Friday, May 18, 2007

Catching up on cool stuff...

Have any of you rushed out and bought the latest (June) issue of DISCOVER MAGAZINE? It’s well worth the cover price! (And spread the word.)

There are a few mistranscriptions. At one point it should say” “Try to imagine when biochemists do to their room sized labs what cyberneticists did to room-size computers of the past.” (The way they printed it doesn’t make any sense!) Still, it’s cool and you’ll catch a glimpse of my office.

Again, alas, amid a month that is hellishly busy, I have fallen terribly behind, so here’s a huge data dump of “cool items.”

 -- Scientific research conducted by Walker Reading Technologies has concluded that the natural field of focus for our eyes is circular, so our eyes view the printed page as if we’re peering through a straw. Every time we read block text, we’re forcing our brain to a wage a constant subconscious battle with itself to filter and discard the superfluous inputs. Randall Walker MD, believes he and his team have developed a solution with a product called that allows online publishers to improve reading speed and comprehension. Live Ink works by analyzing written language for meaning and language structure, and then applies algorithms that reformat the text into a series of short, cascading phrases. It breaks complex syntax into simpler syntax, which makes it easier for the brain to absorb the material.

 -- After more than a quarter-century of market-oriented economic policies and record-setting growth, China recently approved its first law to protect private property explicitly. The measure, which was delayed a year ago amid vocal opposition from resurgent socialist intellectuals and old-line, left-leaning members of the ruling Communist Party, is viewed by its supporters as building a new and more secure legal foundation for private entrepreneurs and the country's urban middle-class.

 -- Physics professors have definitively shown that light is made of particles and waves, a finding that refutes a common belief held for about 80 years. Previously, the scientific community had tended to support Niels Bohr’s ideas, commonly known as the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, which stated that in any experiment light shows only one aspect at a time, either behaving as a wave or as a particle.

 -- Microscopic medical devices could one day be steered through a patient's bloodstream using magnetic resonance imaging machines.

 -- The spread of a particularly virulent form of tuberculosis in South Africa illustrates a breakdown in the global program that is supposed to keep the disease, one of the world’s deadliest, under control.

-- Mosquitoes genetically engineered to resist infection with malaria have outbred their normal cousins and may be used to help control malaria. Also long overdue for extinction -- the reflex lefty dogma against GM, which is just about as loony as anything believed by the far-right, including “intelligent design.”

 -- A fascinating demonstration of leading-edge technology with numerous potential applications.

 -- See this kinda cool video (1min) which gives the “secret of immortality.”

 -- Commonly used lab bacteria called E. coli can be converted into light-harvesting organisms in a single genetic step, according to new research from MIT.

 -- Citizendium, just launched, is intended to avoid the errors, juvenile vandalism, and lack of accountability of Wikipedia. Citizendium's volunteer contributors will be expected to provide their real names. Experts in given fields will be asked to check articles.

 -- Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Santa Barbara genetically engineered mice to express a third, humanlike photoreceptor, giving them human color vision. Can they do the same for humans? Turns out some people may actually have a fourth photoreceptor that detects within the visible range at a slightly different wavelength range than the other three.

-- In Google Inc.'s vision of the future, people will be able to translate documents instantly into the world's main languages, with machine logic, not expert linguists, leading the way.

-- Human Heart Grown from Stem Cells -- (Guardian - April 2, 2007) A research team led by the world's leading heart surgeon has grown part of a human heart from stem cells for the first time. If animal trials scheduled for later this year prove successful, replacement tissue could be used in transplants for the hundreds of thousands of people suffering from heart disease within three years.

