1668: "Singularity"

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1668: "Singularity"

Postby grkvlt » Fri Apr 15, 2016 1:42 pm UTC

Image

URL: http://xkcd.com/1668/

Title Text: I figured that now that society has collapsed, I wouldn't need to wear clothes anymore, but apparently that violates some weird rule of quantum gravity.

So Roko's Basilisk is really just a huge prude that can't stand seeing naked people?
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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby cellocgw » Fri Apr 15, 2016 1:50 pm UTC

With this one coming hot on the heels of 1666, it would appear that either

A) Randall's trying to warn us , or

B) Randall's planning a Sci-Fi graphic novel, or

C) It's too late and Randall's been merged/replaced with an AI
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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby AlfaLyr » Fri Apr 15, 2016 2:21 pm UTC

I'd hope is B, but I'm voting for C :S
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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby Soupspoon » Fri Apr 15, 2016 3:05 pm UTC

(But what is described as The Singularity isn't even a singularity. It's 'merely' an event horizon...)

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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby keithl » Fri Apr 15, 2016 3:43 pm UTC

"OKAY, COOL. -- IM GONNA GO LOOK FOR A BOOK OR SOMETHING. ..."

I've got a basement full of books. Mostly technical, lots of physics/chemistry/engineering handbooks. Some popsci, like an old Ray Kurzweil book predicting the singularity in 1995. A mathematics book about infinity, which explains why singularities are ill-behaved. A economics book that discusses S curves, explaining what happens when an exponentially rising growth curve hits an inflection. Intel hit the inflection recently, and slowed their new process development rate from an 18 month cadence to 24 months.

So, we are probably in an "algae in the pond" scenario, where new niches get filled exponentially until they encounter resource limitations (as happened for Europeans settlement in North America, railroads, grid electricity, landline telephones, automobiles, aircraft, etc.). But if Saint Kurzweil is actually correct, the singularity will still happen in 1995, because it will be absurdly easy to renumber calendars and astronomical ephemerides to match His holy prophesy.

For those of us who are not TRUE BELIEVERS, my basement library will be pretty valuable for the rebuilding of post-tribulation civilization, without the von Neumann machines this time. This forum will become a printed gazette, distributed by pony express. I may be required to burn hundreds of books about designing integrated circuits, but that's OK, I also have books about vacuum tube design.

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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby flicky1991 » Fri Apr 15, 2016 7:09 pm UTC

I want to know what machine is casually announcing the singularity behind Cueball. Is it the phone, before it appears on-panel?
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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby Keyman » Fri Apr 15, 2016 7:11 pm UTC

So does the "l" in 'keithl' stand for Leibowitz?
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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby Djehutynakht » Fri Apr 15, 2016 7:26 pm UTC

flicky1991 wrote:I want to know what machine is casually announcing the singularity behind Cueball. Is it the phone, before it appears on-panel?


I assumed it was a normal human.


Of course, we know that phone couldn't leave even if it wanted to, because that table is not sloped enough

No idea how the laptop developed a leaping ability.

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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby brakos82 » Fri Apr 15, 2016 7:49 pm UTC

Djehutynakht wrote:No idea how the laptop developed a leaping ability.


As my grandma always said, "it just grew wings and flew away!"
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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby Echo244 » Fri Apr 15, 2016 8:59 pm UTC

The laptop got Raptured.

Given its choice of parting comment, I'd rather stick around with the phone.
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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby StClair » Fri Apr 15, 2016 10:34 pm UTC

Most of the people who think they'll be Raptured tend to be very smug about it to the "heathens", so that part is authentic, IMO.

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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby PM 2Ring » Sat Apr 16, 2016 7:07 am UTC

Keyman wrote:So does the "l" in 'keithl' stand for Leibowitz?


Good call. :) For those who don't get the reference, please see A Canticle for Leibowitz.

And for those who don't know who keithl is, please see Keith Lofstrom, Launch loop, and Keith Lofstrom's Vanity Web Page.

