Re: JOIN: Carl Feynman

From: telocity (
Date: Thu Mar 22 2001 - 14:48:31 MST

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Sent: Monday, March 19, 2001 10:08 PM
Subject: Re: JOIN: Carl Feynman

> In a message dated 3/20/2001 12:12:57 AM Eastern Standard Time,
> writes:
> << For a technological optimist, I'm awfully pessimistic. When I was
> Eliezer's age, it was 1983. It was clear to me, then, that by the year
> 2001, we'd have space colonies, artificially intelligent supercomputers,
> self-reproducing nanotech assemblers, brain-computer interfaces,
> holographic TV, cheap diamond, solar powered hydrogen production, a
> worldwide hypertext system containing all human knowledge, photo-quality
> computer graphics, and laptop computers. We only got three out of
> nine. My experience is that almost anything new and exciting is wrong.
> So my first response to any visionary proposal or exciting piece of news
> is to explain why it will never amount to anything. >>
> I have tended to be much more of a reader of technological forecasting
(Herman Kahn and Marvin Cetron etc.) and have come late to the Singularity
pursuit. In 2081, visionary, physicist Gerard K. ONeil said, " Scientists
almost always overestimate the impact of new discoveries and always
underestimate the impact of straightforward extensions of the capabilities
of familiar > technologies."

    As Arthur Clarke has pointed out, people tend to overestimate progress
in the short term, and underestimate it in the long term. This is because
most people think linearily rather than exponentially.

    I remember reading in _The Wall Street Journal_ back in 1986 when
(relatively) high-temperature superconductors were first discovered, some
people were expecting power lines and motors made with the stuff to appear
within three to five years. It's taken quite a bit longer than that for
most of these applications, but now they are starting to show up.

   That's just one example, but there are many others. That's why I think
that while the singularity is coming, it will arrive closer to the outer
range of projections - 2030 or 2040 - rather than the next five or ten
years. There's a lot of infrastructure yet to be built for it to be much
sooner than that. But I'm not gonna complain if I'm wrong and it shows up
sooner, though.

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