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Guest Post: Infinite Hedge: On a Long Enough Timeline, the Survival Rate for Everyone Rises to Infinity

Tyler Durden's picture


The last in a series (most recently: The Final Form of Human Government).

Submitted by Free Radical, with a wink, a nod, profound thanks to Tyler, and great appreciation for ZH’s contribution to the cause of human freedom and thus to humanity itself.

Infinite Hedge:
On a Long Enough Timeline,
the Survival Rate for Everyone Rises to Infinity

A man said to the universe,”
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”
        — Stephen Crane

For all his striving, man pales in significance to the cold immensity of the universe. Our sun, after all, is but one of somewhere between 200 billion and 400 billion suns in our galaxy, a stellar disk that is estimated to be around 100,000 light-years across. Even so, it is but one of at least 125 billion galaxies in a universe that is estimated to span 156 billion light-years.

Our universe is also old, upwards of 14 billion years, as is our planet, at roughly 4.5 billion, and life upon it, at around 3.7 billion.

Not so, however, for our species, homo sapiens, which is estimated to have made its appearance less then 200,000 years ago – a mere 54 millionths of the time life has existed on our planet, 44 millionths of the time our planet itself has existed, and 14 millionths of the time our universe has existed.

Moreover, for the vast majority of its time, homo sapiens has survived as a simple hunter-gatherer, not inventing agriculture until around 10,000 years ago and progressing all but imperceptibly from then until the onset of the Scientific Revolution around the middle of the 16th century and the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th.  Yet as a result of this recent quickening, our species is now riding a tide of technological advance that swells on a daily basis.

Before we examine it further, however, let us reconsider our statement above that “man pales in significance to the cold immensity of the universe.”

According to an ancient (originally Latin) apothegm, “There is nothing greater in nature than man, and there is nothing greater in man than mind.” If so, then just how great is man’s mind, at least potentially?

If each human brain had only one synapse – corresponding to a monumental stupidity – we would be capable of only two mental states. If we had two synapses, then 22 = 4 states; three synapses, then 23 = 8, and, in general for N synapses, 2N states. But the human brain is characterized by some 1013 synapses. Thus the number of different states of a human brain is 2 raised to this power – i.e., multi-plied by itself ten trillion times. This is an unimaginably large number, far greater, for example, than the total number of elementary particles (electrons and protons) in the entire universe. … [Therefore] there must be an enormous number of mental configurations that have never been entered or even glimpsed by any human being in the history of mankind.

Indeed there must, “enormous” hardly doing justice to the literally astronomical num-ber of configurations of which the human mind is capable or the creative power that could be contained in any number of those configurations. Surely the greatest minds in human history – Confucius, Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Leonardo, Newton, Beethoven,  Mozart, Einstein, to name an obvious few – would be laughable in comparison to a mind that approximated its true potential, the question being how it would do so. After all, the minds of these men are as rare today as they ever were, and there is scant evidence of vastly more powerful minds suddenly making their appearance.

Or is there? And are we poised instead on the threshold of something akin to the ap-pearance of homo sapiens itself, or even of life itself? With every passing day, after all, the otherwise immovable object of the state is being pushed farther aside by the irresisti-ble force of technology – technology that is today represented most notably by this:

In the internet we see our greatest hope for freedom and for the continual pro-gress of humanity. In the Internet we see the anachronistic and obsolete institu-tions of society being pushed aside for a new dawn of better things. In the Internet we see the key to diminishing the power and status of the state and liberating ourselves from its oppression and deception.

Indeed we do, it being nothing less than the great and growing power of mutual cooperation in the form of social networking, the vast potential of which is only just now being tapped and against which the state will be all but powerless. And insofar as it played a role in the creation of the Internet, the state only helped to create a monster that, unlike itself, is overwhelmingly a force for good, and one that is growing exponentially:

But it is not just the Internet and its networking capability, as other technologies are also empowering homo sapiens as never before, so much so that they are bringing man and machine together in ways that boggle the mind as much as the mind’s own potential does:

An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the commonsense ‘intuitive linear’ view.  So we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate). … Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to … technological change so rapid and profound that it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history.  The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.

However much one might be inclined to dismiss such notions as mere fantasy, the above analysis is based on well-established trend extrapolation, the pivot point being the “knee” of the curve depicted below.  That is, having come full circle from our beginning, the knee is the point at which homo economicus gives way to homo abundus, not only banishing economic scarcity to the ash heap of history but history itself:

But wait.  If man leaves scarcity behind, and thus the need for money, what about our earlier assertion that “Money…is essential to any society that we would call civil”?  If society leaves money behind, won’t it thereby render society uncivil?  Of course not.  For when society succeeds in evolving beyond money, it will merely be doing what it did when it evolved beyond barter, only vastly more so.  That is, society will increase its co-operative powers by orders of magnitude and thereby vastly increase its ability to civilize itself.  No more “Getting and spending,” in other words, that “lay waste our powers.”  Instead, we will be empowered to not only boldly go where no man has gone before but to become what no man has ever been before.

When will this singular event take place and “cascading technological progress” begin?  It will begin when the computing power of a typical laptop today surpasses that of “One Human Brain” – roughly 2030, according to the graph below, which, ironically, is precisely when Keynes (getting virtually everything else wrong) predicted that “the economic problem” will be solved:

If so, then one has to wonder if Stephen Crane didn’t get it backwards and that his poem should therefore read as follows:

The universe said to a man,
“Sir, I exist!”
“And that fact,” replied the man,
“Has created in me
A sense of obligation.”

An obligation to what?  To merely do what comes natural to him, based on his intuitive knowledge that insofar as being is, it is good, and that more being is therefore better, his own being standing at the forefront of a process of becoming that he has barely begun to grasp. Yet having dwelled long enough in that convivium – that “living together” – that he can now look back on whence he came with keen eyes, so too can he look forward, with ever keener eyes, to where he is going.

Will he in fact transcend his earthly nature and suffuse the universe with his ever-expanding intelligence? He does not know. What he does know, or at least is finally beginning to know, is that whatever transformation awaits him, it cannot happen as long as he is shackled in body and mind by the forces of nonbeing – i.e., by that which serves no other purpose than to tie him down, hold him back, and otherwise deprive him of his humanity.

And when he is ready, he will put an end to it.*

* Note to himself: mark 2030 on calendar.



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Sat, 06/25/2011 - 22:54 | 1402064 DoChenRollingBearing
DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Ray Kurzweil discusses this Singularity in his big fat book:

The Singularity is Near (2005)

Sat, 06/25/2011 - 23:11 | 1402110 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

But will the Great Implosion™ happen before the Singularity?  Signs point to yes! :>(

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:15 | 1402242 nuinut
nuinut's picture

The Great Implosion is necessary to facilitate the Singularity.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 01:12 | 1402356 Quixotic_Not
Quixotic_Not's picture

Even so, it is but one of at least 125 billion galaxies in a universe that is estimated to span 156 billion light-years.

So, once again we have enlightened thinkers trying to put finite borders on the

So, Mr. Wizard, what is beyond the so-called "universe that is estimated to span 156 billion light-years"?

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 01:44 | 1402405 Oracle of Kypseli
Oracle of Kypseli's picture

The uknown!

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 02:28 | 1402452 Yen Cross
Yen Cross's picture

 It's easy when the markets run "Your Direction"!

      Trading is an art! Just like that (FLUTE0)  you play?  I have aTenor sax that works for me.


                Those F sharps get ya every time.   YeenG F lat.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 09:00 | 1402644 grekko
grekko's picture

No money in the future?  Everyone will work hard for everyone else?  Sounds like Communism.  Works fine in small groups (ask the hippies). Worldwide? Hogwash!  There are always lazy people that will take all they can get without working for it.  Why would I put everything into a job if it did not benefit me and mine?  We need money as a driver in civilization.  Does the writer really believe that without a personal reason to work hard, that I will work hard?  Humans are by nature mostly honest, but also greedy in an effort benefit get ahead, so to speak.  Why else work hard?  Money is important. As I said, it drives people to do better.  I leave you all with just one question to ponder.  Who is John Galt?

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 11:35 | 1402945 mlbs
mlbs's picture

What makes you believe money drives people to improve the world? Is it because the people with power have told you money is important? It probably does give the people that do meaningless factory jobs a reason to get up every morning. But for everyone that is required to do cognitive tasks on a daily basis, money serves no purpose for motivation.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 12:38 | 1403099 Solarman
Solarman's picture

You are funny, substitute money for material possession or power.  No one tells you, you desire that.  You must not have children. LOL

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 13:47 | 1403204 Quixotic_Not
Quixotic_Not's picture

The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions ~ John Locke 1690

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 12:39 | 1403102 Solarman
Solarman's picture

You are funny, substitute money for material possession or power.  No one tells you, you desire that.  You must not have children. LOL

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 15:07 | 1403230 WeekendAtBernankes
WeekendAtBernankes's picture

+1, great vid.  However, you seem to have missed a key part of the video.

