Re: What's going on this decade?

From: Charles D Hixson (
Date: Wed Aug 09 2006 - 17:43:59 MDT

Mary Tobias wrote:
> Ben Goertzel wrote:
>> About the supposed lameness of the present decade...
>> Hmmm...
>> Well, the early 2000's is when I first created a truly viable design
>> for an Artificial General Intelligence ;-)
>> Also, among many other things...
>> Estimation of Distribution Algorithms, fusing probability theory and
>> evolutionary programming, became prominent and practical [spurred by
>> Pelikan's PhD thesis]
>> Viable automated NL translation via statistical methods became
>> possible (due to Google...)
>> Real quantum computers have been constructed -- we're up to 12 qubits
>> now
>> Evolutionary quantum computers have been designed and simulated (see
>> some nice papers by Hugo de Garis; and a book by Lee Spector; and I
>> gave a talk on this at a MITRE workshop earlier this year)
>> The use of machine learning methods to discover biomarkers became
>> viable, and very common (based on SNP data, microarray data, etc.)
>> BitTorrent !!!
>> I could go on and on but I won't.... There has been plenty of nice
>> stuff in the 2000's.... Yes, much of it had its roots in the 90's;
>> but much of the stuff you attribute to the 90's had its roots in the
>> 80's too...
>> -- Ben
> I think we're looking at something completely different... the 90s
> were given by tremendous intellectual
> vitality, and tremendous amounts of money and energy being invested in
> moving the race dramatically
> forward.
> The millenium has been marked by tremendous backlash; the explosive
> growth of fundamentalist religion
> especially in the first world nations, a virtual collapse of support
> for science and engineering as the best
> and perhaps only answer to human sustainability, and an overwhelming
> struggle for those in power and
> wealth to hold on to that power and wealth at any cost (up to and
> including killing the very goose that lays
> the golden eggs.) We seem to be caught up in the lethargy caused by
> profound cynicism and resignation.
> Worse, a lot of really brilliant people are living in/on
> hope/denial... and we really need to get back to the
> business of growing the future.
> I think it's imperative that we begin at the societal level, and begin
> teaching our children that they are the
> future, and that blazing the way to a bright and powerful tomorrow is
> way cooler that playing "Gangsta",
> or commiting acts of virtual mayhem on portable game stations (not
> that the two a necessarily mutually
> exclusive.) Done properly we might begin stemming the tidal wave of
> highschool drop outs and college
> failures marking the latest generation of Americans.
> A failure to do such, bodes poorly for the vision we all so
> passionately embrace, and has us looking
> squarely in the face of a slow and hot spiral into oblivion for
> humanity, and the vast majority of higher
> life forms currently enjoying the planet.
> Mary Tobias
If you want to see where this happened before, and more seriously, look
at the period around 1000 AD.

OTOH, another thing that's happening is the the US "defeated" all it's
rivals and became the unchallenged top dog in it's class. After which
there's no place to go but down. (And all great thanks to the USSR for
allowing us to live through that process.) As a result the entire US
appears to be facing a "failure of vision". See some of Charles Stross
commentary on that. Or look at the lists of Hugo winners. This is
going to mean that a lot of the development is moving to other
countries. Other reasons are always given as to why, but I suspect
those reasons of being derivative rather than primary. So what's
happening now is that the current top dog is trying to freeze the future
into a mirror of the present...and destroying the present in the
process. May we live through this.

One reason that I think the Singularity, for all it's dangers, may be a
good thing is that governments appear to be suicidal. The promise the
ruler infinite power, and then when he gets on top the only possible
change in his status is downwards. Some people are driven crazy by such
an event. Others appear to have been crazy before assuming office. And
the "infinite power" is a cheat and an illusion...that they've "sold
their soul" for. Atomic bombs are too dangerous to have in a world run
by humans...and humans are still the best we've got. And atomic bombs
aren't the only mega-danger.

We have with unreasonable fortune escaped the dangers of a truly
horrendous cataclysm. (Look at the Athens vs. Sparta war for a trivial
pre-creation...and realize just how lucky we were.) It's enough to make
one believe in the multi-verse. Our survival past our own follies is so
unreasonable. And like the prisoner's dilemma, there doesn't seem to be
a decent answer... yet we are here. In simulation? In one branch of
the multiverse? At the whim of the Escaton? It's folly to postjudge
probabilities...but ... at these odds chance seems *such* an improbable

What's going on in the decade is that we are building more and more
parallel computers. We are building faster computers. We are
increasing our disk storage capacity. Every one of those is becoming
cheaper. We are spreading Free Software based operating systems...which
means that at some later date people and others will be able to
customize them. We are improving nano-engineering. We are starting to
build stupid nano-materials. We are mapping genomes. We have started
mapping proteomes and we are at a beginning of an understanding of
epigenetics...which would have been called Lamarkism a decade ago. I'm
sure that there's lots more, but those are off the top of my head. And
if post-judged probabilities are any guide (they aren't...but it sure
feels that way) we've got a godhead of some sort ensuring that we'll
survive. At least until *some* goal is reached.

I don't know how I feel about the possibility of living in a universe
where I die as well as live whenever I cross the street...but then I'm
not sure how I feel about living in a simulation either, or being a tool
for the Escaton.

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