Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Cutting Through the Jargon

This post is inspired by a comment left on my previous post by blogger and thinker Al Fin. I decided to make it a post instead of just a comment because it opens up some interesting conversation about different methodologies of scientific investigation and other fun stuff.

As Al points out I am a philosopher by training and so I will try to elucidate a bit on the mission of the organization I linked to in the last post and hopefully cut through some of the jargon.

Before I directly attempt a translation of the quotes below I will explain a bit about things you should know when trying to read philosophy. First, just as in any discipline, there are a plethora of philosophical traditions and branches of study, etc. It would be very helpful to have some knowledge of the history of philosophy – more so than in other disciples. About two hundred years ago there arose somewhat of a bifurcation in the western tradition of philosophy. This split was between continental Europe and the English speaking world. These somewhat separated traditions are usually referred to as continental and analytic philosophy (though this separation is not really that tidy). In General continental philosophy has tended to be more concerned with questions of ethics, philosophical anthropology, political philosophy, and ontology; while the Anglo-phonic analytic philosophers were/are concerned almost exclusively with epistemology which includes mathematical logic, scientific methodology, and philosophy of language. Though both of these traditions share a lot of thinking and both draw on the same historical cannon of philosophers they are really quite different in many ways. So whenever one is going to be reading some philosophy one should first try to ascertain from what tradition the philosopher is writing. In the case of the organization I linked to these philosophers are from continental Europe and so one should understand that their manner of speaking and the jargon they use will almost certainly be unfamiliar (sometimes in an intentionally obscurantist manner unfortunately).

The second thing that anyone reading philosophy should understand is the principle of charity. The principle of charity is a way of reading a philosopher. The basic idea is simply that whenever one is reading another thinker one should assume that the thinker is intelligent and has something meaningful to say (even if this isn't quite always the case).

So with both those things in mind I will elaborate on the following first stated objective:

"To contribute to a single and comprehensive transdisciplinary scientific research programme forinvestigating self-organization by elaborating selected epistemological, ontological and axiological implications, thus attempting at unifying the scattered approaches in the so-called non-linear science of complexity"

First the organization is stating that they are attempting to unify the science of non-linear complexity. Presumably they say “so called” science because it has not yet been unified and so cannot really be called a science yet. Now the manner in which they are attempting this unification is through investigating the phenomenon of self-organization (such as the process of biological evolution) through a method of examining certain implications of self-organization for the historical subjects of western philosophy (epistemology, ontology, axiology).

Briefly I will explain what this might entail as a research program. First it is an attempt to bring together the traditional studies of the humanities and the sciences into a unified whole by applying the scientific and experimental conclusions of what we know about self-organizing systems to traditional questions of philosophy. The traditional questions of philosophy fall under thee categories that each have many sub categories. The first category is epistemology. Epistemology asks what knowledge is and how it is possible. Some of the sub categories include philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of logics, mathematical logic, philosophy of science, philosophy of language, etc. Now there are at least two very important examples of self-organization that have the power to really illuminate epistemology in a way that has never before been possible. These two examples are the self organization of the human brain and the self organization and evolution of planet earth's biosphere (human evolution in particular). For instance both evolutionary psychology and cognitive science are disciplines that inform us about the traditional problems of epistemology and this could be advanced even further by really understanding how both the human brain and mankind as a whole are self-organizing systems. Next is ontology. Ontology asks what exists, or what is being, or what is real. The science of cosmology studies one big self-organizing system – the cosmos. When studying the cosmos scientists must understand how everything in the cosmos interrelates, from the smallest things to the largest things, in order too understand how the cosmos is developing and what “it” is. Is the universe ultimately indivisible particles and space as Newton thought? Is it quanta of energy, or two dimensional strings existing in a many-dimensional space, or is it merely the interrelation of ultimate forces? Or perhaps information is the most real “substance”. At any rate it seems very likely that applying what we know about self-organizing systems to ontology is likely to yield some answers.

Finally we come to axiology. Axiology asks what value or quality is. This is closely related to the question of what consciousness is and is related to ethics, aesthetics and political philosophy. Understanding what consciousness or mentality is has alluded both philosophers and scientists for centuries and is considered to be a holy grail by many in both camps (and many have made pretensions of having answers). Some examples of how an understanding of self-organizing systems could be applied to axiology are (1) how the brain is organized to create consciousness, (2) how society is a self-organizing system and (3) how the self-organizing system of biological evolution has effected what we consider to be of value, and (4) how the organization and evolution of the cosmos may shed light on what is actually of value.

Now for the second objective:

“To contribute to a scientific understanding of the "feedback-loop" of human action and reflection in a historical moment in which the destiny of the world system is at stake”

This objective appears to be rooted in the philosophical traditions of phenomenology and hermeneutics.

Phenomenology is concerned with interpreting the world as it is presented to the consciousness and is a descendent's of both the philosophies of Descartes and Kant. Hermeneutics is concerned with the interpretation of the phenomena as akind of text(I realize that this just seems like more confusing jargon but if you are interested you can always turn to Google).

Now what this objective is stating is an understanding that at every moment the future is determined by present action and that present action arises from how we understand the present and the past (this is known as a heurmenutical circle and is also a problem in the philosophy of science). So this is just a fancy hermeneutical way of saying that they are interested in contributing to a more accurate understanding how mankind understands himself so as to greater empower man to direct his own future.

If anyone still has any questions or would like to further discuss these ideas feel free to comment.

32 Comments:

Thanks, Micah. Your explanation helps me to organise my thoughts in order to better approach the topic.

Although in my opinion philosophers and social scientists tend to pad their papers with obscure jargon, seemingly on purpose, I have decided not to allow that to keep me from monitoring their activities, as part of a comprehensive search for novel ideas.

I appreciate your thoughtful clarification.

By Blogger al fin, at 24/6/06 20:22  

Unfortunately what you say is true. There is a lot of garbage going around passing itself off as social science and philosophy that is really either confused irrationalism (multicultural relativism, much postmodernism), or just recycled marxism. For every serious thinker there are usually a plethera of "scribblers" calling themselves scientists or philosophers. As you are aware this is a result of the stagnation of the modern university. For my part I applaud the interdisciplinary approach that yourself and (hopefully) myself embody. Godspeed on your mission to understand everything :)

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By Blogger Javier Marti, at 3/5/07 20:18  

I enjoyed your post, because this line of thought got me excited when I was an idealistic undergraduate. What you're describing is the latest incarnation of a movement that's been around since the "systems theorists" of the 1970s, and more recently chaos theory, non-linear dynamics, and self-organizing systems (particularly neural systems).
However, I think a large part of its appeal is that it appears to be a strike against overly simplistic empirical "linear" science. It certainly was its appeal for me back then: it seemed radical, dangerous, against the grain.
But the problem is that this project brings with it certain ideas about how the world should be, or at least, what kinds of models are the best one.
That's a danger. Science needs to be ruthlessly opportunistic, and simply take the best explanations from wherever it can find them.
For example, let's consider self-organizing neural systems. It has become increasingly clear that neural systems come at least partly pre-wired. For insects they are 100% wired, but even in humans, self-organisation has limits as an explanatory device.
My other concern is that if taken to an extreme, we will end up explaining everything, and therefore explaining nothing. If the cosmos is a self-organising system, then what is left?

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Post a Comment

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Philosophical Foundations For A Theory of Evolutionary Systems

This is a European research organization that I discovered while doing a bit of web surfing. There are some very interesting research papers published on the site that are concerned with self-organizing systems and socio-technological evolution. Here are a few quotes from the site.

Research papers
FAQ

"Since the sixties a paradigm shift in the disciplines of science, in system thinking and evolutionary thinking, and in philosophy and "weltanschauung" has been underway towards a Theory of Evolutionary Systems. Still there are gaps in theoretical knowledge to which philosophical theorizing may put forward heuristic offers."

Objectives

- To contribute to a single and comprehensive transdisciplinary scientific research programme for investigating self-organization by elaborating selected epistemological, ontological and axiological implications, thus attempting at unifying the scattered approaches in the so-called non-linear science of complexity

- To contribute to a scientific understanding of the "feedback-loop" of human action and reflection in a historical moment in which the destiny of the world system is at stake

32 Comments:

Micah, I am counting on you as the resident philosopher on this blog to translate some of the jargon into conventional language. It is possible that a lot more people would be enthusiastic about the goals of this organisation if they only understood what they were.

All of us have our specialties that utilise specialised jargon. No one can master the jargon of every specialty.

If you would translate "investigating self-organization by elaborating selected epistemological, ontological and axiological implications, thus attempting at unifying the scattered approaches in the so-called non-linear science of complexity" and "a scientific understanding of the "feedback-loop" of human action and reflection in a historical moment".

I know what I think it is supposed to mean. But I am a multidisciplinary generalist, not conversant in philosophical language. I would like to know what you, as a philosopher, think and how you interpret it.

Keep in mind that many of your readers may have read Sokal and Bricmont's "Fashionable Nonsense", and might have retained a healthy skepticism of obscure jargon.

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The Information Age and the Fascist Threat

All information is expressed through media. Those who control media on a mass scale control what information is accessed and whom may access it.

Throughout human history those in power have had control of the media. Until recently only the elite could read and that elite were usually the priest class whether Brahmans, Jesuits ancient Egyptian priest -scribes, etc. However, at the start of the modern era came the steam powered printing press and this has led to mass literacy and the rise of democracy. The bed-rock of the modern democratic state has been the freedom of press. This freedom guarantees that the agency of government is kept separate from the agency of media with the intended consequence that the literate masses will be able to govern themselves by having unrestricted access to information.

This idea of the freedom of the press has led to thriving democratic nations with people who have been empowered to keep their respective governments in check. However this system is flawed and over the course of the twentyth-century organizations have been quite successful at destroying the foundation of democracy by destroying the competition of a market of ideas through the monopolization of media.

Since the dawn of the Internet the monopoly of media that has been ruling the world for the most part has been severely weakened by the advent of the web-log and other media services such as digg.com and Wikipedia.

The more ubiquitous information and media become the more powerful become those who control the distribution and facilitation of media.

At the present time the birth of global democracy and global dialog leading to a prosperous future for humankind is being threatened by the most powerful organizations on this planet. These organizations are not governments but telecom corporations.

This threat arises because the infrastructure that facilitates the world wide web is owned by these corporations and these corporations understand the kind of power that they could wield if they could convince governments to allow them to wield that power uncontested. Because of these corporation's enormous amount of wealth and influence they are succeeding at doing this.

Whether or not the world wide web can, even in theory, be brought under control is uncertain. However what is certain is that this possibility must be safeguarded against at all cost.

In some countries the government controls the media and in some other countries the media controls the government. What we must seek is a society that nurtures a free market-place of ideas where power is decentralized because neither money nor violence can secure anyone a privileged outlet of media.



24 Comments:

Landlines and satellites can be controlled more easily than wireless terrestrial. Look at pirate radio stations and other quasi-illegal radio activity. With more advanced use of the EM spectrum wireless internet can do a lot. HAM radio internet is workable for some regions. Don't rule out pirate satellites either, with space launch capability coming within reach of non-governments. There's a lot of excess capacity in radio and television broadcasts as well. Internet over power lines is messy but doable. I can see muslim autocrats or Chinese/N.Korean dictators trying to control the internet. Worrying about telecoms etc. seems a bit paranoid.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 17/6/06 10:51  

Any concentration of power is a threat to freedom. The reason China can control their Internet (to some extent) is because the Chinese government has a monopoly over their telecommunications infrastructure. My argument is that if any entity can controls the mass media then that entity will have tyrannical power.

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 17/6/06 12:23  

I think once long range wifi (wimax) becomes popular even China will find it hard to contain the tide of information.

The spice must flow!

I also agree that the big media corporations are gradially losing some of their power - especially the ability to spread blatant propaganda. When a big news story breaks often the more interesting reports and commentaries are in the blogosphere.

By Blogger Bob Mottram, at 17/6/06 18:49  

For what reason would Comcast or AT&T want to kill the golden goose? It is OUR freedom that has made them wealthy corporations. Unless and until the US government takes control of the telecoms (like the government of China does) then what is all the worry. Without freedom there is no wealth.

Cuba is dirt poor, North Korea is poorer than that, and Chavez is working on bringing Venezuela into the gutter by stripping freedoms from the corporations and from the people. These places have little to no real freedom.

It is in the best interests of corporations big and small to support freedom and democracy. Am I wrong?

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Vehicles Around the Corner

Although it seems as if everyday I hear a report that hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles are still decades away the facts don't appear to support this. Currently every major automotive company is highly invested in researching fuel-cell technology and most have at least one working prototype already. For sometime now GM has been promising that they will begin mass producing hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles by 2010 and now just recently Honda has joined in saying that they too will be offering fuel-cell vehicles by 2010. Also both Daimler-Chrysler and Ford Motors have done an extensive amount of research and real world tests (though neither have committed to any date). Here is a run down of whats going on.

