[FoRK] [Fwd: [tt] US Congress Says Nano is "Coming Sooner Than You Think, " Predicts Singularity]

Brian Atkins <brian at posthuman.com> on Fri Mar 30 11:40:25 PDT 2007

Nice timing, this - gives me more ammo to battle fork deniers :-)

I try to avoid any specific dates, especially after reading about how experts 
are highly wrong when attempting to give specific predictions, even ones with 
wide intervals. However, as long as computer power continues to increase, and 
understanding of the brain (intelligence) increases, we are headed in the 
direction of all this. You should care less about specific dates, and much more 
about what might happen when it does eventually at some point arrive.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [tt] US Congress Says Nano is "Coming Sooner Than You Think,	" Predicts 
Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2007 11:08:13 -0400
From: Hughes, James J. <James.Hughes at trincoll.edu>
To: <tt at postbiota.org>,	"News and views from the IEET" <ieet-news at ieet.org>

US Congress Says Nano is "Coming Sooner Than You Think," Predicts


(Hat tip to Chris Peterson)

The Joint Economic Committee of the US House of Representatives has just
issued a report titled "Nanotechnology: The Future is Coming Sooner Than
You Think"

     Abstract: Enhanced abilities to understand and manipulate matter at
the molecular and atomic levels promise a wave of significant new
technologies over the next five decades. Dramatic breakthroughs will
occur in diverse areas such as medicine, communications, computing,
energy, and robotics. These changes will generate large amounts of
wealth and force wrenching changes in existing markets and institutions.
This paper discusses the range of sciences currently covered by
nanotechnology. It begins with a description of what nanotechnology is
and how it relates to previous scientific advances. It then describes
the most likely future development of different technologies in a
variety of fields. The paper also reviews the government's current
nanotechnology policy and makes some suggestions for improvement.


     The Singularity (2020 and beyond)

     Every exponential curve eventually reaches a point where the growth
rate becomes almost infinite. This point is often called the
Singularity. If technology continues to advance at exponential rates,
what happens after 2020? Technology is likely to continue, but at this
stage some observers forecast a period at which scientific advances
aggressively assume their own momentum and accelerate at unprecedented
levels, enabling products that today seem like science fiction. Beyond
the Singularity, human society is incomparably different from what it is
today. Several assumptions seem
     to drive predictions of a Singularity14. The first is that continued
material demands and competitive pressures will continue to drive
technology forward. Second, at some point artificial intelligence
advances to a point where computers enhance and accelerate scientific
discovery and technological change. In other words, intelligent machines
start to produce discoveries that are too complex for humans. Finally,
there is an assumption that solutions to most of today's problems
including material scarcity, human health, and environmental degradation
can be solved by technology, if not by us, then by the computers we
eventually develop.

     Whether or not one believes in the Singularity, it is difficult to
overestimate nanotechnology's likely implications for society. For one
thing, advances in just the last five years have proceeded much faster
than even the best experts had predicted. Looking forward, science is
likely to continue outrunning expectations, at least in the mediumterm.
Although science may advance rapidly, technology and daily life are
likely to change at a much slower pace for several reasons. First, it
takes time for scientific discoveries to become embedded into new
products, especially when the market for those products is uncertain.
Second, both individuals and institutions can exhibit a great deal of
resistance to change. Because new technology often requires significant
organizational change and cost in order to have its full effect, this
can delay the social impact of new discoveries. For example, computer
technology did not have a noticeable effect on economic productivity
until it became widely integrated into business offices and, ultimately,
business processes. It took firms over a decade to go from replacing the
typewriters in their office pools to rearranging their entire supply
chains to take advantage of the Internet. Although some firms adopted
new technologies rapidly, others, lagged far behind.
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Brian Atkins
Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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