Re: An essay I just wrote on the Singularity.

From: Perry E. Metzger (
Date: Fri Jan 02 2004 - 13:02:14 MST

Robin Lee Powell <> writes:
>> Myself, though, I will make a strong prediction -- which is that
>> the laws of physics and the rules of math don't cease to apply.
>> That leads me to believe that evolution doesn't stop. That further
>> leads me to believe that nature -- bloody in tooth and claw, as
>> some have termed it -- will simply be taken to the next level. I
>> don't fear this particularly, but it isn't consistent with the
>> "everything is going to turn up roses" viewpoint.
> You've taken one sample set, Earth, and implied from the course of
> evolution on Earth that it is a *law of physics* that violent
> conflict occur.
> That's not even tripe.

I routinely hear arguments like that from socialists about why my
evidence for economic rules that contradict their religion must be
wrong. Generally, it comes down to "I will choose to believe that what
you are mentioning doesn't generalize because it violates what I would
prefer to believe."

Evolution isn't something you can avoid. Deep down, all it says is
"you find more of that which survives and spreads itself", which is so
close to a tautology that it is damn hard to dispute. There is no
moral superiority to a bacterium that minds its manners over one that
overwhelms its competition. The universe on a deep level doesn't care
which one you find more of. However, almost axiomatically, the second
one is the one you'll find in every soil sample and the first will be
rare or extinct.

So what sort of strategies does evolution favor? Quite a number of
them, actually, but none of them can be characterized as "pacifist".

The struggle for resources is unlikely to end, because the amount of
resource you can have in any finite volume remains finite. That leads
me to assume that we'll continue to see evolution take place as life
spreads through the cosmos. That, in turn, leads me to assume that
we'll continue to see "nature bloody in tooth and claw", although
perhaps it will become "nature bloody in assembler and particle beam"
or other gadgetry far beyond our understanding.

I might be wrong, of course, but I have no less cause to suppose any
of this than you have to believe in what you yourself term your
religion -- and I have some reasonable extrapolations quite firmly on
my side.

By the way, I fully admit that I've been wrong before, I'm doubtless
wrong about some things that I think now, and I'll doubtless be wrong
about things I believe in the future, too.

However, I think it is prudent to consider *all* scenarios, and to
stick to the path of evidence and reason.

>> it is unlikely that everything is going to suddenly be perfect
>> when we've got nanotechnology and know how to build honking big
>> AIs.
> Given that almost all large-scale human conflict has been over
> resources, and nanotech changes the shape of resource allocation
> entirely, it seems that at the very least the nature of human
> conflict must change to the point of unrecognizability.

Sure. I doubt we would understand such conflicts any more than ants
would have understood the first Gulf War. That's not really the point
-- the point is simply that such conflict is unlikely to end, even if
on a radically unrecognizable scale.

Resources remain finite, of course. Only so much matter is out there
in any given volume to build things with, and only so much energy is
out there in a given volume to drive the things we build.

>> > I *am* atheisitic and humanistic. But that doesn't change the
>> > fact that I have no proof, and barely any evidence, that the
>> > singularity, let alone the sysop scenario
>> I encourage you, then, to drop the meme complex. You will be
>> happier if you base your activities on that for which you have
>> strong evidence or proof, rather than on religion, regardless of
>> the flavor of religion.
> Your arrogance in this e-mail has been truly astounding, but
> believing that you have any idea what constitutes happiness for me
> really takes the cake.

Perhaps. Generally speaking, though, I've got a lot of general
knowledge about human beings and what makes most of them tick. Usually
it turns out that one can guess at what makes people happy and
depressed pretty easily. That's one of the reasons things like
cognitive therapy have a high success rate in curing clinical
depression, by the way -- because people tend to be pretty similar and
you can usually guess as to the mental patterns that are causing them
personal distress.

Is it arrogant to think one can guess as to what will make people
personally happy? Perhaps, perhaps not. Is it reasonable to think that
one can make such guesses? Unquestionably yes, given the evidence at

Perry E. Metzger

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:00:43 MDT