GM


That is a video of GM's most recent version of the Hy-Wire Fuel-cell vehicle. Source

Honda


"Hydrogen fuel cell cars could be on the road much earlier than the decade or more so far predicted. Honda has confirmed it plans a production model “in three to four years”."

Source


Ford Motors

"An ongoing successful road-test of a small fleet of hydrogen-powered vehicles has Ford engineers optimistic about their reliability and ultimate roadworthiness.

Ford is testing 30 Focus Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs) in seven U.S. cities and in Canada and Germany. They are driven daily by local governmental employees and have racked up more than 180,000

miles." Source


Daimler-Chrysler

"Largest real-life test of fuel cell vehicles wordwide running strong"

"Customers in Japan, Singapore, USA, Europe, China and Australia try out fuel cell vehicles in everyday use"

Source


14 Comments:

I have always been sceptical of President Bush's hydrogen initiative. Hydrogen is not cheaply available, and does not travel well in a small vehicle as fuel. It is much better for automotive fuel cells to use liquid fuels such as an alcohol (butanol is best if you can get it) and extract the hydrogen for use at the cell.

Politicians should not be running this kind of thing. They are too prone to poor advice. The same thing applies to Gore and global warming. The surest way to create a catastrophe is to centralise (governmentalise) efforts to deal with a relatively minor problem.

By Blogger al fin, at 20/6/06 17:10  

Hi Al. Nice to hear from you. I certainly agree with you about "governmentalizing" science and economics and I also agree to some extent that hydrogen is not a suitable vehicle fuel. However one should understand that a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is also a battery elctric vehicle that happens to get some of its energy from hydrogen. That being the case it is exciting to hear that major auto manufacturers are planning mass production in a mere few years.
I don't know how much you know about this but, for instance, GM's vehicle uses all-wheel-drive in-wheel electric motors, uses drive-by-wire technology, and is powered by a combination of hydrogen fuel cells, lithium-ion batteries, and ultra-super capacitors. Such a vehicle could be charged anywhere there is an electric outlet or/and it can be fueled with hydrogen if/where it is available. So you see this technology is market and science driven and does not depend on any kind of politicians vision or some pie in the sky "hydrogen hyway". I'm quite convinced that some kind of electric vehicle will be the vehicle of choice in five years.

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 21/6/06 02:56  

Mr. Glasser,
I agree with you and am also very excited that we are on the verge of this "Great Leap Forward" the only question is how to make it an economy of scale? The current infrastructure can not readily adapt to Hydrogen production and distribution without heavy investment. Two factors will determine the speed of evolution of our vehicles:
1. The market. When consumers start to look at the FCV as a viable alternative the money will follow. Although I am against the violence in the Middle East, it may just drive oil prices up high enough to get people thinking about FCV. Neccesity is the mother....
2. Goverment intervention, be it subsidization capital or RD investments.

The US should see Hydrogen Energy as a matter of national security. All efforts should be focused on affecting this change. Not only for the enviorment but to maintain our ever eroding competitive edge.
Matt

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 24/7/06 16:05  

But why would we want hydrogen fuel cell vehicles?

I entirely agree with Al. Hydrogen is not readily available, it must be 'manufactured' in an inefficient process. It isn't appropriate to transport as a fuel cell in a small vehicle due to its chemical properties and weight characteristics.

Electric (read: battery charged) vehicles show more promise. The technology to make electric cars affordable, effective, and even performance oriented is available today. Future improvements in battery technology and available motors would only make them better.

I suspect automotive companies are only interested in hydrogen fuel cells as a PR tool. The amount of money they 'invest' in R&D is negligable when compared to their advertising campaigns. Historically they've shown the public that they are resistant to change and innovation (does anybody remember having to pass laws requiring seatbelts before automotive companies would install them stock?).

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/8/06 03:50  

The next 24 months should be telling. Since a hydrogen fuel cell based automobile is essentially an electric car, the various battery advances hinted at in the news recently will be in direct competition. If we really see a significant breakthrough in battery and/or ultra capacitor power and energy storage, and charge rate, then fuel cells for mainstream transportation applications will be stillborn. There may still be an application for remote areas of the world or for stationary power generation but likely nothing else of significance.

If companies like EESTOR, A123 Systems, and others, on the other hand, are vastly over hyping their new or soon to be new electrical storage products then fuel cells have a slim chance. In this case it will depend on the success or failure of producing carbon-neutral biofuels in significant volume and much (much) more efficient internal combustion engines being developed.

I would say the number one potential development that could make hydrogen an economical energy carrier would be efficient and cost effective on-site hydrogen generation from water via solar or grid electricity. Any other generation or transportation method for hydrogen seems doomed to failure because of the lack of existing infrastructure (and the cost of building the same) or the continued dependency on fossil fuels for hydrogen production.

Still, big money (i.e. the oil and chemical companies) has a significant stake in making hydrogen successful so we may yet see fuel cell based cars on the road, at least for a few years. And, as Micah Glasser points out, developing a successful fuel cell car also helps a battery based car because of the drive train (assuming the auto manufactures don't decide sticking with mechanical transmissions and differentials is more cost effective).

One thing is for sure: After three decades of relative stagnation, there is a LOT of new development going on for automobiles.

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New Evidence For Hyperbolic Growth?


A lot of talk goes on about exponential technological growth as typified by Moore's Law. However if Ray Kurzweil is correct concerning his Law of Accelerating Returns we should see not just exponential growth but hyperbolic growth. Hyperbolic growth happens when the causes of exponential growth are themselves growing exponentially.

Well according to researchers at Georgia Tech this is exactly what we should expect to be seeing in the near future. Here are a few excerpts from the article:

“By 2010, the "More Than Moore's Law" movement—which focuses on system integration rather than transistor density—will lead to revolutionary megafunction electronics “

“SOP technology represents a radically different approach to systems. It shrinks bulky circuit boards with their many components and makes them nearly disappear. In effect, SOP sets up a new law for system integration. It holds that as the components shrink and the boards all but disappear, the component density will double every year or so, and the number of system functions in an SOP package will increase in the same proportion. Thus, SOP technology yields far more in system miniaturization than can be expected from Moore's Law, which deals only with transistors in ICs [see graph below, "Growing Faster"]. “

“This last application will see the convergence of biology, chemistry, and digital technology to produce capsules small enough to be introduced into the human body to monitor personal health daily. A capsule could be used, for example, to check vital signs and monitor parameters such as glucose levels, blood pressure, and even signs of cancer. The capsule would then wirelessly communicate the person's health status to a Web terminal outside the body or, via the Internet, to a physician (or to anyone, anywhere). Fitted with a reservoir, the capsule could also deliver drugs at programmed intervals to selected places within the body. “

Source


14 Comments:

I'm just enough of an electrician to be aware just how sensitive such devices have always been to external radiation sources (RF, magnetic, etc; not nuclear especially) and have wondered how robust something that small can be made. Having your in-body diagnostic and Rx dispenser go on the fritz every time one passes through a metal detector would not be a good thing, I suspect.

If I can just stay out from under the bus for a few more years, it appears I may have the opportunity to find out.

By Anonymous Will Brown, at 6/6/06 08:27  

From the study of proteins and their interaction with ligands we also learn that most have a mechanism for co-operativity. If that co-operativity between subunits of the protein is positive then a reaction where you would expect a hyperbolic response becomes sigmoidal.

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Money Doesn't Grow On Trees (Or Does It)

The other day I was walking around in one of the beautiful hardwood forest of northern Ohio and it occurred to me that the trees were a perfect example of molecular manufacturing at its finest. Of course it is often pointed out that biological organisms are essentially molecularly constructed beings but the point really hit home for me while thinking about the trees. I think this is because of the large mass and simple efficiency of trees. The molecular mechanisms for constructing a tree are powered directly by sunlight (no need for exotic fuels like us humans), and the building blocks for constructing the trees come straight out of the atmosphere via carbon dioxide.

So this got me thinking: all that carbon dioxide we keep dumping into the atmosphere via combustion could be a global fortune rather than a disaster. Just imagine molecular manufacturing on a global scale that produced almost every economic good out of carbon directly from the atmosphere while using sunlight as the power.

Form this perspective economic efficiency and reducing carbon from the atmosphere would be the same project. It takes energy to separate carbon from oxygen. At this time we are accustomed to combing oxygen and carbon to get energy. But this is an archaic way of getting energy seeing as how it is throwing our ecosystem out of whack and seeing as how the earth already receives more energy from the sun than we could possibly put to use. We must imitate the trees. We must use the sun's energy to separate the carbon from the atmosphere and use that carbon for all of our production needs.

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Nice points! There are so many sources of energy and matter that we've been unable to exploit for so long, people take it for granted that they will be unexploitable forever.

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A seemingly little appreciated concept that you touch on here Micah is that of how complex the ordinary truly is. Phil Bowermaster links to this post with one example of that complexity,

http://www.blog.speculist.com/archives/000835.html

but I suggest that the degree of technical mastery necessary for us to duplicate the process that trees use in a manner we can control is something that most people don't appreciate.

It's all very well to say, "Trees do it, so can we", but doing so in a way that doesn't emulate the chaotic process of nature adds a so-far insurrmountable degree of complexity to the effort.

One of the benchmarks of the pre-Singularity period in my opinion ought to be our ability to emulate functions that occur naturally as power law distributions in a bell curve measurable fashion, a concept my blog partner Gary and I discussed in a different context here:

http://artofwarplus.com/wordpress/?p=824

That, I submit, is the distinguishing characteristic of science and technology, most particularly as in the example you provide here. Whether or not we survive as a species to achieve the Sigularity will, I suggest, largely be a product of our successfully achieving that transition from chaotic natural process to controllable technologic process.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Event Horizon Frappr Map

I just added a Frappr Map to the blog. You can see it at the bottom of the 'recent posts' list. So if you have a moment it would be great if you would add yourself to the map. I would love to know a little more about my readers. Also this is a great networking tool as it helps anyone who reads this blog to meat others of like mind.

NAME="frapprGroupMap" TYPE="application/x-shockwave-flash"
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One would presume it would also help us to "meet", as well. :)

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oops

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Two weeks without a new entry and still looking at a sparse frapper map. If I tell you a little more about one of your readers, will you post again? :)

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Future of Health Care

Here in the United States one of the key issues in the political arena has been the state of health care and what can be done to improve its accessibility to all levels of the economic spectrum and make it more affordable to everyone - with the left demanding state controlled universal health care and the right singing the praises of the present market system. In this article I will take no political stance because I don't think this is a political problem. Rather what I wish to discuss is the open source future of medicine and why that future makes the problem of the expense and availability of health care a problem that will soon go away.

No doubt some readers are already shaking their heads. They are probably saying to themselves that medicine requires doctors and goods that are both scarce and which must necessarily remain scarce for the foreseeable future. Of course if this premise were true then my earlier claims would be unjustified and so ,of course, that is a premise that I will show to be in error.

To begin with lets look at medical doctors. The backbone of the modern health care system is the science of medicine which is put to use by medical doctors who are essentially technicians (very well educated technicians). These technicians are usually specialists in one particular system or organ of the human body – though they are well educated in the whole body. These technicians are also experts at diagnosis. They apply the science of medicine and biology in order to pinpoint problems with the human body. This involves gathering data from the body through various tests and instruments. This data is then put through a system of inference which seeks to classify a set of symptoms as either within the range of healthy or as a syndrome or a disease. Although at one time it required a very intelligent and educated person to gather this data and perform the necessary inferences in order to make a diagnosis most of this process can now be performed by an intelligent machine.

This is not meant to slight the science of medical diagnostics - the brilliant masters of chess have already met their humiliating match and have now been surpassed by the machine.

So being that this is already the state of affairs what can we likely expect to see in the next ten years or so? Here is one scenario which I think is likely. Within five years local clinics start using very good weak AI expert systems to make diagnostics and prognostications. Soon thereafter it becomes legal to obtain a prescription from a clinic based on the prognosis of the AI alone. This move drastically cuts the cost of visits to a clinic because there is no doctor on salary. Of course when necessary a doctor could be consulted through telepresencing, in fact a network of M.D.'s might be able to augment the functionality of the expert system which could then be networked all over the world.

With such a networked medical AI/ telepresencing-doctors system the cost and effectiveness of medical treatment could be greatly reduced.

At this point some might say: big deal, we will soon have expert systems that can make accurate diagnosis and prognosis, the real cost of health care is treatment. I concede that this is true. However the very nature of medicine – and hence treatment – is presently changing paradigmatically. Within the next few years it will become inexpensive for a person to have his/her genome sequenced. Soon all medicine will be based on a person's genome. And not only genetic diseases. Soon our understanding of genetics will allow us to regenerate organs and tissue, and bolster our immune systems to kill cancer and other invading replicators. Such treatment relies on the science and technology of bioinformatics. Bioinformatics understands that the the human genome is a structure which contains information which instructs a kinematic replication process, i.e. Life. Once this biological paradigm shift has fully come to fruition I would imagine that one will be able to go visit a clinic to receive a gene treatment which makes one immune to the common cold and influenza for about as much as it costs to get a soar throat looked at now. I expect to see such advances within fifteen years.