The video states explicitly that monetary compensation sufficient to alleviate the worker's concerns about money is required.  Only then is the baseline productivity acheived which is enhanced by the techniques described.  For you to suggest otherwise is farcical.  Would you go to work for no pay?

"Is it because the people with power have told you money is important?"  What an incredibly naive statement.  Money is a medium of exchange.  It is natural and necessary to seek reward, monetary or otherwise, for one's labor.  200,000 years of human development have depended on it.  We call it a wage.

Watch the video again.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 14:04 | 1403234 WeekendAtBernankes
WeekendAtBernankes's picture

Sorry, this is the truly naive statement:

"But for everyone that is required to do cognitive tasks on a daily basis, money serves no purpose for motivation."

Ya okay, wow, do watch the vid again.  How did I overlook this?

Mon, 06/27/2011 - 07:22 | 1403100 BigJim
BigJim's picture

Iain M. Banks writes novels about 'The Culture', a future civilisation that has essentially transcended all our current societal problems. They have hyper-intelligent, sentient computers (called Minds) running things, and infinite access to energy and matter.

In The Culture, humans generally just pursue hobbies and self-improvement. They've genetically engineered themselves out of physical aging and disease. The ones who find themselves falling increasingly under the spell of ennui often get involved in 'Contact' and 'Special Circumstances', two somewhat secretive groups that are wheeled out when 'The Culture' engage with other (and almost inevitably) more barbaric, authoritarian civilisations. The Culture prides itself as being a happy, semi-anarchic, freedom-loving, foreign-culture-respecting bunch, but things can get pretty ugly.

I read the books before I developed an interest in money and economics, however. Anyone else remember how they dealt with "the allocation of scarce resources with alternate uses", as Thomas Sowell puts it? As I recall, to all intents and purposes they had no scarcity, so money didn't crop up.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 13:18 | 1403124 BigJim
BigJim's picture


Sun, 06/26/2011 - 17:24 | 1403612 Prometheus418
Prometheus418's picture

At this moment, you are 100% correct- people are forced to work to survive, and (at least in theory) the harder they work, the better their lives are.

But that is at this moment, and just now, that's not working out quite as well as we would all hope.  Some have no work to do, and depend on handouts, some work very hard for very little in return, and a select few do very little for huge rewards.

The thing about this singularity, should it come to pass, is that it would free everyone to explore the things which interest them- for many, that will be little beyond pleasure-seeking, at least for a while.  But the funny thing about pleasure-seeking behavior is that it eventually ceases to work, at which point a person must either turn to productivity or perversity.  Those who turn to production will feel better and live longer, and the perverse will die off through their own actions and choices.

The simple elimination of money and provision of basic necessities for all does not eliminate the concept of value and worth, and it does not eliminate the competetive drive.  What would happen is that there would be new standards of value to compete for, probably several based on a person's point of view.

For example, prestige may become a coin of the realm.  Let's say that there is a town of 100 people, and 99 of them sit around watching TV all day, while 1 person works to develop a new 3D tv, and a better massaging chair.  That person will gain prestige and have the first choice when it comes to social interactions and potential mates- not because they can provide essentials that everyone has, but because they are a more interesting diversion.  Others, seeing this, will want that same mystique, and act accordingly.

It's the same system, with a different face- but if the basics are provided to all, it opens up a much wider potential for all.  Imagine if Tesla never had to spend even one minute courting capital to persue his projects....

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 19:53 | 1403927 TerraHertz
TerraHertz's picture

Something very few consider, is that the 'singularity' (of technology, in particular computing power, intelligent machines, etc) inevitably has another consequence. One that makes ALL common suppositions about future social structures, money, work, etc irrelevant.

We humans, as with all life on Earth, are cellular machines. Our cells are programmed via the coding of DNA. DNA is software. All software by its fundamental nature can be manipulated - copied, decompiled, edited, hacked, infected, reloaded, and so on.

Once you have the necessary tools, software like all digital data is a fluid.

For genetic engineering of single adult living beings, the necessary tools are a fast DNA reader, an AI/expert system gene decompiler, a recompiler, and a means to edit the resulting code back into all the living cells in the body.

The most significant 'singularity' of human evolution is not the point at which we achieve intelligent machines (there are a whole bunch of mistaken assumptions in most people's thoughts on that topic.) The significant moment is when the first human acquires the tools to perform working re-engineering of their own DNA code. At that point everything changes. The fundamental natures of 'individual', 'species', 'society' and 'mind' all shift dramatically. After that, trying to apply present day preconceptions about the relationship of the individual to society and species, is like trying to continue enforcing copyright in the digital age. A foolish and doomed pursuit to perpetuate obsolete ideas. Flat Earth, Geocentric universe stupidity.

The computing singularity is one prerequisite for that, but there are a few others. All of which are about to occur, or have already occured in isolation.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 21:19 | 1404285 Prometheus418
Prometheus418's picture

+1 for that- you're right, I had not considered it, and it's an interesting concept.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 11:25 | 1402914 eureka
eureka's picture

Doesn't man transcend himself when overcoming obstacles, perceiving a bigger picture than his personal needs and wants, working for the greater good - and thus, how is man supposed to suddenly become a better performer, evolve to higher potentials at the future time when all his basic needs and desires are fulfilled by machine intelligence, for free and without any demand upon man?

The notion that the pleasure & plenty principle, once physically fulfilled, will transcend itself and become mentalally & creatively expressed would have its proof in currently comfortable humans manifesting immensely more all sharing benevolent creativity - and so to verify the grand assumption of this notion - all one has to do is look around for evidence of such mental quantum leaps expressing itself in the priviledged classes.

Well then, who sees it - and where?

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 11:57 | 1402978 dbTX
dbTX's picture

On a long enough time line...

everything knowable will be known

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 02:55 | 1402463 Manthong
Manthong's picture

Beyond This Place There Be Dragons.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 03:53 | 1402485 the tower
the tower's picture

Space-time is curved into itself, so there is no beyond. Infinity is a concept that your brain will reject, hence the question "what is beyond". You can at least try to understand by reading some books, I would like to suggest The Complete Idiot's Guide to Theories of the Universe.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 04:34 | 1402504 Quixotic_Not
Quixotic_Not's picture

Oh, I understand the theories, however quaint they are...

I just think man's imagination is far from able to grasp the reality of what the universe actually is.

Mathematical expressions for known physical traits, but the rest is self-important gobbledigook, at best  ;-)

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 11:16 | 1402893 delacroix
delacroix's picture

the part, can't comprehend the whole

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 05:29 | 1402524 Reptil
Reptil's picture

It requires work, investment, and choices that may be irreversible, but there are ways to tap into different states of the human brain-body.

Infinity can be percieved and accepted

It's not for everyone though. It's both terrifying and alluring. I'm not pretending I've been in that place yet, I've only dipped my toe in and then came back. ;-D They're not "pipe dreams" they're a way to look at another part of reality, and insights gained caused significant steps forward, ironically also on the road towards the singularity.

I don't subscribe to the idea as if the body is an empty vessel. Once human beings lose that connection to the natural world, they lose being part of that greater conscious network. We are chemical beings, and that chemical layer of interaction is part of our being, in that it influences our consciousness. This is ignored by a number of the transhumanists. (including Ray Kurzweil) I'm more and more convinced the attack on the natural world stems from the idea that nature is but a shell, a husk that must be discarded. This is very wrong, since that "husk" of the natural world and our development as conscious being is deeply embedded in there.

some information here:

and some forward looking research here:

Without it, we lose the interaction with the natural world, lose the abillity to "travel" and expand our conscious perception in that direction, and will become something very different from what we are now. No wonder all natural plants containing the (naturally occurring) DMT molecule are banned in the Codex Alimentarius. It is, objectively speaking, incorrect, that the pathways used by human beings throughout ALL history are now being blocked, without any clear argumentation.


Please also see the links in my post below?

