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Old December 10 2011, 05:17 AM   #83
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Re: Some science fiction "firsts"

Christopher wrote: View Post
Edit_XYZ wrote: View Post
All 'models' predicting the technological singularity are based upon, they require continual exponential growth - of intelligence, of technology, etc.
Well, if history showed anything, it showed that exponential growth in anything other than abstract mathematics is not sustainable - regardless of your attempts to 'cheat' this rule.
Technology matures and can't be improved further; etc.
Yes. Real-life processes aren't simple mathematical curves; there are many factors that interact and affect one another, and eventually any short-term trend is going to slow or stop or even be reversed. Generally, the norm is equilibrium; rapid change occurs when the circumstances are right and there's a need or incentive for it, but eventually a new equilibrium will be reached and things will stabilize again.

Sure, computers are transforming our lives in ways our forebears couldn't predict, and that might continue. Eventually we may have computers so advanced that they can precisely model and predict things like weather, natural disasters, economic patterns, social and psychological dysfunctions, etc. and give us reliable mechanisms for avoiding problems and disasters before they happen, bringing a new age of peace and security and prosperity to all. And they may bring new breakthroughs in physics and technology that will let us expand into space and improve our standard of living and restore the Earth's ecosystem. But the people who enjoy it will probably not be any more fundamentally intelligent than we are. Will they have more immediate access to any information they need? Sure, and they'll be able to draw on the problem-solving ability of the rest of humanity through crowdsourcing as well as that of the superfast computers. But they'll still probably think on much the same level that we do. And there's no guarantee that the computers will be any more intelligent, just faster and more powerful.
A very conventional view(again, a linear view, with simply more power and speed, one that is not supported by past history), but I don't think all that likely, its been said many times that man has reached the ultimate level of intelligence, only to be proven wrong time and again. Frankly, with so much to learn, and with us barely out of the technological cradle, the increases in speed and power inevitably have to help us learn more, but the level real intelligence will be more than that. Star Trek(another linear view), I am almost positive, will not be even remotely accurate. It should pale in comparison to real events.

RAMA wrote: View Post
xortex wrote: View Post
Who invented the transporter and replicator? And computer?
Charles Babbage gets a lot of mileage these days, inventing what is basically a mechanical computer called the difference engine, which a working model was made of in 1991 from his design! Usually when we think steampunk, this is where it originates from.

Computers using more familiar techniques appeared in 1939. In 1940 a computer used remote accessing(like the Al Gore wasn't around). In 1944, a machine called Colossus did it's number crunching in breaking Nazi codes, it was kept a secret till the 1970s! The famous, and gigantic ENIAC appeared in 1946. The first microcomputer appeared in 1971, things moved slowly but surely, finally snowballing 10 years later into PCs and Macs. In 1960 the first modem was used, and in 1970 Arpanet was started. During the 70s SF writer's often had their terms "used" be real life researchers, such as "worm", et al...

BUT SF writers seemed to be slow in understanding the implications of computers, preferring slide rules to stored program or even mechanical computers of more sophistication. The earliest mention I can find of an info giving machine was in 1726, in Gulliver's Travels. "The Machine Stops"(1909) was a revelation:it provided life support, entertainment, communication and lots of things we associate modern computers with. In 1939, the ever reliable Robert Heinlein used a ship with a navigation computer.

I'm not including other forms of AI in this post.

Computer History

Replicators: First mention..Tom Swift(1910)...byproducts of a cyclotron are used to make any material desired. 1933, The Man Who Woke includes a dizzying array of technologies, including molecular replicators:

Today when we think of replicators, we think of nanotech assemblers, creating whatever we might want from molecules upward. Some current examples of 3D printers are primitive examples of making items out of raw materials for just about any need. NASA uses electron beams in experiments in orbit to create objects.

3D Printing
More 3D printing...

RAMA wrote: View Post
Sometimes Science fiction begats or spurs forward whole philosophies and new fields of study, working almost hand-in-hand with scientists/technologists/futurists. In terms of the Singularity--possibly one of the future defining moments of mankind--defined as a point in time where computers or AI outstrip the natural evolution of human intelligence to the degree that predicting the thought process and technological leaps afterward are impossible to those preceeding it unaided.

