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

Friday, June 20, 2014

Googolectics: Navel Gazing... Without Limits!

Very Serious futurological thought-salad by Hugo de Garis, published in humanity+ (the Robot Cult rag it would be "humanity-minus" to disapprove):
I [have] conceived the idea of X-Techs, i.e. technologies at the “X scale”, where X could be femto, atto, zepto, etc... This line of thinking led me to the notion of SIPI (Search for Infra Particle Intelligence) rather than the usual SETI... which strikes me as being rather provincial minded... The next logical step, it seems to me, is to speculate on what hyper intelligent synthetic creatures (artilects), which are x-tech based, might have done with themselves over billions of years, given that our sun, our star, is billions of years younger than most stars in the observable universe. This is a fascinating question, which this essay attempts to address. How does one begin on such a speculation, given that these hyper intelligences would have performance levels trillions of trillions... of times above the human level, and have had billions of years in which to evolve and complexify, before our sun was even born? ... If one takes googolects seriously, then... it seems reasonable to suggest that they could manipulate the properties of strings and related M-theory objects into structures of vast complexity, i.e. these structures would have a complexity level googol times greater than today’s artificial brains. These googolects would be “thinking” (signaling) 1027 times faster than our current nanoelectonic circuits, since they are 1027 times smaller (assuming the speed of light remains a barrier.) If these googolects can manipulate M-theory objects as they choose, then at larger scales, e.g. at our own human scale, we would not be able to distinguish between properties of the higher scales as “givens” (as is the case in physics today) rather than as “engineered”. Thus, it is possible that a real paradigm shift becomes quasi inevitable... Before I start speculating on other things these googolects might do, this is probably a good moment to coin a label for a new research area that does just that, i.e. speculates on what googolects might do. I suggest “googolectics.” ... Another of my research interests, is something I call “I.T.” i.e. intelligence theory, that doesn’t exist yet. This would be a branch of mathematics... Once I.T. can tell us what intelligence is, so that we can have a whole mathematical theory about it, then we will be able to create more intelligent creatures (artilects)... One obvious point to make that seems virtually certain, is that googolects would be utterly incomprehensible to humans. We would be way too stupid to understand their godlike capabilities... My main two areas of intellectual interest are pure math and math physics. Let us assume that pure math has no conceptual limits...
No, you are not mistaken, Femto, Atto, and Zepto were not another trio of Marx Brothers you forgot. I am tempted just to leave these comedy stylings as they are, to invite you to enjoy this techno-transcendental hoo-hah without comment, or by all means to click the link where there is oh so much more where that came from. But I will make the obvious comment or two. You know, I have no problem with some people treating this sort of thing as a consoling form of prayer. I'm an atheist myself, but I'm all for letting a bazillion flowers bloom in the faith department so long as your particular religious bliss doesn't moralize violence or rationalize tyranny or pretend to be science -- well, oops! on that score Mr. de Garis, but, well, you know what I mean. Similarly, I have no problem with some people treating this sort of thing as a form of experimental poetry of some kind. It's certainly not to my taste, since I have taste, but there's no accounting for taste, so, well, again, you know.

But I do have a problem with anybody who thinks this is sound argumentation... A welter of stipulations yielding "next logical steps," pushing equivocations of terms like "intelligence" beyond the breaking point, pretending it makes sense to put words like "possible quasi inevitable" together in the name of rigor, speaking of "givens" after indulging in pages of handwaving about non-givens, inventing non-disciplines about non-events involving non-phenomena and calling this "research," pretending that this sort of glossolalia yields "obvious points" or that nonsensicality is the sign of "purity," and so on! This is not argument or even speculation but free association. And I have a greater problem still with anybody who thinks this is serious science ("intelligence theory... a branch of mathematics [!]... can tell us what intelligence is, so that... then we will be able to create more intelligence creatures (artilects)"), let alone "pure math" or "pure physics," or remotely legitimate philosophizing. Even thought experiments require some thought to be happening in their general vicinity. No, this nonsense is neither serious nor sound in any way, nor is anybody serious or sound for whom this sounds serious (except maybe serious as a heart attack).

