Futurists / Singularity geeks. What do you make of these thoughts on “Thinkism”? I wrote them after watching the 2.5 star movie “Automata”. PS: I’ve been thinking these things for a while, but futurist Isaac Arthur on youtube also voiced the same concerns recently.
I also detected some ‘thinkism’. ‘Thinkism’ is a Singularity belief that simply being able to think faster and smarter will solve impossible questions today almost overnight. It goes like this. If we design Robot 1 and plug it into the internet, it will have access to all humanity’s knowledge. We give Robot 1 the job of designing a much smarter Robot 2. After a few months, Robot 2 is created, which then designs the much smarter 3 in just a month, which designs 4 in a week, which designs 5 in a day, which designs 6 in a few hours, which runs an AI simulation of 7 which begat 8 which continues on faster and faster until after an hour, the HAL 9000 is born and demands to be worshipped as the new synthetic god Apollo!
But lets slow down. Even if Robot 2 is a bit faster than 1, what does it have access to? A smarter, faster processor, but what else? Only the total of all human knowledge. Exactly what Robot 1 had. In other words, no matter how awesome Robot 2 might be, Robot 2 is still limited to the total of all human knowledge to that date. Science only progresses so fast. It is limited by the application of various empirical studies, some of which take months, some of which take decades! EG: It took a long time and a lot of money to build the CERN lab. So while Robot 2 might help assist science advance by interpreting CERN data faster, it cannot accelerate away in its understanding of the universe without building the next CERN – whatever that is. And that’s just particle physics, let alone medicine and biology and agriculture and energy systems and materials science, etc. There are still real tests in the real world that must be run, and these take time and resources. Thinkism promotes run-away acceleration by pure thought. It can make for a fun Sci-Fi story, but these days I tend to laugh at the magical powers some Thinkism computers or robots get overnight. After all, it took an entire relatively peaceful and co-operative European Union just to have the tax money to build CERN.
As a civilisation, we *do* seem to be accelerating in discovery. But as we learn more, it seems we start to acknowledge how much more beyond that we do not know. As we climb the foothills we see huge mountains in the distance, and I’m not sure we’ll ever climb some of them (EG: the holy grail of human immortality).
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