Re: Extropian Form Letter (was: an exhortation to action)

Eliezer Yudkowsky (
Sat, 30 Nov 1996 23:40:07 -0600

Whoops! Ah, thanks, but no thanks.
I discussed all that in my Singularity page.

I am not asking for a discussion of the issues listed.
I am asking for help building a form letter.

Let's just say that I'm familiar with everything you said, and - don't
take this the wrong way - so, most likely, is everyone else on the
list. The question now is how to package our memes in a short,
attractive, direct and easily understandable outline, with individual
paragraphs being left to individual Extropians who write articles and

> The term "Singularity" was invented by Vernor Vinge in his novel,
> "Marooned in Realtime". It did have basically the same meaning you are
> applying, a case of runaway intelligence amplification. Interestingly,
> in the novel it was largely a matter of the creation of a group mind, with
> people able to interact directly at the mental level. This is somewhat
> different from typical Extropian ideas, which are more individualistic in
> nature and would picture augmented individuals rather than groups.

None of the issues you raised would be appropriate for an introduction,
being sophisticated objections and counter-objections that presuppose an
understanding of the material we are trying to introduce. Book
citations are not to be used unless necessary. Multiple paths to the
Singularity should be used only when each new Path adds necessary

Your statement about the invention of the Singularity occurring in that
novel may be incorrect; my first encounter with it was in Vinge's
postscript to the story "Run, Bookworm, Run!" We are not to mention the
word "Extropian" unless necessary; we are packaging the idea of the
Singularity, not the cult phenomenon. Individualism is not a necessary
cognitive prerequisite to understanding the Singularity. Leave it out.
Group minds are intriguing but not necessary to an understanding of the

> While the 2025 date may be effective for dramatic impact, I think there
> is a lot of uncertainty over how quickly the various changes you predict
> will actually occur.

Before the turn of the century, quite possibly, and I said so both in my
original article and in my Web page.

I'll not respond to the rest, because again, you may have missed the

I hold that the following ideas are necessary in an introduction and
initial presentation of the Singularity meme:

> 1. Computers double in power every two subjective years.
The easiest argument to understand. Attention-catcher.
> 2. Recursive intelligence amplification.
Another easy argument. Both give the flavor of the Singularity.
> 3. Defines "Singularity."
Having a snappy name and a simple definition is a memetic advantage.
> 4. Is this a good thing? Names factions.
First thing that occurs to everyone: Will it affect me?
> 5. Doomsday faction.
Seems to be the instinctive reaction; could be true.
Catches reader's attention through a possible threat.
> 6. Uploading faction.
Defusing the instinct; making the Singularity attractive.
We don't want federal bans on nanotech.
> 7. Intro to nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology may be the best way of conveying the upheavals brought
about by the Singularity. We can't simply say that the Singularity
erase human society; we have to show it.
> 8. Nearness of nanotechnology.
Short-term threats/goals get more attention.
> 9. Nanotechnology replaces economy.
SHOW that the Singularity will replace human society...
> 10. Gray goo problem.
It's not all roses. The reader has a right to know, and again the
threat of destroying the planet can grab the attention, although
not quite so much after all the false alarms.
> 11. Intelligence amplification.
Part and parcel of the Singularity, but hard to convey.
> 12. Runaway positive feedback of IA.
> 13. Replacement of human society: End of History.
The Singularity is not one of your petty memes.
> 14. Singularity provides Interim Meaning of Life.
Ditto. One of the ways to hook a meme in the mind is by
making previously established memes dependent on it.
> 15. Summary: History is about to end.
The meme as we want it to spread, once all symbolic groundwork
is laid.

> Even where I disagree with the specifics about the timeline, I do think
> this is a plausible "big picture" approach to human history and it is
> a good outline of issues that are worth thinking about.

We are not giving a complete explanation! We are not debating!
We are creating and packaging a meme and our sole goal
is that it infect a majority of the human race ASAP!

Can I have some constructive criticism of the *outline*,
repeat *the linear order in which the ideas are presented*,
and some debate over the *modules*,
repeat *which ideas have been chosen for inclusion*,
and NOT NOT NOT the ideas themselves?

--       Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

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