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axon
07-26-2004, 09:39 PM
The Singularity – lately I’ve been hearing and reading about the Singularity in various places and most recently the August issue of “Popular Science”. (Unfortunately they don’t have that article on the web yet, but as soon as they will put it up I will link you guys to it.)

Anyways, the idea of the Singularity is very interesting, and I would like to hear your ideas about it since it is an idea that deals closely with computer science. For those who don’t know what the Singularity is I’m putting a short explanation below:

The Singularity is a term coined by Vernor Vinge a computer scientist and sci-fi writer who’s now a professor at San Diego University. The following is straight out of popsci: “We’re living through a period of unprecedented technological and scientific advances,” Vinge says, “and sometimes soon the convergence of fields such as ai and biotechnology will push humanity past a tipping point ushering in a period of wrenching change. After that moment – the Singularity – the world will be as different from today’s world as this one is from the Stone Age.”

So basically what we’re talking about here is things as uploading minds into artificial bodies which could stand the forces of speeds close to that of the speed of light, etc etc.

What do you guys think? How soon will this happen? Will it ever happen?

some more reading:
Vernor Vinge on Singularity (http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~phoenix/vinge/vinge-sing.html)
The Singularity links (http://www.aleph.se/Trans/Global/Singularity/)

EvBladeRunnervE
07-26-2004, 10:34 PM
How soon will this happen?

probably never, as more than likely man kind will almost eliminate itself before the time when it would become feasable.

I dont really care for the speculations of SF writers that are of the "perfect world" variety. Remember, people said that we would have anti-grav cars by 2000, and they dont seem anywhere close to making them, if they ever are able to.

Jeremy G
07-27-2004, 01:18 AM
probably never, as more than likely man kind will almost eliminate itself before the time when it would become feasable.

I dont really care for the speculations of SF writers that are of the "perfect world" variety. Remember, people said that we would have anti-grav cars by 2000, and they dont seem anywhere close to making them, if they ever are able to.


Well, we do have magnalift monorails - thats pretty much an anti-grav car. The thing about such a technology is the danger. Considering any nations population - to put all of them into vehicles far more dangerous then cars (as having no ground friction, and being left to the whim of air physics) it is just unfeasable to invest in such technology. But we do have hover tanks, and other forms of vehicles that are not in physical contact with the ground. It's boiled down to developing a safe system then technology to power the system.


On the point of singularity - I do belive such a thing is coming. But mainly from the point of robot AI. Sure you say I'm just a fanboy of sci-fi movies and fiction the notion of a robot power isn't that far fetched. Even in the event that we spawn AI that isn't bent on dominating humanity it will still be a singularity. Isaac Asimov mentioned the idea in his Book I, Robot. We created a first robot "brain" to help us build better robot brain to help it build better robot brain to help it build a better robot brain so on , until we merely then incouragement to the system to tell it what to create for us and it doing so with out ourselves being able to under stand it. Such a foolheardy approach to science can only lead to disaster, but time will tell.

ggs
07-27-2004, 03:07 PM
as science gives us knowledge it takes away ignorance. the next moment of wrenching change will occur when the universe is shown to be utterly deterministic. this will make the term 'free will' meaningless and take away the value of creation and creativity from us. many people already have this point of view, but science will soon enough prove its validity and force anybody else with a mind to somehow cope

caroundw5h
07-27-2004, 03:23 PM
I don't know about all that. but of course its guess work until proven otherwise. I"m more interested if any of you have ever read the books "the earth chronicles series" by Zacariah sitchen. provocative. Curious as to how many of you are open minded enough to even humour it.

nbk
07-27-2004, 03:34 PM
I believe it will happen, but not soon. We have 5 billion(or million?) years left to live. It may strike as luck(e.g. Ben Franklin and electricity) or just technology growing. It seems very possible, but I agree, not ANYtime soon(that WOULD be cool tho...)

axon
07-27-2004, 03:41 PM
as science gives us knowledge it takes away ignorance. the next moment of wrenching change will occur when the universe is shown to be utterly deterministic. this will make the term 'free will' meaningless and take away the value of creation and creativity from us. many people already have this point of view, but science will soon enough prove its validity and force anybody else with a mind to somehow cope

whoa!? you seem so confident about this claim. I really hope you don't believe this as your life would seem awfully sad, and "coping" would be extremely hard. If what you said was even remotely true than nothing we do now matters; whatever we do will dot affect our future as it is based on antecedent affairs.