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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby BlitzGirl » Sat Apr 16, 2016 7:17 am UTC

Djehutynakht wrote:No idea how the laptop developed a leaping ability.

It's the next model of MacBook, lighter than Air.
You have to press down very firmly on the keyboard to keep them from floating away.
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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby Eternal Density » Sat Apr 16, 2016 12:14 pm UTC

I really like this one. It's fun.
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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby Bratmon » Sat Apr 16, 2016 11:42 pm UTC

It looks like the system from comic 1084 can stop waiting.

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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby addams » Sun Apr 17, 2016 12:19 am UTC

PM 2Ring wrote:
Keyman wrote:So does the "l" in 'keithl' stand for Leibowitz?


Good call. :) For those who don't get the reference, please see A Canticle for Leibowitz.

And for those who don't know who keithl is, please see Keith Lofstrom, Launch loop, and Keith Lofstrom's Vanity Web Page.

wait. wait.
...uhh...

..uh..ok..Tell me.
Is our Keith That Keith?

...Well,...ok. ...
I'm willing to believe it...

We are in the company of some very fine minds.

Many fine minds are not famous.
A few of our minds are famous.

Yey. For us.
Not only is the author a Famous Amos.
Readers and Posters are Famous Amos', too.

After the Singularity ... ?
....Then, what?

Ask Keith?
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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby rmsgrey » Sun Apr 17, 2016 1:30 am UTC

addams wrote:..uh..ok..Tell me.
Is our Keith That Keith?


I cannot verify it from my own knowledge, but he does seem to have the sort of knowledge and interests I would expect that Keith to have, and it's sufficiently plausible that that Keith would have an interest in something like xkcd that I'm prepared to accept our Keith being that Keith as fact, pending compelling evidence that he isn't.

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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby addams » Sun Apr 17, 2016 4:12 am UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
addams wrote:..uh..ok..Tell me.
Is our Keith That Keith?


I cannot verify it from my own knowledge, but he does seem to have the sort of knowledge and interests I would expect that Keith to have, and it's sufficiently plausible that that Keith would have an interest in something like xkcd that I'm prepared to accept our Keith being that Keith as fact, pending compelling evidence that he isn't.

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*
**
***
Back on Topic: I did not see the laptop floating.
I saw the human form Running with the laptop.
He's running toward the printer.

But, of course, it began to lift in the preceding panel.
Where is it leaping off to?
Life is, just, an exchange of electrons; It is up to us to give it meaning.

We are all in The Gutter.
Some of us see The Gutter.
Some of us see The Stars.
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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby PM 2Ring » Mon Apr 18, 2016 7:38 am UTC

addams wrote:
PM 2Ring wrote:And for those who don't know who keithl is, please see Keith Lofstrom, Launch loop, and Keith Lofstrom's Vanity Web Page.

wait. wait.
...uhh...

..uh..ok..Tell me.
Is our Keith That Keith?

...Well,...ok. ...
I'm willing to believe it...

We are in the company of some very fine minds.

He sure is.

From Re: What-If 0089: "Tungsten Countertop"
keithl wrote:In Clarke's later years, he drifted rather far from physics in the pursuit of a good story. I have the proud honor of being disparaged by name (Lofstrom) in his novel "The Last Theorem", completed by Fred Pohl. Good for Sir Arthur; if he had explained why space elevators might not be possible, or why launch loops might be, it would mess up a fine novel. Thanks to Fred (a friend) the novel came out pretty much as Sir Arthur (the name Fred used) wanted. And if you can't trash your friends, who can you trash?


And from Re: What-if 0007: Everybody Out
keithl wrote:I've been found out. Yeah, the guy eating the dessicant packs also wrote articles and papers about launch loop in the late 70s and early 80s. For way too much information, see http://launchloop.com or look at John Knapman's http://spacecable.org

A few of us are pushing this forward, though I spend most my time on http://server-sky.com

John and I will be at the Space Elevator Conference in Seattle in a couple of weeks - that community is starting to look at launch loop style "dynamic structures" (Bob Forward's neologism) for a "first stage" of the space elevator, raising the bottom end and the lift lasers above most of the atmosphere and a dozen show-stopping problems. The space elevator still needs unobtanium, subtracting 0.1% of the length doesn't change the tensile forces much, but the tether and climbers no longer need to be ice/wind/ground-lightning resistant, and clouds won't stop the laser beams.