To me, with my ideas and experiences as a person, the race torwards the singularity, while burning all bridges behind us, starts to feel more and more like a lobster trap. It's important to realise both what's to gain, and what's to lose. It's presented as a choice, but that's not the purpose of this development. AT ALL. I'm not against any bold development, in any direction, but I must reject limits, that are presented as "choice". What I mean is that the part of consciousness that is "modelled" in a computer projection is only ONE OF MULTIPLE forms of consciousness, that are present, or possibillitys in our natural state. If this goes through, the AIs that supercede us will refer to us as the "original creator beings who had it all". :'-)

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 06:30 | 1402555 Optimusprime
Optimusprime's picture

"I don't subscribe to the idea as if the body is an empty vessel. Once human beings lose that connection to the natural world, they lose being part of that greater conscious network. We are chemical beings, and that chemical layer of interaction is part of our being, in that it influences our consciousness. This is ignored by a number of the transhumanists. (including Ray Kurzweil) I'm more and more convinced the attack on the natural world stems from the idea that nature is but a shell, a husk that must be discarded. This is very wrong, since that "husk" of the natural world and our development as conscious being is deeply embedded in there."


Very well put--thanks for your post and links.

Kurzweil is it bit of a klutz and charlatan, IMHO.  There is little nature and no spirit in his imaginings, just what is left of a mind when these are deleted.


He represents what Eric Voegelin analyzed as "modern gnosticism".

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 06:34 | 1402560 Reptil
Reptil's picture

I'll look into that. Thanks!

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 10:01 | 1402710 Sean7k
Sean7k's picture

Well said and if I might add: this whole piece of gibberish is nothing more than another version of man's quest for immortality through the generousity of a new god- technology.

"We are being forced in one direction..." and just who is doing the forcing? From all appearances, they are not attempting to create immortality and nirvana for the masses.

Technology is a tool and so far, it is a tool that cuts two ways. One, it provides methods for the advancement of humanity, but in our inability to understand their consequences, these technologies often do as much harm as good.

The failures of science has been in the uncoupling of the organic from the inorganic. We feel we can create new technology without discovering how the earth and it's inhabitants interact and function. We are intellectually lazy and in a rush to discover. We fail to lay the foundation necessary to understand who and what we are.

It is this tendency to conquer new territory before consolidating what we have absorbed that leads to colossal failures. It is magnified by our unwillingness to admit our mistakes or explore alternative solutions. 

If history is any judge, we will create new technologies that we fail to understand completely or to have considered the consequences of putting our complete trust in them for the sake of an early strike at the possible profits.

To date, it has not resulted in our destruction, although the nuclear bomb was close. The creation of a technology that exceeds our ability to monitor, control or understand the limitation of its' potential raises the possibility of our own demise. Like the possibility of a black hole from the Bern accelerator, we can ignore the implications of a one in a billion event.

As I look around, giving an objective assessment of technology, I fail to see the great advantages it has produced when balanced against the great costs in pollution, toxin contamination, food value destruction, violent warfare, loss of security, debt enslavement, human isolation and social destruction. 

We need to ask ourselves, what is the purpose of my life? How can I best achieve it, will I be allowed the liberty to pursue it? 

Science and technology are a means, not an ends. To the extent they result in benefits without much in the way of negatives, great. This is a slow growth cocktail. However, if we are going to forge ahead, blind to the ramifications of our actions, we risk and encourage our mutual destruction- why would we want this power in the hands of a small minority?



Sun, 06/26/2011 - 23:11 | 1404597 Ranger4564
Ranger4564's picture

First, I wanted to say I've read a few things you've posted and I generally like what you write. In this case, I disagree. You're indicting Technology for failure through hubris, when in fact, I would indict Capitalism for placing technology in a position which required the rushed risk taking which results in the devastations you describe.  In a world that is not driven by winning, by being first, by being cost effective, by being amoral, technology becomes a tool that can wait for the right time, be investigated more thoroughly as if there is enough time, can be criticized openly through discussions / forums because there is no secret that must be preserved, and so on.  Don't blame technology for failing humanity, blame capitalism.  Technology did not cause the pollution, people and capitalism did.  Technology did not kill the victims, people and capitalism did.  In many cases, if money wasn't the prime concern, greater precautions could be taken to protect people and the enviroment. In fact, technology would advance more quickly and smoothly if there was no profit motive, because people would share their insights more openly, to advance civilization. We probably would have a viable alternate fuel system by now if we didn't live in a capitalist world. We would probably have a moon base or mission to mars by now, if money / capitalism didn't exist.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 08:03 | 1402606 Medea
Medea's picture

This is cute. Condescending, ignorant and cute.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 06:46 | 1402565 Popo
Popo's picture

What's beyond the edge of the univers?   Duh.  It wraps around.   Clearly you've never played "Asteroids".   

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 06:46 | 1402566 Popo
Popo's picture

What's beyond the edge of the universe?   Duh.  It wraps around.   Clearly you've never played "Asteroids".   

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 07:35 | 1402594 francis_sawyer
francis_sawyer's picture

The back of your head (of you 30 years ago)

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 07:37 | 1402597 francis_sawyer
francis_sawyer's picture

Then again, sometimes I struggle with Tyler's math questions

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 08:25 | 1402618 Smiddywesson
Smiddywesson's picture

It all rests upon the back of a big turtle, of course

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 12:17 | 1403034 Yancey Ward
Yancey Ward's picture

Chocolate pudding.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 13:54 | 1403212 Libertarian777
Libertarian777's picture

It depends if you subscribe to the brane multiverse, or the bubble universe theory. There are a number of others, most of which are pointing to the existence of multiverses. What's 'between' these universes? Again it depends on the theory you subscribe to. It could either be 'nothing' or a higher dimensional 'space' between them.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 01:37 | 1402387 SMG
SMG's picture

Supposedly there are a whole bunch of universe changing technologies being held back by the oligarchy, that will be released after the Great Implosion.  

I look forward to human evolution and the great advancements ahead of us.  

I just can't get over the planned mass murder that is supposedly required for this evolution.  There has to be a better way.

Also the oligarchy has done so much evil so far, why would they stop in the future?


Sun, 06/26/2011 - 01:44 | 1402408 HungrySeagull
HungrySeagull's picture

There will still need a Dishwasher, a housekeeper or a driver.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 02:06 | 1402444 Quixotic_Not
Quixotic_Not's picture

And if they're Wall St. Banksters, transvestite prostitutes...

If you think I'm kidding, I'm not.

That's how the Ivy League geeks roll! lol

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 04:48 | 1402514 foofoojin
foofoojin's picture

dishes? you eat the plate too dummy or walk into your back yard grean house and pick your lunch of the vine.

house keeper?  computer will detect your not in a room and uv emmiting paint on the walls. fiber optics in the couch and clear coatings on the furniture will kill everything.  you will have a nano farm break down you garbabe and waist and push it to the green house  or contruct new items for you while you sleep.

and as for a driver. those who have a need to leave there house will know it thousands of time safer to let the computer do the driving.  im sure there will  be diehard that still prefer manual driving. but you know our car insurance will be at least 10 times higher.


Sun, 06/26/2011 - 01:45 | 1402409 Oracle of Kypseli
Oracle of Kypseli's picture


Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:11 | 1402238 RockyRacoon
RockyRacoon's picture

There is a fly in this transcendental argument and it is inadvertently pointed out in the article: the form of social networking, the vast potential of which is only just now being tapped and against which the state will be all but powerless.

As long at TPTB are not threatened was the missing element in the analysis.  Pulling the plug and plunging us back to the 1950s technologically speaking becomes a very real possibility.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 01:53 | 1402417 Oracle of Kypseli
Oracle of Kypseli's picture

The genie is out of the bottle!

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 02:54 | 1402450 Quixotic_Not
Quixotic_Not's picture

TPTB aka TBTF aren't threatened by social networking in the least, au contraire they view it as a safety valve and herding device...

Since the advent, which has been around in various forms since BBS boards in the early 90s, the reality of social networking on the internet has been: Venting frustrations by rants into the seemingly human ether; vegetative social isolation; waste of personal resources/time; splitting of the fabric of tangible society/culture; geeks coming up with new, titilating web pages to attract the herd and get rich.

More or less, social networking has at best been a masturbatory sea of noise, and at worst the dumbing down of humanity by further elevating the least common denominator of ideological hubris (e.g. Karl Denninger, Huffington Report, blogspot, twits r' us, et al).

Does anyone actually think the social networking revolts in the ME are actually a positive development and will end well for the inhabitants of the region, excluding the ME moneyed elite?

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 07:10 | 1402577 Alcoholic Nativ...
Alcoholic Native American's picture

+ 1000

lol @ Karl D and his derpsquad, you nailed it though, at first they came for our TV and cable and now they are coming for the internet with social engineering.  Go to any University computer lab you and will find at least 60% of the students zoning out the facebook which by the way is a NSA front.  We still have the encouraged left right bickering the paid trolls generating page views ( and the societal taboos we see in more traditional news media.