Its interesting how we went from the singularity to determinism....

axon
07-27-2004, 03:42 PM
another question for you guys...no matter when the momnet of the Singularity will happen, will it be a positive or negative thing? or will it be just another step in human evolution?

nbk
07-27-2004, 03:47 PM
I would think it'd be positive and negative... We would be able to do many more things, like insert a chip into someone to control them(and that sort of thing), but we could also have a chip to learn things instantly... We'll have the technology to be aliens :)

ggs
07-27-2004, 03:48 PM
axon - only a god can create. as a beings of flesh subject to and existing because of physical laws, we are far from gods. whether or not the future is actually predetermined does not matter, the only thing that does is that we have no control over what will happen. physical laws don't have to be absolutely deterministic in order for our lives to be effectively deterministic.

but i would love to die and find myself a god

axon
07-27-2004, 04:07 PM
According to your reasoning you live – to die. That is a very sad existence indeed.

I was thinking however about this: >>this will make the term 'free will' meaningless<<

What would you say to the notion of committing suicide? Would killing yourself be the ultimate proclamation of freedom and absolute power of choice? Would you be testing god, or proclaiming your power to the rest of the world, equating yourself with god? Your vision of the future talks about a socialistic-like structure where ‘free will’, and therefore happiness, is superimposed by the ruling few.

Does your god permit suicide ggs?

ggs
07-27-2004, 04:16 PM
the only thing that could make me god is the ability to truly create. that requires absolute, free will. in a deterministic universe where i am just an animal, there is no free will. acts of creation are meaningless. the universe is controlled by an algorithm, my choices are just part of its ongoing state. each state relies on the state of the past. i don't understand this algorithm, but science works to uncover it, and soon we will know how little we can become

my vision of the future involves no imposition of structure among the people, just a future where people have found evidence of the deterministic nature of the universe. as a result, everybody who thinks about the issues of life will come to realize how meaningless it is - and it will not be conjecture, it will be fact. some will rationalize it with bizarre religious logic, others will do their best to ignore it, observing that people lived just fine in the past without letting this worry them, and for others it will devastate them - they know that creation is the only worthwhile thing to live for, and will also know that their creation is false. it's a matter of how many will fall into each catagory

axon
07-27-2004, 04:29 PM
that is all nice, but you failed to address any of my questions...mainly does your god permit suicide? as every other question flows from this very point


and for those of you not familiar with the algorithm ggs is talking about:


Describes an algorithm in which the correct
next step depends only on the current state. This contrasts
with an algorithm involving backtracking where at each point
there may be several possible actions and no way to chose
between them except by trying each one and backtracking if it
fails.

Jeremy G
07-27-2004, 04:37 PM
the only thing that could make me god is the ability to truly create. that requires absolute, free will. in a deterministic universe where i am just an animal, there is no free will. acts of creation are meaningless. the universe is controlled by an algorithm, my choices are just part of its ongoing state. each state relies on the state of the past. i don't understand this algorithm, but science works to uncover it, and soon we will know how little we can become

my vision of the future involves no imposition of structure among the people, just a future where people have found evidence of the deterministic nature of the universe. as a result, everybody who thinks about the issues of life will come to realize how meaningless it is - and it will not be conjecture, it will be fact. some will rationalize it with bizarre religious logic, others will do their best to ignore it, observing that people lived just fine in the past without letting this worry them, and for others it will devastate them - they know that creation is the only worthwhile thing to live for, and will also know that their creation is false. it's a matter of how many will fall into each catagory

Do you realize that your determinism removes things like right, wrong, morality, justice and other concepts held in regard by most of humanity? Doesn't it seem odd to you that a complex system of judgements would evolve in a society based in a truly deterministic universe? How do you explain determinism when causality suffers from a fatal flaw of the first cause paradox? Going back to the singlest, most simplest thread in the fabric of the universe the first string of vibration, the first neuance of quantem mechanics - why did it vibrate at that frequency, at that time, at that place in the universe. It had to be either a random occurance or had to be an effect from a supernatural cause (god). Either idea interjects a notion non-determnism into existence. Random isn't determined - if it was determined what determined it? the paradox just continues. Only free will answers the paradox, weather by universal random, or by gods purpose.

ggs
07-27-2004, 04:42 PM
if the right string hadn't vibrated, we would not exist to observe what a marvel it is that it vibrated at all.

morality, right, wrong and judgements are all results of values that we attach to things. the determinism is all in the physical laws... it is difficult to imagine the evolution of everything, but we're only human.

if the universe has a big, truly random number generator behind it, everything is still effectively deterministic. just because the outcomes of physical events are not predetermined doesn't mean that your action is any less the result of very basic physical reactions and not some spiritual god-like will. your creation is still empty of worth

