People keep asking me about the singluarity. They say, “Half Sigma, why don’t you ever write about the singularity? All the really smart people write about the singularity? Aren’t you smart? Why don’t you write about it.” (Although did mention it two years ago.)
What’s the singularity? People use it to mean some future technological advancement in the biological sciences that will change everything. Make us immortal and increase our IQs to 200 and stuff like that.
I think this stuff is pretty farfetched and is not very likely to happen in my lifetime, which is why I don’t have much to say. Sometimes, scientific progress takes place a lot slower than people imagine. Fifty years ago, they thought by the year 2012 we’d have space travel to other planets, flying cars, humanoid robots whom you can have a conversation with. Where is this stuff?
Despite the discovery of DNA, medical science isn’t really moving forward that quickly. The two blockbuster medical advances responsible for dramatically increasing our life expectancy were antibiotics and vaccines, and they were a long time ago. We may even be falling backwards in the antibiotics arena because antibiotic-resistant bacteria are beginning to evolve.
Nowadays, it takes drug companies twenty years to develop a better drug for getting erections. They aren’t spending any real money developing science-fiction stuff like nanites. I think the time when the government puts nanites and gene-replacement viruses into the food and water supply is at least a century away, so I won’t be alive to see it, so there’s not much point in writing about it. Assuming that nanites aren’t just an imaginary fantasy technology like interstellar space travel. As I mentioned before, the singularity is Jesus for smart people.
The one thing I do predict is that whenever these new-fangled medical technologies become available, they will first be used by the upper classes to give advantages to their own children, and therefore instead of making the world a better place, they will likely only make it better for the rich as the world returns to feudalism.
What does this have to do with robots? I wrote a lot of posts about robots recently. Unlike the singularity stuff, robots are real. They don’t look like C3PO from Star Wars, but from ATM machines to the “robotic” factory featured in the NY Times article, machines are indeed replacing human labor, and the technology can only improve. I can guarantee that there will be better labor-saving machines in the near future, even though I have no idea when or if we will ever be able to manufacture something like C3PO.
And once again, I’d like to mention the difficulty of building a tunnel under the Hudson River for trains. Governor Chris Christie had to cancel the project because New Jersey couldn’t afford it. Yet somehow, we were able to afford to build a tunnel in 1908, which was 104 years ago. Civil engineering is obviously a technology that has stalled and is not advancing. In another decade, we may see the end of Moore’s law and computer chips may be like civil engineering, not improving much for over a century.
And construction technology peaked in 1934 with the completion of the Empire State Building in only 410 days for a cost of $372.8 million in 2012 dollars (and $24.7 million in 1930s dollars). It's still the tallest building in Manhattan. Today, it would cost billions of dollars and take many years to build a similar building.