The first conceptualization: 1847, the "Primitive Expounder" suggested eventually machines may become perfect, and surpass the ideas of humanity. 1951, Alan Turing expected machines to eventually outstrip humans and take control. In 1958, Stanislaw Ulam wrote:
One conversation centered on the ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.
I.J. Good wrote of an intelligence explosion in 1965. The idea didn't seem to go anywhere until 1983, when scientist and science fiction writer Verner Vinge was central in popularizing it in his: "The Coming Technological Singularity" essay(expanded in 1993), and it specifically tied the term in with AI. He wrote novels using the speculation in 1986 and 1992, "The Fire Upon the Deep" being one of the most acclaimed and popular of the sub-genre. Advances in computers tied into Moore's Law of exponential growth in transistors placed on an integrated circuits and later processing speed and memory capacity made the idea seem more plausible. Cybernetic researchers such as Hans Moravec claimed the reality of advancing AI would have a timeline, and predicted the future on these mathematical models in 1988. The pace of sholarly and speculaive books continued, in 2005 Ray Kurzweil combined theories of nanotech, AI and immortality into a book which was made into a film. He espouses the positive side of the explosion of intelligence. Also in 2005, the story Accelerando makes an attempt at the "impossible", trying to discern what generations of a family might be like before, during and after the singularity. Another type of singularity might be the evolution from physical beings to discrete energy beings, or those that evolve and "leave" the universe. Speculation on such events have often led directly from first evolving into AI or mechanical beings, as in Gregory Benford's far future stories of the Galactic Center, or the nanotech manifested, virtual beings of Stephen Baxter's "The Time ships". Star Trek has multiple examples of such beings.

So far 3 non-fiction movies have been made on the subject of a technological singularity.

In SF, visual fiction has barely touched the topic...Colossus:The Forbin Project(1970), Demon Seed, War Games, Terminator have all scratched the surface of the subject portraying relatively one-sided views of computer takeover. A much more expansive film, The Matrix and it's sequels go into it with more depth, where AI and humanity finally reach an uneasy equilibrium in the end. A culture that builds a Dyson sphere/swarm or other monumental works involving whole solar systems including ringworlds, might well have gone through a Singularity, or even several. Examples of these have appeared in STNG, Andromeda, Stargate, Halo, Ringworld.

Edit: It occurs to me STTMP may be one of the largest scale examples of singularity ever seen in fiction...firstly, the evolved AI, evidently spawned by other machines into a huge living quantifies almost everything in the universe in its massive databanks much as predicted in the intelligent universe theory within the singularity. Not only do we see the end result, but this omniscient being actually transforms into a human/AI interface!!

Saul wrote: View Post
"Le voyage dans la lune".

Using a canon to launch the ship into space. E.pic.
Something which has never really been abandoned and is alive and kicking today:

RAMA wrote: View Post
Edit_XYZ wrote: View Post
All 'models' predicting the technological singularity are based upon, they require continual exponential growth - of intelligence, of technology, etc.
Well, if history showed anything, it showed that exponential growth in anything other than abstract mathematics is not sustainable - regardless of your attempts to 'cheat' this rule.
Technology matures and can't be improved further; etc.

IF you can keep up continual exponential growth in the AI field (and the signs are that you can't), you may - or may not (perhaps 'intelligence' in humans is a mature 'technology') - be able to have a being more intelligent than humans, functioning. But, in any case, you won't be able to keep improving that intelligence; sooner or later, you'll hit a wall.
Singularity proponents gamble that this 'wall' is beyond the singularity - and they have no convincing arguments for it.

It's almost certain there isn't a logic fundamentally 'better' than the one known to us - meaning, we have already hit the wall in this area; you may have a being thinking faster than us (quantitatively), but not qualitatively 'better'.
This qualm is easily explained away..exponential growth has limits till it reaches the next paradigm shift, there is already a next generation of processor technology(s) ready to supplant the current fact, the aforementioned 3D chip technology is one of them, and it appeared just two days ago. The fact that there have been 5 paradigms already that fit the pattern makes it less like wishful thinking and more like a probability.

It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. Carl Sagan

Last edited by RAMA; December 10 2011 at 06:16 AM.
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