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singularity

^     All messages            149-164 of 164  133-148 >>
164
S.M. Stirling
07-14-2005
03:37 PM ET (US)
"I think that my growing disinterest is a result of market saturation... this is especially true of AH. These only so much I can take it before it all starts sounding repetitive and uninteresting to me."

-- I think this may be due to the fact that a lot of writers concentrate on a few well-known historical turning-points; WWII, the Civil War, and so forth. Which in turn is due to an assumption that the reading public doesn't know enough history to follow alternates springing from other periods.

I try to avoid those... 8-).
163
Andrew LiasPerson was signed in when posted
07-14-2005
09:27 AM ET (US)

>>"Science fiction is rather unique in being a type of
>>literature that comes with its own expiration date. Of
>>course, writing far-future fiction doesn't necessarily
>>protect you since the next edition of Nature could knock the
>>pins from beneath any speculative science you might be
>>using."
>
>-- of course, that doesn't apply to Alternate History, or to
>time-travel into the past. Which together describe most of my
>work... 8-).

Heh. I confess that I used to really love time travel and AH stories but, over the last several years, I started to find that they've been losing their appeal. About the only time travel stories I still find enjoyable are Kage Baker's (I will also confess that I haven't read any of your work, Mr. Stirling, so please don't construe this as a left-handed critique).

I think that my growing disinterest is a result of market saturation... this is especially true of AH. These only so much I can take it before it all starts sounding repetitive and uninteresting to me.

I find that I'm really enjoying the New Space Opera (Reed, Reynolds, et al). There's something about gonzo technological speculation and the high concept story-telling that's been appealing to me. I really don't care that the futures they represent are largely implausible.
162
S.M. Stirling
07-13-2005
05:35 PM ET (US)
"Science fiction is rather unique in being a type of literature that comes with its own expiration date. Of course, writing far-future fiction doesn't necessarily protect you since the next edition of Nature could knock the pins from beneath any speculative science you might be using."

-- of course, that doesn't apply to Alternate History, or to time-travel into the past. Which together describe most of my work... 8-).

Even time-travel into the future can finesse the obsolescence problem, if you're careful; the late Poul Anderson did a fine job on that with his Time Patrol series, particularly the later ones.

One should also try to avoid giving too much technobabble on how the "magical black box" works, as was common in the Gernsbackian era. After all, if we really knew how things work we'd be applying for patents, not writing fiction.
161
Andrew LiasPerson was signed in when posted
07-13-2005
12:41 AM ET (US)
>>You are being pedantic. I am referring to the future as a
>>whole, not predictions of some particular aspects of the
>>future.
>
>-- oh, not much dispute there. That's why I don't write much >near-future SF.

Science fiction is rather unique in being a type of literature that comes with its own expiration date. Of course, writing far-future fiction doesn't necessarily protect you since the next edition of Nature could knock the pins from beneath any speculative science you might be using.

I think that it was Niven who once wrote a story that relied on the theory that Mercury always kept one face to the sun. If I remember correctly, the very month the story was published it was announced that Mercury does in fact rotate, albeit slowly.

Of course, I don't think that the value of SF is in trying to predict the future. My own view is that SF provides us with useful metaphors and thought experiments by which we can consider various philosophical, social (and so forth) issues. It's a lucky thing when a story does manage to accurately extrapolate some random element of the future but that's really neither the point nor the purpose.
160
S.M. Stirling
07-12-2005
02:01 AM ET (US)
>You are being pedantic. I am referring to the future as a whole, not predictions of some particular aspects of the future.

-- oh, not much dispute there. That's why I don't write much near-future SF.
159
Andrew LiasPerson was signed in when posted
07-12-2005
12:16 AM ET (US)
>>Actually, since we're poking around in our brains anyway,
>>why bother simulating the sensory input of experiences we
>>find pleasurable, when we could bypass all that and go for
>>stimulating the pleasure centers of our brains directly?

>-- you can do that now, and I don't see any great demand
>for it.

I don't see a great demand for invasive surgery, especially given the difficulty of finding a qualified physician who would be willing to risk his license in order to perform it.

Give people cheap and safe surgery or another means to achieve the same effect (e.g., crack cocaine) and I'm certain you'll find the demand.
158
Andrew LiasPerson was signed in when posted
07-12-2005
12:14 AM ET (US)
>>"I would bet that this sort of VR technology will be one of
>>the 50-years-from-now technologies for a very long time yet
>>to come."

>-- why? We've already got proof-of-concept examples of
>artificial sensory inputs;

The AI folks had all sorts of semi-impresive proofs of concept, too. The first time you see a chess playing machine, much less something like SHRDLU, it's easy to be astonished. The devil, as always, is in the details.

>the synthetic retinas, for
>example. And there's a very strong incentive to develop
>this stuff; it'll be unbelievably profitable, for starters.