Beyond fifteen years it is quite hard to say what medicine may be like but lets try any way. I think that it would be a conservative prognosis to say that sometime between 2020 and 2030 we will have achieved both molecular manufacturing and artificial general intelligence (AGI). If after this point we haven't destroyed ourselves then we should be enjoying an economic utopia. But beyond the fact that one obviously wouldn't need any money in such a society (and so wouldn't be concerned about the cost of health care) one could also expect that the very idea of health will have changed. What we consider to be “healthy” at present may in a couple decades be considered unbearably diseased.

With all of humanity networked through an exponentially growing super intelligence, and with tools that can manipulate molecules to create any conceivable thing, the very nature of physical human existence may become something that is currently inconceivable to us.

5 Comments:

Interesting thoughts. But what about the costs of malpractice insurance due to lawsuits. I believe that has a lot to do with the cost of health care today. In a few years there may be less doctors but unfortunately just as many if not more lawyers.

By Blogger motojet, at 10/5/06 09:37  

Excellent point motojet. I'll have to give that one some thought but my answer right off the bat would point to AI legel expert systems that would be quite similar to the AI medical expert systems.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

The End of Money and the Singularity Model of Economics

Recently over at “The Warrior Class Blog” Will Brown wrote an article on the need for a singularity model of economics. This piece was also discussed at the Speculist by Phil Bowermaster. This was a very interesting article and while I wholly agree with Mr. Brown's assessment that we are in need of a serious singularity model of economics I must disagree with his equating of money with economics (if I understand him correctly).Here are a few points that I would add to this line of thinking:

To begin I would like to see a singularity model of economic that is very interdisciplinary. What I mean is that human economic activity and political organization is the result of both the biological and memetic evolution of the human species. As such Economics must become a more integrated science based on interdisciplinary principles.

Now having said that let us take a very brief look at the history of the economic exchange of goods.

The evolution of the technology of exchange corresponds to the evolution of the technology of economic productivity. The technology of exchange begins with civilization. Civilization emerges from human techno-memetic evolution when the technologies of writing and agriculture are developed. At this stage of civilization records are kept and credit is given but there is no standardized medium of exchange. This state of affairs leads inevitably to the adoption of a standardized medium of exchange – usually gold or silver. From this early stage in human civilization until the beginning of the industrial revolution gold served as an almost universal currency and was identical to money. At that point in history the banknote was invented and thus begun modern finance. However, even though banknotes have been used since at least the seventeenth century it has only been since 1971, following the Bretton Woods Accord, that most of the worlds governments began issuing fiat currency. This is the difference between money and currency. Money has an inherent worth or can readily be exchanged for a predetermined amount of something with inherent worth (such as gold), Fiat currency has no inherent worth and its value is subject to manipulation by governments and others with a great deal of power.

When this is understood one must conclude that economics and money are in no way the same thing because economic activity continues on, ever more rapidly, without the existence of money.

What now exists in place of money is a system of trust wherein members agree by dictate of law to accept a fiat currency in exchange for goods and services. One cannot become wealthy in such a system by merely accumulating money (as was once possible) but must accumulate capitol, i.e. the means of production.

In a society where capitol is centralized, wealth is concentrated into the control of the few. If there is only one power plant then whoever controls that plant is very powerful indeed. And if the enormous high-rise apartment complex is owned by one company then, again, that company has a lot of power.

But what happens in a decentralized society that has been altered by design-science revolution? Such a society is one that I believe we are currently building – or at least making possible. What happens when individuals are not dependent on the centralized and monopoly owned infrastructure of life? What happens when an individual can own a domicile for a relatively small amount that is completely self-sustaining – able to produce all of its own electricity, fuel, food, and tools? Such a time is around the corner.

Once this economic state of affairs is achieved the age of monopolization of the infrastructure of life will be over and so will the present politico-economic organization with all of its inefficiencies.

When, or if, this state of affairs comes to fruition how much capitol one owns will not define wealth since the entire infrastructure of life will be decentralized and since molecular nano-fabrication will end all scarcity (or destroy the planet). Once this revolution is fully developed all human interrelation will be based on meaningfully dialog. The only exchange will be the exchange of ideas and collaboration. The only wealthy man will be the self-actualized man.

22 Comments:

It is hard to envision that "the entire infrastructure of life will be decentralized" in the course of a technological Singularity, when electronic networking tends in the opposite direction -- towards tighter and tighter centralization. But even so, there may be a return to something like hunter/gatherer cave-man economics, in the sense that a Prosperity Engine based on sentient means of production may provide a subsistence economy for all of humanity, similar to the African savannah at a time when the human population consisted of only a few thousand individuals. With subsistence assured, individuals may then compete to exchange larger contributions to social well-being in exchange for marginally larger enjoyment of the fruits of the economy. Ah well -- probably too Utopian!

By Anonymous mindmaker, at 6/5/06 09:15  

I agree completely with this line of thinking. You may have misunderstood what I meant by economic decentralization. Even though global society continues to become more and more cybernetically interconnected I think we will see a trend toward the dencentralization of tool and energy production because it is more efficient.
Also I think that the development of AI and the development of an intelligently networked global economy are one and the same (what you call the sentient economy). Once such an AI is in full control of the operation of the global economy we will either have sucseeded in bringing about a state of human flourishing or we will have brought about our demise. So it would seem that we our either destined to a state of utopia or to extinction (or possibly just a rather miserable existence - the matrix senerio.

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 7/5/06 00:02  

My basic intent was to encourage just such discussion as you offer here, so thank you for taking part.

I think the description I offered is an accurate portrayal of the popular understanding of economics - which is a large part of the problem in developing anything so grandiose as SME. People commonly associate economics with banking, which is rather like associating biomedical research with your first aid kit. In both examples, however interconnected the two parts are, they aren't actually the same thing at all.

My inspiration for the post arose from a widespread misconception that Singularity precursor technology (molecular fab, AI, HSE, etc) will mean the end of money and sought to refute that idea. Since no-one's specifically opposed that thesis (yet), I'll take that as tentatively stipulated.

I noted at The Speculist that current economic principles don't seem to scale to the individual level of operability. Do you see that as compatable with your interdisciplinary approach?

By Anonymous Will Brown, at 11/5/06 10:46  

To Will Brown:
Thank you for taking the time to post a thoughtful comment. I really enjoy it when the blogosphere becomes a form of dialog and I am excited about the growth of conversations such as the one in which we are engaged.
I'm not sure what the prevailing opinion is concerning the future of money in a post AI and nanofabrication economy but I take the stance that money, and even currency as we now understand it, will cease to be the means of exchange.
I applaud your attempt to bring the economic discussion down to a level that can be understood by all but I simply disagree with your approach. I think that we need to move away from understanding economics in terms of banking as I see this as a hindrance to getting to the root of what economics is all about – which is creating a sustainable biosphere which will provide for all human needs in a most efficient manner.
In response to your question about the scaling of economic principles I'm not quite sure what you mean by this but I can say that I think an interdisciplinary SME needs to begin with an assumption of ever expanding abundance and seek to describe how the techno-economic evolutionary process can bring about a state of affairs in which humankind can dwell sustainably in and with the rest of the biosphere and in abundance.
Having said that the basic reasoning behind why I don't think their will be a need for any kind of economic exchange medium comes from the idea that at a certain technological point there will be no need to distribute resources as all services and goods will be provided by sentient machines that are not owned by people. Because of this there will be no such thing as human labor and no such thing as money. The result of this, as I see it, is a state wherein human beings will be able to engage in almost any activity they deem worthy of their efforts and will need no economic incentive (since a state of abundance beyond human understanding will already exist).

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 12/5/06 01:48  

Micah; Obviously I'm not saying this as well as I'd hoped.

We have the present state of tech development and the future state of development you describe. My thought is that it would be valuable to develop a set of principles and metrics as a strategic guide for getting from now to then with as little conflict as possible. The most common experience people generally have of economics is the banking industry and investment markets; it seemed reasonable to start the SME development process using the terms of that familiar context.

A brief aside: I submit that gold and silver have no more intrinsic value than do other refined metals (their value is determined by the identical process as are other metals) except as they are used as currency. The concept of money/currency exists outside of the form chosen for it's expression. The concept of "fiat money" is a political device built upon a distinction without a difference.

Some effectively universally accepted means for valuing and prioritising objects will be required however we obtain them and money already has such general recognition. Strategic science assumes change as a constant, so some method for prioritising value under variable circumstance will be one function for money well into humanity's future. A universal standard for valuing dis-similar objects or intellectual constructs for exchange over distance will almost certainly be another.

The scaling problem is an example of differing perceptions, I think. Something may exist in such abundance that I literally cannot possibly use it all. Even so, it is not actually infinite in supply so economically speaking it possesses scarcity and economic theories work from that premise. Assumptive behaviors based on that premise are the justification behind modern financial laws and agreements. How do we re-scale economic theories to accomidate an effective lack of scarcity controllable by the individual? Without creating conflict with existing laws and agreements which would work against the development of such individual capability.

One thing I disagree with you over is the idea that we will supercede the need to distribute resources. Human creativity will always be a marketable resource for so long as there are two or more humans in existence. AI must remain alien or indistinguishable from human and the latter must desire involvement in that market exchange to achieve that state.

Sam Dinkin described economics as "Logistics without all the trucks and stuff" and that seems right to me. Life will always have it's logistic requirements and money is the most commonly recognisable tool of economics. I think it will remain useful to us for a lot longer then you seem prepared to credit.

I have commented on your writing before now:

http://artofwarplus.com/wordpress/?p=646

Maybe this will add some clarity to my thinking process.

By Anonymous Will Brown, at 12/5/06 10:17  

You certainly raise some interesting points that I will have to give further consideration to. I'm a bit surprised that you think the difference between fiat currency and money is contrived. I agree that the same mechanisms determine the intrinsic value of all commodities. The reason why gold and silver have been traditionally used as money is because of the combined properties of being relatively scarce and useful. Today gold is no longer officially used as a currency yet it is highly sought after. One reason for this is because both the amount of gold that can be mined out of the earth is severely limited and finite and it is highly useful (as it has always been). In other words the supply remains about the same while the demand fluctuates according to a number of factors. No matter how much power one has it would be very difficult to change the perceived value of gold and hence its price. This is not so with fiat currency. The value of the Dollar or any other fiat currency is subject to extreme revaluations according to interest rates and the number of bills in circulation, or the productivity of the issuing economy (all of which can be manipulated by the government in order to control revenue without the people's consent).
My position concerning the distribution of wealth (as you know) is that we will move from fiat currency to the exchange of instruments that represent ownership of the economic infrastructure (such as digitally represented corporate stock). I believe that this economic pattern will continue until there is no longer any need for human labor at the point of singularity. So I agree with you concerning the need for a medium of exchange that acts as a coordinator of logistics (without all the trucks and stuff : -), but I submit to you that the singularity event fundamentally changes the nature of the game. In a post-singularity world what would you pay money for and to whom would you pay it? Their will be no resource that any person can offer you - whether it be a device, commodity, or idea – that cannot readily be obtained by the fully automated-super intelligent-molecule manipulating global techno-economic infrastructure.
Of course this all just speculation on my part and I could be wildly wrong – we will see.

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 12/5/06 14:20  

And so we equally surprise each other; I confess to a certain degree of amazement that you don't assume the artificial contrivance leading to the very concept of money. The idea of one object representing a myriad of other objects for the purposes of transacting in those other objects surely isn't an obvious or instinctive association, I think.

In an effort at clarity between ourselves, I offer this: Economics is the science of which money is both commodity and unit of measure; currency (including coinage)is the physical expression of money. Strategy is the science of identifying the means of achieving a desired objective; tactics are the methods chosen to arrive at that goal; logistics is the science of obtaining, prioritising and supplying the means required by tactics, which closes the circle back to economics.

Going back to my (deliberately truncated) definition of strategy, post-Singularity conditions are by definition undefinable, therefore you cannot develop a strategy for them other then to stipulate that you will need to do so once those conditions become more clear to you. One of the foundational principle's of strategy is that opportunity results from the actions (or inactions) of others and not your own; your contribution is in identifying and qualifying opportunity(s) as they relate to your present position. We know that our technology is progressing in the direction of a singularity, but we can only select from those opportunities that are presently offered to us by others. The tactics we choose to exercise to realise those opportunities are limited by the logistic and other constraints within which we operate. One of the primary logistic constraints now, and likely for most of the pre-singularity period, will be money and, at least at the individual level, it's principal expression as currency.

Stipulating that all physical objects have commodity value, the historical conflation of the commodity value of refined metals with their artificial value as currency has long been understood. That recogintion ultimately took the form of national abandonment of the "gold standard" as a metric for their currency (apologies to all you actual historians out there, I know I'm not summarising this very well). By doing so, they removed the influence of the commodity value of the refined metal from the valuation of their currency, pegging it instead to the agrigate valuation of their national production instead (apologies to all you actual economists as well, it's a blog comment, what do you want?). Since any currency is a product of that same nation, this simplified and stabilised the various currencies valuation.

You are quite correct that commodities fluctuate in value relative to their availability (supply and demand and all that). By minting their coinage (a more physically durable and lower technology iteration of currency) in a relatively rare metal, earlier societies subjected their national monetary system to external influences like the commodity value of the metal used. This put regulation of their currencies value beyond their control since any source of the same metal would depreciate the value of their own. Far from being a negative event, "fiat money" removed the historical conflation of two competing commodity markets from influencing national currencies.

I am curious, in what way do you consider "exchange of instruments that represent ownership of the economic infrastructure" in any way different from existing currencies valued on national production measured in established economic units (Dollars, D Marks, Yen, etc)? I'm not refuting that there might be a desirable marketing reason (the principle reason national currencies change pre- and post-revolution now), but a change in packaging rarely announces an actual improvement of the product itself, in my experience.

You raise an interesting ancillary issue I'd like to address, "(all of which can be manipulated by the government in order to control revenue without the people's consent)". My impression is (and I recognise that I could be wrong here) that this is a false application of the Pre-cautionary Principle. Basicly, because something could be abused is not a valid objection to it's actually being used, but only of the terms and conditions under which it may be used with authority. Because I could commit a treasonous act in a publication is not a valid objection to the activity of publishing. Equally, because government could manipulate the national currency is not an argument against national currency or against government; it's the manipulation without consent that is of concern. Strategy identifies an objective and selects tactics to achieve that obective without damage to the existing position.

Thanks for letting me clog up your comment section this way, it's been a lot of fun and food for thought.

By Anonymous Will Brown, at 13/5/06 20:32  

I think these kinds of dialogs are fantastic. Don't worry about clogging up the comments. In fact I don't even think of it as a comment – I set the comments to appear because I want any of my readers to feel welcome to add to what I've said in the original post. I feel that this leads to an all around richer experience to any reader that comes here. In addition if we keep this up much loner we will have a book size manuscript that we can publish : p .
Now to address some of your points and questions. You covered so much ground I don't know where to begin.
As you clarified your position I will do likewise. As I now beer understand your position and have had time to think about it more it turns out that we are hardly in disagreement except for what we are emphasizing. One key disagreement I have is over how you define the science of economics. I agree with everything else and I also agree that currency is both a commodity and a system of measurement – I just disagree that this fact describes what economics is. I define economics as both a descriptive and proscriptive science that seeks to understand and describe how human activity is coordinated toward productivity and seeks to proscribe the most efficient means of economic productivity. At present human activity is coordinated via a complex system of finance that I need not describe to you. No doubt some form of currency and system of finance will exist for as long as it is necessary for Man to labor and invent. I tend to think that this will no longer be the case after both strong AI and nano manufacturing exist – but until then their must be a medium of exchange (I think you agree with this).
Now concerning fiat currency. I do understand that the fiat currency system is part of the evolution of finance and that it is in many ways superior to gold backed money and coinage (especially if you are a Keynesian -which I am not). My point was just that money qua money has already ceased to be an economic medium and I agree that this is, over all, a good thing. However, implicit in this train of thought, in my mind, is the idea that finance will continue to evolve far beyond the concept of money (an exchange medium of inherent economic value). I believe that this evolution will end with the senescence of finance altogether but I realize that this is both speculative and contentious. What I am interested in is understanding the evolution of finance and how it relates to the evolution of technology, politics, economic production, etc. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this.
Finally, you ask a very important question which I will address. You ask:

“I am curious, in what way do you consider "exchange of instruments that represent ownership of the economic infrastructure" in any way different from existing currencies valued on national production measured in established economic units (Dollars, D Marks, Yen, etc)? I'm not refuting that there might be a desirable marketing reason (the principle reason national currencies change pre- and post-revolution now), but a change in packaging rarely announces an actual improvement of the product itself, in my experience.”

The key problem with fiat currencies is that they actually do not just represent the national production of the issuing economy. Of course this is true to a certain extent but governments have the power to purposively raise or lower the value of a currency by manipulating a plethora of variables which the State has taken on the power to do. This power has been taken by the State in response to the Keynesian doctrine that free market systems are inherently unstable and must be manipulated in order to keep the economic machine running smoothly. Followers of Friedrich Von Hayek would vociferously disagree with this. On the other hand financial instruments such as corporate stock have real economic value in as much as they represent ownership of capitol. In a technologically mediated and perfectly liquid market such stocks could be immediately bought, sold, or exchanged for goods at a price which would be continuously adjusted according to market demand (This is a real price mechanism that measures real value as it exists in the aggregate of human consciousness -see Von Hayek). In such an economy all people would posses ownership to a greater or lesser degree of the economic infrastructure. This economic infrastructure is continually growing more efficient and hence the real wealth of everyone would be directly increasing. This is not so with fiat currency. So what, I ask you, is the purpose of fiat currency in a system such as this? The answer is that it gives governments the power to take in revenue without people knowing about it. This in turn allows governments to spend money on things that they would never spend money on if they had to raise a tax for it first – such as wage war etc. The system of fiat currency will be replaced because it is inefficient and human techno-memetic evolution is a process that ever increases the efficiency of human labor toward productivity. What do you think?

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 14/5/06 02:31  

Well, if you insist (sorry; Blazing Saddles was re-shown on one of the cable channels last night).

Your point about our differences of emphasis is key to our conversation, I think and the context of my original post. My approach to the question was always one of, "What is the commonly understood aspect of the thing". Whether the science of economics (which is not at all well understood by those not extensively trained in that discilpine - which describes me, for one) or the technologic advancements that lead to the Singularity, the single most common reaction I have experienced is that of rejection due to lack of contextual understanding ("That's all very well, but what does it have to do with me?"). I think it a given that both subjects have a great deal to do with everyone on this planet (if only because I desperately need capable allies with whom to leverage advancement of our mutual positions :)), so the qestion then becomes one of how to illuminate that individual context for the greatest number of people.

I happily stipulate that your's is the more accurate definition of economics. That said, there is a school of belief that can be summed up as, "You are what you do", and what you do is expressed by the tools you use. For the majority of people, I think, economics is the tools that they are familiar with, at least in their own life context. Expanding opportunity requires expanding capability; it isn't really necessary to be a computer scientist to successfully use a computer and it shouldn't be necessary to be an economic scientist to successfully use econoic tools - if an adequate context can be created within which to do so. Just as computer scientists didn't provide the impetus for creation of popular access computer tools, neither, I think, can we rely upon economists to do so in their field of expertise. It simply doesn't advance their position, structured upon the existing context, to do so. The next Bill Gates of the pre-Singularity may well be one of us or someone inspired by our thoughts here.

Unfortunately, the vagaries of my current labor context require my presence elsewhere for now, so with your understanding I will pick this end of the coversation up again when I return.

By Anonymous Will Brown, at 14/5/06 18:37  

OK, where was I?

I think one of the central issues here is the assumptive nature of accepted conflation, our earlier discussion of gold being an example. Gold-as-commodity is one market, gold-as-currency is a different market yet it is still widely accepted that conflation of one market valuation is synonymous with the other market's function. Approaching this from the other direction, your assertion that corporate stock is in any way less subject to the whims of arbitrary manipulation simply doesn't stand up to even casual scrutiny. Agreed that the precise measures taken in either example differ in particulars, the same result occurs with either if the opportunity to do so is taken. It is that opportunity that has to be guarded against (and corrected when discovered) and not at all the case that either instrument is immune to such abuse. An effective strategy is one that would highlight the occurance of such manipulation, provide a mechanism for correction and nothing else. It is simply a given that such manipulations will be attempted in attempts at positional advancement, you can no more prevent that from being tried then you can expect people to stop breathing because carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas.

I think of the mission of SME as providing a mechanism for as many people as are willing to develop the economic independence that I believe pre-Singularity tecnologic advancement's potentially promise them in other aspects of their lives. By doing so, SME would positively contribute to the meme that such independence is both good and desired by the greatest number of people possible, as well. I think it a foregone conclusion that those who enjoy success under current economic models will not view such relative displacement of their position at all favorably. Unless, as individuals, they have the means to translate their present position to one of individual independence also.

Which brings us back to our currency discussion. If you will accept the notion of national currency as the "stock certificate" of a nation/state (at least in the Platonic ideal), I think you will agree that this also contributes to the strategy of reducing potential for conflict. Currency includes all citizens (all users of currency, actually) whereas corporate stock is influenced by the position of each corporation as well as the market for stock's generally. The more people empowered by the model, the less likely is usurpation of the model by a limited (dare I say "special"?) interest group.

So how do we remove the "fiat" from the currency and bring that closer to it's Platonic Ideal? Since money is a product of human imagination in the first place, I submit that firmly linking SME with the personal independence potential of technology advancements will make acceptance of both occur without any specific effort made to achieve either. People believe that work = money and that money - currency - is the "normal" means of effecting exchange. Extending that belief to freedom from necessity for exchange eases that transition by allowing for both and creates wide-spread acceptance of both.

Which, I suggest, is also the most effective strategy against restriction of such technologic capability to the existing economic/social models.

By Anonymous Will Brown, at 15/5/06 22:56  

The point of gold backed money is precisely that there is no conflation between a currency market as separate from the gold market. This is because a gold backed banknote is worth a predefined amount of gold. For instance a silver certificate was guaranteed to be exchangeable for a silver dollar which is a predefined amount of silver. Before the Bretton-Woods accord there was no such thing as a currency market (in anything like its current state). This is because the relative values of currency did not fluctuate as they do now. If the market value of gold changed it changed for all national currencies that represented gold (even if you wanted to exchange Nazi Reich marks for a silver dollar in 1944 you would have to have enough Reich marks to equal a silver dollar – thousands?). This is not to say there were not problems with gold backed currency – there were.
You asserted that both stock and currency could be manipulated. This is true. However there is an important distinction to be made here. First, it is true that it is relatively easy to manipulate the price of stock shares but any change in the price of stock is a temporary fluctuation. Over all the average price for any stock is indicative of its actual value ( as representation of ownership of some particular capital). Second, there are laws against manipulating stock value because this is viewed as deleterious to the market process. However this is not the case with fiat currency. Fiat currency doesn't just happen to fluctuate according to the relative strength of economies (otherwise the dollar would be beating the hell out of the Euro right now), but rather it is intentionally manipulated by governments which use their powers to incur national debt as a means of stealing revenue from the people without their consent (to better understand my position on this read this short essay written by Alan Greenspan in 1966 http://www.321gold.com/fed/greenspan/1966.html).
But beyond my disagreement concerning these technicalities I think that we are fundamentally in agreement. I found the last two paragraphs of your post to be particularly thought provoking. Reading what you said gave me an interesting idea. You ask:
“So how do we remove the "fiat" from the currency and bring that closer to it's Platonic Ideal? “
Here is a possible solution: What if we made an index that was supposed to indicate the relative economic productivity of an issuing economy? What I have in mind is something like combining the Dow with the S&P 500. Lets call this new index the U.S. Economic Productivity Index (EPI). This index could then be divided and subdivided whenever necessary (just like any index or mutual fund); and the certificates of the shares in this index would be U.S. Legal tender. Owning these shares would be the legal equivalent of owning that much of the economic infrastructure in that country. If other countries did likewise then the currencies of the respective nations could be traded on the open market. The result of this would be currencies thats value was set by the actual market and would be an accurate representation of the economic productivity of the respective nations. Those nations with the most economic productivity would have the most valuable money.
The result of this would be that those nations with the most valuable currencies would increasingly import more and more from the least productive nations because their money would be less valuable (making the trade a better bargain for the importer). This would set up a state of affairs wherein the least productive nations would beef up their production capabilities (this would not be a problem because of mass investments in those developing nations). As the least productive nations become more and more productive the most productive nations would grow in productivity less rapidly then the developing nations (because they import so much). The final result of this process would be a global economic equilibrium of import and export and relative capabilities of economic productivity. This, in turn, translates into an equilibrium of personal wealth because the people of the earth would actually own the economic infrastructure and as that infrastructure becomes more and more efficient so would the actual wealth of the people who own and are using shares of stock as a currency. Finally, their would probably eventually be issued a global currency backed by the global economic infrastructure leading to an end to the nation state.
So what do you think of my grandiose vision? Is this compatible with what you meant by moving closer to the Platonic ideal of currency?

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 16/5/06 01:25  

Micah; You said: "The point of gold backed money is precisely that there is no conflation between a currency market as separate from the gold market. This is because a gold backed banknote is worth a predefined amount of gold." We can agree that this is the intent, however, we seem to disagree that this is the practical result. If the commodity price of gold is $100/oz and $100 of currency is pegged to a different quantity of gold then your currency value is conflated with the commodity value as a practical matter. Pegging currency to production at least has the virtue od reflecting the capability of the issuer; pegging currency to the vagaries of supply-and-demand ensures an economic model of scarcity, I think.

Need to think on the whole vision thing. More to follow, as they say ... :)

By Anonymous Will Brown, at 16/5/06 23:48  

rlnwI think we are still talking past one another to an extent, Micah. I think your earlier post "Wrapping my mind around 2010" is a representative example of your approach to projecting future developments. Strategic science takes the opposite approach to the same objective. Sun Tzu chose to regard what you earlier called a "grandiose vision" within the realm of philosophy. The reasons for this appear to have been emminently practical ones.

We can each of us identify with a high degree of certainty whether or not our present position is advanced by a given opportunity. With a marked degree of lessor certainty, we can extrapolate our subsequent position and the general type of opportunity to be on the lookout for. Much beyond that though and the lack of specificity prevents any real possibility of reliable projection.

A second reason for classifying "vision" as philosophy is that, while having such a guide is required to develop any kind of coherent strategy over time, by attempting to stipulate particular end-state conditions, you increase the likelihood of passing up opportunities that advance your position only indirectly (seemingly a less desirable choice), but an actually available one, in hope of a more direct seeming opportunity appearing. Keep in mind that opportunity only results from the actions or inactions of others and is not something you can manufacture at need (just on the off chance, I really "need" to win the Texas lotto :)).

For these reasons, in strategic science terms, philosophy consists of all the guiding principle's which constrain the choices you allow yourself in selecting a given strategy.

In the present example, I keep returning to the "common understanding of economics" because I believe that to be closest to most people's position (and is certainly the case regarding my own).

We do require a vision to guide us toward an ultimate goal in our lives, but not, I think, to the degree of specificity that so obviously compells you. Put to the test, it really is a fairly short list of actions most people absolutely will not countenance under any circumstance. That being the case, all else becomes a matter of circumstantial requirement. Strategy can appear to be brutally pragmatic, but I submit that that is a result of the individual making the choice and not the methodology used to do so.

Strategy seeks to simplify the decision making process, whereas philosophy seems to require the most complex consideration's of even the simplest question. I submit that simple is better when working to attract supporters to advancement of an epic change that largely cannot be specified as of yet.

By Anonymous Will Brown, at 18/5/06 08:58  

Wonderful discussion. As I am pressed for time (as well as a bit of a johnny-come-lately to this entire set of discussion threads) let me just advise that, while I, too, am sympathetic to much of what Hayek (and his mentor, Mises) theorized and advocated (and see the crop of neo-Austrians and other libertarian free-market economists), what we must bear in mind is two things: (1) sophisticated robotics and nanotech will severely erode the need for *exchanges*, and (2) the entire (sub genre of economic) science of *catallactics* (the theory of exchange(s)) is about 95% of the entirety of economic theory. Now, due to neoclassical/Austrian "imperialism" over the last 4-5 decades or so, we have seen the catallactic (meta)model(s) extended into politics (Public Choice theory) and jurisprudence (Law & Economics and Economic Analysis of Law), as well as the evolution and/or construction of social structures/institutions (the neo-instituionalists, such as the superb Doug North [due check out some of his work], among, of course, many others). What we must realize, however, is that, as I said, much of traditional/typical *exchange* economics will (or at least can, if tech is properly instantiated) be significantly attenuated---one will merely interact with a cybernated "santa-claus" system or interlinked set of systems. But people will still need real *income*. Louis O. Kelso was concerned as early as the 1930s with the continued evolution of ever-more-productive captial instruments and capital-intensive processess, and with the advent of totally cybernated production of goods/services. He proposed a neo-Lockean variation (that British philosopher Hillel Steiner could embrace, I suspect, as well as, perhaps, Jeremy Waldron) in which capital-acquisition financing credit would be extended to all, rather than being *de facto* severely restricted to the already-encapitalized few due to the collateralization protocol in traditional finance, and that, eventually, everyone could own a substantial amount of (eventually) robotic/cybernated capital, and thus obtain both affluent leisure and a very high real income. I would strongly collegially suggest that you investigate Kelsonian ideas and proposals. See www.kelsoinstitute.org, www.cesj.org/binaryeconomics/kelsovision.htm, and the other links available there.

Economics is, today, also essentially about *incentive* structures, *incentive* protocols within (and among/between) instituional structures, etc. What we need is a comparative institutional-structure analysis of arrangements likely to produce the most desired outcome: That which amounts to a cybernated robotic, nanotech world in which labor is completely obviated and goods & services are simply "available" via an intelligent, global, cybernated nexis of instantiated intelligent technology. But what are the incentive path(es) and institutions needed to get us from "here" to "there"---THAT'S the big (set of) question(s). See also Jim "Cyber" Lewis' delightful page(s) on "Robotopia", http://www.cyberlewis.com/graphic/posthuman/topia/Robotopia.htm.

Gotta run...ciao for now (and thanks for the honor and privilege of posting a comment...)

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Monday, May 01, 2006

The Techno-Memetic Evolution of the Biosphere

In the biosphere species live in a harmonious conflict. This harmonious conflict constitutes that dance of nature we call evolution. With the evolution of biological species comes the evolution of the biosphere. All species alter their environment, and hence the biosphere, whenever they evolve. As species are continually evolving so also evolves the complex interrelations among all species on earth. As some species evolve – causing the biospherical balance to shift – other species are challenged to evolve as well because of that environmental change – which in turn challenges yet more species to evolve or die – and so forth..

This continual cycle of evolution finally gives birth to a species which can alter the environment to suit its needs rather than rely only on genetic evolution. This species is, of course, Man – the technological animal.

This type of evolution, which is a technological evolution, has been called memetic evolution. Memetic evolution is the evolution of the information which instructs the organization of humankind to be able to alter its environment as a means of survival in an evermore efficient manner.

This techno-memetic evolution has allowed humans to migrate to, and live in, almost every climb and place on earth and to reach population levels far beyond the carrying capacity of a pre-technology biosphere. The rate at which the biosphere evolves has been growing exponentially since its formation. With the arrival of the technological animal who has inhabited every region of the biosphere, the rate of change within the biosphere has accelerated to a furious speed. Until recently humankind was not aware of the biosphere but was only aware of the effects of regional ecology. The awareness of humanity's dependence on the biosphere has come at the same time that humanity has become aware that techno-memetic evolution is changing the biosphere in ways that could be catastrophic to human existence.

It is the nature of techno-memetic evolution to continually optimize the organization of human activity toward an ever greater ability to alter the environment to enhance human survival. For this reason the logical goal of human-machine civilization must be to optimize the entire biosphere for human benefit through world-changing engineering and technology.

This project calls for nothing less than the unification of all science. Physics and chemistry must further inform our understanding of biological systems and the science of evolutionary biology must further inform our understanding of anthropology and sociology. The result of this unification will be a mature science of ecology which will inform the organization of human activity on this planet. The ecological optimization of human techno-economic activity must be the collective goal of the human species.


10 Comments:

The "logical goal of human-machine civilization must be to optimize the entire biosphere for human benefit" and also for machine benefit.

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I should have said: 'for the benefit of human-machine civilization'.

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Friday, April 28, 2006

The Evolution of the Engine

The technological-economic evolution of the human-machine civilization is composed of advances in the amount and quality of information (and how well that information is shared) as well as the efficiency with which that information is used to alter the environment and nature of the human-machine civilization.

In what follows we shall be concerned with the evolution of the means by which the environment is altered.

We call that technology which is capable of physical work – and hence the power to physically alter the environment – an engine. The idea of the engine arises when the principles of Cosmological organization and dynamics are understood to the extent that it then becomes possible to harness those principles to effectuate change.

The earliest engines were human powered tools designed to take advantage of known principles, such as the oar – which took advantage of the principle of resistance in order to effectuate propulsion. During the same era animal power was used as well, sometimes applied to systems of pulleys, levers, and other technologies. As the Human-Machine civilization advanced technologically an increase in discovered principles and the power of the previous engines combined to make it possible to make evermore powerful and effective engines. First wind and water mills, then spring and gravity engines such as clocks with springs and pendulums.

Then came the world-historical altering heat engines. These engines utilized heat, almost always from combustion, to generate physical motion capable of doing work. This is the engine that drove the first industrial revolution and continues to drive the advances of the present through the internal combustion engine. It was the advent of the widespread use of the heat engine in such applications as the locomotive, the steam ship, and the steam shovel that brought the idea of fuel into human thought. Previously work was accomplished through everyday natural events such as wind or flowing water. It was not conceived of by man before the heat engine that energy could be stored away for the future accomplishment of work. Prior to this time the primary engine of work was the human body and the primary store of the potential for that work was precious metals. Precious metals, such as gold and silver, became a medium for the storage of future human labor in market societies and most societies held slaves as a form of energy storage as well. However gold and silver is merely a medium of exchange. It acts as a store for future human labor but it was never conceived of as the direct storage of work in the way that petroleum is understood today, and the way coal was understood in the past.

For more than 200 years the heat engine and its fuel has been the effective agent of the technological-economic evolution of human-machine civilization. During that time astonishing gains have been made in discovering principles of Cosmological order and dynamics. Along with these astonishing gains have come powerful new understandings about how to effectuate change of the environment for the better of humanity. Part of this understanding is a moving away from the thinking of energy as a scarce recourse which must be controlled to control the evolution of the human-machine civilization.

We now understand that we live on the surface of a giant gravitational engine that is continuously emitting thermal radiation and electromagnetic fields and that that giant gravitational engine is revolving around a much larger thermonuclear fire ball that is constantly bombarding us with a large spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. We are swimming in a see of energy. What is called for is an intelligent putting to work of that energy as we alter the human-machine civilization and its environment toward Telos.

This is now beginning to take place through the construction of apparatus capable of transforming solar radiation into electricity and other more usable forms of energy such as ethanol an hydrogen. As this transformation takes place in the coming decade human economic activity will be fundamentally altered because the energy that powers technological change will no longer be a scarce commodity but will be virtually unlimited – thereby making the speed at which change is possible virtually unlimited.

12 Comments:

Ah... indeed.. I read about the possibilities of building a solar array in low earth orbit which could then "generate" infinite amounts of energy for the planet.


Unfortunately, even though this is very doable, the powers that be ( the big OilCos and military-industrial complex ) won't fund such a project because of its disruptive potential.


Just imagine it, infinite renewable sustainable energy for the whole planet. Energy would truly be commoditized, In one feel swoop OPEC would become redundant !

By Blogger yoda, at 29/4/06 07:19  

Hi Yoda.
One of the technologies that really has me excited are these solar concentrators that are being used to power Stirling engines that are being used to generate electricity much more efficiently than PV cells. Supposedly they are relatively inexpensive to build and one of them generates enough power for five houses. I would love to either build one or buy one if I can.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Wraping My Mind Around 2010: A Singularitarian Philosopher Takes a Look at the Near Future

It seems that recently there is so much tech in the news that I can barely keep up with the implications. However, as a philosopher, I must come to grips with the implications because therein is the nature of the Cosmos. As an integrated system in continual Flux the present is ever pointing toward the future because the seeds of the future are in the present system state of the Cosmos. It is the business of philosophy to think and to say (though through a glass darkly) what the order of the Flux is. Yet because the Flux is ever changing it resists examination – it is never the same. Therefor if one is to attempt to say something of what the Flux, and hence the Cosmos, is, then one must look to what the Flux is becoming. This is because the Flux never IS but is always BECOMING.

In trying to think the Flux I have chosen to focus my thinking on comprehending the near future of the Flux. In trying to think in this manner I have found the Years 2010 – 2013 to be a point of phase change. The technologies unleashed on the world in this time frame will likely be of a truly revolutionary nature. And when I say revolutionary what I mean is that these technologies will rapidly (over the period of a decade) transform the entire sociological order of global human-machine civilization.

This is, of course, quite interesting, if true, because it is so near in time and so astonishing in its implications for everything that seems important now. Also this kind of thinking is an experiment for me because if I can accurately predict the implications of the current state of the Flux, then I will have validated, to some extent, my methodology. And of course if I am completely wrong I will have shown that my methodology is rather wrong headed and untenable. So in what follows I will attempt to describe the state of the art in technology today, then I will attempt to extrapolate based on trends and the interrelation of those trends what the state of the art will likely be in five years or so, and then try to draw out some conclusions concerning the organization of global human-machine civilization at that point..


