Technological Singularity

Patrick Juola patrick at gryphon.psych.ox.ac.uk
Mon Jun 8 04:42:53 EST 1998


In article <897297462.23234.0.nnrp-02.c2d9a433 at news.demon.co.uk> "James Sharman" <james at exaflop.demon.co.uk> writes:
>However,  I'm starting to get board of arguing.  The real issue here is that
>it has been shown time and time again in the fossil record that seperate
>species with only a fractional improvment over another have replaced the
>inferior species.  Evolutionaisits will tell you that this process is the
>only reason that you and I exist today. A very relevent and very recent
>example can be made of Neanderthal Man. In this case we see two species of
>man side by side,  its very hard for us to tell why Neanderthal Man evetualy
>died out since they did not seem to be any dirrect conflict. It is hard for
>us to tell why we were superior to Neanderthal Man (The differences were
>slight) but the fat of the the matter is we eventualy replaced them
>completely.


It's also been shown, unfortunately, that time and time again people
have walked into casinos with a few dollars in their pockets and walked
out with a small fortune.  Or bought lottery tickets and won hundreds
of thousands.  Casinos and lotteries love those stories and make sure
they get lots of publicity, as it brings in lots of *other* people
who walk in with a few dollars and leave with nothing.  And you
don't hear about them.

The fossil record is a similarly biased record, in that you see the
successes -- and don't see the failures.  And furthermore -- hell, you
admit it yourself -- we don't even know why the successes *were*
successful; Neanderthal man (H. sap. neanderthal) actually had a larger
brain than we did; they may well have been more intelligent than H. sap.
sap.  So you're actually projecting your theory of human evolution
back to explain the fact that H. sap. nean. isn't around any more --
and then projecting your projection into the future to try to describe
the future of H. sap. sap.  Despite my commitment to the theory of
evolution and a firm belief that humans are also subject to evolution,
I remain, to put it bluntly, rather unconvinced by your projections.

There's a good parable -- I think it comes from Sir Peter Medawar, but
I can't recall exactly -- about what proto-primates would have come
up with if asked to design their "super-primate."  He suggested that
they would have been interested in making it stronger, more agile,
gifted with better teeth, and so forth.  The idea of making it weak,
clumsy, hairless, but capable of language would probably not even have
crossed their minds.  I see a similar problem with your projections;
knowing that the "mind" is the mark of man -- which we've known since
Aristotle -- it's easy enough to project that a superman must have a
supermind (and of course, super-strength, super-stamina, X-ray vision,
the ability to fly, and a Kryptonite allergy).  But that doesn't mean
*either* that anything with a supermind will eventually become a superman
(and replace us) -- evolution happens in baby steps, nor does it even
mean that the evolutionary replacement for H. sap. sap. will be our
projected superman.  Perhaps our evolutionary replacement will be
the subcaste of humans too dumb to be able to figure out how all our
lethal toys like phasers and warp drives work, and therefore will be
able to survive the coming war....

	-kitten



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