April 29, 2004
Accelerating Change is Everywhere
The Technology Singularity may be a ways off yet, but I wonder if we aren't heading to some kind of Communications Singularity. Media and public reaction to events is speeding up along what appears to be a geometric curve.
Let's compare that to a space-time singularity (such as is created by a black hole). At the black hole's event horizon, time comes to a standstill. Beyond the event horizon, within the singularity, space and time as we know them cease to exist. What does that mean? Can time flow backwards? Can effects precede causes? Maybe.
Consider, then, this snippet from Andrew Sullivan:
KREEPING KAUSISM: Mickey - "The Sky Is Falling!" - Kaus has been hyperventilating (most entertainingly) for months about the execrable nature of the Kerry candidacy. Now we have the Village Voice and New York Observer piling on. What do you call post-election recriminations six months before an election?
I'd say that it's proof of one or more of the following:
- The early bird catches the worm.
- Events unfold a lot faster than they used to.
- Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws. *
Posted by Phil at April 29, 2004 10:10 AM
* Douglas Adams via Kathy Hanson.
I think it proves once and for all that the chicken came before the egg.
You've asked a couple of times recently about the "technological singularity."
Looking forward in time we have an ability to forecast possible technological futures. But it appears to many theorists (like Vernor Vinge) that the time frame of our ability to give meaningful predictions is shortening.
A thousand years ago people could foresee fairly accurately what people one hundred years in the future would be doing - because there was very little advance in one hundred years at that time. Someone in 1904, however, could not predict 2004 in any meaningful way. Today, predictions 20 or 30 years out vary wildly.
Theorists foresee a time when our ability to predict falls to zero. That is the singularity.
What would cause the singularity? Answers vary, but one possibility stands out - the arrival of greater than human intelligence in some form. It could be an enhanced human, A.I., or something we haven't thought of, but once superintelligences start running the show, we unenhanced humans won't be able to offer any meaningful predictions about what will happen next.
My pet dog is extremely bright for her species, but I'm a complete mystery to her. She is unable to grasp what I do during the course of the day. This may be the fate of unenhanced humans upon arrival of the singularity.