Plus everything is being logged,psychological profiles are being built and thought criminals are being databased.

A recent example of how social networking and online "revolutions" can look on the surface like a good idea but quickly be subverted is the teatard movement, started off as a noble idea but was quickly usurped to be about extending the Bush tax cuts and some kind of ignorance is strength Jesus movement.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 07:14 | 1402579 richard in norway
richard in norway's picture

unfortunately correct

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 11:14 | 1402890 RockyRacoon
RockyRacoon's picture

I guess that explains why they were frantically trying to shut down the smartphones/texting/Internet in Egypt recently.   The authorities were just not prepared enough to close off the "series of interconnecting tubes" fast enough.   In the U. S. we may be very surprised how effectively they shut the whole thing down.   Then what?   CB radio and walkie-talkies?   10-4 Good Buddy.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 03:43 | 1402481 oldman
oldman's picture

Hey there, RR,

We never left the '50's----we have had six decades of the same---I was there and couldn't get out then either.

In fact, the '50,s have taken over the planet, at least from this myopic human context of the zero thing-----I just left SA because all the losers from the US were showing up there with the '50's. It's a sickness---a plague---a pox upon our house

at least gimme a smile, please---we're all mad even though we're not angry

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 05:26 | 1402526 Reptil
Reptil's picture

You got it. (our level of development still being stuck in the fifties)

The "improved, modern" version of that fifties society (fifties v5.5) might soon come to an end, since it has outlived it's intended purpose. (technological base for further development & destruction of the natural world)

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 09:42 | 1402695 ibjamming
ibjamming's picture

We never left the 50s because in the 60s, civil rights came and the era of dumbing down and quotas arrived.


Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:41 | 1402307 augie
Sun, 06/26/2011 - 07:15 | 1402578 JW n FL
JW n FL's picture

That was a bit much for a Sunday Morn.. Thank You Very Much!

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 07:54 | 1402602 Gully Foyle
Gully Foyle's picture


Charles Stross has this to say.

Three arguments against the singularity

I periodically get email from folks who, having read "Accelerando", assume I am some kind of fire-breathing extropian zealot who believes in the imminence of the singularity, the uploading of the libertarians, and the rapture of the nerds. I find this mildly distressing, and so I think it's time to set the record straight and say what I really think.

Short version: Santa Claus doesn't exist.

Long version:

I'm going to take it as read that you've read Vernor Vinge's essay on the coming technological singularity (1993), are familiar with Hans Moravec's concept of mind uploading, and know about Nick Bostrom's Simulation argument. If not, stop right now and read them before you continue with this piece. Otherwise you're missing out on the fertilizer in which the whole field of singularitarian SF, not to mention posthuman thought, is rooted. It's probably a good idea to also be familiar with Extropianism and to have read the posthumanism FAQ, because if you haven't you'll have missed out on the salient social point that posthumanism has a posse.

(In passing, let me add that I am not an extropian, although I've hung out on and participated in their online discussions since the early 1990s. I'm definitely not a libertarian: economic libertarianism is based on the same reductionist view of human beings as rational economic actors as 19th century classical economics — a drastic over-simplification of human behaviour. Like Communism, Libertarianism is a superficially comprehensive theory of human behaviour that is based on flawed axioms and, if acted upon, would result in either failure or a hellishly unpleasant state of post-industrial feudalism.)

But anyway ...

I can't prove that there isn't going to be a hard take-off singularity in which a human-equivalent AI rapidly bootstraps itself to de-facto god-hood. Nor can I prove that mind uploading won't work, or that we are or aren't living in a simulation. Any of these things would require me to prove the impossibility of a highly complex activity which nobody has really attempted so far.

However, I can make some guesses about their likelihood, and the prospects aren't good.

First: super-intelligent AI is unlikely because, if you pursue Vernor's program, you get there incrementally by way of human-equivalent AI, and human-equivalent AI is unlikely. The reason it's unlikely is that human intelligence is an emergent phenomenon of human physiology, and it only survived the filtering effect of evolution by enhancing human survival fitness in some way. Enhancements to primate evolutionary fitness are not much use to a machine, or to people who want to extract useful payback (in the shape of work) from a machine they spent lots of time and effort developing. We may want machines that can recognize and respond to our motivations and needs, but we're likely to leave out the annoying bits, like needing to sleep for roughly 30% of the time, being lazy or emotionally unstable, and having motivations of its own.

(This is all aside from the gigantic can of worms that is the ethical status of artificial intelligence; if we ascribe the value inherent in human existence to conscious intelligence, then before creating a conscious artificial intelligence we have to ask if we're creating an entity deserving of rights. Is it murder to shut down a software process that is in some sense "conscious"? Is it genocide to use genetic algorithms to evolve software agents towards consciousness? These are huge show-stoppers — it's possible that just as destructive research on human embryos is tightly regulated and restricted, we may find it socially desirable to restrict destructive research on borderline autonomous intelligences ... lest we inadvertently open the door to inhumane uses of human beings as well.)

We clearly want machines that perform human-like tasks. We want computers that recognize our language and motivations and can take hints, rather than requiring instructions enumerated in mind-numbingly tedious detail. But whether we want them to be conscious and volitional is another question entirely. I don't want my self-driving car to argue with me about where we want to go today. I don't want my robot housekeeper to spend all its time in front of the TV watching contact sports or music videos. And I certainly don't want to be sued for maintenance by an abandoned software development project.

Karl Schroeder suggested one interesting solution to the AI/consciousness ethical bind, which I used in my novel Rule 34. Consciousness seems to be a mechanism for recursively modeling internal states within a body. In most humans, it reflexively applies to the human being's own person: but some people who have suffered neurological damage (due to cancer or traumatic injury) project their sense of identity onto an external object. Or they are convinced that they are dead, even though they know their body is physically alive and moving around.

If the subject of consciousness is not intrinsically pinned to the conscious platform, but can be arbitrarily re-targeted, then we may want AIs that focus reflexively on the needs of the humans they are assigned to — in other words, their sense of self is focussed on us, rather than internally. They perceive our needs as being their needs, with no internal sense of self to compete with our requirements. While such an AI might accidentally jeopardize its human's well-being, it's no more likely to deliberately turn on it's external "self" than you or I are to shoot ourselves in the head. And it's no more likely to try to bootstrap itself to a higher level of intelligence that has different motivational parameters than your right hand is likely to grow a motorcycle and go zooming off to explore the world around it without you.

Uploading ... is not obviously impossible unless you are a crude mind/body dualist. However, if it becomes plausible in the near future we can expect extensive theological arguments over it. If you thought the abortion debate was heated, wait until you have people trying to become immortal via the wire. Uploading implicitly refutes the doctrine of the existence of an immortal soul, and therefore presents a raw rebuttal to those religious doctrines that believe in a life after death. People who believe in an afterlife will go to the mattresses to maintain a belief system that tells them their dead loved ones are in heaven rather than rotting in the ground.

But even if mind uploading is possible and eventually happens, as Hans Moravec remarks, "Exploration and colonization of the universe awaits, but earth-adapted biological humans are ill-equipped to respond to the challenge. ... Imagine most of the inhabited universe has been converted to a computer network — a cyberspace — where such programs live, side by side with downloaded human minds and accompanying simulated human bodies. A human would likely fare poorly in such a cyberspace. Unlike the streamlined artificial intelligences that zip about, making discoveries and deals, reconfiguring themselves to efficiently handle the data that constitutes their interactions, a human mind would lumber about in a massively inappropriate body simulation, analogous to someone in a deep diving suit plodding along among a troupe of acrobatic dolphins. Every interaction with the data world would first have to be analogized as some recognizable quasi-physical entity ... Maintaining such fictions increases the cost of doing business, as does operating the mind machinery that reduces the physical simulations into mental abstractions in the downloaded human mind. Though a few humans may find a niche exploiting their baroque construction to produce human-flavored art, more may feel a great economic incentive to streamline their interface to the cyberspace." (Pigs in Cyberspace, 1993.)

Our form of conscious intelligence emerged from our evolutionary heritage, which in turn was shaped by our biological environment. We are not evolved for existence as disembodied intelligences, as "brains in a vat", and we ignore E. O. Wilson's Biophilia Hypothesis at our peril; I strongly suspect that the hardest part of mind uploading won't be the mind part, but the body and its interactions with its surroundings.

Moving on to the Simulation Argument: I can't disprove that, either. And it has a deeper-than-superficial appeal, insofar as it offers a deity-free afterlife, as long as the ethical issues involved in creating ancestor simulations are ignored. (Is it an act of genocide to create a software simulation of an entire world and its inhabitants, if the conscious inhabitants are party to an act of genocide?) Leaving aside the sneaking suspicion that anyone capable of creating an ancestor simulation wouldn't be focussing their attention on any ancestors as primitive as us, it would make a good free-form framework for a postmodern high-tech religion. Unfortunately it seems to be unfalsifiable, at least by the inmates (us).