Jeremy G
07-27-2004, 04:52 PM
if the universe has a big, truly random number generator behind it, everything is still effectively deterministic. just because the outcomes of physical events are not predetermined doesn't mean that your action is any less the result of very basic physical reactions and not some spiritual god-like will. your creation is still empty of worth
You just canceled yourself out there. If it isn't predetermined, it's not determined. Thats it. Just because a few things have cause and effect relationships doesn't mean its a full deterministic system. If you want to focus on a random generator of the argument, then whats the random generator for? whats it's purpose in the universe? to give other objects in the universe purpose? Perhaps the random generator is purpose. Perhaps purpose is not existant as how we've defined it specifically. Perhaps universal purpose is simply existing instead of not existing. Law of inertia - an object at rest tends to stay at rest, and in motion tends to stay in motion. The universal random generator put the first string in vibration - the purpose to no long have non-existance?

EvBladeRunnervE
07-27-2004, 05:00 PM
hmm..... does this mean ggs that I could put a loaded gun to your head and pull the trigger without you resisting at all, because that would be just a part of your deterministic universe?

P.S. does anyone else think ggs is just one of those emo nihilists that are replacing Goths as the current losers?

EDIT: also the whole notion of a large number generator being behind the universe is absurb. What created the generator? what was its purpose? who created the creators of the generator?

ggs
07-27-2004, 05:01 PM
there is no cancelling out. being pre-determined isn't the same as being determined. if the universe is responsible for your actions, random physical laws or not, your actions are still determined for you, not by you. free will is meaningless under such circumstances. purpose is just a human term... i never claimed that the universe had some innate universe. i think that all things are valueless without people to value them, but i'm questioning the value of these values right now. if all the values we create are actually chosen for us, then there is no human purpose in creating values

axon
07-27-2004, 05:05 PM
>>P.S. does anyone else think ggs is just one of those emo nihilists that are replacing Goths as the current losers?<<

dude, it doesn't matter who he is, and I was hoping we could keep this thread a normal discussion. And btw nihilists (term coined by Russian writer Turganev) have been around since the early 19th century.

Clyde
07-27-2004, 05:08 PM
the next moment of wrenching change will occur when the universe is shown to be utterly deterministic


It's been proved or disproved already (actually "proof" doesn't apply to the real world at all, i should really say "there is a lot of evidence for it or against it already...), depending on what you mean by determinism. I suspect your using determinism in its classical sense in which case, it's been disproved.

Free-will has been a scientific nonsense for a long time, (although people like Daniel Dennet argue for a different kind of free will) but that has no effect creativity or anything else.



my vision of the future involves no imposition of structure among the people, just a future where people have found evidence of the deterministic nature of the universe. as a result, everybody who thinks about the issues of life will come to realize how meaningless it is - and it will not be conjecture, it will be fact. some will rationalize it with bizarre religious logic, others will do their best to ignore it, observing that people lived just fine in the past without letting this worry them, and for others it will devastate them - they know that creation is the only worthwhile thing to live for, and will also know that their creation is false. it's a matter of how many will fall into each catagory


Interesting but overly melodramatic; the non-existance of "free will" in the traditional sense would seem to be beyond reasonable doubt already, but that hasn't stopped 99.9% of the population believing in it. I don't think anyone is going to be devastated simply because there is not going to be a magic event that suddenly convinces everyone that their sense of control is illusionary. Furthermore the melancholy tone of your prophecy misses something key: That what we consider important is essential up to us. You have (IMO rather bizzarly) decided that "creation" (whatever that means) is important, but the great loss of "meaning" is nicely eliminated by relegation of "meaning" from something desperately important to something totally irrelevent. The quest for knowledge, understanding, experiencing the wonder of the universe, of life, indeed the very substance of living stands untouched by revelations about our internal workings.

I would say to axon that not believing in free-will, or in any cosmic meaning does not lead inevitably to a reduction in quality of life, it merely leads to a change in perspective (albeit one that perhaps takes a while to get used to).

Now back on topic:

Futurology is lots of fun but is by nature somewhat dubious so take the following with a lump of sodium chloride.

So anyway if you follow the current trends in technology what kind of world do you end up with?

Well, IF artificial intelligence and biotech/nanotech continue advancing it's easy to see the mind expanding beyond the realm of plain neurology. I think expansion of awareness from our individual sense to something group based is likely, when i first read Hawking discussing the possibility i thought it was ridiculous but the more you think about it the more feasable it becomes especially if you can retain individuality if you can plug into and out of a worldwide web of minds at will.

But.. that technology seems pretty far away and assumes that we don't hit any walls (which we very well might - Moore's law seems about to die, and biotech's ability to turn out sci-fi style technology is limited by our ability to model the systems involved, which in turn is limited by computational power)

ggs
07-27-2004, 05:30 PM
well, the 'prophecy' i made was intentionally a bit dramatic. i think most people would fall into the middle case myself.