These problems aside, I cannot help but observe that guru-wannabes in robocultic precincts do often seem to lose themselves in this sort of phanwanking (it's like common or garden variety fanboy fanwanking, but involving speculative pseudo-science rather than speculative science-fiction), so I suppose this nonsense may nonetheless be, you know, The Future. The singularity, doncha know, is a black hole.--h/t to the indispensable indefatigable JimF.


Esebian said...

The writing style reads like a mix between Timecube and Star Trek:TNG scripts, where they let their advisors include random technoscience terms into gaps labeled [tech] to make it all sound more sciencey.

jimf said...

Femto! Atto! Zepto! Yocto!
Pico! Nano! Micro! Gonzo!

Wikipedia sez:
The 17th century writer Jonathan Swift wrote lightheartedly the
idea of self-similarity in natural philosophy with the following
lines in his poem "On Poetry: A Rhapsody:

"So nat'ralists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller fleas to bite 'em.
And so proceeds Ad infinitum."

I seem to recall that I encountered the above quote
(probably without attribution) from my 7th-grade science
teacher, but I may be confabulating that memory.
I didn't hear about Leibiz's notion of recursive self-similarity
until much later in life. ;->

But not long before 7th grade (but where? Maybe it's mentioned
in Arthur C. Clarke's _Profiles of the Future_), I caught
wind of the out-of-date SF trope (popularized in
the days when the Bohr model of the
atom as a miniature solar system was new) that atoms were
**literally** miniature solar systems, with possibly inhabited
"planets" and all.

Here's a bibliography:
Internet Speculative Fiction Database
Titles Marked With Tag: atom worlds

1936 – He Who Shrank by Henry Hasse
1935 – The Cosmic Pantograph by Edmond Hamilton
1932 – The Seed of the Toc-Toc Birds by Francis Flagg
1931 – Awlo of Ulm by S. P. Meek
1931 – Beyond the Vanishing Point by Ray Cummings
1931 – Submicroscopic by S. P. Meek
1929 – In Two Worlds by Edward E. Chappelow
1928 – Out of the Sub-Universe by R. F. Starzl

A summary of the last item (from _Science-fiction: The
Gernsback Years: A Complete Coverage of the Genre_
by Everett Franklin Bleiler, via Google Books):
U.S. (Iowa) journalist, writer, newspaper publisher.
Contributed twenty-odd science-fiction stories to
the pulps. These were literate, usually capable
action fiction with science-fiction trappings. . .
Starzl was also an important member of both the German
and American rocket societies. In later life interested
in right-wing politics. . .

OUT OF THE SUB-UNIVERSE. _Amazing Stories Quarterly_,
Summer 1928. . .

Professor Halley, who has been working with cosmic rays, has
discovered that certain harmonics of the rays can increase
of decrease size almost infinitely. He also also satisfied
himself that atomic structures parallel solar systems in
our universe. With his apparatus he has sent objects into
the atomic world and retrieved them, but has had no success
with living creatures. Hence (although the reader may find
the reasoning a little lopsided) it is agreed that the
professor's daughter Shirley and hear near-fiance, Hale,
should go down into the atomic world to explore. Halley intends
to retrieve them in a half-hour. At the appropriate time,
Halley throws the switch. He sees emerging up in size, not
Shirley and Hale, but about two hundred strangely-garbed
people. Still tiny, they address him in English, telling
him that they have maintained the temple of Halley's descendants
for about a million years. The professor overlooked the
fact that time would pass far more rapidly in the sub-universe
than in ours. . . [D]ifferential time. . . was anticipated
by G. Peyton Wertenbaker's "The Man from the Atom", where the
concept is very clearly stated. . .

I seem to recall echoes of this trope floating around in the comic
books I read in the early 60's. Maybe DC Comics' "The Atom"
could do this sort of thing. I can't remember how he managed
the time differential. ;->