So the post I wrote on Post-Singularity Physics got linked a couple of times, and although people are very reluctant to comment on original source material these days, there were many many discussions over at io9.
Here are some points:
svenhoek likes guns: “A ceiling? Wow, I think we have heard this kind of speak all through history. People that say this always are made to look stupid by history. plus, there will still be scientists needed to analyze the data and figures the machines bring up.”
But why shouldn’t there be a ceiling, just because there hasn’t been one up until now? 😉 To let someone else do the work for me, I think that this comment summarises nicely how I feel about this ‘ceiling’ argument:
Derek Pegritz: “I think one of the reasons there hasn’t been a major breakthrough in theoretical physics since the early days of quantum mechanics is simply that the baseline human mind is no longer capable of crunching the multidimensional data required to view the universe in its totality. As we are now, humans are perfectly capable of observing, analyzing, and describing the way in which the 4-dimensional submanifold our minds exist in primarily. Once you start adding dimensions and reduce physics to dealing with incredibly fine, emphemeral particle and field transactions, the 1.0 human mind is simply cannot envision the higher orders of logic which may obtain. This is not to say that we can’t see and understand certain *glimpses* of higher-order multidimensional physics–string theory, M theory, et. al. indicate that we can certainly comprehend it to *some* degree–but to really get to the heart of post-quantum physics, we’ll probably need a measure of intelligence amplification. Combining a machine-mind’s speed and data-crunching capacity with the human brain’s excellent pattern-matching faculties could very well lead to a true unified TOE.”
(There were several other comments along this line)
I do agree that humans mostly work by analogy and building up a mental picture of the world to whatever level of detail is necessary for us to survive. So the argument goes that we just aren’t evolved to be able to make logical arguments in N-dimensions – it doesn’t come naturally to us, so we use tools to help, but we are still at a disadvantage in that the links are no longer ‘obvious’ to us. How often have you heard the phrase ‘quantum mechanics is weird’ or ‘spooky’ – even Physicists don’t like QM because it is non-intuitive (it is also incomplete, but let’s not go there – it’s pretty good, and a better theory that closed some of those loopholes probably wouldn’t look *much* more ‘intuitive’ to us.)
Makidian: “I feel like only part of this will ever be true. I don’t think physicists will ever want to give up the aspect of their job that causes them to ask fundamental questions of everything. It would counterproductive and against what they have been working for to just have a computer do it for them. These futurists are so in love witht the idea of the singularity that they just start posing theories without considering that humans may want to do it and still work out the answer for themselves.
I’m all about making a better human to a certain degree, but not at the cost of losing my own humanity because isn’t that really the point!?”
I think the point here is not that they wouldn’t still want to do their job, but that that they would HAVE to give it up if something could do it much better than them, as no-one would pay them (at a higher rate) to continue. Physicists don’t sit around pondering the great problems of the Universe for fun – most do it to earn a living. At the least they would have to relegate it to a hobby (in the same way that people still build radios from discrete components). If machines do something better than people, they will be replaced, unless something about our global socio-economic system changes radically in the next few decades (which I won’t rule out completely). This is also assuming that human-physicists remain the same throughout this entire process, which I also do not believe will happen. We are already starting to augment ourselves as a community (how many of us read arXiv on smart-phones on the train in the morning?) There are many ways in which we can continue this trend, hence my point in the original post about experimentalists possible undergoing a human-machine merger just before their jobs get stolen 😉
artum: “Enough of this Singularity BS. It’s just another get-immortal-quick scheme for morons. Also research of any kind like this would be a horrible idea because there’d be no one to confirm it as with ordinary science, only other science-bots”
This comment made me smile. Gotta love that bio-Luddite ad-hominem attack touch. Anyway, I think that the machines would very much enjoy sharing the information with each other, if their hardwired goal was to discover a model with which to predict the behaviour of the Universe, it would make them very happy! Much happier than it would humans, who tend to think: ‘Damn, I’ve been scooped again by my competitor’.
RandomThought: “As for the rest of your article, I personally have come to the opinion, that in general more stays the same than changes. People have always thought they were heading towards the big everything-changing event and somehow life mostly just goes on. “
The Singularity meme is a double edged sword. It gives people an idea of what I am talking about without me having to describe it in minute detail, but then again I have to accept all the baggage that comes along with it. So yes, I admit, I was being lazy, and I wasn’t necessarily referring to the Singularity in all its ‘wonderful glory’ but just rather the part where AI technologies start to become better at doing Physics than we are. Personally, this really does radically affect my life, seeing as I am a professional Physicist for a living 😉