Re: Singularitarian demographics

From: Thomas Buckner (
Date: Sun Aug 06 2006 - 19:17:26 MDT

--- Joshua Fox <> wrote:

> After all, comparing other philosophies which
> seek to improve the world
> through some specific technical efforts, the
> professions of interested
> people and supporters do not show such
> homogeneity or connection to the
> implementation. For example, most AIDS
> activists (snip)

> Anyone care to venture a guess as to why the
> great majority of
> Singularitarians (or at least of the SL4
> members) work in a certain field?
> Why do we not see among Singularitarians more
> psychiatrists, psychologists,
> anthropologists, historians, or biologists, all
> fields which are to some
> extent relevant to the Singularity? For that
> matter, why do we not see more
> doctors, non-high-tech business people,
> musicians, or practitioners of other
> unrelated professions, as we do for other
> movements?

(Fictional Scenario Follows)

It's 1965, and a primatologist in Kenya is
worried. Examining blood samples from chimps,
he's found a weird virus that seems capable of
attacking the immune system of infected primates,
and he has a notion that it could jump to humans
and cause a devastating epidemic characterized by
an inability to overcome the most trivial
infections, leading to a sure death. Nobody but
half a dozen of his drinking buddies take him
seriously. A germ, jump species? A germ, attack
the immune system itself? Everybody knows medical
science is well on the way to eradicating
infectious disease. Look at how we wiped out

(End Fictional Scenario)

It wouldn't be very wide of the mark to say that
Singularitarians, and especially those interested
in Friendliness, are in the position of an
anachronistic AIDS researcher in 1965. It's
believed the virus jumped to humans perhaps a
decade before that, but it was another decade
before anyone really noticed; it took a few years
for AIDS to kill a victim, and it took a few
years for the number of victims of this
mysterious malady to become noticeable outside
Central Africa. I recall the disbelief I felt
when, around 1981, an ex-nurse I knew angrily
commented on my friend Zak, a young, promiscuous
gay. "He's only eighteen!" she said. "That's too
young to know if you're gay." (I wasn't sure I
agreed, but whatever; and in 1981, I doubt you
would have found an unpromiscuous gay anywhere;
but I digress.) "And I think he has a deadly
disease. Those red spots on his face are a
telltale symptom. If it's what I think it is,
he's as good as dead. Nobody ever survives!"

The average person, even the average
computer-literate person, probably thinks of the
Singularity just as I did about AIDS in 1981,
when AIDS didn't even really have a name, and you
almost had to work in a hospital to have heard of
it. I didn't say it out loud, but I thought
"Surely you're exaggerating!" Even then, though,
I knew enough to file such things away in my
mind, and watch and wait until I understood. What
became of Zak? I don't know, I lost touch with
most of that crowd; but I'd bet he didn't live to
see 1990.

For a completely different metaphor, I'm reminded
of the early, disbelieved tales of mountain men
describing Yellowstone to people who'd never seen
a geyser:

If you're a Singularitarian today, you're one of
the trailblazers. The crowds aren't here yet.
There still aren't that many people who have
really heard of the Singularity, unless they're
in software or science fiction authors; until a
few years ago it didn't even really have a name;
and most lay persons, even now, would think:
"Surely you're exaggerating!"

Tom Buckner

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:00:57 MDT