Re: Early forecast of Singularity

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Mon May 12 2003 - 01:49:14 MDT

Randall Randall wrote:
> Thomas R Mazanec wrote:
>>In reading about the Singularity, I found a magazine article which
>>casually mentioned that the historian Henry Brooks Adams (1838-1918)
>>was interested in technology and forecast that humanity would undergo
>>a "Phase Change" by 2025. This would be fantastic at a time when
>>most people in the world (and many in America) had never seen an
>>automobile or airplane (never mind a radio).
>>Anyone have more information on this?
> Perhaps this is the quote you are looking for:
> (
> QUOTATION: Supposing the Mechanical Phase to have lasted 300 years, from
> 1600 to 1900, the next or Electric Phase would have a life equal to (the
> square root of 300), or about seventeen years and a half, when—that is, in
> 1917Mit would pass into another or Ethereal Phase, which, for half a
> century, science has been promising, and which would last only (the square
> root of 17.5), or about four years, and bring Thought to the limit of its
> possibilities in the year 1921. It may well be!
> ATTRIBUTION: Henry Brooks Adams (1838–1918), U.S. historian. The Degradation
> of the Democratic Dogma, p. 302.
> So, it appears that he forecast the Singularity for 1921.

People sometimes fantasize about making just one change in history, like
going back in time and shooting Hitler.

I'd like to find the point in the history of the human species where some
twisted mutation gave rise to the gene for just making random stuff up out
of thin air, and yank that person into the future and out of our
reproductive history.

...yes, I know it's an emergent byproduct of the whole warped human way of
thinking, not just one gene. But a guy's got to have a dream.

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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