[NTLK] OT: A Future That is a Singularity - Evolution

Robert Zimmerman bob_zimmerman at myrealbox.com
Fri Apr 2 02:46:47 EDT 2010

Mathematics is most certainly not a human invention.  Sure, our representations of mathematical concepts are invented, but the concepts themselves are discovered.  Arithmetic wasn't invented.  Trigonometry, geometry, the calculus of functions; none of them were invented, just described.  It's just like how the laws of physics are not invented, but are instead discovered and given names and approximate written form.

All of this brings up another huge misconception.  People think that order and patterns represent complexity.  They do not, at least not in the scientific or mathematical sense.  In information theory (the basis of the scientific and mathematical use of the word "complexity"), it is determined by how easily information can be summarized.  Truly random information is the most complex information around because it cannot be summarized or compressed.  Intricate order such as is found in an airplane is less complex.  Simple order as is found in organisms and cells is even less complex.  The human body is vastly less complex than a 747, largely because it is self-organizing from a single starting cell.  The 747 takes vastly more manual intervention to build.  Evolution targets low complexity solutions, because better summarizability means less likelihood of something going wrong.  If something goes wrong enough, the organism is not viable and is not able to reproduce, thereby ending that development.

When reading Ray Kurzweil's books, I always interpreted the Singularity, capital 'S', as the event described earlier.  The idea is that computers will eventually become slightly better at designing other computers than the humans that designed them.  When that happens, the computers will design better computers, which will then design better computers, and so on.  Since a new silicon spin doesn't take much time when you have the design, this could produce rapid increases in computing power.  That much is feasible and the logic is sound.  Whether it would produce thinking machines depends on how you define consciousness and is really beyond the scope of science.  That is religion's domain.

He is working with a cryptographer's mindset, just accelerated.  This goes back to information theory, and specifically linear algebra and algorithmic complexity.  Cryptographers are the kind of people who declare an encryption scheme worthless if it would "only" take a billion years to crack a key rather than ten trillion.  We don't deal with infinities, just very, mind-bogglingly-large numbers.  For example, did you know that an ideal conventional computer would take more energy than is estimated to exist in the galaxy to crack a 256-bit AES key by brute force?  There are faster attacks, but they require massive resources to execute.

There was also a concept of a singularity, lowercase 's'.  It implied a discovery that changes the foundations of our technology so profoundly that future advancement cannot possible be predicted.  An example is the transistor.  It was not simply a faster, smaller, more-efficient vacuum tube.  Instead, it was a leap onto a different path of development.  A machine better able to design future versions of itself than its own designers would be a discovery or invention of this magnitude, but there are others.  Some kind of compact, high-output generator or power store would be another.  The largest limit to our current mobile technologies is the power source.  With a substantially more space-efficient source of power, whole new possibilities would open.  There are doubtless hundreds of others that we would never even consider until we look back on them and ask why nobody ever thought of that before.


 Robert Zimmerman

On Mar 29, 2010, at 1:18 AM, Jon Glass wrote:

> On Monday, March 29, 2010, Ryan <newtontalk at me.com> wrote:
>> Doing some research, I came across an interesting article about a
>> future that is a singularity through mathematical recursion.
> You know if you look down railroad track, they also look like they
> reach a singularity. But they don't. U wouldn't put too much faith in
> mathematics fo predicting future. Math is descriptive not
> prescriptive. And what is possible I'm math may not be physically
> possible. Lastly it is worth pondering that mathematics is 100% a
> human invention. U think that sometimes it seems the perfect science
> for that reason alone--it is solely the product of the human mind. And
> yes I'm more the philosophical type (intuitive vs analytical) so take
> what I say with a huge block of salt. ;-)
> --
> -Jon Glass
> Krakow, Poland
> <jonglass at usa.net>
> "I don't believe in philosophies. I believe in fundamentals." --Jack Nicklaus
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