June 01, 2008

IEEE Spectrum : The Singularity a Special Report

IEEE Spectrum has a special report on the Singularity with contributions from several authors.

Vernor Vinge first postulated the concept of a technological Singularity and he has an essay "Signs of the Singularity" and a video "How to Prepare for the Singularity"


Richard Jones has an article "Rupturing The Nanotech Rapture", but the essay criticizes specific invivo (in the body) versions of free roaming nanobots and diamondoid materials It seems that the stated position is not that nanorobots are impossible foreever but impossible by 2030 and unlikely before 2050 and more likely to have a nanobio basis if it is accomplished. Then some problems are raised with regards to nanorobots operating in human bodies.

This website has documented current nanodevices and larger devices that operate in the body. Making what exists now smaller and more capable would seem like a path to achieving goals such as cellular repair.

More complicated and functional nanoparticles or particles up to several microns in size or particles within bloodstream robots.

There are devices and robots that are or can be placed into the bloodstream now.

Nanodiamond has been made 100 times cheaper.

Nanodiamond's fluorescent properties could be used to track cells moving through the body. And, last year, researchers showed they could safely deliver chemotherapy drugs. Cheaper alternatives to nanodiamonds, such as fluorescent dyes or small chunks of semiconductor known as quantum dots, are in use already in use.


40 micron pyramids are also being used to deliver drugs into the body

Nested nanoparticles are able to bypass the body's defences.

New Scientist reports on 200 nanometer polymer spheres that can get placed into living cells. Nextbigfuture assumes that they could change the size to bigger to place larger amounts of material into cells. Human cells are about 20 microns across. Mitocondria are 1–10 micrometers across.

Cellular repair - does not have to be invivo.
There is a coated straw like device which has coatings that attach to stem cells or to cancer cells.
Blood and body fluids can be taken out of the body and nanofilters and modification of the blood and blood products can be performed. (Advanced dialysis)
There is outside magnets used to guide nanoparticles.
There is laser activated release of drugs and other agents.

There is also mostly non-bio nanoelectronics that are being developed and designed into nanorobotics. Work which is implemented would have more kinship with Drexler's work than the bio-approach. Clearly the bio details of the environment cannot be ignored and are not being ignored in the latest design work. (computer simulations.) Note: Freitas (author of nanomedicine) has been involved in these designs.


Other Essays in the Special Report
Waiting for the Rapture, By Glenn Zorpette

Why should a mere journalist question Kurzweil’s conclusion that some of us alive today will live indefinitely? Because we all know it’s wrong. We can sense it in the gaping, take-my-word-for-it extrapolations and the specious reasoning of those who subscribe to this form of the singularity argument.


This argument against the Singularity has no substance.

Ray Kurzweil and Neil Gershenfeld: Two Paths to the Singularity

I, Rodney Brooks, Am a Robot

A powerful artificial intelligence won't spring from a sudden technological "big bang"—it's already evolving symbiotically with us


The Consciousness Conundrum By John Horgan

The wetware that gives rise to consciousness is far too complex to be replicated in a computer anytime soon
[This website disagrees with these conclusions]

Economics Of The Singularity by Robin Hanson

This article is an update of previous Hanson work on long term economic growth.

Look at the data for world product over the past 7,000 years, estimated by Bradford DeLong, an economic historian at the University of California, Berkeley. The data here tell a somewhat different story. For most of that time, growth proceeded at a relatively steady exponential rate, with a doubling of output about every 900 years. But within the past few centuries, something dramatic happened: output began doubling faster and faster, approaching a new steady doubling time of about 15 years. That's about 60 times as fast as it had been in the previous seven millennia.



Mode Doubling Date Began Doubles Doubles
Grows Time (DT) To Dominate of DT of WP
---------- --------- ----------- ------ -------
Brain size 34M yrs 550M B.C. ? "~16"
Hunters 230K yrs 2000K B.C. 7.2 8.7
Farmers 860 yrs 4700 B.C. 8.1 7.5
?? 58 yrs 1730 3.9 3.2
Industry 15 yrs 1903 1.9 >6.3



This site agrees with the Hanson theories and has considered Singularity lite: one to two levels of faster technological change.

Continuing advances in robotics are a multiplier to human productivity. If robotic cars are able to convert commuting time into productive time for people that would be a one time 6-20% increase in productivity. There is a constant stream of successes in robotics and automation for handling some human tasks (vacuuming, dish washing, factory robots, etc...). Robotics needs to breakthrough more completely as able and seemless assistants to people. The artificial general intelligence (AGI) situation is when computers and AI can take over making faster innovations by themselves.

China achieved its high levels of growth (10-13%/year) because it was catching up with past technological and business progress. So if some technology were to enable faster discovery of improved technological or process innovation, then the effect would be like more advanced nations also being in "catchup or higher growth mode". China also had higher rates of investment.
The higher rates of investment could come from improving the efficiency of financial systems.

In terms of capital inputs, if there was drastically reduced energy costs combined with vastly increased supplies of energy and higher growth rates in energy supplies from say a breakthrough in nuclear fusion that change could also provide a sustainable increase in economic growth rate.

High performance printable electronics and faster and cheaper reel to reel production could increase growth rates and capital production.

Reconfigurable phase change chips could allow for in place hardware to be improved on the fly as easily as a software update.

Improved technology that enables 12-20% (3 to 5 times the current rate) growth rates for cities and some countries seems possible. Various factors limit the growth rate that we currently experience. How government/business systems are organized limit the overall growth rate. Regulations and bureaucracy slow the speed of change. India was a major example of this where regulations and bureaucracy kept the economic growth of India to one third of what it is now and where it could have been for decades.

It seems likely that the technologies and systems to enable rapid growth will arrive but that only some people, companies and regions will take full advantage of them for quite a while. Only after others see how things should be run and the disadvantage they have with slower growth will changes be made.

FURTHER READING
A table of 16 leading people famous for their ideas that relate to the Singularity

Silicon biosensors are being implanted into the body with a gel to prevent rejection and precursor versions of nanomedicine capabilities are being enabled.

There are many different approaches to using nanoparticles and micro-sized particles and objects to deliver drugs, imaging agents and other medical functions

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