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Old June 18 2012, 09:33 PM   #179
Robert Maxwell
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Re: David Brin's latest novel, and a TED talk

RAMA wrote: View Post
Robert Maxwell wrote: View Post
RAMA wrote: View Post
The truth about runaway population growth...

http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_roslin...nd_babies.html

..and, more on batteries for renewable energy:

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/don...le_energy.html

I would watch these from start to finish.
I don't need to watch a 13-minute video to know that global population is going to top out around 9 billion and start to decline later this century, unless something has changed that I don't know about (which is possible.) This will be driven primarily by contraceptive practices in the West, a lopsided population pyramid in Japan, gender ratio inequity in China, and a post-industrial level of development pretty much everywhere else. (For what it's worth, post-industrial development seems to be the best birth control on Earth, due to the better education required to achieve it, and the contraceptive methods and female liberation that tend to go along with it.)

As for battery tech, I am aware of sodium-sulfur cells and their applications for mass energy storage. I also know that these types of batteries have fairly limited useful niches--they are no silver bullet.

I'm curious as to what any of that has to do with the Singularity, though. The central issue is whether or not we will be able to create superhuman intelligence. I think it's possible, in that I can see technology reaching a point where it would be feasible, but the idea of it occurring within our lifetimes is extremely optimistic if not downright naive.

The pro-Singularity arguments in this thread seem to go like this:

"Technologies x, y, and z are being developed... therefore, Singularity soon!"

It's like that Ancient Aliens guy. "The Pyramids were really hard to build... therefore, aliens!"
There was a long discussion on the sci-tech thread that humanity would not even make it to any kind of Singularity...due to the usual self-defeatist whiners who suggest pollution, over-population, economic and gov't interference will negate exponential technology (at least the smart ones who acknowledge exponential tech). At least half of that thread was a discussion on why such things could happen and why a potential Singularity could come to pass using the enabling mechanisms brought up. The population explosion is generally one of the biggest reasons listed for early Earth's demise, and it's why it is countered here.

Linear thinking usually suggests that these technologies would take much longer to mature and proliferate, the fact that info tech's influence of many technologies is not linear opens up a lot of possibilities.

There are a lot of intertwined threads people seem to miss that link all these issues to the Singularity.

RAMA
Any of the issues mentioned could quite easily put the kibosh on the exponential growth required to reach the technological Singularity. That's why I don't think even reaching it at all is a certainty. It is possible that we will reach it, under the right conditions and after a considerable period of time.

Short-term (as in, the next few decades), population is a problem, not just because of the number of people, but because of the demands those people will place on the environment. I'll be blunt: there is no way 9 billion people can live as large as Americans do. It's just not possible, and technology is not going to solve that in a brief enough timeframe (<50 years) for it to matter. Hard telling which we'll run out of first: water, phosphates, oil, rare earth metals, or maybe we'll just plain disrupt the climate so much, vast amounts of arable land are reduced to desert.

This notion that technology will keep plodding forward at an accelerating rate assumes facts not in evidence: that we can keep burning through the limited resources of our only planet at an ever-increasing rate and reach the Singularity before we hit a brick wall of serious resource shortage/exhaustion.

I just can't get on board with this idea that none of these problems matter because the Singularity will happen soon and everything will be kumbaya. That is an astonishingly reckless gamble.
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