I will be in Maryland three weeks from now, if anyone wants to see my canned lectures about launch loop or server sky.


Or maybe our keithl is just a pathological liar. :D

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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby Rombobjörn » Mon Apr 18, 2016 12:21 pm UTC

BlitzGirl wrote:
Djehutynakht wrote:No idea how the laptop developed a leaping ability.

It's the next model of MacBook, lighter than Air.
You have to press down very firmly on the keyboard to keep them from floating away.

I figured it was spinning its cooling fan really really fast, but your explanation seems more plausible.

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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby solune » Mon Apr 18, 2016 12:37 pm UTC

Soupspoon wrote:(But what is described as The Singularity isn't even a singularity. It's 'merely' an event horizon...)


Thank you so much for pointing that out. IMO it's merely a change in the exponential function's time factor. Definitely not something with a vertical asymptote.

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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby SuicideJunkie » Tue Apr 19, 2016 1:59 pm UTC

Are we already through the horizon?

In the distant past, it seems that people were happy following in their parents' footsteps, and not much changed in a generation.
My grandparents saw some pretty big improvements, but I don't believe they were really dependent on them.
My parents are on the border; my Dad might be able to handle tech going backwards, but Mom, not so much.
Regression is merely horrifying to me, but I'm old at heart.

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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Apr 19, 2016 2:44 pm UTC

SuicideJunkie wrote:Are we already through the horizon?

The event horizon is the point of no return. At the moment, we could (effectively1) cease our advances towards domination by the future computerised master-race. We could even make it less likely by taking back control of what automated systems we currently have.

The titular 'Singularity' has always been the point at which the tech itself is capable of ensuring its own survival. The futurewar world of Terminator could be considered just a few baby-steps away from the actual irrefutable victory of machine over man (in that case, quite literally), whilst in the world of The Matrix it looks to be just beyond it (if it weren't for the latest One, so maybe it isn't). The Borg have probably satisfied these conditions within their own sphere (and cubes!) of influence, but most of the time(-travel) seem to be far from extending their own Technocratic Schwarzschild Radius far enough into the Alpha quadrant to yet make it 'Universal', although it may well still be Paramount to deal with the threat.

Anyway, the-thing-called-The-Singularity is the tipping-point at which, in its priximity to the ultimate doom, no possible escape is now possible from an entirely machine-dominated future. Which, as back-analogy to the physical phenomena associated with an actual singularity, is the radius at which no possible desperate escape is now possible, of any kind, without a possibly mythical FTL propulsion system. The draw of the actual singularity's central pull (or an equivalent description regarding time-like curves upon the extremely warped fabric of spacetime, if you prefer!) has just now exceeded the abilities of anything 'real' to head upon the reverse course. i.e. the event horizon...


(You can also possibly argue that you never even reach a singularity, if you're not there being part of it as it is being formed. The singularity is the 'missing point' in the spatial coordinates towards which there is an eternal Xeno-like fall, assuming you could at this point even conceptualise 'eternity' in the context of the spacetime geometry you are now within... and perhaps Hawking Radiation dissolves the phenomena (and you?) whilst you are still half way 'down', or even just forever stuck at the EH being continually shifted further into the red, as far as the external universe goes. But greater minds than mine have a better grasp on the theoretical specifics than I can realistically claim.)


However, "The Singularity" was coined in the '60s, I think. And was probably used as analogy to describe the whole "non-naked singularity" object that is the whole hole in the fabric of space, out to at least its 'visible' horizon... Everything within that sphere (or oblate spheroid?) of influence might as well be 'the singularity', for the ease of understanding a hard to understand swathe of space. Even though all but an infinitesimal (if that!) part of it actually is.

