Sunday, December 11, 2005

Time, System, and Prediction: the Science of History

This image is an illistration taken from John Smart's essay "The Developmental Spiral"
I highly recmmend reading it. The subject matter is related to this essay.

I often hear criticism about any hypothesis concerning the future. The criticism usually complains that any hypothesis about the future is merely speculation or conjecture. Additionally I have heard some complain that there is 'no evidence' for a technological singularity. The same people who complain of such things often dismiss the technological singularity theory as at best unscientific, and at worst the lunatic fringe. In this post I will take the time to defend the theory of technological singularity from such claims. In doing so I will argue that the culmination of all science leads to a science of history. I will argue that this is, in fact, the goal of all human science and that the theory of technological singularity represents the highest state of this science.

The goal of science is to understand and predict the behavior of systems. System can be defined as the complex interaction of entities related through non-linear dynamics. Systems interact in time. Therefor the goal of science is to predict the future state of a system. The ultimate system is the Cosmos. Therefor the ultimate goal of science is to predict the future state of the cosmological system by understanding the laws that govern the interrelation of entities in the system and patterns that emerge from the system.

I argue that it is not possible to predict a future state of the cosmological system without a thorough understanding of the levels of organization in that system, the laws that govern those organizations, and how those organizations interact to form new organization. A theory about the future of the cosmological system must account for these various organizations within the system and predict how these organizations will likely interact to form new organizations.

The study of the history of the Cosmos reveals trends of organization.

For every branch of science there is a subject which studies a level of organization in the system by discovering the components of that system and the laws that govern those components, and there is a corresponding subject that studies how that level of organization behaved in the history of the Cosmos.

Here are some examples:


Chemistry/the evolution of chemical complexity

Organic chemistry/origin of life

Biology/evolution of life



Sociology/human history, economics, and political science

So we see that each science is studying only one level of organization and the evolution of that organization. It has only been in very recent times that we can now begin to see how these branches fit together and interact with each other to form one system. So what shall we call the science that deals with the whole system? The name of this science is history. History as science is not content with merely recounting the events of human civilization but rather seeks to understand the entire history of the cosmos by understanding the evolution of the entire cosmological system. So just as it is proper for the physicist to predict the physical evolution of the cosmos based on the application of the laws of physics, and just as it is proper for the economist to predict future trends in markets based on past trends and the nature of social organization, so is it proper for the highest science to predict the future of this corner of the cosmos based on the principles of all these sciences in concert.

Of course science makes prediction in order to verify hypothesis. Often these predictions are wrong and must be revised. But nevertheless it is the business of science to predict because that is the goal of knowledge – to predict the behavior of systems.

Historically science has tended to be analytical because of the nature of specialization and the principles of reductionism. Now, however, we must call on a more synthetic vision. The theory of technological singularity is one such synthetic vision. As the trends of hyperbolic exponential technological growth continue, the feedback mechanisms that are powering this growth will be better understood and recognized. The consilliance of human knowledge has ushered in a new age of science. If you're too busy analyzing to synthesize you'll miss the forest for the trees.


I wholeheartedly agree that it is the business of science to form prediction engines of a type similar to our brains. Whereas our brains allow us to watch the path of a thrown object repeatedly and, by doing so, learn to catch a ball, science brings us parabolas and drag coefficients etc. and allows us to calculate the location of the ball. I believe that science is better because it allows us to make predictions about things that are too large or small to conceive of, or that move much faster than our savannah evolved brains can process. Science is still prone to the sorts of logical faults that plague the human mind, but science is a community effort and therefore at least somewhat fault tolerant.

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