> That what we consider important is essential up to us

the point is that deciding what is important is an act of creation, the creation of a value - and if we cannot ourselves decide what is important, it is not up to us

> The quest for knowledge, understanding, experiencing the wonder of the universe, of life, indeed the very substance of living stands untouched by revelations about our internal workings.

i disagree here, but i'm currently modifying my perspective of things to deal with the seemingly likely invalidation of free will - raised a catholic, taught to believe that free will is key to life. still believing that

but tying back into the topic, free will or not, at least i can try to enjoy spectating. watching technology progress is interesting, but i don't think that people will understand the structure of the mind well enough anytime soon to do anything with it. the technological singularity is too far into the future to worry about. i'm feeling pessimistic and i think the role of science in the near future is more about clamping down the exact limitations of the universe and what can happen in it

EvBladeRunnervE
07-27-2004, 05:38 PM
dude, it doesn't matter who he is, and I was hoping we could keep this thread a normal discussion. And btw nihilists (term coined by Russian writer Turganev) have been around since the early 19th century.

well, it is somewhat on discussion, as alot of what is being said is being influenced by people's personal biases and beliefs. I was mainly meaning it to be along the lines of that living in a "depressive fantasy world" does kind of limit your interjection.

My personal belief, based somewhat on psychological facts , is that very few humans can grasp the concept that consciousness is a physical waking dream that consists of the lies we try to tell ourselves to get by in this universe. Life does have a meaning, to the individual and to groups of people, but not the world wide population.

I personally think that in the very very rare case that a singularity is made, mankind will wake from this dream and realize the truth, and this world will cease to exist in the way we imagine it.

ggs
07-27-2004, 05:43 PM
> hmm..... does this mean ggs that I could put a loaded gun to your head and pull the trigger without you resisting at all, because that would be just a part of your deterministic universe?

broadly speaking, the determinism would be that i would try to prevent you from pulling the trigger. i would do my best to keep you out of my deterministic universe, but it wouldn't be because of free will but because of determined cause and effect.

> P.S. does anyone else think ggs is just one of those emo nihilists that are replacing Goths as the current losers?

i am a loser :(

> EDIT: also the whole notion of a large number generator being behind the universe is absurb. What created the generator? what was its purpose? who created the creators of the generator?

with that kind of view, the notion of the universe is absurd as well

Clyde
07-27-2004, 05:48 PM
the point is that deciding what is important is an act of creation, the creation of a value - and if we cannot ourselves decide what is important, it is not up to us


Values are not things that exist of themselves, to think of them as being "created" or indeed "destoryed" seems to me somehow false.

When you say "we cannot ourselves decide what is important", what exactly do you mean - i am capable of reacting to new information, my awareness of that reaction, and indeed the reaction itself would seem to be governed by the laws of physics but that doesn't prevent it occuring. You appear to be seperating the decision making process from what you consider to be "you", what you must realise is that "you" ARE part of that process or perhaps more accurately part of that process is "you", the fact that the process is governed by statistical laws makes no difference.



i disagree here, but i'm currently modifying my perspective of things to deal with the seemingly likely invalidation of free will - raised a catholic, taught to believe that free will is key to life. still believing that


Yes that's exactly what it is, your objection is routed in your prior stance. As someone raised catholic you were taught to inherently place value in a purpose, in a meaning. In fact through out history humanity has always done that. If suddenly you discover that such concepts are illusions your entire out look can seem to collapse, but it can be replaced. My advice to you is to read "Unweaving the rainbow" by Richard Dawkins, it presents a view of life and living within the world as revealed by science that is thrilling (though the first page where he says if the ultimate end of the universe bothers you, you're nuts, stopped me reading it for about 2 years - at the time, the ultimate end of the universe was bothering me :)).



I am a loser


I don't think you're a loser, when i was 16 i thought along similar lines, not exactly the same but similar, and damn i'm great :D so don't worry you'll be fine.

ggs
07-27-2004, 05:58 PM
> You appear to be seperating the decision making process from what you consider to be "you", what you must realise is that "you" ARE part of that process or perhaps more accurately part of that process is "you", the fact that the process is governed by statistical laws makes no difference.

the bag of meat, bones and other odds and ends that 'i' am made of has, by the miracle of physical laws, decided it would very much like to be a god :) 'i' value the idea of the individual above most others, and it is not very aesthetically pleasing when the process that is not its own force of the universe. i got started on this train of thought because i read an article in the newspaper recently about a famous mathematician who has retreated to the mountains in italy to work out the physics of free will.. that item really got to me

Clyde
07-27-2004, 06:14 PM
he bag of meat, bones and other odds and ends that 'i' am made of has, by the miracle of physical laws, decided it would very much like to be a god


That's err nice, but not a particularly usefull aspiration.



