Once upon a time, down on the farm, ordinary lives had few options. Only a few neighbors were available as friends or lovers, only a few careers were possible, and most careers had rather predictable daily schedules. (Forager work varied only a bit more.) By contrast, cities, travel, and even war offered many exciting possibilities. Fiction celebrated these things, and fiction itself offered even more possibile experiences.
That's a terribly erroneous conclusion, Russell Wallace, comparing apples to oranges at its worst. If you had humans throw darts at a board and compared their results to the results of the chimpanzees, and the predicted results, you'd have a valid argument. Otherwise, please don't embarrass yourself saying that a simple array of random data points equates to more accurate prediction than guesses in an obscenely complex system.
Do you really believe that the modern era is uniquely concerned with greed, or that most growth is illusory?
Remember, you are commentating on an economists blog.
"Science fiction emphasizes a blizzard of strange futures, from which most folks take the lesson that the future is so unpredictable that there is little point thinking about it. Most think we can’t even count on basic physics, as new paradigms could change everything."
Most don't count on basic physics; care for a source for this claim? I think you are making a non sequitur by connecting basic physics with unpredictableness of the future. Deterministic behaviour does imply a predictable behaviour. Technology has very chaotic nature. Its one thing to say that economic will probably grow at some level for 50 years, and say what the top 50 companies will be in same time.
Besides what's the track record of physicists versus 50-to-100-year future predictor experts? If you ask physicists about what happens when an apple falls, he'll probably have the right answer. How many people who predict future to 50-100 years in advance, actually get it right? One of the implications of mostly efficient markets, is that on the outside you really cannot tell which experts are going to be right. Maybe nanotechnology will be big, maybe it won't be.
I think its important to think about the future, I mean we certainly have people investing with very long timeframes, and we always think about the future, especially for ourselves, but we have to understand the highly choatic nature, where small differences in local conditions can make massive differences in the final outcome.
again, this seems to me like a chimp thinking that we're eventually going to run out of sticks to use as tools, so things are finite. we really just have no idea, and even saying this is based on what we currently know seems wrong to me, because what we currently know seems to be very little (so factor that in, and it's hard to predict anything). seriously, are you saying that if we find our way into the multiverse (there's good scientific support for the prospect of infinite (many) worlds) things will be limited? i'm not saying i buy the many worlds hypo, instead wave function collapse seems more likely to me. but it's still a very real possibility. and that's just now. what about in 500 years, if we're still around? i get that you think you're making a basic mathematical point about the amount of stuff in the universe, but that's assuming one universe, and also leaving aside the infinite complexity you can get from finite stuff interconnected in various ways (there are a lot of possible chess games/moves).
Exponential growth must end at some point yes, but this is hardly the end of possibility.
Godel's theorem specifically tells you that any finite system of axioms capable of basic arithmetic has associated truths that cannot be proven within that system. This shows that in mathematics at least, the pool of radical new insights is infinite. It also proves that the Bayesian scientific paradigm cannot fully capture rationality. Only analogical inference (categorization) can provide the electric *sparks* of insight that can *leap across* ontological gaps and beat Godel.
Of course commentators have correctly pointed out the huge gaps in cosmology and physics (72% of mass unexplained dark energy, 22% of mass unexplained dark matter), and no complete reductionist theory of physics due to the unresolved conflict between GR and QM.
Even after the fundamentals are understand and growth becomes linear , there would still be never ending possibility insight to be had in how things are put together, aka Godel, complex systems etc,
Look to the Hall of Worlds, for it is there that all super-intelligences have gathered! The possibilities of the Hall can never be exhausted, because the Hall is transfinite. All things begin and end in the Hall.
"Encumbered forever by desire and ambition There's a hunger still unsatisfiedOur weary eyes still stray to the horizon go down this road we've been so many times
The grass was greenerThe light was brighterThe taste was sweeterThe nights of wonderWith friends surroundedThe dawn mist glowingThe water flowingThe endless river
Forever and ever"
As I understand it, some humans claim to be hedonists - whose aim is to experience (or sometimes create) the maximum possible bliss. In some cases, if their nature limits their bliss, they are happy to modify their nature.
A lot of future predictions sound much more or less optimistic depending on the spin you put on them. I think it was in a Stephen Baxter novel that I saw it pointed out that, because the human brain is probably a finite state machine, there is a finite number of experiences that we or our ems can have. It continued in this fashion, somehow presenting the idea of a future in which any imaginable experience is possible as a *bad* thing.
(2) is about density of information, which doesn't necessarily require high density of matter. There are hypothesized bounds on information density, but my understanding is that they are speculative, being based on theories of quantum gravity which are not supported (or denied) by experimental evidence. Basically they require some sort of discreteness in spacetime. But I'm not a physicist, so my understanding could easily be wrong.
Reminds me of the Bruce Sterling short story "Swarm". An excellent story that discusses the theme that Intelligence may be an evolutionary dead end.
I suggest reading more Freeman Dyson, he calculates that even if our universe slows down due to cosmic expansion, beings could still have an infinite number of thoughts, they just take longer and longer. Emphasis on infinite, that is really big, equivalent to infinite possibility.
You described a trend: less smart means more accurate. I was curious about the evidence backing up this belief.
Even a lower-class person today has more "possibilities" than previously in history...he can visit many different websites ( high possibility / low resource usage ) or take a plane to a different continent.
Possibly in the distant future there won't be much oil or plastic or nitrogen or whatever, but we will likely have a billion films, websites, books, mathematics lectures, symphonies, etc to watch with our high-efficiency super hologram projectors.
What is there “competition” for? For computational resources? For silicon to produce computational resources? For access to ems to enslave and torture? For status? For energy? For experiences to fill up km3 upon km3 of memory?
Tyrrell, yes there should be more subsistence level careers than in the past. But eventually that set won't expand much.
superflat, I'm not saying there isn't a lot of progress coming. I'm saying that process will end "soon" on cosmological time scales.
Mitchell, Philo, and Steven, I'm skeptical of superliminal neutrinos, and other new physics with near-term practical applications. Yes new physics might eventually find important applications, when we are powerful enough to regularly deal with such unusual physical states, but by then growth will have slowed to a crawl, and the new physics can't dramatically increase growth rates for more than a very short time, cosmologically.
Tim, recent fluctuations in US male median wages have little relevance to the long term trends I'm discussing.
Doc, that seems quite unlikely to me.
Tim, it might be possible to create creatures that care without limit about more and more subtle rearrangements of matter. But humans aren't such creatures.
simon, no doubt there will be some rich, and they'll have more possibilities. Regions that greatly tax em population will put themselves at a competitive disadvantage. Yes governments often intervene, not often to help the poor.
Scott, even in the past, larger beings like clans or cities had more possibilities, and longer lives. Not clear what was the "real" size of beings.
Why is (2) problematic? There are physical limits on density beyond which gravitational collapse happens. Did I miss something?