-- Alzheimer's Vaccine Works on Mice -- (Guardian - March 29, 2007) Scientists have developed an oral vaccine for Alzheimer's disease that has proved effective in mice, raising hopes that an effective treatment for humans can be found. The vaccine reduced the amount of amyloid plaques - believed to be the cause of Alzheimer's - and improved brain function when administered to mice that had been genetically modified to develop the disease

 -- Enzymes Convert All Donor Blood to Group O -- (New Scientist - April 1, 2007) You're rushed into hospital and need a blood transfusion – but what is your blood group? In future, it may not matter, thanks to enzymes that scrub antigens from red blood cells, turning all donated blood into group O – which can be given safely to anyone.

 -- Welcome to the singularity. Actually, I find very little of that presentation frightening. What I find frightening is that so many of our fellow citizens find the future frightening. And thus, they may do unfortunate reactionary things.

 -- Remember the odd, six-sided, honeycomb-shaped feature circling the entire north pole of Saturn? Then there is WC 922: The Red Square Nebula "What could cause a nebula to appear square? No one is quite sure. The hot star system known as MWC 922, however, appears to be imbedded in a nebula with just such a shape..."

An interesting amateur investigation of the proposition that human knowledge has been doubling at an accelarationg rate:

 -- My friend Ben Goertzel explicates his optimism for superhuman AI in the near future at Ray Kurzweil’s site.

 -- From the Arlington Institute” “This twenty minute video was constructed almost entirely using government/military quotes, animations, videos, images and photos. The narrative is sourced from government quotes from start to finish. It unveils the government’s numerous and ongoing programs related to artificial intelligence., “NBIC”, the “Global Information Grid”, nanotechnology, biotechnology, autonomous drones, “naval sea-bases”, space weapons and weather modification. The makers of the video clearly had an agenda that exceeded mere information. Leaving aside the agenda, the video is nonetheless an introduction into types of technology that many civilians know little about.”

 -- Thanks Zecharia for referring us to an article about cell phones being upgraded with sensors to detect Chemical/Nuclear/Biological threats. Smart mobs! Where’s that prediction registry?

 -- Do we even have to be restricted to five senses?

 -- Old dreams are reborn... Pentagon Considering Study on Space-Based Solar Power.

 -- Finally. By now you all know that astronomers have detected water in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system for the first time. I’ve commented before that water would still have a hard time pooling in large quantities, even if size and insolation are right, because a planet with a 13 day “year” around a red dwarf would be tidally locked, with one side always sunlit and another always dark, pulling in and freeze-storing all the water in vast ice sheets.

Still, here are the numbers:

Star Gl 581
Distance: 6.26 pc
Spectral Type: M3
Apparent Magnitude: V = 10.55
Mass: 0.31 Msun
Age: 4.3 Gyr
Radius: 0.38 Rsun
Metallicity [Fe/H]: -0.33 (± 0.12)
Right Ascension: 15 19 26
Declination: -07 43 20

Planet Gliese 581c
M.sin i: 0.0152 MJ
Semi major axis: 0.073 AU
Orbital period: 12.91 (± 0.007) days
Eccentricity: 0

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Some humans are already able to see in the UV spectrum. During WW2 the ability was used to receive secret messages sent by undercover agents on the continent. They signalled in invsibile UV to Allied boats off the coast carrying individuals who could see UV.

This is the one reference to the story I could find on the net, but I didn't spend much time looking:
http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/medicalscience/story/0,9837,724257,00.html

Doug S. said...

That "seeing with your tongue" thing is pretty cool. How long until Nintendo figures out a way to use it for video games?

Gilmoure said...

For that ice planet, I imagine a world girdling glacier, constantly being refreshed by vapor from the sun side, and slowly sliding forward to the light, in permanent frozen wave. Cool!

Alexander M said...

Why "must" a planet like this be tidally locked.
Read any of the Plasma Cosmology theories about how electrical phenomena are more important than gravitational?

Andrew said...

Wikipedia has a neat article on tidal locking, including estimated wait-time until orbiting bodies become locked.

David Brin said...

"Mister Plasma Cosmology" (or rather professor) was Hannes Alfven, nobel prize winner and my boss in grad school. Still, it's important to grasp. Electrodynamics is a stronge force, but ONLY when there are either charges or currents of differing potential.