Anyway, in summary ...

This is my take on the singularity: we're not going to see a hard take-off, or a slow take-off, or any kind of AI-mediated exponential outburst. What we're going to see is increasingly solicitous machines defining our environment — machines that sense and respond to our needs "intelligently". But it will be the intelligence of the serving hand rather than the commanding brain, and we're only at risk of disaster if we harbour self-destructive impulses.

We may eventually see mind uploading, but there'll be a holy war to end holy wars before it becomes widespread: it will literally overturn religions. That would be a singular event, but beyond giving us an opportunity to run Nozick's experience machine thought experiment for real, I'm not sure we'd be able to make effective use of it — our hard-wired biophilia will keep dragging us back to the real world, or to simulations indistinguishable from it.

Finally, the simulation hypothesis builds on this and suggests that if we are already living in a cyberspatial history simulation (and not a philosopher's hedonic thought experiment) we might not be able to apprehend the underlying "true" reality. In fact, the gap between here and there might be non-existent. Either way, we can't actually prove anything about it, unless the designers of the ancestor simulation have been kind enough to gift us with an afterlife as well.

Any way you cut these three ideas, they don't provide much in the way of referent points for building a good life, especially if they turn out to be untrue or impossible (the null hypothesis). Therefore I conclude that, while not ruling them out, it's unwise to live on the assumption that they're coming down the pipeline within my lifetime.

I'm done with computational theology: I think I need a drink!

Update: Today appears to be Steam Engine day: Robin Hanson on why he thinks a singularity is unlikely. Go read. The Betterness Explosion By Robin Hanson









Sun, 06/26/2011 - 09:52 | 1402699 tmosley
tmosley's picture

Hmmm, libertarian axioms are flawed?  So human beings don't own themselves, and they can't own property as an extension of themselves?

I hate it when people use hand waving arguments like this, even in passing.  Whoever wrote this is a douchebag.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 11:50 | 1402966 HagbardC
HagbardC's picture

You would think people proclaiming such anti-libertarian positions would:

A- Describe to what extent they oppose universal personal liberty.

B- Describe in those instances they oppose that liberty, what level of oppression and rule of one man by another that they propose as an alternative.

C- Make some substantive argument for how that oppression is superior.

Of course, such clear thinking would be way too "reductionist" and "insufficiently nuanced" for the viewpoint of someone whose position, when put in simple terms, is just sheer asshattery. 

Stross' douchey smugness  ("I'm just right and can't be bothered to explain why.") I take as a sign of obvious weakness in his argument. 

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 12:01 | 1402986 MayIMommaDogFac...
MayIMommaDogFace2theBananaPatch's picture

I think Stross intended for you to download his inner-most thoughts prior to reading his post.

This simple act saves so much of the effort wasted in actually 'splainin' things.  ;)

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 20:36 | 1404069 TerraHertz
TerraHertz's picture

Or, whoever wrote this might be wrong on at least one point?

I agree, the dismissal of Libertarianism wasn't supported by any argument. Personally I'd like to see some attempt at a Libertarian society supported by technology. It's never been tried so far.

Perhaps it might turn out badly, perhaps not. All things considered it would be good if it could work.

However I suspect there will not be enough time left to give it a fair try, before other events make such experiments moot (and impossible.)

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 10:14 | 1402729 Sean7k
Sean7k's picture

Nice addition DoChen. Thanks.

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 05:31 | 1403185 Mad Cow
Mad Cow's picture

I posit that we are a thought experiment of the creator of the physical universe, in the process of conceptualizing all possibilities, from different points of view. Let's try not to get deleted.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 20:29 | 1404043 TerraHertz
TerraHertz's picture

 A fine read, thanks. Also for some references I wasn't aware of.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 17:44 | 1403638 theprofromdover
theprofromdover's picture

They mistook the do-nut for Big-Bang, cos they are all poor mathematicians and dogmatic observers.

There never was a singularity, we just compress and re-cycle through the eye of the do-nut.

Trust me.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 20:09 | 1403968 mick_richfield
mick_richfield's picture

The Singularity is near.

And always will be.

Sat, 06/25/2011 - 22:52 | 1402070 Ahmeexnal
Ahmeexnal's picture

The energy of thought has no boundaries.

With the appropiate induction coupling device, you could run the entire world's energy needs on just one man's thought energy.

Sat, 06/25/2011 - 23:18 | 1402116 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

I hear what you're trying to express, but the typical Human brain only generates a few Watts of power.

Sat, 06/25/2011 - 23:29 | 1402142 baby_BLYTHE
baby_BLYTHE's picture

only about 10%, at least that is what I have always heard from various sources. Based upon where we are in society today, I do believe it to be more than just an old wives tale

Sat, 06/25/2011 - 23:43 | 1402179 Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar's picture

So step it up baby...get psychedelic and show us your tits!

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:25 | 1402275 baby_BLYTHE
baby_BLYTHE's picture

umm... I am not about to get perma banned for doing stupid like that. However, we had to do self-portraits last semester for my photography class. Here are a few of the ones I submitted

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:29 | 1402294 Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar's picture

I'm not going to waste my time with the twitpics w/o a promise of tits, but let me say this to you - and all Zero Hedge readers - before the night is out.

If you are who you say you are (21-ish Illinois secretary, with 8 oz of gold in one hand and a Gentleman Jack in the other while you listen to the soothing sounds of Gerald Celente), then the question needs to be asked:

Are you super-human or are the people who don't want to get to your level of understanding sub-human?  Because it has to be one or the other, right?

Goodnight to you baby_B.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 03:33 | 1402477 Marty Rothbard
Marty Rothbard's picture

Gee, you're pretty.  Hope I can solve the capcha problem.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 05:26 | 1402528 Reptil
Reptil's picture

yes, pretty. good pictures too.

For your own sake, take them down. connecting your face (biometric characteristics) to your (unsalted) opinion isn't a viable survival strategy in the near future. Everybody's doing this, I know..

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 06:37 | 1402559 BigDuke6
BigDuke6's picture

Sadly BB he's right.  

This is a serious website with discussions that enlighten and inform.

There are forces at play in the world who don't like that.

Unless you are a big fat hairy bloke getting off on all this....


Sun, 06/26/2011 - 09:41 | 1402690 Manthong
Manthong's picture

"connecting your face (biometric characteristics) to your (unsalted) opinion isn't a viable survival strategy in the near future"

That is eigenvaluable advice.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 10:26 | 1402783 Farcical Aquati...
Farcical Aquatic Ceremony's picture

It's possible that if we stopped hiding, and all expressed our views publicly and attached to our identities, we might make progress.  That being said, I am still hiding too...for now...for the same reasons you all are.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:13 | 1402237 MayIMommaDogFac...
MayIMommaDogFace2theBananaPatch's picture

I was going to refer you to the above-mentioned Kurzweil book where he mentions that the often-cited 10% number is actually a wives' tale --

BUT THEN, Vic jumped in and after his comment I'm going with .00001%

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:19 | 1402266 Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar's picture

Feel free to reference the book dude.  I love reading these "intellectual" debates on Zero Hedge as much as the next guy.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:29 | 1402292 MayIMommaDogFac...
MayIMommaDogFace2theBananaPatch's picture

Bah -- my copy is loaned out, probably better get another.

From wikipedia:

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 21:03 | 1404192 TerraHertz
TerraHertz's picture

Perhaps. But there's the question of 'used how intensely?'

Unfortunately I can't provide a reference for this, but years ago I saw a documentary about the mind, with a very interesting case study. A young adult male, seemed intellectually and socially normal. But happened to have a head X-ray, which discovered he'd had hydro-encephaly since birth. Most of his skull was full of fluid, the brain was a small clump at the rear on top of the spinal cord. Something orange-sized iirc. They did metabolic MRI scans (shown on the program in comparison to normal brain metabolic MRIs.) Where normal brains showed diffused light neural activity with just a few clumps of higher intensity, his 'orange' was entirely strongly active.

I took this as pretty strong evidence that the (infant) brain's neural net is able to wire up to whatever extent is required to achieve the necessary functionality.

A corollary, is that children who's brains are not challenged with complex processing tasks simply won't wire up very much. And that this explains why so many people these days are such f*cking morons. Were not exposed to 'complex stimuli' as babies. Were kept mostly inside visually sparse rooms, rarely or never exposed to the richness of fractal environmental visual/tactile stimulation. Sunlight through trees, grass, dirt, bugs, etc. Result being brains barely (or not at all) capable of perceiving complexity around them, pursuing complex thought, etc.

