Management of Positive and Negative Singularities Return to Contents Page

There is talk in some circles of “the singularity”. Books have been written about it. A technological singularity is the postulated result of advancing technology if it increases exponentially, as it appears to be doing in some areas. In math, a singularity is the point when a function goes to infinity. Exponential growth does something like that. A technological singularity is the point when technology “goes to infinity” and becomes transcendently amazing. Amazing technology could allow us to do tremendously great things. However, a negative version might do tremendously bad things. Managing such things sounds like hubris, but we can at least try to tweak probabilities in favor of the good version. Because of the large number of human lives that would be affected, there is tremendous expected value (probability times value) in even a small tweak in probability, something we can plausibly accomplish. Indeed we are constrained to do something, since not to decide is to decide not to decide.

It would be easy to become didactic about this, to lecture about what humanity must do. However, the subject is complex, potentially controversial, and can become boring when elaborating a premise with which the reader does not agree. The Greeks had a solution for this: the Socratic dialog, a form of bull session featuring Socrates, the world champ at that form of discourse.

Greek drama featured three players. Freud postulates three components of human personality. I offer a dialog among three components of my own personality. You will see how Socrates crashes the party.

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James: Allow me to introduce myself. I am the didactic component. I am the professor giving a lecture. My objective is to build a system for thinking about this area. I also introduce my colleagues: Jim, who will function as critic, and Puck, our humorist.

Puck: Ouch! I can’t get rid of that silly attribution! Let all know that everything that appears under that name is not Puck! Right now I am channeling Socrates, who is bored in Heaven and wants to get into this thing. Besides, if we get me (Socrates) into this, we can claim it as a Socratic dialog! Think of the marketing value of that!

Puck: That is neat. I can control the strike-through. See: strike-through. Socrates can remind folks who is really talking.

Puck: Socrates: Hello James. I hear that you profess to have ideas for the management of singularities.

James: Isn't that an anachronism? What does an ancient Greek know about singularities?

Puck: Socrates: We are following Earth tech up here in Heaven. You guys are doing an incredible job. We didn’t even know about the arch. Earth right now looks like a singularity to me.

James: I know your methods, Socrates. You are here to expose the weakness in my argument. I welcome you. I agree that there are weaknesses. It will help to work them over. The Socratic dialog has what Puck calls "marketing value" because it was another great Greek invention.

Puck: Socrates: Do you think to flatter me that they have named this method after me? If you know my methods, then you know that I am just an old man with much to learn.

James (smiles)

Puck: Socrates: I know that sounds like my “just an old man” ploy, but this time it is true. I am usually the intellectual hero, with the script writer on my side. That is less true this time.

James: I have some kinship with the scriptwriter. I can tell you that he is aware of weak areas in my exposition and wants to explore them. I think that we are equally matched.

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