X-Message-Number: 5266
From:  (Thomas Donaldson)
Subject: Effects of immortality, effects of the "singularity"
Date: Sun, 26 Nov 1995 14:13:13 -0800 (PST)

Hi again!

First, I agree with Saul Kent almost completely about the effects of a very 
much longer lifespan. Anyone who has read my comments on such matters may 
have already guessed that. And those effects will happen not because we would
all have become supervirtuous, but because self interest will require it.
If we are all of the same physical and mental condition, for instance, it 
will no longer be the case that only young men are sent to war (if war will
exist in that future time). Not only that, but any rational leader will know
that his/her leadership will not last forever, and that someday (especially
if he or she makes a practice of warfare) they too will be drafted. War,
of course, is only one of the most visible means by which human beings make
life hard (or impossible!) for one another. And if you think that any such
thing will also happen to YOU, even if not now but someday, and have the kind
of long time perspective that great longevity provides, you will think many
times before you commit such acts.

As for Mr. Clark's posting, I have several comments. The first of them is that
(as anyone with a hint of maths knows already) exponential functions DO NOT
HAVE SINGULARITIES. At first this may seem a trivial point with his blathering
about THE singularity, but in fact for several hundred years now we have been
advancing exponentially. We are already living in such a world, and we have
all adapted to it. That is precisely what those who invest in new companies
with new ideas are doing NOW. And if you read much history, have been doing
for some time. Advances just don't all happen at once, even if everyone sees
at one time that they will happen someday. That understanding, if and when
it happens, does not immediately bring on those events. Lots of things have
to happen before then. 

And the things which have to happen aren't just technical, though even in 
technology there will usually be some time taken with preparation. Coming down
to fundamentals (meaning I will ignore politics, law, etc) we must settle on
just what it is we want, collectively and individually, from some new advance.
This is in addition to the technical problems which must be solved.

Could we leave all these choices to computers (nanosized or planet-sized won't
matter)? NO. We must decide what WE want. We can certainly be helped by
using computers, but the ultimate choice comes down to us. And that will not
be easy. Of course, some people may choose to abdicate their role, and leave
it all to computers --- I am not saying that computers cannot make choices.
Of course, they can abdicate now in lots of ways, of the kinds I mentioned
in my last message: heroin, opium, alcohol,... many ways. There are lots of 
ways in which (fundamentally) we can choose to die. But if you choose to 
live, then YOU must make the choices.

Certainly "exponential" can be very fast. But there will be no Singularity.
And I personally will say that this notion of a Singularity stinks of the
Christian idea of the Second Coming, after which the virtuous will all be 
translated to Heaven (supercalifragilistic computers, perhaps?).

Of course, the one singularity we each hope to experience may happen to each
of us as individuals (but sorry, it may not). And that is our impressions and
thoughts if and when we are revived from suspension. But even that is not a 
singularity in the world but in our own individual lives, and will come 
differently to each of us. I will leave The Singularity to the Nanotechnology
people, with all their other reworked myths.

			Best, and long long life,

				Thomas Donaldson

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