In most of the universe, that charges have already canceled out to neutral, which lets gravity be the only proved major force that operates everywhere, across all distances.

Gilmoure I LOVE the glacier aspect, which I totally forgot to include. There'd also be ice dams and sudden floods, like in the Washington scablands. Would the eventual result be a girdle-sea?

If water is a tectonic lubricant, what effect when only a girdle band has liquid?

RandomSequence said...

I don't get this singularity thing-a-majig. Human information has been growing exponentially for a million years. Exponential growth has no "singularity" - it's defined for all real values. It may be an S, or Michael-Mentis curve, but then would hit a saturation level, not a singularity. And even that we can't know without data we can only get when we hit saturation (since we can't measure the foot).

We've changed significantly continuously throughout our history - and looking backwards we can recognize it some radical reorganizations. But it never looks like that to the people inside it - they see a smooth transformation as the wave passes over them, nasty like the day before and after.

So what's the hypothesis? I can't find anything on the net that isn't just more thriller-novel material. Nice enough for a novel, but....

Blake Stacey said...

That "revolution in quantum mechanics" piece is a lot less revolutionary than it actually sounds. Although when speaking informally physicists often mention "wave-particle duality," it's just an imprecise phrase. Ever since the 1960s, we've had Feynman exclaiming at us, "They do not behave like particles! They do not behave like waves! They do not behave like clouds, or masses on springs, or planets orbiting the Sun — they behave like nothing with which you are familiar." Bohr's Copenhagen Interpretation has been waning in popularity, also, since the 1970s (when they first started figuring out quantum decoherence).

Press releases and mass-media articles about physics (and science in general) are often infected with Revolution Disease. An experiment like this one which shows that a rigorous and deep understanding prevalent for many years is actually correct (while some vulgarized simplifications are wrong) magically turns into a shocking discovery which upsets eighty years of physics!

Citizendium has been brewing in the works since last September at least. (I had the same idea myself last August, but didn't tell anybody about it soon enough to get priority.) I think Sanger has shot himself in the foot by trying to build a project which is the anti-Wikipedia in all respects rather than trying to solve specific problems.

zorgon the malevolent said...