'i' value the idea of the individual above most others, and it is not very aesthetically pleasing when the process that is not its own force of the universe. i got started on this train of thought because i read an article in the newspaper recently about a famous mathematician who has retreated to the mountains in italy to work out the physics of free will.. that item really got to me


You're values need to change, it always hard to do so, but sometimes it needs to be done. You are a little piece of the universe, born of the stars, shaped by 3.5 billion years of iterations you get to experience the wonder of existance, what could be more asthetic than that?

How many events in history had to transpire just as they did so that you were born? Billions of events slotted together to give you're distinct personality the opportunity to spring into being. Think of all the 'could have been's and all the 'never will be's. You get to experience living, rejoice, you're one of the few.

ggs
07-27-2004, 06:17 PM
i'm not going to stop myself from enjoying things, but i still don't have find that outlook to be particulary inspiring either. and that's how things remain for now...

either way, thread trainwreck accomplished

caroundw5h
07-27-2004, 07:47 PM
* backs away slowly before a flame war erupts***

axon
07-27-2004, 07:57 PM
just put on your flame resistant cape and you'll be fine :cool:

caroundw5h
07-27-2004, 08:01 PM
just put on your flame resistant cape and you'll be fine :cool:

The thing about it, is these discussions due to lack of scientific data - involve a lot of guess work and at times borders mainly on beliefs. beliefs are very close to religion...politics....yada...yada..yada.

So I try to stay out of them. I heard a quote once, and I try to stick to it.
The mere man of pleasure is miserable in old age, and the mere drudge in business is but little better.
Whereas natural philosophy, mathematical and mechanical science are a continual source of tranquil pleasure,
and in spite of the gloomy dogmas of priests and of superstition, the study of these things is the true theology;
it teaches man to know and to admire the Creator, for the principles of science are in the creation,
and are unchangeable and of divine origin.
---Thomas Paine
"Age of reason"

EvBladeRunnervE
07-27-2004, 08:44 PM
beliefs are very close to religion...politics....yada...yada..yada.

was I the only one that was told the "three 'No's of friendly communication"?

1) No Politics
2) No Sexual talk(or in modern world, abortion)
3) No Religion

Clyde
07-28-2004, 06:54 AM
but i still don't have find that outlook to be particulary inspiring either. and that's how things remain for now


Oh you don't have to do anything, i am merely pointing out that there is an alternative to all the doom and gloom. Whether we find life inspiring or depressing all depends on the way we decide to view it, in my opinion there is wisdom in choosing an angle that makes you happy rather than sad.

axon
08-18-2004, 08:34 PM
Here is the article that I spoke off in my op, its pretty long, but worth a read: http://www.popsci.com/popsci/science/article/0,12543,676265,00.html

Lurker
08-21-2004, 12:10 PM
Believe me, computers are going to die out in the near future (in a century's time). If we have not progressed past them, we will die.

Clyde
08-21-2004, 01:02 PM
Interesting read Axon, makes me want to read a few Sci-Fi novels (if you're not reading anything at the mo. i recommend "Light from Other Days" by Arthur C Clarke and Stephen Baxter, it involves technological changes that change humanity in a fairly major way - so might interest you).

Lurker - what the juice are you talking about?

JaWiB
08-21-2004, 02:49 PM
Probably off-topic completely, but has anyone read "QED: The strange theory of light and matter" by Richard P. Feynman? It's kind of old (not sure when it was published, but the author died in 1988 i think), so I was wondering how accurate the book is--you know, has new research completely changed physics since then?

Clyde
08-21-2004, 03:33 PM
I haven't read it, but it is on my to read list. As far as i know the field of quantum chromodynamics has not changed hugely, that is assuming Feynman wrote the book after the development of the standard model of particle physics. Ie. it talks about quarks.

Either way i suspect almost all of what's in that book still applies today, although some topics that are more recent and may be of relevence (like string theory) presumeably will not be there.

JaWiB
08-21-2004, 06:13 PM
That's good because I read most of it already, and the last chapter talks about quarks and other particles.

The reason I wasn't sure is because I read "The universe in a nutshell" and "A brief history of time" and they had some of the same topics in it, but it wasn't explained in the same way. I think this book is more of a introductory book--there's hardly any math explained in it and the author assumes the reader knows very little about the subject (ie they didn't even know light is a particle)