Computation/linguistic/artistic interface

In this section I would like to treat the increases in computational power, means and speed of connectivity, software development, and media creation and dissemination as all so closely related as to be one thing. What I am referring to is basically the 'Internet' renamed. I say all of these things are the same because they are all intimately related, and in fact, these things acting in concert are the Internet. As computers gain in performance new software is written to take advantage of that new power. With more powerful programs and more powerful computers the amount of data that can be received and processed in real time increases and hence there is a demand for greater speeds of connectivity. With greater speeds of connectivity the kinds of media being distributed over the network becomes more complex. The purpose of this infrastructure, this 'Web', is to facilitate interconnectivity of human minds via ever greater powers of language (in the form of evolving media). This whole process, of course, is in recursive feedback. So we see that the whole infrastructure is part of the evolution that takes place when technology is applied to human communication. Now since human communication engendered technology in the first place applying technology to advancing communication (which began with the advent of writing) has set the advancement of both language and technology on the path of exponential increase in power. So if we take this model seriously, and I do, the evolution of the Internet becomes a quite logical process with a somewhat easy to predict near-term trajectory. The 'Internet' is precisely that bit of technology that is actively improving the technology engendering human activity of communication.

But what does it mean to improve communication and language? I think this is obvious. Language is the means of an individual to convey something about the world to another individual. In this way those humans who share a language also share a world. So the evolution of language has been, in some sense, the evolution of the 'World' that humans live in. And so the evolution of the technology of language has been the evolution of bringing more and more humans into a shared world and world-veiw. In this way the history of art is also the history of the evolution of language because the artist attempts to convey something about the world of that artist on a level that is not possible with mere words. One important way in which this is done is through simulacrum - whether the art be sculptures, poetry, play act, painting, photography, film etc. The idea though is not merely that the world is reproduced but that it is reproduced in such a way as to reveal some detail of experience that the artist/interlocutor wishes to accent. In such a way a person can go beyond the mere attempt to explain some detail of his/her world and can actually bring an audience into the artist's world and show them that world. This is the power of simulacrum and this is the direction of the Internet – toward always accessible global communication through artistic simulacrum.

Now if it is the power of communication that engenders the power of technology then the point at which all human knowledge becomes instantly accessible and searchable and the point at which any person can create an immersible world to share with others is a kind of linguistic singularity (AGI would be the other one most commonly associated with the singularity proper)

So what is the state of art of this technology engendering linguistic technology and what kind of changes can we reasonably expect over the next five years? Well one way to answer the first part of this question is to measure to what extent the average person can share powerful simulacrum and to what extent all human knowledge is searchable and accessible.

Currently there are three big players here: The movie industry, the gaming industry, and Google (and to a lesser extent every website and program on the Internet). We are now in the midst of major change in entertainment as the gaming industry moves into high gear. We have MMORPG's, hyper realistic first person shooters, and incredible world simulators already. All of these game genres are contributing to the realization of total world immersion. At the same time the state of the art of television and film is rapidly advancing. Witness the advent of enormous HDTV's, Super realistic surround sound systems, and media that holds incredible amounts of information such as HDDVD's. Add these advances to the advances in the cost and power of digital camera's, media computers, and gaming engines; and the ease of transmitting media globally and free through services such as Google video and YouTube, and it is not hard to see that we will be witnessing an ever greater rise in the production and dissemination of high quality homemade media.

As to the access and searchability of human knowledge we are making rapid gains as well. The constraint on this issue is in the power of the artificially intelligent search algorithms, and in the ease of interface with this intelligence, and in the physical availability of access to this intelligence. As far as the search algorithm, Google has been steadily gaining in this field and I see no reason why this shall not continue. As for the interface, rapid advancements are now being made with speech recognition software and we are already beginning to see the implementation of this technology in customer service, automobile navigation computers and cellphone operations. If these advancements stay on course I see no reason why we will not have, at least, rudimentary speech interface with an artificial intelligence that is powerful enough to coordinate all human knowledge and communication by 2013 or so. Now as for physical availability, this will of course begin only in the developed world, but with the current advent of EVDO, full power hand held computers, and 3G phones and networks it seems obvious to me that in another five years one will be able to access the Internet (and hence the entire global system) at any time one would wish.

So my prediction is that sometime around 2010 – 2013 the Internet will finally become a full fledged 'meta-verse'. And of course when this technology fully emerges it will be inextricably tied to all the other technologies, including government, production, and finance.



Finance

I have labeled human communication as that which engenders technology but this is only half the story. If the purpose of communication is to share a world then the purpose of sharing a world is learning to coordinate activity in that world. Finance is the means of coordinating activity in an environment of resource scarcity. The sophistication of finance evolves as the sophistication and complexity of economic activity become greater in order to deal with the ever greater scarcity of resources as the population density in a given location increases. Our current global and highly complex system of finance has evolved with the population density of the planet. Right now the global finance system is coordinating the production of the life-infrastructure for over 6 billion people. The technology of finance is the technology that facilitates the storage, transmission, and distribution of wealth in the most economically efficient manner. This system has been rapidly evolving since the Enlightenment and has been evolving especially rapidly since the advent of digital computation. Hardly a day can pass by with out a new form of financial instrument being invented and a new, more efficient, way of trading those instruments. Year after year more and more people own some amount of the infrastructure of economic productivity thanks to these instruments. If we observe the historical records of the value of the economic infrastructure, such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average, or the S&P 500, we must come to the conclusion that the value – and hence the efficiency, of the economic infrastructure of productivity is increasing at an exponential rate. There is every reason to think this trend will continue. We have already moved to a fiat currency and we are just now moving to a fully digital currency. Yes there is still pieces of paper sitting in the bank, and yes you can still operate in the economy merely by exchanging these pieces of paper, but the pieces of paper have no relevancy anymore. Just this month (4/06) PayPal has introduced a means whereby one may pay for things, or otherwise transfer money from one account to another, with a cell phone. Its not hard to imagine that in a world of ubiquitous communication and computation, complete with virtual reality type immersion, that all currency will be digital. More than this, however, is the possibilities to finance that this opens up. In a world such as this there would continuously be perfect liquidity in all markets. What this means is that the average person will be able to store all moneys in high quality investments while at the same time that person will be able to whip out his/her ultra personal computer/cell phone and transfer that money out of capital investment into someone's bank account (where it will then be invested again in such a manner) to make a purchase or what not.

This state of affairs, which I see as having already begun, will have an enormous impact on global economy by 2013. Of course I don't expect it to have already caused a revolution by 2013, what I mean is that by 2013 it will have begun to start a revolution which will still take another ten years to fully, and irrevocably change the world economy. The revolution takes place at the point at which the efficiency and productivity of the economic infrastructure exceeds the immediate demands of human-machine civilization. At this point the storage of wealth becomes irrelevant because any human demand can be immediately satisfied with out laboring or 'spending' stored labor, i.e., money. At that point every individual has a right to a certain percentage of the fully automated economic infrastructure and that amount of wealth will be virtually infinite in as much as the infrastructure can supply any human need or reasonable desire – my guess is around 2030..

So my prediction is that by 2013 digital currency and computerized trading of instruments will provide perfect liquidity of markets allowing for a greater and greater number of middle class citizens of developed nations to become far more wealthy and eventually allowing everyone on planet earth to become very wealthy.



Models of economic productivity

But finance is merely a technology for coordinating labor and allocating capitol. What is really interesting is the manner in which the labor and capitol is coordinated. The environment of market capitalism is a highly competitive environment that aggressively selects for efficiency of productivity or service (which translates immediately to greater profit which translates into greater capitol investment). While it may seem that capitalism only works because of all the sophisticated social norms that we have – and this is true – it is also true that the same basic laws of the biosphere which have been influencing the behavior of Homo Sapiens since the beginning are the same basic laws that continue to govern the technological evolution characterized by the evolution of any capitalist economy. So while we are examining human economic activity we must remember that while it is in a sense an invention of man it is also, in reality, the natural activity of man at this stage of his existence on this planet. As such it follows certain rules, just like any other system of nature, that can be extrapolated through hypothetico-deduction. Namely we can conclude that the efficiency of economic productivity will continue to grow at an exponential rate because that is the nature of the techno-economic society which has arisen on planet earth due to natural memetic selection. This translates into an ever growing knowledge of the cosmological system (science) and ever greater power to control aspects of that system in order to support human life (which encompasses the entire biosphere). This power and its relationship with Humanity is the essence of technology. Technology, which is the outcome of productivity, has emerged out of the biosphere and is a part of the biosphere.

In this sense Man is truly the keeper of the Garden. Either Man will maintain the Garden and so maintain His existence or Man will destroy the biosphere and Himself. So in saying that Man is essentially a technological species we are also saying that man is essentially the keeper of the biosphere. Previously in history Man has conceived of the evolution of technology as a war against nature – a war to wrest the secrets from nature in order to tame Her. Yet now, more and more, we are beginning to understand that no thing can be effected without all things being effected. We are beginning to understand that to take care of Humanity means to bring all of Earth into a system of equilibrium. With out this feat there can only be scarcity, starvation, and war.

But the nature of the exponential growth of science along with technology has finally brought about a state of affairs wherein we can begin to understand how the entire system might be maintained in equilibrium without scarcity. This state of affairs follows from economic efficiency and technological power.

Perfect economic efficiency and technological power would be the knowledge and ability to transform anything into anything with the least amount of energy possible. Who knows what the limits of this are but we are, as yet, far from it. Still at this point we have the knowledge to begin to build an infrastructure that collects all of its energy in a highly efficient manner from the sun, storing that energy efficiently in the form of hydrogen, or in super-capacitors, or fly-wheels etc. Extremely rapid advances are being made in this field every year. At the same time amazing advances are being made in robotics, replication machines, synthetics, and nanotech etc. Every year appliances are getting more and more efficient as well. Already at this time a person with a reasonable amount of capital could completely support his or her self on a relatively small plot of land using existing technologies. So I predict that in about five years a large and rapidly growing number of individuals all over the world will be providing some or all of their own power and using replication technology to make a surprising number of products rather than buy them. I'm not saying that this decentralized hyper-efficient economic paradigm will dominate but merely that it will have a firm foothold by 2013 and that it will expand quite rapidly causing a true economic revolution before 2020. This trend will continue, of course, with the arrival nanofabrication machines and AGI. I don't expect this kind of technology though until about 2030 – shortly before the singularity.


Government

The waning of the State. This is the story I predict for the next decade. For the most part the state is something that must exist to protect property in an environment of scarcity. People don't murder each other for tennis shoes in an environment of plenty. Don't get me wrong I'm not saying that the state is just going to up and disappear tomorrow. I just think that as economic productivity and the distribution of wealth increase in efficiency the state will, correspondingly, diminish in power and importance. This is because the function of the state will become obsolete. There will, no doubt, still be law and police, but not many of either. On the other hand there probably won't be much privacy – at least not in the public sphere. What I hope to see is an ever increasing decline in crime as wealth increases and it becomes nearly impossible to break the law without being caught because of ubiquitous cameras. If this is the case people will demand that the law become simplified and manageable – otherwise most of us would end up in jail eventually for some stupid peccadillo. Other factors influencing the soon-to-be irrelevance of the state are the irrelevance of war as scarcity begins to become a none issue, transnational migration, and the complete intertwining of the global economy which is causing all nations to be reliant on the established system to the extent that waging a war is really not an option. So its really pretty simple: No economic scarcity = little crime and no war = the eventual end of the state. And by 'state' I mean the entire military-industrial complex, the enormous prisons filled with millions of people – many of whom are non-violent offenders, and the thousands and thousands of police who patrol the streets pulling over pretty much whomever they like while merely picking a violation from among the thousands there are to charge you with if he likes. And this is in the democratic republics, never mind the state of affairs in the world's tyrannical states. Don't get me wrong – I'm not judging the state on an ethical level – I'm merely describing what it is. That it is a necessary evil is evident by the fact that the state is a sociological condition that arose spontaneously through the activity of certain groups of people living at certain times during the history of biological evolution. No single person had the idea to build a state in order to enter into competition for resources. The state was formed spontaneously from human activity. Yet just because I understand that states exist necessarily does not mean that I believe that their continuance is necessary.

Technology is the result of confrontation and scarcity. It stems from a biological adaptation. The inherent conflict between competing social groups, or species, or nature, is what gives rise to technological evolution. But it is this same technology, once it is cultivated to completion, that ends the condition of scarcity from whence it came. With the end of scarcity comes and end to the state and a new economic and political way of being will take its place.