Not to mention being assaulted with massive neurotoxic injected mercury doses, fluorides in water, etc. Gotta keep the slaves dumbed down!

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 02:02 | 1402434 Boop
Boop's picture

and we use all of our brains - not just 10%... 

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 20:37 | 1404089 TerraHertz
TerraHertz's picture

The human brain doesn't _generate_ any power at all. It consumes blood sugar and oxygen, converting that chemical energy into heat. Consciousness being the 'useful product' of the thermodynamic process.

All that guff about 'harnessing the power output of the human mind' is garbage, ignorant of thermodynamics, from people who took the Matrix movies far too seriously.

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 15:13 | 1409684 Ahmeexnal
Ahmeexnal's picture

YOUR brain might not be able to _generate_ any thinking power.

Thanks for letting the world know your IQ is under 65.

For the rest, here's a look at brain-machine coupling interfaces:


While the brain might not generate gigawatts of continuous -or pulsed- power, it's up to the non-linear induction interfaces to ramp it up.

Sat, 06/25/2011 - 23:02 | 1402091 snowball777
snowball777's picture

Give a monkey a brain, and he'll believe he's the center of the universe.

In the future, we'll all eat iPads.


Sat, 06/25/2011 - 23:54 | 1402207 tmosley
tmosley's picture

Give man the ability to think, unhindered by the worship of death, and he will MAKE himself the center of the universe.  Figuratively if not literally.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 01:40 | 1402389 Quixotic_Not
Quixotic_Not's picture

You know that illusion of omnipotence is a common trait among children, don't you?

Unfortunately, most aren't forced to mature into adulthood anymore...

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 03:56 | 1402488 the tower
the tower's picture


Sun, 06/26/2011 - 07:41 | 1402598 centerline
centerline's picture

Sadly this is true.  There is a rude awakening over the horizon.  Peak entitlement has been crossed.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 09:54 | 1402701 tmosley
tmosley's picture

You're right.  Man will never fly.  Walking on the moon is the delusion of a child!

Sat, 06/25/2011 - 23:08 | 1402092 Böhm_Bawerk
Böhm_Bawerk's picture

"Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence..."

Sorry, no. It isn't "intelligence" that machines will have. It's brute force calculation, done very fast. 

Since the 50's AI researchers have been promising machine "intelligence," always claiming that it's 10 or 20 years away. They're still saying that. The hope was that, for example, machines would be able to beat human beings at chess using the same kind of intelligence that we do, only better. Nope. The remarkable advances in machine chess have been due to abandoning the goal of mimicking human thought processes; instead, for the most part, they do brute-force lookahead extremely fast. Nothing like "intelligence."

The Turing test has been stood on its head. Instead of judging machines on the basis of whether they think like humans, we've been gradually dumbing ourselves down to the level of machines. Slow, error-prone machines. 

The future we want will not come about through machine "intelligence." It will come about when we finally understand, embrace, and develop our unique capacity for dealing with the world.



Sat, 06/25/2011 - 23:16 | 1402122 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

"Asking whether computers can think is like asking whether submarines can swim."

What is "intelligence?"

Sat, 06/25/2011 - 23:49 | 1402195 SofaPapa
SofaPapa's picture

Exactly.  I have never seen a computer "create" anything.  Computers are tools.  They are a mode by which humans advance our unique creativity.  The day I see a computer come up with a truly original idea rather than extrapolations of prior knowledge, then I will jump on the "future" train.  Until then, color me skeptical.



Sun, 06/26/2011 - 09:25 | 1402671 Rusty Shorts
Rusty Shorts's picture

When I see a few super computers sitting around a campfire enjoying a cold beer, then I'll be worried.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:01 | 1402209 tmosley
tmosley's picture

lol, you think we are somehow less intelligent than our fathers or grandfathers.


You want to talk about real AI progress?  Look at the progress we have made in creating micro-robots that behave exactly like insects, and are able to LEARN.  They have developed the ability to lie as well.  All done via evolutionary programming, with exceptionally simple processors.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:12 | 1402243 hayesy316
hayesy316's picture

"lol, you think we are somehow less intelligent than our fathers or grandfathers."

Where did he say that?

"You want to talk about real AI progress?  Look at the progress we have made in creating micro-robots that behave exactly like insects, and are able to LEARN.  They have developed the ability to lie as well.  All done via evolutionary programming, with exceptionally simple processors."

Yes, the software is increasingly complex, but it's still not intelligence. My 4 year old son anthropomorphises our cat as well, so you're not alone in making this error.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 10:09 | 1402722 tmosley
tmosley's picture

If you had read his post, you would have seen this: "we've been gradually dumbing ourselves down to the level of machines. Slow, error-prone machines. "  IE, implying that humans are getting dumber, rather than simply losing the burden of being forced to think about every little thing, allowing us to spend our time doing higher order thinking.  This is exactly analogous to the difference between living as a cave man, forced to do every single thing required for survival, and a person living in a civilized society, who does one thing professionally, and does it well.  The result is a much higher standard of living.  The same thing has happened here.

You should really learn to read.  The software didn't become more complex.  It got SIMPLER.  They don't program behaviors any more, they program the ability to learn.  They program rewards and punishments, and let the devices sink or swim on their own.  With these self modifying programs following evolutionary standards, the resultant robots have the ability to seek out and find "food", hide from "predators", lie to each other to get ahead, and DETECT LIES in others.

Hell, I have seen programs evolve such that they were capable of doing calculations that were beyond their fundamental capability (ie being able to do a calculation with fewer logic gates than the optimally human designed version).  How was it able to do this?  It evolved to take advantage of some fluctuation in the power that the designers didn't know about, and didn't really understand when they saw the final product.  It was like the program had ESP.  But of course, if they plugged the device in anywhere else, the program stopped working.  That is how they discovered the method it was using.  Much like many species on the Earth, the program evolved itself into an evolutionary niche, and couldn't function outside of that niche.  We could do so much more, with so much less, if we controlled our society in such a way, but made it so that said programs were constantly evolving, and older, more versatile versions were always available if the current one failed.

Also, nice job at comparing me with a 4 year old.  Go fuck yourself.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 10:42 | 1402815 Böhm_Bawerk
Böhm_Bawerk's picture

Reference for these programs that evolved to perform "calculations that were beyond their fundamental capability," please? 

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 14:14 | 1403270 MayIMommaDogFac...
MayIMommaDogFace2theBananaPatch's picture

I think he's making reference to evolutionary / genetic algorithms.  I was not able to quickly find a great example in practice -- but they do exist.

A key point in this type of computing is that the end result/solution is already known.  Usually there is an existing (functioning) algorithm that is then mutated in an essentially random fashion (many many times over). 

On the surface this sounds like a really haphazard and pointless approach to resolving a problem that already has a solution.

The overwhelming majority of the mutated algorithms will NOT be better than the starting algorithm, further they WILL NOT even be fit to solve the problem.  In short, they will be defective, useless mutant algorithms.  This 'problem' is resolved by computing speed -- IOW the rate at which you can churn out mutations and test their fitness is reasonable enough...

An occasional mutation will both solve the problem at hand AND do it 'better' in some capacity (faster, more efficient, etc).  So this type of computing is commonly used to try and address optimization problems.

What is the poster is attempting to point out when he says "calculations that were beyond their fundamental capability"?

He does not mean (for instance) that a genetically-inspired algorithm for scheduling Airline routes would eventually become skilled at the task of Retail Order Replenishment (or the game of Checkers for that matter). 

What he is trying to point out is that a mutated version of the original (intentional) algorithm has been generated and that mutated version does the job better in some respect than the original.  The somewhat amazing aspect of this is that the specific mutation is essentially ACCIDENTAL -- no one INTENTIONALLY created/conceived it. 

This also means that oftentimes the inner-workings or 'reasons why' the mutated algorithm functions 'better' than the original are not at all clear or obvious.  Rhetorically speaking: "What are you gonna do?  Ask the algorithm to explain itself to you?"

Having said all that, I do not think this type of computing shows much promise in terms of an emergent Artificial General Intelligence.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 15:15 | 1403403 Böhm_Bawerk
Böhm_Bawerk's picture

Yes, I figured he was referring to genetic algorithms or something similar. I've worked on those, as well as on neural networks. It's really quite amazing what those things are capable of. They do indeed regularly surprise their creators - just as brute force chess programs can surprise their creators with the unexpected moves they come up with. 

