[Fwd: [TE] Transvision conf - June 27-29, 2003, Yale U]

Jeff Bone jbone at deepfile.com
Mon Apr 28 19:13:44 PDT 2003


On Monday, Apr 28, 2003, at 17:42 US/Central, Russell Turpin wrote:

>> What will the body be like in 50 years?
>
> Some of this sets off my "Jetson alarm."

There are two pieces of information necessary to defuse this.

(1)  The rate of change is increasing, and the derivative rate of 
change is increasing.  Using previous incorrect estimates of 
technological progress over a particular timeframe as a basis for 
forecasting is invalid unless you assume that (at least) the derivative 
rate of change flattens out, and there's no sign of (or good argument 
for anticipating) that.

(2)  When distinguished scientists who are getting on in their years 
say some future development is impossible or unlikely,  or express 
general skepticism about anticipated scientific and technological 
progress, they are almost always wrong.  E.g. "I think there is a world 
market for mabye five computers."  (T.J. Watson.)  Also, "end of 
physics" predicted late-19th century, etc. When they say that something 
is possible or even probable, they are more often right than not. :-)

Short-term forecasts are almost always overly optimistic, long-term 
forecasts are almost always overly pessimistic... and the next 51 years 
are a LOT longer-term than the delta from 70s Jetsons cartoons to now.  
Not just 20ish years longer, but quantitatively and qualitatively 
centuries of progress at previous rates longer.  And for the 
technologies in question here --- strong AI or at least uploading, 
self-assemblers or at least molecular-scale manufacturing, etc. --- 
there are none of the "magic happens here" fundamental physical 
problems of e.g. time machines, rocket packs, and so forth faced by 
fictional sci-fi "innovations" of yore.  E.g., we have existence proofs 
of things like brains and bacteria;  there are no existence proofs of 
time-machines or Martians tripods.

The trick is to identify which sci-fi writers are Jules Verne and which 
ones are H. G. Wells...  ;-)

jb



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