Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Cybernetics of Black Knights

From this week's Archdruid Report. The reports are long, sometimes difficult, always enlightening. You may think you don't have the time. Eventually we're all going to be tested on this. Make time.

 "The practical achievements of cybernetics, especially but not only in the field of computer science, have given rise to attitudes toward information in popular culture that impose bizarre distortions on the way most people nowadays approach the subject. You can see these attitudes in an extreme form in the notion, common in some avant-garde circles, that since the amount of information available to industrial civilization is supposedly increasing at an exponential rate, and exponential curves approach infinity asymptotically in a finite time, then at some point not too far in the future, industrial humanity will know everything and achieve something like omnipotence.

I’ve pointed out several times in these essays that this faith in the so-called “singularity” is a rehash of Christian apocalyptic myth in the language of cheap science fiction, complete with a techno-Rapture into a heaven lightly redecorated to make it look like outer space. It might also make a good exhibit A in a discussion of the way that any exponential curve taken far enough results in absurdity. Still, there’s still another point here, which is that the entire notion of the singularity is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of what information is and what it does." ....a whole bunch more

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