Why I'm a Singularity Skeptic

I have great hope that we can continue progress for quite some long time. But eventually in each area progress does slow down a bit.

Why I'm a Singularity Skeptic

The singularity is a concept that was first coined by science fiction writer Vernor Vinge that says that eventually we will reach a point where we make runaway progress, and overnight everything will change.  Progress will go faster and faster and faster for infinity as it were.  Exponential changes are definitely, definitely happening.  The processing power of computers is doubling every 18 months or so.  And even in things like solar power you see that the price of solar power is dropping in half every decade.  So progress is absolutely happening at an astounding rate.

But in nature no exponential progress ever goes on forever.  Everything in nature is not just a straight up.  It’s an S-curve.  It arises for a while until it hits some physical limitation and then it plateaus again.  So we don’t know where we are on this S-curve exactly.  But we do know the top is probably not very close right now.  When we look at some basic numbers about humanity and the planet, we look at the amount of energy available, food, water and so on, those are all actually quite a bit higher than we are.  

So I have great hope that we can continue progress for quite some long time. But eventually in each area progress does slow down a bit.

60 Second Reads is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

A Magnetotail Around Mars Would Cause the Planet to Terraform Itself

Imagine the birth of an entirely new ocean on the Martian surface. 


Artist rendition of a terraformed Mars. Flickr.
Technology & Innovation

There are lots of arguments for exploring space and colonizing other planets. Exploration is a natural part of our species. The knowledge we gain is bound to propel our scientific understanding and capabilities. And admittedly, there are plenty of commercial reasons too. Plus, sooner or later, the Earth is going to die out. To survive, we’ll have to become an interplanetary species.

Keep reading Show less

The future of humanity: can we avert disaster?

Climate change and artificial intelligence pose substantial — and possibly existential — problems for humanity to solve. Can we?

Credit: stokkete / 223237936 via Adobe Stock
  • Just by living our day-to-day lives, we are walking into a disaster.
  • Can humanity wake up to avert disaster?
  • Perhaps COVID was the wake-up call we all needed.
Keep reading Show less

Genetics of unexplained sudden cardiac arrest

New research shines a light on the genetics of sudden cardiac deaths.

Photo: Pixel-Shot / Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • Soccer player Christian Eriksen of Denmark recently collapsed on the field from a cardiac arrest. Thankfully, he survived.
  • A new study examined the genetics underlying unexplained sudden cardiac death.
  • About 20 percent of these unexplained deaths are likely due to genetics.
Keep reading Show less
Technology & Innovation

Finally, a scientific cure for the hiccups

A new device cured the hiccups 92 percent of the time in a recent study involving more than 200 participants.