So would genuine AI, a cure for cancer, anti-gravity, and an immortality serum. I won't deny that profit is a damned fine incentive. I am skeptical that it will be feasible to clear all the necessary technical hurdles before we get to the point of deeply immersive VR.

I could be wrong, of course. Hell, I hope that I am. I don't know how old you are, so I'm not sure if you expect to be around in 2050, but I'd be happy to stake $50 on the outcome. Even if I lose, I wouldn't feel bad. :-)
157
Andrew LiasPerson was signed in when posted
07-12-2005
12:09 AM ET (US)
>>"Invariably, the actual future will confound and frustrate
>>our expectations of it."
>
>-- "a lot of the time" rather than "invariably".
>
>Eg., I can predict how many 20-year-old people will be around >in 2025 with some accuracy (barring catastrophe) because >they've already been born.

You are being pedantic. I am referring to the future as a whole, not predictions of some particular aspects of the future.
156
Andrew LiasPerson was signed in when posted
07-12-2005
12:08 AM ET (US)
>Can you imagine a political debate with a "verdicator" light >over the candidates' heads?
>
>Or during speeches?

Actually, I can't. Politicians are the ones who write the laws and I have every confidence that they would make double-sure that there were laws to prevent that usage of the technology. Like congressional pay raises, it would be one of those rare topics to get support from all sides.
155
jeremy awonPerson was signed in when posted
07-11-2005
09:52 PM ET (US)
The narcotics industry in the us is worth over $2.8 billion - never mind globally. If stimulating brain centers didn't involve invasive surgery, or if having things implanted in ones brain were suddenly as commonplace as having a tooth filled, i'm sure demand for this kind of thing would explode.
Edited 07-11-2005 11:12 PM
154
S.M. Stirling
07-11-2005
08:50 PM ET (US)
>Actually, since we're poking around in our brains anyway, why bother simulating the sensory input of experiences we find pleasurable, when we could bypass all that and go for stimulating the pleasure centers of our brains directly?

-- you can do that now, and I don't see any great demand for it.

OTOH, there's a very active demand for better simulated realities; huge megabillion-dollar industries already exist.
153
S.M. Stirling
07-11-2005
08:48 PM ET (US)
>Exactly. You make everything you say a deceptive lie

-- "And," said the interrogator, "every time the red light comes on, an extremely painful electric current will be channeled through your body. The voltage goes up with each repetition. Now..."

8-).

I don't see how you could be deceptive about your own name. Remember, the process is subconscious. If you know your name really is Charlie Stross, then saying that won't be deceptive.

Quibbles about "that's not my real name" or "I now decide I'm named Sauruman" don't count.
152
Eric
07-11-2005
08:10 PM ET (US)
And what's up with Bill Joy? Has he fallen off the techno-rejectionist wagon or something?
151
Eric
07-11-2005
08:06 PM ET (US)
As our host has pointed out, the AI community has spent about 50 years being fairly bogus, and grossly underestimating the processing power required to solve interesting problems.

Many introductory AI courses still focus on A* and formal reasoning, which basically have nothing to do with intelligence. But there's a lot of good work being done, too--computer vision is slowly becoming useful; statistical databases of common sense can support modest inference engines, and Kurzweil just demoed another vision device.

Give me another 1,000-fold increase in computing power (beyond current stream processors), and make it portable, and I'll give you some pretty mind-blowing wearable computers. And the accompanying advances in robotics would basically transform the economy--a few hundred cheap teraflops dedicated to vision and physics would make manual labor almost obsolete.

...Stirling, the technology required to support a direct neural interface would presumably involve: (1) serious processing power, (2) a rough understanding of a few major brain subsystems, and (3) mixed electric/biological engineering bordering on primitive nanotech. I could see it happening (late) in my lifetime, sure, but it would be an awfully exciting lifetime--more like 1900-to-2000 than the future you described.
150
jeremy awonPerson was signed in when posted
07-11-2005
05:34 PM ET (US)
Actually, since we're poking around in our brains anyway, why bother simulating the sensory input of experiences we find pleasurable, when we could bypass all that and go for stimulating the pleasure centers of our brains directly?

I'm reminded of an experiment in which a rat had electrodes implanted in the pleasure centers of its brains. In its cage two paddles were installed - on dispensing food, the other a jolt to the electrodes. The rat starved to death (or was about to anyway, before the lab techs intervened) tapping on that second paddle; Why eat, when eating is just a means to pleasure, if you can invoke pleasure directly?

Could this be an impediment to the singularity? Perhaps any sentient being that can modify its own brain/programming will just be hopelessly hedonistic..
Edited 07-11-2005 05:38 PM
149
Deleted by author 03-15-2006 12:01 AM
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