From: Dani Eder (email@example.com)
Date: Mon Jan 20 2003 - 11:27:41 MST
There is no lack of predictions for "The end
of the world as we know it" (TEOTWAWKI), and
ways of coming up with new predictions. For
example: I'm an agnostic, but I came up with an
unscientific 'prediction' of 2027 based on
(a) The most important date in Christ's life
was not his birth, but his crucifixtion,
(b) Our calendar is off by 6 years in counting
from his birth, and he was 33 when crucified,
(c) For some reason god likes time intervals
that are powers of 10.
I think the above 'prediction' is a bunch of BS,
but it would sound plausible to a believer.
The trick, then is not in getting predictions,
whether from the SL4 list or drug-induced
hallucinations, but in sorting out which ones
are more likely to be correct. The usual rules
of science can be used in the sorting, since
science is all about theories which make predictions.
Therefore, I would look at the theory that generated
the prediction, how well it explains past
observations, how good it is in near-term future
predictions, and how well it fits the structure
of the rest of our knowledge of the world.
My theory on the dating of the singularity is
based on economics. Humans get replaced by
machines for a given task when the machine is
less expensive. Factories have long since
converted to electrically driven machinery since
you can get about 1000 times the power per
dollar as you can with manual labor. My
employer, Boeing, now has robotic riveting
machines assembling airplane wings, since it
is a fairly simple, repetitive operation to
drill a hole and install a rivet (and the hole
locations can nowadays be pulled from a CAD
drawing). Installing cable bundles are still
done by hand, though, since robots can't yet
match the capabilities of a human in that task.
My prediction is that as computers continue to
improve, more and more tasks will get automated.
This includes the task of designing and manufacturing
the next generation of computers. Therefore
we should see continuing rapid improvement in
computers, and productivity as a whole accelerating.
When we get to that time of fastest change (i.e.
the Singularity) is when computers not only assist
designers, as they do today, but entirely replace
teams of designers. The cycle of improvement will
then not be limited by how fast you can design the
next generation, but rather how fast you can _build_
the next generation.
To put some numbers to this theory, I estimate
'economic crossover' for general design tasks based
on when computer power is cheaper than brain power.
Human brain power is estimated to be equivalent to
100 TFlop to 100,000 Tflop. A computer running
24x7 and working at 1 human design engineer equivalent
rate would be worth about $3 million. So my
estimate is that when you can buy computers for
$30,000 to $30 per TFlop plus 7 years (to allow
time to usefully deploy the computers) is the
expected date for the Singularity. We are 5-20
years from reaching the cost threshholds, so that
gives a prediction of 2015 to 2030.
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