February 24th, 2009

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Will There Be a Singularity?

Here's an interesting article about the "singularity" phenomenon. This explores the rapid and increasing rate of change in society and technology. One projected end is that it could lead to machine intelligences. Although not mentioned in the article, my thought on that is if our childraising skill and our ability to forbear taking advantage of others has not improved drastically, human people will make horrible mistakes in dealing with electronic people, and the result will be disaster.

But even that is a narrow view. You have to ask, what else could happen? The world ending in war is an old idea. But here's a different take: what if the change vector exceeds what humans can handle? Heck, what if it's doing that already? People would begin falling back, first a few, then more and more. They would either refuse to keep going and changing and adopting new ways; or they would try and fail to do so effectively. Imagine a society's worth of people freeclimbing a mountain that gets steeper and steeper until they all fall off. This seems to me disturbingly plausible.

That, of course, bring in another issue: a mountain wall can go vertical, or even incline so climbers are tilted backwards. An exponential curve doesn't do that; it's a mathematical function that never quite reaches the far wall of the graph. What happens on math paper and what happens in reality are often quite different.

What do you think about the singularity effect? And what does it mean for those of us who write science fiction, much of which is about exploring the future?
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Open Letter on Academic Freedom

A friend forwarded this to me. Bear in mind that uneducated people are easier to manipulate than well-educated people, and always consider that whenever you hear politicians attacking any aspect of education. Ask yourself what they gain if they win. Ask yourself what the students would lose.
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