Concerning Dr. Brin's remark that "some humans" may have a fourth photoreceptor -- apparently tetrachromats can only be female due to basic genetics. See
www.cs.utk.edu/~evers/documents/tetraChromat.txt
More on seeing in the UV range: the details here are that rhodopsin turns out be sensitive in the UV range. However, the cornea & lens of the eye absorbs and filters out the UV component due to its water content. People were fitted with quartz artificial lenses made of quartz, which doesn't filter out UV, so they were able to see UV signals.
Textbook descriptions of limitations on human senses often get it wrong. I could clearly hear 25khz ultrasonic alarms in 5th grade but lost that ability by age 19, when my hearing went no higher than 19 khz.
The Singularity is a reality distortion field akin to the dot-com bubble of the 90s and the real estate bubble of the early 2000s. Despite overwhelming contrary evidence, various crackpots continue to spout ever-wilder claims about superhuman intelligence, nanotechnology, genetic engineering and lunatic fringe schemes like zero-point energy and cold fusion. It's particularly alarming that Arthur C. Clarke has championed the zero-point energy stuff, in the same way that Linus Pauling went off on his megavitamin kick near the end of his life.
Evidence against nanotechnology of the kind Eric Drexler posits is overwhelming and includes molecular stiction calculations and heat buildup due to rod logic. If these things could be made to work (and it's doubtful due to molecular stiction), they'd roast the cells in which they travelled due to raw comptuation heat.
Other problems involve the question of how the Drexlerian programming info would be sent to the nanotech assemblers without errors. It turns out that phonons and Brownian collisions at the molecular scale suffice to bang apart molecular-scale "punch paper tape" type schemes, as originally advocated by Drezler. Encoding information in the form of proteins or DNA-type molecules renders it vulnerable to the same kinds of defects we find in DNA transcription.
Alas, DNA analogues with different base pairs turn out to be mostly toxic or too tightly bound to unwind for transcription. Given that ordinary computer programs can't sustain even a single flipped bit in the wrong place without grinding the computer to a screeching halt with a blue screen, the astute reader may dedcue the results from the myriad flipped bits causes by molecular collisions with the instruction tape given to a Drexlerian assembler.
In fact, evolution can be thought of an incredibly clever way of making creative use of the inevitable fact that molecular collisiosn and polar molecules and Van der Waals forces will inject errors into binary-coded organic molecules like DNA. Jumping genes and transposons and other problems turn into advantages, courtesy of natural selection!
Bluntly, "nanotechnology" has the same function and equal credibility today as "cybernetics" in the 1940s or "atomic power" in the 1950s/60s.
Can't figure out how to build a robot of human intelligence?
No problem, just claim "cybernetics is well on the way to solving that problem" in the 1940s.
Can't figure out how to construct a 2001: A Space Odyssey type giant spaceship that can travel to Jupiter with a fully human crew?
No problem, just claim "atomic power will eliminate that difficulty" in the 1960s.
Same dodge today. Any time a current technologist or futurist encounters a problem too tough for any reasonable technology to solve, they throw in the vacuous buzzword "nanotechnology" exactly the way previous generations tossed in the vacuous buzzwords "cybernetics" or "nuclear power." (Or, if you want to go way back to the 1930s, the buzzwords "radium," or, in the 1910s and early 1920s, "electricity.")
Thus, while curing cancer is a really really really hard problem involving (probably) hundreds of years of research in slow painstaking steps, it's much easier just to solve that truly tough problem by sprinkling it with the magic buzzword "nanotechnology."
Likewise, cleaning up pollution is an extremely daunting task. The best way to clean up pollution is never to cause it, which requires a thorough rethinking of our enetire industrial process from top to bottom. That's hard.Much easier to toss in the buzzword "nanotechnology" and claim "tiny inviisble robots will clean up all that pollution!"
