Re: Singularity Media (was: Wednesday's chatlog)

From: Mitch Howe (
Date: Sun Mar 10 2002 - 20:38:30 MST

From: "Ben Goertzel" <>
Sent: Sunday, March 10, 2002 8:43 AM

> One large risk, which I am certainly not the first to observe, is as
> follows. Suppose someone creates a huge media uproar over the
> Singularity -- with good intentions, but resulting in a widespread
> superficial, glitzy "Hollywood" style vision of the Singularity. People
> excited. Then the Singularity frustratingly fails to come tomorrow --
> instead there's another dot-com crash or 9/11 disaster, or whatever. The
> Singularity becomes the next Virtual Reality -- i.e. the next craze to get
> people overoptimistically psyched about the possibility of X, and then
> disenchanted with the slowness of the actual advent of X.

I had been worried about this as well, but its been my increasing impressin
lately that what are probably the most "lively" AI projects in the world
(Novamente, SIAI) have a very real need and use for funding *now* -- in the
short term. I am also in the school of thought that says that the right AI
design could probably run on the hardware avaialable now. Therefore, what I
would like to see is a greater spread of Singularity ideas soon to increase
near term funding, and thereby improve the odds of a Singularity in the
short term. I'm not worried about Singularity in the long term; I'm
convinced that it will happen no matter what I do.

> "Singularity: The Movie" sounds great. Sure, if it comes out like "2001:
> Space Odyssey". But what if it comes out like "A.I.: Artificial
> Intelligence", or, say, "Robocop." Feeding deep ideas to the popular
> mill has a way of transforming them into trivial and foolish things,
> dismissed as fantasies.

Permuation City: The Movie, might be a good start. As would any movie that
portrays uploading as something other than evil or a tool of evil.
Permutation City does spread the concept you mentioned of Singularity as the
playground of the rich, however...

> And remember, nearly all people in the world are religious. I don't have
> anything against religion as a general principle -- I have great respect
> many of the varieties of spiritual experience, and in fact my wife is a
> Buddhist priest. But the fact is that most current religions teach
> superstitous doctrines that are implicitly or explicitly anti-Singularity
> nature. Religious people by and large are made very uneasy by cloning,
> uploading, and other ideas that we on this list take for granted.

I know what you mean. My own upbringing would very easily equate the
realization of a Sysop with the realization of "Satan's Plan".

> It seems very, very possible that wide attention brought to the
> of future technology, might lead to a widespread outcry to SQUELCH this
> technology, just as we're seeing now with stem cell research and human
> cloning in the US.

Fortunately, the very nature of Singularity as an intangible,
counter-intuitive fantasy should allow those who do not understand it to
easily dismiss it. AI programs are not nearly as photogenic as Dolly the
Sheep, or nearly as tangible as tortillas made biotech corn. It will be
hard to demonize seed AI research until it has some sort of "abominable"
poster child -- something that is unlikely in the short term without some
more funding.

> From this point of view, the "trivialization" risk may be a *good* thing.
> It may be that the only thing saving us from demonization by the masses,
> and consequent government repression of our research, is precisely the
> INABILITY of the masses of humanity to do anything but reject or
> ideas as far-out as the Singularity. (Please note my wording: I said it
> "may" be. I don't know.)

Well said. I would like to point out that I was being a bit facetious with
some of my media suggestions :) But I think it may actually be hard to
simultaneously trivialize and demonize the Singularity. When you really
think about it, the movie The Matrix was probably the worst-case scenario
for a movie about AI and artificial environments. But people loved it, and
many of those who didn't just dismiss the whole thing as hollywood fantasy
actually left the theater thinking about the blurring line between reality
and simulation. It is easy enough to strike down the extremely illogical
premise of the movie (which was the result of trivialization) for those who
happen to fear AI and uploading because of it.

--Mitch Howe

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