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Friday, February 18, 2011


"The ratio of computer price to performance is now doubling in less than a year"
From an article in the Wall Street Journal by Ray Kurrzweil whose predictions I have listed before.

This doubling is known as Moore's law though when he first described it (about 1970) the doubling time was 2 years. This was considered incredibly fast and all reasonable people agreed in predicting that it would not last. They still do so.

The alternative is that we are seeing the sort of growth rate expected in any other growing system, such as the S Curve

      The only points on that curve where we see not only growth but an acceleration in the rate of growth is on the lower part of the curve, Indeed we see a greater than doubling of the rate of growth, up to the period from 19th to 26th April. Assuming that we are at the 26th April stage we should expect the more than annual doubling to continue for about twice as long, say 80 years before the rate of increase slows. By that time computer capacity will have increased 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times. That is literally an unimaginable change which is why it is known as the Singularity, but if maths works it must be expected.

   Nor is that the most far out scenario.  We could be at an earlier point than that so the the 1 year of Moore's Law will continue to get shorter, & the period to plateauing further away.
I read this following links from an article by Pournelle today which I suggest you read.
For most of history, for most of humanity, life was hard, and seldom got better. Clark ascribes this to the Malthusian Trap: when conditions get better, people breed up a new population that lowers the average to subsistence level again. Add the observations that Possony and I made in our study of the strategy of progress: that human societies convert more and more of their output to structure, so that bureaucracy absorbs all surpluses, all creativity and progress ceases except for short periods when output grows so rapidly that the structure can't keep up. Examples would be the Discovery of the New World, gunpowder, and all three Industrial Revolutions, and the Silicon Valley revolution. For a while human ingenuity outstrips the ability of government to control it; but inevitably the regulators return. Note also that the bureaucracy inevitably assumes a patron status to its clients, so that the apparatus always takes a high place in the distribution of the society's assets. There is always a nomenklatura, which does not live spectacularly well, but has comfortable conditions. It makes nothing but it is needed so that all will be tranquil. It provides security, regulation, order. And it eats better than those it regulates...

technology marches on. Whether or not a computer passes the Turing Test next year or next decade, we can be sure that more and more service jobs can become apps on the pocket computers we will all carry in 2015. Meanwhile, various agencies, boards, commissions, inspectors will make it more and more expensive to hire a human to do that job. And the public service unions will continue to insist on their rights to pensions and benefits. And the teachers will insist on their right to pensions, and benefits, and academic freedom while more and more of their students drop out. And the students will insist on more and more money to be paid to their professors who will teach them that they deserve low tuition and cheap room and board while studying womyn's studies, ethnic studies, social science, or whatever they choose to study at someone else's expense.

Where this all goes is not at all clear. The governments are out of money. There is probably another round of tax increases to be endured before it all collapses. "And they never catch wise." But of course everyone catches wise eventually. And meanwhile there is no more money. We can run the printing presses for a while longer, but those with goods to sell will demand higher and higher prices, and without money to invest, perhaps the technological revolution will be slowed, at least in the United States.

The Industrial Revolution beginning in about 1850 produced the world we know, in which every generation could look forward to more: longer life, more to eat, better housing, and all that and more for their children. Progress, not just for the officer class, but for everyone; a time when everyone would be a lady or gentleman, not a peasant or a servant; when hard work could create a better life for everyone. The world changed, progress outran the Iron Law. But that was in another country.
  After that I find it easier to understand why the Luddites are so scared of progress that they wish to stop it & why government dinosaurs are with them. But if the human race has a purpose it must involve trying to understand and control the universe and that is not achieved by turning our backs on progress.


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