Knowing the internal workings of these algorithms, I can attest to the fact that they are ingenious and sometimes useful. They're a far cry from general AI, though, as you said. They work within the parameters they are given, even if those parameters permit them to change themselves within certain well-defined limits. 

One of the many interesting things about consciousness - and intelligence too, by extension - is that it's impossible to come up with a test for it. As soon as you've specified an unambiguous test for consciousness, you have thereby, because of that unambiguousness, also specified a program that can pass it. (The Turing Test doesn't count because of its ambiguity. It doesn't specify who the people are who are supposed to be the judges, nor what criteria they should use. Plenty of people today are fooled by "Eliza" programs that no knowledgeable person would be tempted to call "conscious" or "intelligent.")

Digital <> analog. Human beings, like all living things, are analog devices. Computers (today) reduce all their input and output to digital bits, typically losing information in the process. Even neural nets, which show some promise of modelling what consciousness does, are missing the continuous variability that pervades living creatures. If, someday, we find ways to harness the power of the analog realm in ways that are similar to what we've accomplished in the digital realm, then I suspect my comments here won't apply - we may well achieve something like artificial intelligence in that case. But that's so different from the work being done today that I don't think it currently has any practical relevance. (To my knowledge, that is. If there's serious work being done today on analog computing for AI, I'd be very interested to know about it.)

Computers are incredibly useful tools and they're becoming more so by the day. I would prefer that we celebrate and make use of these amazing devices and the amazing things they can do, instead of underestimating the uniqueness of our own mental capacities by thinking that computers fundamentally do exactly the same things we do, only better.   

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 21:23 | 1404300 TerraHertz
TerraHertz's picture

No, if it's the same instance I'm thinking of, it was a system using FPGA's (my memory is vague, it was years ago) and some system that evolved the virtual circuit loaded into the FPGA's to produce an image recognition system. It developed capability higher than the available gate-count on the FPGA could account for. Turned out it was achieving extra processing by using parasitic effects on the chip, such as power instabilities. Yuck.

Background: FPGA - Field Programmable Gate Array, by chip producers such as Xilinx and Altera. Design languages: VHDL & Verilog. Fantastic technology, revolutionising electronics design over the last decade. Much potential to eliminate the stranglehold on computing architectures held by companies such as Intel. Unfortunately it seems TPTB have decided to take a firm controlling grip on FPGAs, and recently Xilinx has been subverted to the dark side. Now almost impossible for independent developers to obtain their chips and development tools. Uncertain whether other FPGA manufacturers will suffer the same fate.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:19 | 1402253 MayIMommaDogFac...
MayIMommaDogFace2theBananaPatch's picture

You really should read Kurzweil's book.  He may not convince you but he will get you into much deeper thought about all of the assumptions you just listed.

Or just take peek at this (from 3 years! ago):

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 01:10 | 1402348 Böhm_Bawerk
Böhm_Bawerk's picture

I've read it. Interesting for sure, but I disagree with the philosophy of mind that underlies it.

Intelligence is rare in people. For the most part folks just arrange their lives so they can repeat the same patterns mindlessly over and over. Kind of like machines. So it's no surprise that we idolize and pin our hopes on these things that have raised mindless repetition to the level of perfection.




Sun, 06/26/2011 - 08:18 | 1402614 equity_momo
equity_momo's picture

Well put.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 12:14 | 1403036 WaterWings
WaterWings's picture

Agreed. The thin veneer of Civilization is removed as soon as domestic comforts are suspended.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 20:13 | 1403978 mick_richfield
mick_richfield's picture

You lost me.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 11:22 | 1402917 mkkby
mkkby's picture

Exactly.  What progress have we see in computers the last 30 years?  We have the same spreadsheets and other simple tools, only they now have pretty graphical interfaces.  A computer still can't reliably turn speech to text, or even pictures of text to text.

At least in the US, college students are dumber than they used to be, and fewer are interested in science and engineering.  If anything, I'd say we are in a mini dark ages.  We have vast numbers who believe ignorance is good.  Witness the evolution deniers.

Kurzweil is a phoney, who writes science fiction for the scientifically illiterate.  Students of science know that very little has been discovered in the last 100 years.  The theory behind everything we call technology was discovered before about 1933.  All we've been doing since then is figuring out useful or entertaining ways to engineer those discoveries.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 12:10 | 1403024 MayIMommaDogFac...
MayIMommaDogFace2theBananaPatch's picture

A computer still can't reliably turn speech to text, or even pictures of text to text.

You aren't serious are you?  I mean, really.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 20:10 | 1403982 mick_richfield
mick_richfield's picture

He's correct. 

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 20:22 | 1404036 goldsaver
goldsaver's picture

Have you used auto-correct on your phone before? There is some funny stuff that can happen just having the computer correct your written text. Voice to text is even more unreliable. You have to re-train your speech patterns so the machine can understand you. Then again it might be my southern accent.

Sat, 06/25/2011 - 23:14 | 1402103 Ray1968
Ray1968's picture

And are we poised instead on the threshold of something akin to the ap-pearance of homo sapiens itself, or even of life itself?


Just remember.... There is nothing new under the sun. We will never escape our true nature. This nature ensures we repeat history over and over.

Sat, 06/25/2011 - 23:59 | 1402214 tmosley
tmosley's picture

History never repeats.  It only rhymes.

We advance to the extent that we learn from history.  Sometimes it happens.  Sometimes it doesn't.  

But hey, you keep that defeatist attitude--I'm sure it will take you anywhere you want to go in life.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 05:37 | 1402536 Incubus
Incubus's picture

History is no consciousness or object of sentience that can repeat, or rhyme: it's just a record. 

What it shows is that humanity (all of us) will never learn anything meaningful.  Beyond the technological advances, we're still a primitive bunch of self-seeking bipeds with still increasing capacity for negligence, destruction, and malice.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 07:12 | 1402563 Bob
Bob's picture

And the resources continually accruing to an ever smaller proportion of the population in a glorious symphony of "Me, me, mine."  Future technology may indeed bring the means for all to have all they need (free energy used to build food and materials atom by atom at virtually no cost, say), but who will own and control this technology?  We don't seem headed on an evolutionary path leading to a "share and share alike" world. 

Many would much prefer to see the world burn if the only alternative were such a "socialist" paradise.  If there were no people to suffer and die as the proof of their own superior worth, their lives would be fundamentally without meaning.  Without the relentless striving to have more than the next guy, their narcissism would be stripped to its bare misanthropic hatred and emptiness. 

If social structures don't undergo some profound evolution in the meantime, I don't see technology doing much real good for humanity.  Not ever. 

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 07:46 | 1402599 centerline
centerline's picture

We are very young.  No doubt.  Technology is a great thing in that it is likely one of the only things that lead us to a better place.  It is also like a shotgun in the hands of monkeys.  Could go either way depending.  Safe to say that our future is going to be a bumpy ride at least.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 10:15 | 1402730 tmosley
tmosley's picture

Yes, your defeatist attitude is clearing serving you well.  It has caused you to ignore that all life is fundamentally the same, and that the only real difference between us is our ability to adapt.  Humans adaptation abilities are so great that we can force the world to adapt to our desires.  Technology is the means we use to do that.

So you focus on death and destruction even as we gain everything.  So many fucking death worshippers around here, I'm honestly getting sick of you people.

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 08:15 | 1408250 Incubus
Incubus's picture

I don't focus on "death and destruction," as you put it. 

I am cynical because I know that people will never change: they cling to subjective interpretations of themselves for the sake of an inaccurate "identity."

We are free: we could decide tomorrow that this old system is garbage, yet we'll stick to it.  There is nothing, NOTHING stopping us from a 'better' world but ourselves:  the necessity of relative interpretations of identity via culture and society are what keeps us circling the drain. 

"Debt" doesn't exist.  Money doesn't exist.  Social strata, countries, religion: they are all psychological constructs that warp the perception of the world.  The world just is, and we're the ones that're shackling ourselves.


It's hard not to be a cynic when you know things will never change because people won't change: they need the world to be the way it is for their identity crutch.


and fyi: I don't junk people I reply to.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 19:02 | 1403781 Prometheus418
Prometheus418's picture

What it shows is that there is a collective human nature.  It may vary from individual to individual, but under certain conditions, most people will react in a limited and predictable number of ways.  Since A tends to follow B, and there are a limited number of options, you can see a cycle in human society.

I am less cynical about humanity- once the pattern repeats enough, and the records become durable and accurate enough, we will learn a lot about our own aggregate nature.  Once that knowledge becomes well-known as a predictive force, the knowledge itself will change the cycle, as people compete to break the paradigm.

If we can break the cycle of history, the sky is the limit.


Sat, 06/25/2011 - 23:15 | 1402111 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

Where's my flying car?  My jet pack?

