April 08, 2010
Every day is the singularity

I've decided to tune out any and all mentions of the iPad. The reason: It's not going to make sense to talk the device over, anyway. Whether or not it is a necessary/obvious/attractive tool will not be broken down by specs. There won't be an argument that wins. It'll either work out or it won't work out.

Techno-utopians suggest that at some point in the not to distant future, the world will accelerate around us to incomprehensible speeds. Personally I think the singularity arrived with the Gutenberg bible, or - at the very latest - in the late 1700s. I've written about this before. New technologies like Google or the iPad or similar are good examples of this. Every time one of these change the world we have a singularity event. New behaviour, that simply cannot be represented properly by argument, not even the argument that provoked the new technology in the first place.

Now, I am not a mystic, by any stretch. It's just that I believe firmly - based on my experience* - in the abundance of arguments. Arguments are local optimizations that make sense of the world. Some of them are very, very good - we can apply and reapply those across remarkable boundaries. Some of them are less good, with short life spans and very limited validity. Most of them are after the fact rationalizations, basically archival help for storing our experience in an efficient way.

This sceptical view of argument is also why I find the idea of knowledge implicit in Wolfram Alpha and Hunch very dubious. I have yet to find a battery of questions for decision making on Hunch that wasn't really quite bad, compared to the logic I was actually planning to employ myself. I'm typically asked stuff I have no opinion about or that doesn't figure in to the decision as a useful distinction I can ascribe value to. Maybe the questions are relevant for me too, but in that case I need a description of the landscape of relevance, but a bunch of questions that make no sense to me. We're decision making machines, but not quite in that literal sense.

* Experience is a complex thing, but the cornerstone for this particular belief is the history of mathematics - where the language describing basically the same world, has changed so drastically over the centuries that the old language is basically incomprehensible to the modern reader.

Posted by Claus at April 08, 2010 01:00 PM | TrackBack (0)
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