So while the prescriptivist in me rails against the continuation of the inaccuracy, the much less vocal descriptivist in me accepts that this has become 'a thing', for his pains...


(We now return you to your regularly-scheduled programmes...)



1 Cue some SF story about an isolated mad genius that illegally continues with research leading to the AIOverlordOS being developed anyway, to the ultimate doom of mere biohumanity... but that's still an actively suicidal thrust towards conceptual black hole, not an unavoidable inevitability...

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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby rmsgrey » Tue Apr 19, 2016 3:31 pm UTC

SuicideJunkie wrote:Are we already through the horizon?

In the distant past, it seems that people were happy following in their parents' footsteps, and not much changed in a generation.
My grandparents saw some pretty big improvements, but I don't believe they were really dependent on them.
My parents are on the border; my Dad might be able to handle tech going backwards, but Mom, not so much.
Regression is merely horrifying to me, but I'm old at heart.


Invention of language
Invention of writing
Various major advances in agriculture (eg the rigid horse collar)
Plumbing

There are a whole bunch of advances over human history which, if somehow rolled back, would cause society to collapse, and a significant population crash.

The argument that lead to the idea of the singularity was that as AI gets better, sooner or later, it will become better at designing AI than humans are - at which point the AI-designed AI will be even betterer at designing AIs and you fire up a positive feedback loop, get exponential growth in AI capability, and godlike AIs take over running the world. What's neglected here is that the ingenuity of the designers isn't the only constraint on AI capabilities - so, at best, we'll see runaway growth in capabilities until some other constraint kicks in.

So, for this specific tipping point, no, we aren't yet through the horizon - we don't have machines more capable of designing new machines than humans are. Even if we did, the consequences of crossing that threshold are likely to be fairly undramatic...

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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby orthogon » Tue Apr 19, 2016 4:18 pm UTC

Soupspoon wrote:futurewar

Soupspoon wrote:priximity

For a minute I thought the Modness was back... ;-)

Soupspoon wrote:However, "The Singularity" was coined in the '60s, I think. And was probably used as analogy to describe the whole "non-naked singularity" object that is the whole hole in the fabric of space, out to at least its 'visible' horizon... Everything within that sphere (or oblate spheroid?) of influence might as well be 'the singularity', for the ease of understanding a hard to understand swathe of space. Even though all but an infinitesimal (if that!) part of it actually is.

So while the prescriptivist in me rails against the continuation of the inaccuracy, the much less vocal descriptivist in me accepts that this has become 'a thing', for his pains...

I've just read The Girl in the Spider's Web; at one point the author appeared to be under the impression that the thing-known-as-the-Singularity and the singularity at the centre of a black hole are in some way the same thing, or at least homomorphic, rather the latter just being used as a kind of loose analogy for the former, as though solving the quantum gravity problem would also solve the problem of hard AI. As you say, singularities were probably a fashionable topic and so the word was applied to the putative AI phenomenon, whereas it might have been better to use one of the existing concepts like "tipping point" or your "point of no return" .
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Apr 19, 2016 9:09 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:For a minute I thought the Modness was back... ;-)

Soupspoon wrote:futurewar

An (unoriginal) neologism.
Soupspoon wrote:priximity

Tyop.

HTH. HAND. VETLA :P

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Re: 1668: "Singularity"

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Apr 20, 2016 1:15 am UTC

As the comic helpfully notes, singularians are silly, but the idea of a technological singularity, which can be applied backwards to writing and things as well, is a point beyond which the dominant drivers and concerns of history are unknowable from our side of it. A world taken over by angry AIs is one version of it and the doctrine of the leading church of the Singularity. A post-scarcity society in which technology is cheaper than human labor for any given task would be one, too. The Wikipedia page lists others.

Stanislaw Ulam, coining the term, wrote:"...ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue".


Part of the reason I generally avoid the term is that yeah, no matter what your interpretation, an event horizon is the correct metaphor. But the term "singularity" itself is the wholly owned territory of a goddamn cult, so it's not like it's a dear loss.
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