X-Message-Number: 20193
Date: Fri, 27 Sep 2002 08:42:56 -0700
Subject: Re: The non-inevitability of progress
References:  <>
From:  (Tim Freeman)

>Message #20178
>From: "Mark Plus" <>
>Refer to:
>Arthur C. Clarke is disappointed that progress in manned space travel has 
>stagnated. Just goes to show that "Progress" isn't some kind of cosmic 
>force, but rather is a socially constructed process that requires 
>considerable initiative & investment to sustain. So don't be disappointed if 
>we don't experience a technological "Singularity" in 30 years or so. ...

I agree that having a Singularity any time soon is not inevitable.

However, the analogy with space exploration doesn't seem valid to me.
The activities I know of that can be done in space that are
economically viable now and in the next few decades are: tourism,
communications satellites, and (if you accept that basic science is
somehow funded) telescopes and other automated space exploration.
Good progress is being made on all of those.  Progress isn't being
made on the things that sound nice but don't yield a profit, such as
colonizing the Moon and planets.  Colonizing the top of Mount Everest
would be cheaper and safer, and therefore more profitable.

Progress toward a Singularity, on the other hand, could easily provide
profit at every step.  Better computers, incrementally improved AI,
and changes to the (infuriating) limitations that define humanity can
all lead to a wide variety of profitable enterprises.

>A global depression combined with the spread of social chaos around
>the world could postpone a lot of technologically doable projects

I agree.

Tim Freeman       

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