Re: An essay I just wrote on the Singularity.

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Fri Jan 02 2004 - 14:25:43 MST

On Fri, 02 Jan 2004 15:02:14 -0500
"Perry E. Metzger" <> wrote:

> 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."

Are you characterizing all who think your argument above somewhat lacking as being (oh my!) "socialists", or are you just innocently throwing this out as one place you hear what seems to you an analogous argument with no intent to prejudice the conversation?

> 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.

But it is not in the least clear that only what is "bloody in tooth and claw" is what optimally survives. The fitness function is not restricted in such a way by the laws of physics or anything else. Also, it is not clear that any sort of normal evolution or genetic algorithm applies after intelligent beings become able to directly increase their intelligence and thus survivability. Evolution gets potentially replaced as the engine of change.

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

Assumes evolution forever which is the point of contention. It is not clear what meaning to assign to "pacifist". Sane beings will choose peaceful means of settling conflict where possible and only resort to violence when it becomes utterly necessary. A pacifist may put a different slant on "when it becomes necesarry up to and including "it can never be necessary". But I often see the term used in a much more relative fashion.

> 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.

There are many ways to deal with a struggle for resources that are not "bloody in tooth and claw" though.

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