Doing more with less remains an amazingly hard problem, and it keeps getting harder (though we keep making slow but impressive progress), as anyone who has tried to singificantly improve the efficiency of the internal combustion engine or the electrical dynamo or the turboprop jet airplane will tell you. Where are our Szilard magnetic refrigerators, I ask you? Where??!? We've known about that idea since the 1930s!
Much easier just to claim that "nanotechnology will produce unlimited sources of new energy and incredible new materials" rather than have to design much more efficient cars and planes and trains and electric dynamos. That's tough unglamorous scutwork.
Waving the magic wand and sprinkling the magic fairy dust of "nanotechnology" is vastly more entertaining and much easier. Especially when there's not the slightest evidence that Drexlerian anotechnology can ever be made to work in any way, shape, or form, by any means which doesn't violate basic laws of physics like Van Der Waals forces.
As for strong AI, it has racked up such an impressive litany of failure that it has to be universally applauded and adored.
As we all know, the quickest route to fame and fortune in America is to live a life of unrelieved failure, as the stellar careers of Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle and Condoleeza Rice and the drunk-driving C student in the White House prove so clearly.
The entire field of AI really ought to be presided over by Robert McNamara as a patron saint.
McNamara's career mirrors the entire history of AI: an ultimate Platonic form of failure who rose by his blunderings to become world-renowned and universally worshipped as a mastermind. Yes, the man who gave us the Edsel and then did for the Viet Nam war what he had done for Ford Motors with that magnificent model of car, and finally went on to oversee the World Bank when it spewed out bad loans to scores of failed third world states, spreading famine and poverty throughout the globe -- Robert McNamara is the ideal embodiment of the history of AI "progress"...
Nothing but failure after failure, from machine translation of text (in which the phrase "Out of sight, out of mind" gets turned into "Blind and insane" by the miracle of AI) to voice recognition (AT&T's fabled voice rec software proved unable to understand my spoken "yes" and "no" and got me trapped in an endless loop for 15 minutes until a human operator finally broke in when I called the phone comany the other day for some service problems) to computer vision (face recognition software was tested at the Tampa airport a while back and quietly removed after a catastrophic error rate, including "recognizing" dogs as terrorists), AI has racked up a nearly 100% failure rate.
www.notbored.org/face-misrecognition.html
Yet, of course, just like Robert McNamara, it continues to be applauded and lauded, praised and adored, and regarded with worshipful awe.
Wait...now I see it...a clarivoyant vision has just hit me...after his stellar blunders in Iraq and the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz will replace Marvin Minsky as the head of MIT's AI program...which all pundits will hail as "a new era of computer-generated mathematics!" and "soon to produce prodigies of superhuman intelligence from cold lumps of silicon circuitry!"
And of course there's gene therapy. Aside from the fact that no scientists have yet gotten any hard data linking complex human traits of any kind with gene sequences (every breathless announcement of a "gay gene" or a "shyness gene" or an "intelligence gene" turns out to be based on crap statistics and gets quietly withdrawn within a few months), and aside from the fact that no scientist has any idea how to manipulate gene sequences so as to reliably and psecifically target complex human traits (since many gene sequences appear to interact to produce their results), and since the really hard part of gene therapy involves identifying and modifying the metabolic pathways of the proteins expressed by those genes (it turns out that the most obvious and simple ways of modifying metabolic pathways to turn on or off gene functions winds up being cytotoxic or grossly disrupts cell metabolism -- chemotherapy being an excellent example), and aside form the fact that no scientist has yet come up with an effective viral vector that doesn't get out of control and wind up killing hte patient, the way the most recent patient got killed in the most recent gene therapy trial... Well, aside from all that, there's hardly any problem with getting gene therapy to work. Given, oh, say, 500 years of research.

