Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jim Fehlinger's Futurological Meta-Formula

Upgraded from the Moot:
You know, much of the "technosuperlative" speculation I've read on the Web from 1997 until now has taken the form:

1. Assume technology is accelerating (generalized Moore's Law).

2. Then, sooner or later, we'll have effectively infinite computational capacity.

3. Therefore, sophisticated futurism consists in speculating about what will be done with infinite computational capacity (and other magical stuff, like nanotech and mind uploading).

If you think this is putting the cart before the horse, then you clearly Just Don't Get It. ;-> Actually figuring out how we're going to get from here to the next step on the path to Infinity (how to manufacture the next chip, fold the next amino acid sequence, or whatever) is for hacks and dullards. Not much more interesting than washing dishes, or lab glassware. No, the proper role of soopergeniuses is the assume the infinite technology, and figure out what to do with it. And that's much more fun, too -- just like playing a collaborative role-playing game!
There is a lot to this. In this hacktacular Age of Kurzweil and Singularity University and X this X that futurological barf, of course, Moore's Law is the ubiquitous example, but Superlative Futurology tends to be premised on some current upward productivity curve hyper-extrapolated via some loose talk and wish fulfillment fantasizing into a back box that can be crammed full of exploitable greed dreams of omnipotence and war on terror nightmares of impotence -- other examples do abound, nukes transformed into energy too cheap to meter, plastic transformed into affordable luxe-fer-all, various circle-squaring perpetual motion mink-farming self-replication get godlike quick schemes. With Singularity discourse, this black box is hyperbolized into a belated "Key to History" of the kind that mobilized the proto-totalitarian pan-movements over a century ago (many transhumanists seem to enjoy the eugenic discourse also favored by much of that crowd, too, alert readers may note). Of course, software coders throng the ranks of today's Robot Cult, hell, even their top expert, er, biologists (and don't get me started on their self-described "bio-ethicists") regularly turn out to be computer tech support guys with delusions of grandeur and a penchant for fraud -- cough Aubrey de Grey cough. To say the least, these folks would benefit from a more than decade belated rumination on Lanier's Inverse Moore's Law: "As processors become faster and memory becomes cheaper, software becomes correspondingly slower and more bloated, using up all available resources."


jollyspaniard said...

We did experience a big growth in R&D over the past few decades. That growth has levelled off. Presumably if we could have kept that level of increase we would have accelerating change. We'd also reach a point where you'd need to spending more than 100% of global GDP to keep that rate of increase.

Dale Carrico said...

We did experience a big growth in R&D over the past few decades.

Especially if by "we" you mean the 1%.