s curve is in processors. We are still at the
beginnning of the cost/performance curve with respect to
multiprocessor/neural net computers. I think once we start to hit the
wall with processors, we'll start to see more and more affordable
multiprocessor PCs, which ought to last another decade at most before
another wall is hit, at which point more exotic technologies will start
to become available, as soon as the neural computers are cheap enough to
make widespread use in engineering applications. This will bootstrap the
affordability of the R&D to develop the new exotic technologies.
> That doesn't mean that progress will stop; all the ramifications of
> the information revolution will continue to develop even if computer
> performance tops out a few orders of magnitude better than we have
> it today. And there are other technologies which are poised for growth,
> biotech of course, and possibly materials science, microtech, etc. These
> are probably going to be the hot fields of 2010.
> 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.

To those who live it, they will never notice any drastic change, and no
singularity, per se, will be reached. People will always consider the
limit of the knowable to be x many development cycles in the future.
Granted, as things speed up and people get smarter and smarter, x will
continually shrink, but the amount of shrink will diminish over time to
a set amount of time in which extrapolation is reliable. Remember, an
event horizon is only such in relation to a specific point in the past,
it itself has no fixed point.

			Michael Lorrey
------------------------------------------------------------	Inventor of the Lorrey Drive
MikeySoft: Graphic Design/Animation/Publishing/Engineering
How many fnords did you see before breakfast today?