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 10:08 | 1402726 tmosley
tmosley's picture

Flying car was nixed by the FAA.  The jetpack is on the market, just rather expensive.

Sat, 06/25/2011 - 23:16 | 1402112 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

Hhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Hah! Can't stop laughing at such a brilliant build up and such a damp squib, pffffffffffffffffffffffft ending.

Computers are our future? Our evolution depends on computing power? And moore's law?

LAdies and gentlemen, in this technology be-dazzled world, meet God, his initials are GBM and he's doubling. 

Can't stop laughing! Delusional. Run a simple extrapolation on our current reality.

Not our virtual one!


Sat, 06/25/2011 - 23:34 | 1402163 Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar's picture

Man-meeting-machine is inevitable whether you like it or not dude...and is pretty damn uplifting if you ask me.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:01 | 1402208 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

Vic, I'll not deny even for a split second that machines are a part of our reality, logically perhaps even. But not this way. Not this dysfunctional trend of turning us into Borgs instead of organic machinery. We are weaker and weaker for them, not better or stronger.

That is where I differ. 


Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:07 | 1402221 Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar's picture

Man is a spiritual being but cannot get enough of his science.  Some choose one or the other exclusively, and therefore have disdain the other side.

I say life is complex and the future is interesting, not dark.  Best to you and yours, ORI.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:11 | 1402231 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

Thanks Vic and likewise. We all need it. I wrote a piece on technology as the first article on my blog.

Perhaps it might be of interest.

And interesting, indeed. But dark is really interesting. Light is another problem. Artificial light that is... as you can tell, my views are a tad extreme.



Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:24 | 1402276 Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar's picture

I enjoy reading your site ORI.  While at times reading it, I think "this is batshit crazy" or "this is dead-wrong", it makes me think.  Those moments are hard to find on the web (hence, why we all love Zero Hedge so much!).

For example, there is no callousness to pornography.  I love internet porno. 

Then again, I'm just a westerner who will suck down Chicken Mahraja-Macs at Mickey D's the next time I'm kicking it in India.  They might be bad for me and "our future" but they are delish!

I'm logging off now.  Time for some internet porno :-)

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:42 | 1402312 augie
augie's picture

For when the pron gets old. 

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 09:42 | 1402697 psychobilly
psychobilly's picture

Really fascinating.  Thx.


Sun, 06/26/2011 - 11:08 | 1402880 scratch_and_sniff
scratch_and_sniff's picture

That guy can talk.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 15:11 | 1403377 augie
augie's picture

He's discovered the mechanism for how quantum consciousness extrapolates information from our dimension and translate it into the next and in so doing, has been continuously snubbed by established science for their own inability to read coherently. I'd say he has a lot to talk about. The veil isn't broken easily, but there are cracks forming.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 19:30 | 1403851 Prometheus418
Prometheus418's picture

I didn't get that from the talk.  It actually seemed fairly straightforward to me- dramatically simplified, it looked as though he was postulating that cells store memories in something akin to a sheet of transistors rolled into a tube.  Lot of the visuals were kind of familiar, as they appeared to use the same on/off method as something like a machine-readable code block.

No idea how that is useful to the layman, but it was neat, and makes sense.  It'll be interesting to see what it ends up as.

Mon, 06/27/2011 - 10:06 | 1405211 augie
augie's picture

The video is a response to the critics of the Orch-OR theory. The theory is explained in basics here. 

Orch-OR (Orchestrated Objective Reduction) is a theory of consciousness, which is the joint work of theoretical physicist Sir Roger Penrose and anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff. Mainstream theories assume that consciousness emerges from the brain, and focus particularly on complex computation atsynapses that allow communication between neurons. Orch-OR combines approaches to the problem of consciousness from the radically different angles of mathematics, physics and anesthesia.

nassim Haramein

guys voice is almost unbearable, but the coincidences in his work compared to classical physics is astounding and he explains the Orch-OR theory concisely 

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 11:43 | 1402961 mlbs
mlbs's picture

Technology is just an extension of the human psyche. We use it to improve ourselves in areas that we deem are lacking. Many people are lacking in areas that could be better filled with things other than technology and those are the ones that let technology rule them. They are the ones that are awe-struck with the next toy, and they are the ones that get stuck in a loop.

I don't entirely agree with the author in the idea that technology will allow our society to break free from the shackles we have, such as money. But it gives the people that rule technology a new method of empowering themselves more. We extend ourselves with this technology to give us more brain power, longer life, and better physical ability among other things.

The quality of all technology is in the eye of the beholder.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 19:11 | 1403812 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

Well said and good points all around.

But perhaps a cliff's edge is an absolute for a stampeding herd, relatively speaking?



Sat, 06/25/2011 - 23:30 | 1402141 Mr.Kowalski
Mr.Kowalski's picture

Currency should be simply a means to simplify the exchange of goods and services. But somewhere along the way, currency has become the vehicle by which those with power who produce nothing rob those without who do produce. The evolution of our species will come when a currency is once again simply a means to better exchange goods and services and not as a weapon by which serfdom is imposed onto an unknowing populace. 

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:15 | 1402251 RockyRacoon
RockyRacoon's picture

Doncha just love all this high talk?   A large percentage of the U. S. population doesn't even subscribe to the "theory" of evolution.   We're not going anywhere for a long time except in laboratories.  The Flying Spaghetti Monster is getting restless.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:30 | 1402286 nuinut
nuinut's picture

I seem to be running into you a lot, Rocky.

Wassup with that? :)

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 11:08 | 1402884 scratch_and_sniff
scratch_and_sniff's picture

A large percentage of the US cant even spell Theory of Evolution.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:25 | 1402269 nuinut
nuinut's picture

Yup. That "somewhere along the way" was the introduction of debt into the monetary system, BTW.

Your comment is the exact same reason why I made this one above:#1402242

Sat, 06/25/2011 - 23:38 | 1402165 CynicLaureate
CynicLaureate's picture

Our lives depend on energy: the food we eat, the water we drink and the heat and AC we need all come from energy.

There is no certainty that our energy per capita will continue to increase, regardless of the amount of computing power available.

We'll just be able to communicate about starving in the cold and dark with higher-resolution 3D video.


Sun, 06/26/2011 - 01:33 | 1402386 FeralSerf
FeralSerf's picture

There is no certainty that it won't either, nothwithstanding the propaganda one gets from TPTB.  The PTB needs to maintain this illusion in order to keep control over the proles.  Fear of no more tailgate parties is very powerful.

Maybe all the sources haven't been discovered (or implemented) yet.

It  could be a very long time before the ultimate consequences of the Second Law catches up with us.

Sat, 06/25/2011 - 23:44 | 1402191 Yen Cross
Yen Cross's picture

 And the POMO magma (rises?)

Sat, 06/25/2011 - 23:47 | 1402198 kito
kito's picture

sooooo capitalism leads ultimately to true communism........

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:05 | 1402217 tmosley
tmosley's picture

No, Communism attempts to achieve the logical end of capitalism by ignoring all of its fundamental tenants.

A society defined by non-scarcity of goods is a society of INDIVIDUALS above all else.  Nothing to do with Communism.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:28 | 1402273 hayesy316
hayesy316's picture

If you want to rabbit on about quasi-philosophical gobbledygook with the best of them, you should know that the word is TENETS. "Cognitive dissonance" and "dielectic" are cool words as well.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 01:40 | 1402393 snowball777
snowball777's picture

I took it as a Freudian misspelling.


Sun, 06/26/2011 - 02:28 | 1402454 Yen Cross
Yen Cross's picture

  You are (apologizing ?)  You are a PROUD FATHER!  NICE work!


              YEN CROSS

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 10:15 | 1402732 snowball777
snowball777's picture

A shockingly easy part of the deal, unfortunately.

Now being a Dad...that's a little more work, but I get paid in a currency the Bernank can't debase.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 10:17 | 1402733 tmosley
tmosley's picture

Ah yes, grammar naziism.  The last refuge of those proven completely and utterly wrong, but who can't stand to face it.

Tell Ba'al I said "Hi".

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 10:32 | 1402794 psychobilly
psychobilly's picture

If you want to rabbit on about quasi-philosophical gobbledygook with the best of them, you should know that the word is TENETS. "Cognitive dissonance" and "dielectic" are cool words as well.

I think the word you're looking for is dialectic.

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 11:48 | 1402953 delacroix
delacroix's picture

tongue tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:05 | 1402225 TK7936
TK7936's picture

Social networks are exactly what the states will use to control you. Freedom is dead. Techno Society is a Hive of Borgs, so start getting used to your new state of mind.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!