Eric Watt Forste (
Mon, 02 Dec 1996 11:08:41 -0800

Anders Sandberg wrote:
>OK, it is time for my bi-monthly reaction: I HATE THIS SILLY MEME!
>Recently, there have been far too much singularity-worship here on the
>list. Many extropians unfortunately see it as inevitable, easy and Destiny
>itself. It isn't. It is a neat idea invented by Vinge that has caught our
>imagination and fits in with *some* trends we see. There is IMHO no more
>real support of it than the inevitability of the dictatorship of the
>proletariat; if there are, I would like to see a well-researched paper
>about it.

I hate to put up a "me-too" post, but I'm distressed at the way
discussion of the Rapture, er, I mean, Singularity, and discussion
of meme-propagation strategies has taken over the list. I named my
page about memetics "Meme Workshop" for a reason; the attraction
of memetics is not merely in finding and propagating excellent
memes, it is in creating *new* excellent memes, and that takes
work: study, research, experimentation, thinking, and feeling. Lyle
puts the lie to Ecclesiastes even while defending it, and in that
he sets a good example.

I have always disliked the typical mundane dictum "That's just
science fiction stuff", but seeing the way the list has been going
lately really makes me want to point out that the "Singularity"
really is just science fiction stuff. No one agrees on exactly what
it is or exactly when it's going to happen, and even those who
agree on what it means don't agree on whether or not it would be
a Good Thing.

As for work, I am curious about how many subscribers to this list
are involved in any of the various free software projects such as
GNU, Linux, or the Debian distribution packaging project. Lately
I have come to a realization that the success of Unix over other
programming environments (and here I'm talking about success with
programmers, not success with users) is a consequence of the fact
that it was designed to evolve in a way that constructivist-rationalist
operating systems such as Windows NT were not. I would not be at
all surprised if the future evolution of free Unixen is intricately
intertwined with other future technological developments, even
though I know all about the shortcomings of Unix (it's not all that
hot at realtime stuff, the main process forking mechanism is
inefficient, the security model puts too much demand on skilled
system administration, etc), but this is where my own interest has
been taking me lately. I am particularly interested in the various
attempts to transmogrify Unix into a distributed operating system
(such as Plan 9, its offspring, and Gnu's HURD).

What Debian is doing for the evolution of computer software seems to
me to be something roughly analogous to Cairns-Smith's hypothesized
cutover from clay crystals to DNA molecules. The Debian project is
coming up with a standardized system of interchange of "genetic"
(memetic, really) information between computer systems, so that
operating-system modules can be exchanged and improved fairly easily.
Unfortunately, intellectual property restrictions impede this process,
but fortunately, intellectual property restrictions are strictly

Opinions? Comments?

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++