Concerning the question "Can the Singularity save us from ourselves?"

May 23 2008 / by Will / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

Cross-posted from Where There’s a William…

Ok, I’ll bite.

Al Fin asks the tautological question; “Can the Singularity save us from ourselves?” What follows is by way of my attempt to answer as fully as I’m able, within the limits of my understanding of the issues and concepts involved.

The abstract concept of a Technological Singularity (TS) was made most famous in the recent past by inventor Ray Kurzweil. The concept has several overlapping meanings, but I like George Dvorsky’s definition best: The Singularity is a a blindspot in our predictive thinking.

I personally define the Technological Singularity as: The Singularity is that point in human technological development beyond which we do not currently possess sufficient knowledge upon which to base an extrapolative prediction. I certainly appreciate the evocative imagery of Mr. Dvorsky’s proposition, not to mention it’s economy, but I believe the concept of a singularity is too complex to be adequately captured in such a brief phrase.

For one thing, a TS must be regarded as a moving target. As our ability to understand the technological processes that could lead to a singularity increase, the point in time regarded as being TS onset must be pushed further off into the future. Remember, the TS is that point in our technological development beyond which we can no longer extrapolate a further possible advance (or even say with any assurance what probable effect(s) might result). This doesn’t mean we can’t guess, of course (engineers even have a technical term for doing so; W(ild) A(ss) G(uess)), but that isn’t quite the same thing. (cont.)

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Radiating Good News

October 15 2008 / by Will / In association with Future
Category: Energy   Year: 2008   Rating: 4 Hot

Cross posted from Where There’s A William by Will Brown

In an attempt to show I’m not entirely in the tank for any particular nuclear energy provider, I direct your attention to the following. Via Jerry Pournelle’s Current Mail link for Tuesday (10/14/08) comes notice of this NRC map of new nuclear power stations in the construction approval process.

I note that Texas has four such new plants already. Given the depressing quantities demanded on my electric utility bill this just-ended atypically cool summer, and in anticipation of the amounts no doubt to be claimed during the upcoming winter, I can only encourage more and faster, please.

A Practical Implementation of Strategic Principle

December 13 2008 / by Will / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: 2008   Rating: 3

Cross-posted from Where There's A William by Will Brown, with edits from the original.

I recently examined some of the strategic principles involved in advancing a position in a competitive environment, in particular in this comment exchange. I have found little opportunity to demonstrate the practice of the principles I study on this page heretofore.

Continuing on, Brian Wang of the Lifeboat Foundation, has compiled an instructive post on the recent nomination by President-elect Obama of Professor Steven Chu to the cabinet post of Energy Secretary. As Director of the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory and 1997 Nobel Laureate in Physics, Secretary-nominee Chu is well versed in both the scientific realities of energy generation and distribution systems and the - quirks - of government agency operations.

I have in the past stated my thoughts on effecting a national energy strategy. While this proposal was specifically intended only to rectify the forecast US shortfall of electrical generation and distribution predicted for the next decade or so, Professor Cho is eminently qualified to judge how well it can also serve as a mechanism to bridge the country through to wide-spread construction of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors which are capable of supplying both base load as well as demand load electrical grid requirements to any level of generation capability we wish to build, whether or not options such as solar or wind grid power are further developed. 

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