But before we get to that point the first step in the way of ending the state is establishing international law (by violent enforcment if necessary, i.e. Iraq, Bosnia, maybe Iran etc.) Of course I prefer the peaceful route, and ultimately that is the only rout, but before justice can be established on a global level basic laws protecting human rights must be established and enforced on a global level. We are now in the process of achieving this state of affairs even if it is being violently opposed by militant Islamic fundamentalists and other well intending people such as green peace anarchist types (or even your standard Democrat for that matter). Once this state of quasi international justice is attained perhaps before 2015, then these nations will be ready for a flood of technologies which will help them build an economic infrastructure and be plugged into the global system quite rapidly. So by 2013 or so I expect to see the infrastructure set up that leads to the beginning of the dismantling of militant infrastructure and, hence, a greater investment in the infrastructure of life – which will only serve to accelerate the process of demilitarization. This demilitarization will be demanded in democratic nations once the economic benefit is felt initially.

16 Comments:

aa2

I think one way to judge a flux is looking at productivity increases in the big free market areas of the world in 2013. If we see the yearly percentage gains continuing like they are now, or even rising then it would be some strong evidence..

I've bet my money on Japan right now, through stocks.. That Japan will see the biggest rises in output.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 16/4/06 01:11  

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By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 16/4/06 01:36  

While material plenty will reduce some crime, it will take mental health improvements to dramatically lower it. The folks who flew into the World Trade Towers were not poor or looking to increase their material well being.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 20/4/06 15:27  

You write that you "have found the Years 2010 - 2013 to be a point of phase change." Right in the middle of those years at 2012, the Singularity Timetable predicts a fullblown Technological Singularity.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Technological Nature of Government and the Question of Justice

The threat to man does not come in the first instance from the potentially lethal machines and apparatus of technology. The actual threat has already afflicted man in his essence. The rule of enframing threatens man with the possibility that it could be denied to him to enter into a more original revealing and hence to experience the call of a more primal truth. Thus where enframing reigns there is DANGER in the highest sense. -Martin Heidegger

But where danger is, grows
The saving power also.
- Holderlin


Government is a technology. The purpose of this technology is to establish a state of human flourishing. The purpose of technology in general is to establish control over nature through instrumentation. The instruments of government are law, bureaucracy, weapons, and the enforcement of law and policy through organized violence.

It is also the nature of technology to evolve with ruthless efficiency to empower those who wield the instruments of technology to an ever greater extent – and at an exponential rate no less.

Yet who possesses the instrumentation of the technology of government, and toward what goal is this technology aimed at achieving?

The power of a technology is defined by how readily and efficiently it may obtain its goals.

As the power of technology grows so grows its danger. The danger of technology arrives precisely when the instruments of technology are no longer capable of being governed by human agency and so we are then given over to a fate brought to bear by an autonomous technological system of governance.

As the signs of this danger grow and come into appearance the most perennial question of philosophy resurfaces and makes us feel yet again the greatness of the task that we must embark on in asking such a question: This question is the question of justice.

To ask the question of justice is the same as to ask what state of affairs is most conducive to human flourishing. In order to answer this question we must first know under what circumstances human flourishing may blossom forth, and this knowledge may only be had through an understanding of the essential nature of human being as a political and technological animal.

Either the question of justice will be answered in time or the growing danger of technology will lead to the destruction of humanity – at least this much is certain.

Yet have we not already passed beyond the point at which the system of technological apparatus has become autonomous? It would appear that we have. Every where we turn we see evidence that there are no world actors. No individual can originate the power of will necessary to change the course of the world, precisely because every individual is an inextricable part of a system. All individuals are constrained by the demands of the nearly global socio-politco- economic-system. All of the social and cultural complexity and variation that we see in the various regions of the globe are the result of shared belief systems that are inherited and which are capable of evolution. All of this is evidence that man is not directly in control of his destiny. All human actions are, as they have ever been, reactions to the emergence of physis which is the evolution of nature. That is to say that human nature and hence the behavior of human society is determined by the natural course of the evolution of the cosmos and the laws that govern that evolution.

But even as we acknowledge that the various technologies of government have arisen necessarily out of the zeitgeist as determined by the evolution of the cosmos we must also acknowledge that in understanding that the cosmos is indeed ordered, and therefore determined, we have already gained a great insight into the essence of human being. We have learned that man himself is an emergent property of the cosmos – that man is a part of a system and his identity is in how he is related to that system.

As the danger of technology grows so grows the knowledge of science. This science is knowledge of the system and hence is knowledge of man as he is defined by the system.

From out of this we can extrapolate three truths about the essence of man and perhaps with that knowledge we can set out on the way toward a fuller understanding of the question of justice and human flourishing. (1) man is a part of a system, (2) man is a being that is related to the system of technology at an ever increasing rate and in an ever more integrated manner, and (3) man is a being who is aware he is part of a system and is gaining more and more knowledge about that system by applying his ever more powerful technology toward that end.

With this knowledge an hypothesis emerges in my mind. This hypothesis is the possibility that despite the fact that human destiny is determined by the system of which it is a part it may turn out that the ever increasing knowledge about man that accompanies the ever increasing power and danger of technology will inform an ever greater understanding of justice as a necessary prerequisite of human flourishing.


5 Comments:

The Romans defined justice as constans et perpetua voluntas jus suum cuique tribuendi -- "the constant and perpetual desire of giving to each his own right." Nowadays in modern times, there are personhoods known as corporations who are usurping the birthrights of human beings. The (Italian?) invention of the corporation was perhaps helpful for Western economic development but probably not a good thing for justice and human rights. Artificially intelligent entities ought to belong to themselves as de facto persons and not to corporations.

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The Roman definition doesn't really answer our question because it merely reverts to the word 'right'. This word is sometimes used to mean the same thing as justice. For instance the words righteous and just are synonomous. The question then remains: What is right? What is good? What state of affairs opens up the path for mankind to more fully realize the potential it has.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Thinking About the Essential Relatedness of Man and Technology: A Call for Papers

I've been reading Martin Heidegger's philosophy of technology as presented in his work “The Question Concerning Technology" (the link is to an excellent guid). Heidegger is a notoriously difficult philosopher to read but I believe he has some important ( strange and obscure) things to say about the most thought provoking issues facing humankind. The following is a rudimentary beginning of an attempt to think about the technological singularity through the lens of Heidegger's philosophy. I apologize in advance if it seems unnecessarily obscure, but possibly the strange questions raised require a strange way of thinking and speaking.


I have been thinking about the evolution of technology not as only the evolution of various individual technologies but also as the evolution of technology as an interconnected system that is, in turn, integrated with human society and activity in an essential way that makes the two inextricable.

In an attempt to understand technology as a whole which is a system that is integrated with the human way of being I have found it convenient to use the concept of the World Wide Web as a sort of locus for understanding the manner in which all technology is becoming integrated and the necessary trajectory of its evolution.

When we try to think about technology in this manner we are following a path of thinking. This path for thinking opens itself up to us because of a more fundamental question than the question of the essence of technology. This more original question is the question of Being it self, which for humankind is the same question as the essence of man which finds its ground in Being. So by asking what the essence of technology is, as an integrated whole, we follow a path that may lead to one aspect of man's essential nature as a technological animal; and, in turn, understanding how the essence of man is related to the essence of technology sheds light on the fundamental question of Being.

Now the question of Being is the most original question and the deepest question because it is the end of the kind of questioning that seeks after causes. There can be no question about the cause of Being. Being is that which is most fundamental. It is the Source and the Ground for the appearing of all beings.

So in questioning after man's essential relation to technology in an attempt to think Being we can no longer think technologically because technological thinking is precisely the thinking which seeks out causes and effects. The kind of thinking that is required is a thinking that goes beyond the mere placing of man as another kind of technology – as another chain in the branch of cause and effect - what is required is a meditative thinking that can think the essential relatedness of Man to the Cosmos which is the ground of Man's Being..


My challenge to any of my more thoughtful and industrious readers (who have plenty of time) is to write an essay that attempts to understand how man is essentially related to technology and the significance of it. You can either publish your short essay in the comments or email it to me and I will publish it with credit. If anyone actually responds to this we will have a dialog about these issues drawn from the essays published. It should be fun and hopefully productive.

8 Comments:

Technology and psychiatric care

I'd like to raise some questions regarding the assumptions of modern psychiatric practice, which encompasses the diagnosis, prognosis, and intervention of mental (or behavioral, if you prefer) disorders. Technology already plays an significant role in our treatment of those struggles that are not adequately deemed "biological", and its importance will only increase as we continue to map the brain and explore its own interrelatedness as well as the correlation of brain states to phenomenological experiences. These are questions I feel that will serve us if asked intentionally, but pose a great danger if we tacitly assume they have already been answered.
One way to condense this debate concisely is to ask: What does it mean to be embodied consciousness? This, of course, is an age-old conundrum that reminisces of mind-body problem, soul, etc. My point is not to engage in an outdated conversation so much as to recognize that much of our practice today is guided by unintentional assumptions. One way this plays out in psychiatric care could be simplified by asking, “what do you consider to be the main problem here, and what is merely a symptom?” For some, psychological struggles are a result of incongruent cognitions, for others responses to previous relationships, and for many today the interaction of neurotransmitters in our brains. How one answers this question will imply a commitment to specific interventions: confronting erroneous beliefs, focusing on the therapeutic relationship, prescribe psychotropic meds, etc. Of course, these options are not mutually exclusive, but there is a genuine tension between the assumptions of each approach in regards to human nature and the capabilities of technology. And again, I feel that answering these questions without genuinely asking them will have deleterious consequences for our society. And if genuinely asking entails centuries of dialogue, so be it.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

AI as Human Symbiote

This post was inspired by this video.


It is obvious to many that humans are in a symbiotic relationship with machines. We have become inextricably interrelated to our own devices and those devices and our relationships with them, and each other, are evolving rapidly.

What is perhaps less obvious is that artificial intelligence is a phenomenon which exists as an epiphenomenon of the biosphere because it has arisen naturally according to the laws of evolution as a human symbiote.

As a corollary to this thesis is the thesis that what is being called the World Wide Web is a natural out growth of the evolution of human interaction and interrelation, and that this out growth naturally gives rise to AI.

What I am saying is that the development of human language and reason necessarily give rise to technologies of communication and evermore efficient methods of economic production, and that from out of this arise necessarily technologies and the production of technologies that mediate human language. AI is one such technology.

The implication of this, as I understand it now, is that AI is essentially a mediator of human mind and language because its evolution is precisely a continuous adaptation to the human need to interrelate and communicate. This, in turn, implies that AI is necessarily an entity which is friendly to the human organism because its evolution and the evolution of humanity are in symbiosis.

9 Comments:

Wow, that looks like an amazing interface - wish Apple would use something like that in its forthcoming 6G Video pods.

Love your ideas, if the doors of perception where cleansed, man would see as it, infinite...

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Inspirational Song Lyrics



Lateralus

black then white are all i see in my infancy.
red & yellow then came to be, reaching out to me,
lets me see.
as below, so above & beyond, i imagine.
drawn beyond the lines of reason.
push the envelope. watch it bend.

over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.
withering my intuition, missing opportunities & i must
feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines.

black then white are all i see in my infancy.
red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me,
lets me see there is so much more &
beckons me to look through to these infinite possibilities.
as below, so above and beyond, i imagine.
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over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.
withering my intuition leaving opportunities behind.
feed my will to feel this moment, urging me to cross the line.
reaching out to embrace the random.
reaching out to embrace whatever may come.

i embrace my desire to,
i embrace my desire to,
feel the rhythm, to feel connected enough to step aside & weep like a widow
to feel inspired, to fathom the power, to witness the beauty,
to bathe in the fountain,
to swing on the spiral,
to swing on the spiral,
to swing on the spiral of our divinity & still be a human.

with my feet upon the ground i move myself between the sounds & open wide to suck it in.
i feel it move across my skin.
i'm reaching up & reaching out.
i'm reaching for the random or what ever will bewilder me.
what ever will bewilder me.
& following our will & wind we may just go where no one's been.
we'll ride the spiral to the end & may just go where no one's been.
spiral out. keep going.
spiral out. keep going.
spiral out. keep going.
spiral out. keep going.

- TOOL, Lateralus, Lateralus
You may listen to this music, purchase the album, or read reviws here

16 Comments:

Hell. Yes. This song means so much to me. Tool is the best.

By Blogger Lila, at 18/12/07 02:51  

We'll ride the spiral till the end and may just go where no ones been. SPIRAL OUT! KEEP GOING!

Ah hahaha good told TOOL, one would find their music and appropriate "TOOL" to find ones self :O

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Technological Acceleration and the Phenomenology of Time



This thought has occurred to me. Both time and space are relative. In theory space can be divided or multiplied infinitely as can time. In regards to space the human body, our atomic constituents, and our planet act as reference points; but in regards to the relativity of time it would seem that the only real reference point is the conscious experience of the passage of time. So the question is why does a second feel like a second instead of a thousand years? What is governing this phenomenological experience and can it be changed?

It would seem to me that the experience of time must have been conditioned by evolution to optimize us for survival. Some factors that may have played into this are the average speed of moving objects in the ancestral human environment such as falling objects, predators, and prey. The conscious experience of time would be an important component for the application of intelligent pattern recognition as it pertains to biological survival.

