The Singularity Too: Edelson’s Law

Edelson’s Law says: “The number of important insights that are not being made is increasing exponentially with time.”

What If the Singularity Does NOT Happen? by Vernor Vinge

This would be the flipside of Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns (1999, The Age of Spiritual Machines), as well as a corrolary to Neil Postman‘s “information glut“.

I’m not really sure who “Edelson” is (Vinge attributes the above quote to “Steve Edelson”, but also admits that could be wrong). But it only stands to reason that, if the sheer amount of information available to us is growing exponentially (Postman, [pg#]), and if technological change (that is, discovery— the number of important insights that are being made, and thus implemented) increases exponentially (Kurzweil), then the number of insights that could potentially be derived from that exponentially increasing body of information is also increasing exponentially. And therefore the number of these potential insights that remain undiscovered and unexpressed is in a state of exponential growth as well.

The irony of Vinge’s use of this Law in his essay is too rich for words. He uses it as an argument for scenarios in which the Singularity does not occur; that is, that one or more of these un-made insights leads to a non-Singularity future. However, the Singularity as event is dependant on the Law of Accelerating Returns, which already implies Edelson’s Law. And so you find yourself in a loop-the-looping logic in which Edelson’s Law negates the implied end result (i.e. the Singularity) of Kurzweil’s Law. Quite the paradox, no?

That is the first point I wanted to comment upon from Vinge’s article (that I blogged about on Wednesday). More to come in future posts (possibly).

In other news, Here’s a link to a student response page for Neil Postman’s Technopoly:

It has 8 years of dialogue about the book (1995-2003), including a bit of trolling from the unappreciative and several clever and/or thoughtful comments/questions from the properly inquisitive (there’s also some interesting though not particularly relevant spear-rattling over the 9/11 event).

Here’s one (the very first one, in fact), which I thought I’d share with you:

The Great Narrative

This article submitted by Arthur Chandler on 12/5/95.


If Darwinism replaced Genesis as the Great Narrative of our culture,

can the NET replace Darwinism?

Or is the NET insufficiently historical to provide a framework for an account of human destinty?

I think you know what I think. 😉 What do you think?

Is the Internet sufficiently historical to provide a framework for “an account of human destiny”?

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