http://www.webmd.com/404?ourl=404;http://www.webmd.com/content/article/1728.54294&referer=http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=gene%20therapy%20fatal%20&btnG=Search
The Singularity is a confection of imbeciles, given credence by scientific illiterates, and enthusiastically promoted by a small coeterie of bored science fiction writers who, like spoiled 3-year-olds, bang their little spoons on their little high chairs and squawl for an easy way out of the sharp limits of Einstein's special theory of relativity and the failure of engineers to produce all those spiffy Jetsons flying cars.
Instead, some (fortunately not all) lazy science fiction writers have decided to sprinkle the magic fairy dust of "the Singularity" over their fiction in order to inject some much-needed gosh-wow-sense-of-wonder. Sad to say, the best-known practitioners of Singularity SF, like Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow, produce turgid prose devoid of human interest and lacking in even the most basic rudments of drama or novelistic craftsmanship. (See Stross' abortive Accelerando for a Drano enema of bad writing at novel length.)
And Singularity fiction reads like crap for obvious reasons: if we take The Singularity seriously, drama goes away. The basic arc of fiction vanishes. After all, nanomachines can not only raise Cordelia from the dead, but can rebuild her from the stones of Hamlet's castle if need be (she is, after all, just CHON with a few trace elements like potassium and calcium thrown in).
As a rule of thumb, it's safe to say that drama tends to deflate when any character who dies can come back to life, and anyone can upload their consciouness into a machine, and the novel's protagonist can turn into a Moravec bush robot with superhuman intelligence, able to manipulate objects at the molecular level at will. Anna Karenina throws herself under the train -- but, since she's a bush robot, she just reassembles. Not quite the same impact as Tolstoy's novel, eh?
No novel or play ever written can survive The Singularity: the drama evaporates instantly. Romeo and Juliet just upload their consciousness before they kill themsleves, then get nanomachines to raise them from the dead after they've buried and download their consciouness back into their new bodies. Kind of takes the punch out of the play, doesn't it?
Instead of killing his uncle Claudius, Hamlet just gets nanomachines to repair his Dad's corpse and downloads his Dad's consciousness. Hm... Not quite as good an ending as Shakespeare's, is it?
The Singularity is lazy thinking for scientific illiterates who've watched too many episodes of The Jetsons. You'd expect this kind of stuff from a computer "scientist" like Vernor Vinge. Remember that computer science is not a "science" at all -- computer programs are still produced by hand using 18th century methods of handcrafting, and everyone continually laments the brutal reign of Wirth's Law: Software gets slower faster than hardware gets faster. In 50 years, this has never improved, and today, in the 21st century, 50% of all large software projects get abandoned because they bog down and become unworkable. Ask yourself how well it would go over if 50% of all highways or 50% of all power plants or 50% of all surgical operations or 50% of all bridges were abandoned halfway through because they bogged down and collapsed into unworkability! So much for computer "science."
www.cis.gsu.edu/~mmoore/CIS3300/handouts/SciAmSept1994.html
The kind of people who believe in The Singularity are the same hopelessly gullible dupes who buy all those "add 50% to your GRE scroe by increasing your reading speed by 1000%!" scams.
Out here in the real world, progress remains slow (at least from our perspective -- but from the longer vantage point of human history, it's pretty darn good!), the limits of physics and biology prove cruel indeed, and engineering recalcitrantly refuses to provide us with a free lunch.
In the 50s, we had the Dean Drive and Psi powers; in the 60s we had Dianetics; in the 70s we had Close Encounters of the Third Kind; in the 80s we had GOFAI culminating with that spectacular success, CYC; in the 90s we had intelligent agent software (whose apotheosis was that miracle of software engineering, Clippy, from Windows, and the Godlike Bob, eerily reminiscent of certain part sof the Church of the Subgenius); and in the early 2000s, we've got The Singularity.
Like hardened Marxist-Leninist communists of the old school, no amount of evidence of failure suffices to disprove the basic precept. Just as millions of deaths under Stalin or thousands of gulags never meant the failure of Communism, no individual failure of any AI project can ever suggest that GOFAI as a whole is unworkable. Just as individual communist leaders can fail but Communism could never fail, individual AI projects or Drexlerian assembler designs or gene therapy trials keep coming to naught, but to the True Believers, this never ever means that the basic principle of The Singularity is fundamentally flawed. Like Communism, the Singularity can never be basically wrong, according to its acolytes.
And so, despite the fact that there is not the slightest scintilla of evidence that we would ever be able to to, say, enhance intelligence, by gene therapy, this can never prove sufficient to dissuade the True Believers in The Singularity. Even though every computer scientist of any stature admits that GOFAI has hit a dead end, to the True Believers in the Singularity, this is meaningless, and respected authorities like Marvin Minsky get dismissed as "fools" and "idiots." (Even though the most vocal singularitarians, like Cory Doctorow, seldom boast even a 4 year college degree.) Like a legion of Tom Cruises jumping the couch, extropians and singularitarians are always ready with a sneer of contempt for anyone who dares point out There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, and who reminds them that intelligence doesn't count for much compared to other human qualities like perseverence or imagination or resourcefulness. Richard Feynman had a measured I.Q. of 120. Compare what he accomplished to Marilyn Vos Savant, with her measured I.Q. of, depending which test you believe, 180 or 200. Then ask yourself whether adding 200 or even 2000 points to your I.Q. would do what the singularitarians claim.
www.sfbg.com/38/50/x_techsploitation.html
The Singularity is the technological equivalent of those ads for X-Ray Glasses from the backs of comic books for kids who couldn't get a date in high school. "Wow," the gullible kids thought, "At least I'll be able to see through the Prom Queen's clothes!"

