Jeff Duntemann (jeff_duntemann) wrote,
Jeff Duntemann
jeff_duntemann

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Is It Singularity Yet?

Every once in a while, I look around to see if the Singularity guys are still out there making noise, and shucky darns, they still are. I won't recap the whole Singularity thing, nor my primary objections; see my entry for August 28, 2004. But every couple of years, I feel obliged to demand that the Extropian crowd give us some examples of exponential progress.

Computing? Hah. We're adding cores to CPUs without any idea how to use them. We have no idea how human intelligence works conceptually. (If we did we could emulate it. We can't.) We have no idea how the brain works. (So much for uploading it to a computer.) We are barely on the threshold of some real understanding of cellular processes. We have been using the Space Shuttle for 30 years, and are about to go back to a spacecraft that is basically the 45-year-old Apollo, with some marginal improvements. We can't perfect a scramjet to save our lives, nor a fully reusable SSTO launch system. A Drexler-style nanoassembler is nowhere in sight. (It may take another hundred years, and will require an almost complete understanding of those elusive cellular processes.) We have not extended lifespans, though we have improved the quality of life to some extent in the years 40-70. I've read in several places that the drug companies are hard-pressed to come up with new miracle drugs. Commercial fusion energy is still the same 25 years away that it was in 1970.

Guys, show me any evidence at all of exponential progress.

I will ask the question again in another three years. In the meantime, I'm wise to you, and life in 2007 still looks a lot more like life in 1950 than life in 1950 looked like life in 1900. This is not an exponential curve, and if you think it is, we need to talk a little about what "exponential" means.

Tags: culture, speculation
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  • Contra Turns 20

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