X-Message-Number: 25509
References: <>
From: Peter Merel <>
Subject: The Singularity Is A Fantasy
Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2005 12:08:55 +1100

Henri Kluytmans writes,

> The computational capabilities of a big computer (city block size)
> made of MNT mechanical computing logic circuits (not to mention 
> electronic
> components) has enough computational capacity to use evolutionairy 
> methods
> to create AI neural networks in time scales of several years.

Existing connectionist computing paradigms have universally failed to 
scale. No one has been able to demonstrate non-biological neural 
networks that reproduce the behaviors of even the simplest animals. 
Neural Networks are notoriously vulnerable to combinatorial complexity 
and no one has demonstrated a paradigm wherein the intelligence of one 
NN can be combined with the intelligence of another to any constructive 
purpose. And genetic/evolutionary computing is yet another Turing/Von 
Neumann paradigm technology, bound by the complexity constraints of all 
T/VN computing - combinatorial explosion affects it the same as the 
other AI games.

Look, a lot of very bright folk, including a number of cryonet 
luminaries, have spent a lot of time bashing their heads at AI. What 
they got for their trouble are a huge number of very 
real-world-expensive problems that they can't solve because of their 
inability to deal with computational complexity at full scale. From 
routing planes and trains through catching credit-card fraud and 
insider trades, from reconciling financial databases - so you DON'T get 
seven different credit card offers from the same bank - through 
figuring out drug interactions ... the industrialized world is lousy 
with unsolved problems of combinatorial scale.

These are known in the abstract as NP-Hard problems. The commonality to 
them is that you can mathematically prove you can't solve them in 
polynomial time on T/VN computers. This is to say, no matter how big 
your T/VN computer, these problems rapidly grow to the point that it 
can't cope. Now it may be that orienting a nanobot or coordinating the 
activities of a millionty billionty nanobots may not entail NP-Hard 
problems. But that would be extremely unlikely - in every other problem 
domain the bloody things are everywhere. They are the major constraint 
on the problems we can attempt to solve with a computer - which is to 
say they are the major constraint on modern technology, period.

> See this old cryonet message from John Clark :
> http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/dsp.cgi?msg=5506

Clark relates a suggestion by Drexler that AI be created by simulating 
a natural environment and then letting life and sentience evolve. Well, 
sure, we see sentient life evolving all over the universe all the time. 
The Fermi paradox is just a figment of unimaginative minds. :-)

Seriously, what you've quoted is an obfuscated assertion that if you 
throw enough hardware at Genetic Algorithms / Evolutionary Computing 
your system will magically wake up. What makes GA/EC any more likely of 
emergent sentience than, say a massive heuristic search, or a massive 
simulated annealing project? In the absence of any empirical evidence 
supporting the emergence of such a critter, this is nothing more than 
wishful thinking propped up by the authoritative-sounding number 10^38 
- which has been unquotably pulled out of Drexler's behind. Is such 
pseudo-science really the argument on which Singularitarians (FWOABW) 
stake their worldview?

> See :  http://www.zyvex.com/nanotech/MITtecRvwSmlWrld/article.html
> and    http://www.zyvex.com/nanotech/nano4/merklePaper.html

Yes, yes, I'm not arguing you can't build an assembler. I'm arguing 
that there's nothing in this to lead us to expect The Singularity any 
time soon.

Peter Merel.

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