The moral of the story? There's a sucker born every minute...

Rob Perkins said...

The idea of the Singularity has been around since at least the 60's. Vinge wrote novels about it, I think in the 80's, and came up with some pretty interesting stories.

I loved the physics breakthrough, proving that wave and particle properties were simultaneously present in light.

Jonathan said...

Zorgon, I have to admit I didn't read all the way through your rant. (Tip: If you really want all of your deathless prose to make it into others' minds, so you might effect a memetic shift, try breaking it up into paragraphs, as well as practicing the usage of spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. If your writing must be decoded, it becomes too messy to bother with. Possibly an indicator of messy thought processes?)

At any rate, from what I could abstract, your facts seem disorganized. Your ranting on the limitations of nanotech, for instance, seems to be of the nature of, "Well, nobody's figured out how to do it yet, so it can't be done!" Rather reminiscent of the opining, before the Wright brothers' flight, that heavier-than-air craft were impractical, because no known power source could possibly lift one.

I also stumbled on the complaint about the giant rocket from 2001. I would note that such a craft is indeed theoretically possible - if people hadn't become so terrified of the bogeyman of "nucular plants blowin' up an' meltin' down", and killed the NERVA program. (Could still be done, using ion thrusters - except that those work best with rare-earth elements, which are expensive...)

In short, I would ask that if you wish to be taken seriously, you stop, take a breath, organize your thoughts, then type.

David Brin said...

Zorgon, at first glance, your long missive was intimidating and deterring. But I found it very worthwhile. In fact, since you seem to know so much about nantotechnology, I invite you to drop in at the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology and sign up for the newsletter etc. http://www.crnano.org/

You raise many good point.

1) My “singularities” paper makes the same point, that “techno transcendentalists have always latched onto the latest thing, much the way mystical transcendentalists did (and still do) before them.
http://lifeboat.com/ex/singularities.and.nightmares

2) You are right that many dreams of nanotech are likely to be stymied by the rough and tumble of the pounding of brownian motion etc. But there is an exception when it comes to molecular manufacturing, which may use refined processes to do systematic assembly of useful (or dangerous) things at either a small or mass production scale.

3) I share skepticism toward the pure singularity but suggest you tone down the passion. There are just too many ways for PARTS of the singularity to come true, in either positive or “fermi” doom/negative ways for us to lightly dismiss this looming transformation. Frankly, I expect we’ll live to see something so dramatic that people won’t “take it for granted because they are living inside the curve.”

Your citation of Wirth’s Law proves the value of curmugeon grouches. And yet, again, I suggest you ponder that we are trying to hand-build transitions from the simple world of the blacksmith to replicating the creative power of evolution. You may be surprised what happens to old Wirth once the hardware and OS welcome ecological melanges of software that get to interact and evolve in cybernetic time. Already, preliminary indicators are definitely non-Wirthian.

You other folks, do not be detered by Zorgon’s user-unfriendly format. Have a look at the above missive. He is a grouch but the citokate is good.

Anonymous said...

Is David some sort of time traveller from 10-20 years in the future, or just freakishly prescient? Readers of Earth will find the following eerily reminescent. I, on the other hand, will be trying to reach David and see if he didn't bring a newspaper with lotto numbers with him when he decided to slum in the 20th century.

http://arstechnica.com/journals/science.ars/2007/05/18/black-holes-for-everyone

David Brin said...

Feel free to post this at one of the Earth prediction wikis.

http://www.necsi.org/community/wiki/index.php/ICCS06/David_Brin

or

http://earthbydavidbrin.pbwiki.com/

Alas, despite the DISCOVER article, I'm not seen as a seer. Just an irritiating guy who's right often enough to be even MORE irritating! ;-)

TwinBeam said...

"The Red Square Nebula "What could cause a nebula to appear square? No one is quite sure"

Looks like a splash pattern - as if two masses hit head on and sprayed in a double cone.

Dr. Zaius said...

Did you know that you have been awarded the Thinking Blogger Award over at Kelly the Little Black Dog?