RE: Why bother (was Re: Introducing myself)

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Sun Apr 14 2002 - 09:43:33 MDT


Here is one justification for the belief that "working toward the
Singularity is important."

Consider the probability

p(t) = the probability that, during year t, some nutcase will wipe out the
human race via biological terrorism or some other means

You estimate that p(t)~=0, with a fairly high subjective confidence

I think that your confidence is primarily not based on objective factors

I believe that p(t) increases over time -- a reasonable, though not certain
belief, based on the advent of more & more sophisticated technologies --

Now, consider the probability that the advent of superintelligent AI will
decrease the p(t) to another probability

p*(t) = the probability that intelligence on earth will be wiped out during
year t, given that superhumanly intelligent AI exists during year t

I consider that

p*(t) << p(t)

because I reckon that, while superintelligent AI may end up being
indifferent to us, it's unlikely to be malicious toward us in the manner
that we are malicious to ourselves.

Depending upon one's intuitive appraisal of the shapes of these curves, it
may well come out that working toward the Singularity -- if one believes one
can personally cause it to come several years earlier than otherwise -- can
drastically increase the probability of the survival of intelligence on
Earth in general, and of one's own personal mind in particular.

Of course, if you estimate these probabilities differently, that's your

-- Ben

> When I first heard Vinge's prediction of the Singularity, in '86, he used
> the phrase 'falling into a technological singularity.'. That
> statement was
> made before anyone began working consciously toward it. Everything I have
> observed indicates to me that his prediction is basically correct in terms
> of the image of falling. So when people say such things as: 'We must work
> toward this thing because our survival depends on it.', or some such, it
> just doesn't make any sense to me.
> > Isn't there something to be said for accepting the ambiguity of
> life, and
> > the difficulty of predicting the future?
> >
> Sure, but when you have 14 billion years of accelerating change
> behind you,
> a prediction that that acceleration will continue without some
> really major
> obstruction is not all that ambiguous. And I haven't heard any real
> evidence as to the existence of any major obstructions put forth
> here. Just
> a lot of half-baked paranoia, mostly based on fear of the unknown.
> >

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