Re: Anti-singularity spam.

From: Richard Loosemore (
Date: Wed May 03 2006 - 09:40:29 MDT

Bob Seidensticker wrote:
> Eliezer: Yes, good disctinction between predictions made by people who are
> actually on the front lines vs. those who aren't.

At the risk of being tedious, can I point out that I said this already
(yesterday)? And that Dani Eder added another point to mine. Neither
of our comments seem to have made any difference to the discussion: it
has continued blindly on, confusion piled on top of confusion.

I said:

I think there is some confusion here that is causing several different
types of argument to get tangled up.

1) If there are people with no direct or indirect knowledge of a field
who are making general futurist predictions of the Popular Mechanics
sort, OR general dismissals of the "This Is Not Going To Happen For A
Long Time" sort, then those kinds of analysis are worthless.

2) On the other hand, there are some people who work in a particular
field, or who know the technical side of a field well enough, who can
make more informed judgments about what might be over the horizon.

3) The exact meaning of some of the technologies is often completely
garbled. "Nanotech" used to mean something involving nanoscale
replicating self-assemblers. Today the term has been coopted to mean
various forms of small particle technology, and as a result SOME people
talk about "nanotech" being five years away -- but according to the
original definition of the word, that is nonsense.

and Dani added:

> Also, technologies don't go from discovery to for
> sale at WalMart in an instant. When making a
> prediction, it is important to state where on the
> development continuum you are making a prediction
> for. Somre relevant scales:
> (at pages 3 and 6)

> As for AGI, maybe I've just been duped by predictions in newspaper stories
> and missed those by people who should know. We had Newell and Simon the the
> 50s, fresh from the success of their General Problem Solver, predicting big
> things for AI (and quickly). They certainly had me going. Was it wrong to
> listen to them?
> Let me ask another way: what predictions (or predictors) do you favor today?
> Who is in a position to know and is giving reliable forecasts of what's to
> come in the area of AGI?
> On a related question, I agree that we should ignore predictions from people
> who are in no position to know. But even if we flatter ourselves by saying
> that we can tell the difference, the public can't. What do we do to raise
> the alarm? Can we spread common sense? Or is this impossible? (Or is this
> beyond the scope of the SL4 discussion?)
> Bob
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On Behalf Of Eliezer S.
> Yudkowsky
> Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2006 1:55 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: Anti-singularity spam.
> Bob Seidensticker wrote:
>> For example, AGI has certainly proved
>> a lot more tricky than we expected, given early successes.
> Than *who* expected? More importantly, *based on what*? A scientific
> prediction is not one that a famous scientist makes.
> There were famous scientists who said that heavier-than-air flight was
> impossible, but they did not do any actual math. They just verbalized their
> instinctive reactions.
> The Wright Brothers, in addition to having a bicycle business on the side,
> were also competent physicists - they built a new experimental instrument,
> the wind tunnel, to test their quantitative predictions, and discovered a
> flaw in Smeaton's coefficient of air pressure, an engineering constant which
> had then been used for 150 years.
> The Wright Brothers did the math. The eminent scientists didn't do the
> math. Moral: Science doesn't work unless you actually use it.
> Now who was it that calculated quantitatively, based on previously confirmed
> theories, how long it ought to take to build an AGI? And if the one did not
> do this, but dared a prediction anyway, why are you surprised that they were
> wrong?

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