Throughout the history of the human species the operating environment has changed little until the advent of civilization several thousand years ago. However, since the advent of civilization humans have been using technology to alter their environments to better suit their needs. During the last century the rate at which the human operating environment has been altered due to technology has increased significantly because of the exponential nature of technological advancement.

This fact raises an important question in relation to the coming technological singularity. Note the diagram of the golden rectangle/spiral above. Let us assign a number to each square from largest to smallest. There are eleven squares visible. Now imagine that this spiral represents the passage of time from the big bang to the singularity. The first square would represent the eons of time that led up to the formation of planet earth and the last square would represent the singularity. Let's say that human civilization began in the sixth square and that the eighth square represents the twentyth century, and the ninth square represents the first quarter of the twenty first century. This is helpful in visualizing the kind of exponential change that we will face in the near future.

Now the reason for this exercise is to demonstrate that, in this model at least, at no point in history has any human being lived long enough to experience a new exponential unit (square). But presently any one who is currently alive is likely to experience a number of squares, and any one who lives to see the eleventh square (the singularity) will live to see a virtual infinity of squares.

My point is that the phenomenological experience of time as governed by our cognitive architecture is not prepared for this kind of change. And so I hypothesize that part of becoming post-human will be being able to alter our cognitive architecture so that the experience of time slows down considerably. We already know that the human mind is capable of this because of reports made by those who have used psychedelic drugs, gone into trances or deep meditational states, or who have had a near death experience.

Just imagine a world in which technology is accelerating at rates that are beyond imagination yet the people living in that world are experiencing a second as a thousand years.

20 Comments:

Truly a romantic thought. It makes me want to do my best to ensure I live to see the next forty years.

Interestingly, your final paragraph sounds strikingly similar to Budhist spiritualism. Could it be that we're all talking about the same thing? William Blake describes it thus:

"To see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour."

By Blogger yoda, at 16/2/06 04:16  

The perception of passage of time is something which I've thought about. About ten years ago I was watching a swallow catching insects above a muddy pond. Its manoevres were so quick and accurate that I wondered whether its perception of time was faster than mine. If I was moving that fast I would hardly have time to see anything - let alone something as small as an insect - before crashing into the ground.

What's governing the perception of time is the physical architecture of the brain. My brain and the brain of a swallow are made from the same units (neurons) which work on the same time scales. What's different are the structures and just the physical size of the brain. The speed at which a signal is propogated from one neuron to the next is governed by the physical length of the axon between them.

By Blogger Bob Mottram, at 16/2/06 04:57  

I once read a paper on cognition that described the situation an F15 fighter pilot goes through. In such a machine, speeds of upto 600 miles per hour (970 kph) are common while In a dogfight. The author indicated that the average human suffers cognitive overload. The paper then described how such pilots and members of the CIA are taught to "slow down" perception (I forget the technical term. Forgive me).


In such a state, a highly trained CIA agent could literally watch a bullet approach him in slow motion. He could then dodge it as easily as I could dodge falling kite (a la Neo in The Matrix). The author indicated that this is the same ability a pilot in a dogfight calls upon.


I'm not sure if this is the same as your illustration. You seemed to be saying that the speed of signal propogation differs depending on what organism the brain belongs to. If we assume the paper I described above is accurate, is it possible for an individual to consciously slow down time. Could it be that the singularity has already happend and that it's just not evenly distributed yet?


Finally, I'm slightly confused about the relation between time and the perception of time. Is there a difference? Does time change with our perception or is time simply our perception?


(I realize that my comments might sound rather naive. Feel free to point me to relevant literature so I can wrap my head around this stuff.)

By Blogger yoda, at 17/2/06 14:03  

Thanks for the comments Yoda. I really have no idea what the true nature of time is, or what the difference between chronological perception and reality might be. I realize that Einstien deals with this to some extent with the theory of special relativity but many questions remain unanswered. Science, until very recently, has not taken consciousness seriously. Spiritual traditions such as Buhdism and shamanism may know more about the phenomenology of time than present day science. What you said in the comment is very interesting. I was thinking that we have to physically alter our brains in some way, but perhaps we need only develop a certain kind of discipline similar to meditation that would allow us to slow the perception of time (and dodge bullets like Neo):D

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 17/2/06 15:06  

There is not space and time, just space-time, they are the same thing and they are, as we see them, an illusion.

We have an internal clock or perceptual frame rate that is controlled by a long loop of neurons in the brain, it can change it's circuit speed when we overheat during a fever. This is perceived time, rather than measured space-time the two are not the same. Perceived space is also subject to shifts and distortions, but how many of us can see with the eyes of a painter anyway, for many live in a world of symbols, not color and light.

Speaking of space-time, I think the location of the singularity is a more interesting point than the date. My guess is, somewhere on the north west side of the Pacific Ocean.

By Anonymous Daniel S. Matthews, at 17/2/06 20:02  

The last commentor is right in that space and time are just different views of the same object. We do have our own internal body cock for detection of circadian rhythms, but this is more to do with controlling release of horemones and other metabolic processes rather than actual perception of time. The body clock is based upon detection of ambient levels of light, and operates at an early stage in vision.

I very much doubt that "CIA man dodging a bullet" story, and suspect that it's just a piece of folklore. Nobody can dodge a bullet, no matter how much meditation they may have done beforehand.

The geographical location of the singularity I don't think is very important, because I don't think it will occur at a geographical location. I think it will occur on the internet.

By Blogger Bob Mottram, at 19/2/06 06:12  

The following is fact.

"We have an internal clock or perceptual frame rate that is controlled by a long loop of neurons in the brain, it can change it's circuit speed when we overheat during a fever."

If you can't find the papers on it yourself, let me know and I will dig it up for you.

By Anonymous dan@3-e.net, at 19/2/06 10:44  

dan, please provide a couple of links to the papers that you recommend. There's a lot of material online and it'd be nice to know what the best work is.


Bob, said "Nobody can dodge a bullet...."

I think we should be careful before we make such final declarations. Remember, we once all thought that the world was flat!

By Blogger yoda, at 20/2/06 20:00  

Dan sent me a couple of wonderful links to whitepapers on how the brain perceives time.


I'm eternally grateful to him. and the work being done on this blog. I feel like a tadpole that's just come out of the water and is finally learning the feel of land. I've got my work cut out for me. Here are the links Dan pointed me to:


1) http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/303/5663/1506

2) http://sulcus.berkeley.edu/wjf/CH.PerceivedTme.pdf

3) http://cogprints.org/3318/01/time.pdf

4) http://citeseer.ist.psu.edu/mcauley93learning.html

5) http://irmfmrs.free.fr/recherche_neuroscientifique/Cognition_Attention/Modulation_Attention_Science.pdf

By Blogger yoda, at 21/2/06 13:31  

Cool. Thanks Dan and yoda.

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 21/2/06 15:00  

yoda said:

Bob, said "Nobody can dodge a bullet...."
I think we should be careful before we make such final declarations. Remember, we once all thought that the world was flat!


sorry yoda, but unlike the flat-earth belief which was based just on vulgar perception, the Bob's statement is based on hard facts like the speed of bullet, time to impact, distance at which one can notice the incoming bullet, brain reaction limits, time to send commands to and activate muscles, and time needed to move body off the bullet trajectory. remember, incoming bullets are often supersonic, so you don't get warned...

You compare all the above to the flat-earth belief ? sheesh... tell me, are you a real yoda ?

people do dodge bullets - I knew such a person myself - but! the existing training "to dodge a bullet" is not actually dodging the bullet, but developing ability to predict the moment when the opponent pulls the trigger - and dodge and attack at the exact moment.

look for what "the crease of a swordsman" is

By Anonymous Igor, at 28/2/06 01:00  

Yoda could probably dodge a bullet, or maybe deflect it with his lightsaber.

By Blogger Roland, at 9/3/06 19:49  

yoda: I'm sorry to say this, but scientificly, it does seem impossible to dodge a bullet. Unless you're expecting it, a bullet travels faster than sound(http://hypertextbook.com/facts/1999/MariaPereyra.shtml), so you can't dodge. However, if you're being shot from a distance, it's possible the bullet will slow down enough for sound to pass it.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 26/11/06 16:36  

I'm really interested in body clock phenomenon so it was useful for me:) Thanks

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Cosmological Deep Ecology and the Singularity

Man is a part of a system. As Man evolves both biologically and technologically so does that system. The system I am talking about is our environment and that environment is the entire Cosmos. Of course the most important part of that environment is the earth itself.

Some ecologists and environmentalists seem to view man and his technology as something over and against nature. This position couldn't be further from the truth. Both man and his technology are outgrowths of nature. Nature is not a thing that is static, that, if it wasn't for man and his technology, would be pristene. Nature is a part of the ever changing Flux and as such it is always in motion and ever changing. The history of the Cosmos is a history of extraordinary change and complexification. As the Cosmos unfolds new properties emerge. Two of those properties, at this late stage of cosmological development, are intelligent life and technology. Are we to believe that the emergence of intelligent life in the Cosmos is merely an accident – a contingent epiphenomena – and that its purpose as a component of that vast system is merely to destroy itself no sooner than it emerges? I find such gross pessimism to be both ill founded and, ultimately, misanthropic.

The truth of the matter is that, even though as individuals we may be self-determined, the Cosmos, of which we are an inextricable part, is determined. This determination indicates to me that the exponential technological evolution that leads to singularity is a natural part of the cooling and development of the Cosmos. This does not mean that human civilization can abandon all pretenses of responsibility, but what it does mean is that as our civilization approaches technological singularity our true nature will become manifest. We will, at that point, be denuded. The inconceivable technological power unleashed by the event of the singularity will empower man to fulfill that which he most fundamentally desires, or in other terms, technological singularity will be the point at which man bears the fruit that was latent in the seed which is man.

In any case what ever happens will be a natural occurrence that is no more capable of being controlled than is the gravitational constant or the speed limit of light.

260 Comments:

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

By Blogger Roland, at 25/1/06 04:18  

Thanks, Micah, it is very important to point out as you did that humans are a part of nature. Nature encompasses matter, energy, space, time, life, mind, and even higher intelligence, wherever it may exist. The only entity that may be outside of nature is any non-material intelligence that is capable of creating this universe and others as complex or more so. Assuming that non-material intelligence did not evolve from a universe such as this one.

By Blogger al fin, at 26/1/06 10:45  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

By Blogger Roland, at 1/2/06 03:02  

I have only recently started informing myself regards singularity, which seems to aleady be box and shelved in various philosophical genres. What I find particularly challenging is this "The inconceivable technological power..."
Now how do we start to define inconceivable, does this not lend itself to be strongly subjective? Yes I am a complete novice so feel free to point and laugh, its the only way some (like me learn)

Steve

By Anonymous Steve, at 1/2/06 13:07  

Hi Steve,
Yes the notion of inconceivability is somewhat subjective, but I actually mean something quite concrete by it. What I mean is that such technologies offer the power to accomplish eventualities that cannot, even in principle, be predicted or understood by our current scientific models and paradigms.

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 1/2/06 15:14  

Thanks for the reply.

What are the speculative eventualities that are proposed by the great thinkers of today? Maybe its best to ask which of these are more likely to transpire?

As far as I understand (which isnt much) is that knowledge is tautological...however this does not limit technology in the long run.

By Anonymous Steve, at 2/2/06 01:24  

Micah:

I've heard it put this way, "we are the universe beginning to wake up to itself."

Steve:

A singularity - technological singularity or a black hole in space - is by definition something that you can't see beyond.

Is there a place in future history that we would have trouble commenting on intelligently at this point?

The time after the arrival of greater-than-human intelligence is such a point.

It would be a little like my pet dog trying to comment on what I do at work each day.

If such intelligence is possible - and it would be extreme hubris to think that it's not possible - then it is likely to happen soon.

The hotly debated question is whether this singularity will be dystopian - humanity is displaced - or utopian - humanity transcends to post humanity.

By Blogger Stephen Gordon, at 2/2/06 11:08  

Again thanks for an informative explanation.

I understand that there would be a debate on dystopian vs. utopian... (more reading to do this week it seems) and am a curious on how this would transpire. Would it be a case of us reprogramming our brains or would it be easier to engineer organisms to mimic certain brain functions?

A difficult area I find will be the correlation between power and intelligence

By Anonymous Steve, at 2/2/06 12:23  

I think that there might be another aspect to the singularity that has yet to be discussed and I am curious to see some responses. I beliieve that the singularity has more to do with our experience of time than it does with develping/converging intelligence. Unless intelligence/consciousness is somehow time itself. I think that the singularity will bring neither a dystopian or utopian experience to humans but an event that slips us from the grasp of the experience of time.
I don't think this is immortality per se but something (obviously) as yet unkown. I liked the video except for the premise... how can there be a day after the singularity if it is to be a singularity?

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