He refers to the Long Now Folks as his 10,000 year old friends.
Introduces Singularity referring to Vernor Vinge 1993 paper: in short "Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended." Back then Vinge wrote, that he would be surprised if it happens before 2005 or after 2035. [My comment: We are getting close.]
He raised some doubts, because not all networks are on a accelerating trajectory. The electric power networks are not accelerating, for our water networks the opposite is true, we have a water shortage all over the world and it is getting worse by the minute. [For Singularity to happen, not all networks have to be on an exponential curve. Computer-, Bio-, Nano-technology accelerating and combining is enough.]
A Singularity would have the biggest impact on our culture, but it is tough to write about it. First casualties of that event are the Science Fiction writers, they are having writers block. On the other hand it is also used as an easy way out for them. A scenario is hard to believe/make coherent: Oh well, a Singularity went through here, this is why it is how it is.
He showed a graphic it beautifully maps the development of computer processor power over time and compares it to the capacities of different life forms. The acceleration of the machine power is rapidly approaching human level intelligence. [I really would like to see an update to Moravec's 1997 graphic where do we stand 7 years later?] Bruce pointed out, that in comparison to life forms, where there are still bacteria around as well as amoebas, all of the older computer generations are extinct. [That isn't totally correct. There may be no IBM PC with 51/4 inch floppy drives around anymore, but the 8086/8088 microprocessors are still used in all kinds of devices. It is an interesting aspect of this chart, but it doesn't change that the complexity and capabilities of chips are approaching and will soon surpass our brain capabilities]
We don't know what cognition or even for that matter what computation is. We don't know how ants think. Therefore, our analogy is incorrect. We assume, that the machines will wake up somehow. Lot's of hand waving going on there.
He has big reservations against hard AI. Used MS Clippy's demise as an example on how far away we are. [Kurzweil's Ramona is another example.]
Then he looked at Singularities in history and he found three.
1945 after the first atomic bomb dropped. For 6 years humanity was struggling to come to terms with this event.
LSD in the 60s presents you with the perception of a Singularity.
Computer viruses singularitarian event.
All of these have no staying power, all got swamped. LSD even fallen off the planet.
He projected some examples of Singularity organizations, where John Smart's Singularity Watch was the first one.
All of them he claims are loosely connected, small fringe groups. I was sitting on the edge of my chair every minute expecting the Future Salon would be in the line up :-)He was wondering, why these groups so far haven't done any major interruptions, no killings, no nerve gas in underground stations ...
The reason he claims is, that they think, they don't have to work very hard: "Why bother, we are the early adopters, the Singularity is inevitable, time is on our side." [The ones I know of these groups, work extremely hard, but that is another story]
As Vinge writes in his essay, take away the hard AI and instead of a Singularity, we are having a glut of technological riches, that we are less and less able to absorb: Technobesity. [Love that word, although it is a frightening perspective]
He showed Gardner's Technology Usage and the Hype Cycle graphic. Of course he said Gardner left out, what is coming on the right, obsolescence, uselessness and death. You just can't sell this to your customers, but would you pick up Windows 2.0, if you found one on the sidewalk?
[Then he went here and there, or I did dose off a bit :-) ]
Everyone claims, that we are on the edge of something big, but what if we are on the edge of nothing critically important?
Everyone balks at the idea of one world government. How about a two world government? They would be in constant fruitful competition. [Marc Goodner afterwards at the pizza place was speculating, that Brazil is at the moment working towards that that, with strengthening the home grown software industry through majorly adopting Open Source software, ... Therefore it may be South America together with Africa as one block]
Most societies are against science. Case in point is what's happening in Washington right now.
Nice closing lines: Post human is a sound bite. The Future is a process,
not a destination.