Future Shock (Minus Two)
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
As we saw in Minus One, the future can be a very shocking proposition when it is extrapolated far out enough. But we all have to deal with the day-to-day just like anyone else. This, I believe, is why stuff like the iPad and it’s raved successors won’t be progressively more exciting, but less — these things won’t noticeably change our lives while the pace of innovation is so high (not that the iPad is the best representation of innovation, of course).
I just hope we can hang on if things really do get fast, like the futurists believe will happen. Say, if we have a computer that can improve itself, jump to the next generation in a year, and keep pace. If one existed, and many attempts (and approximations) are underway, then the second generation computer could spawn a third in six months. Continue this trend and by the tenth generation (around two years from initial boot-up), the thing is up to one-new-generation a day and greater. Can we even prepare for this? (Is there a possible answer here, at the Singularity University?)
THE PROGRESSION OF THE GENERATIONS
- One year until generation two.
- Six months until generation three.
- Three months until generation four.
- 45 days
- 22 days until a great great grandchild is born.
- 11.3 days until generation seven.
- 5.6 days
- 2.8 days until generation nine.
- 1.4 days
- Now it’s only 17 hours until generation 11, and it’s been roughly two years.
BUT WHAT WILL IT MEAN?
Say the first generation from above is a human-level intelligence. Just humor me. If we could, let’s also assume a doubling time of one year initially. We get to 1000 times human capacity after around 623 days, or 1.7 years. We just can’t imagine what an intelligence of 1000 times the human capacity would do, nor can we easily grasp how swiftly it would continue to evolve.
This is the essence of the singularity — not even being able to guess at what’s next when we’ve got relentlessly evolving intelligences around. Pretty vaguely, this seems to be telling us this: In the future, we are nearly equally as likely to be shocked because of our ignorance as we are to be apathetic from seeing too much change in too short a span. Indeed, these are some strange times, and the future isn’t even here yet…
SO UNTIL THEN, I SAY, EVERY DAY IS EXACTLY THE SAME
Something I felt to be perfect for these curiously-lagging-times: