The Age of Spiritual Machines: Part 7

Law of Accelerating Returns (LAR)

Moore’s Law is the inspiration for Kurzweil’s central thesis. Moore’s Law is a predictive methodology to guestimate the future of computing by this dude name Moore was was the CEO of Intel. Basically, he believed that the speed of innovation would increase at double the transistor area per year. It has proved to be accurate from 1960-2008. Unfortunately, his ‘Law’ only works until 2020 according to Kurzweil where it will be replaced by….Kurzweil’s law.

Notice how he is trying to claim his narrative in the future?

Kurzweil builds everything on his theory based on past human growth and technological achievements. Kurzweil believes in the inevitability of singularity. Kurzweil and Einstein believe that since the Big Bang, chaos and time are correlated. If chaos increases, time slows down. As chaos decreases and order becomes more prevalent than time between salient events should increase. If we replace chaos and time with technological advancement, we assume the same principles of physics apply for computer technology.

Kurzweil’s methodology is to plot calculations per second on a fourth-order curve. There is a small exponential growth in his exponential growth curve, meaning that as order increases, advances in technology increase. His theory relies on the proposition that increased computation builds on its own increasing order. Biological evolution follows this same principle. He believes that ultimately the curve will eventually reach a singularity where all human thought becomes one with a singular computing entity (pure order). This extremely exciting as his theory provides the amazing predictions he makes about the future of humanity….Everyone will be part of the collective. Like the Borg from Star Trek Next Generation. Do you think that is something to look forward to?

The major problem with his calculation is it’s predictive rubric. His milestones or salient events are defined subjectively: how do you define the event of a transistor versus the event of the iPhone? Is each achievement an event? In addition, these milestones don’t necessary require that they will occur in the future at the same constant exponential rate he designed. The LAR assumes that human behaviour will stay constant. It assumes that chaos will continue to decrease. Meanwhile, in reality chaos may increase. Human beings may encounter terrifying alien life forms that allow computer technology to evolve in a completely different manner than the one Kurzweil predicts, for example. His explanation of evolution correlated with order is empirically sound from past to present.

In a vaccumm, LAR might exist as long as the constants are permenant but in reality, there are other factors that influence development of technology. Change such as 9/11 has altered the path of computer technology: computer, cellphone and video survelliance technology makes it so that your gmail account presents advertisements based on key words you have typed in; like ‘bomb’. He didn’t predict this because he could not have known the human factor. In addition, LAR can only be considered a law in the same way that the Law of Gravity is considered a law. Future research may show that gravity is based on repulsion not attraction, for example. So the LAR is a theory that can be supported or unsupported by evidence in the future (particularly in the year 2019). Until that time, it should be treated with suspicion by anyone claiming to be a scientist/academic.

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