Some people have criticized the technological Singularity and Transhumanism because of the upside being things that they do not believe can be achieved.Also, the primary technologies that are often described as enabling the Singularity and Transhumanism are Molecular Nanotechnology and greater than human intelligence general AI. There has been virtually no effort or money spent to develop diamondoid molecular nanotechnology and greater than human AGI is something that will be a rapid shift. For AGI, one can imagine the situation before Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov in chess. A couple of years before it happened many people thought it would be long time before a computer won at chess and many were surprised when it did happen.
This site does not agree that Molecular Nanotechnology (MNT) is not achievable or that greater than human intelligence AI is not achievable. However, let us examine how some of the primary Singularity and Transhuman goals can be achieved even without Molecular Nanotechnology or greater than human intelligence AGI.
The goals, with the first blurb the term used by a critic (Richard Jones for the first three and then goals many have derided for the later goals) and goals from Eric Drexler’s website related to MNT, and what follows as a more detailed description of a precise and measurable goal.
1. End scarcity : Relative economic abundance with every living person having an personal resources at the affluent level of a current US citizen. $250,000 per person per year in purchasing power parity income. [The income level that Obama would want to tax more heavily if he become President]. No shortages of any basic need water, food, medical care [equal to that which is achieving the medical results currently affordable to an affluent person now] and energy [currently a US citizen uses an average of 13,000 kwh per year for electricity and three times that for transportation and a share of industrial energy usage. So abundance is 100,000 kwh for every person and assuming a future population of 10 billion is 1000 trillion kwh.
Stem cell meat factories, advanced aquaculture and vertical farming and more advanced genetically engineered food will enable an abundance of food. The vertical farming would be further enabled by the printing building technology.
Aquaculture (fish farming) already provide over half of the world’s fish.
The mass produced uranium hydride nuclear reactor would be part of a relatively mundane energy abundance solution. These reactors would have far less waste since 50 times more fuel would be burned generating energy. Molten salt reactors are even more efficient and could burn 99% of the uranium and plutonium in the reactor.
Increasing the current level of nuclear power in the world by 450 times would achieve the 1000 trillion kwh level. Increasing the efficiency of so that fuel usage is reduced by 30 to 98 times and being able to use thorium as well as uranium would ensure that there is sufficient nuclear fuel for the 5-15 times more per year that would be needed. There is uranium in seawater and Japanese researchers have been able to extract kilograms of it. It would cost more but fuel costs are only a small percentage of a nuclear plants operation.
2. Eradicate death [A Jones term]: Achieving actuarial escape velocity [which is not eradicating death but radical life extension] whereby life expectancy increases at greater than one year for each year that passes. No age related disease caused deaths. An increased level of increased physical regeneration and restoration. Really bad accidents or destructive weapons would still be able to kill. Advanced technology could create a precise copy of a person, but whether this will be done for ethical and societal reasons or whether the copy is the person is not discussed. A copy of “the mind” could be created in another substrate (ie. not a flesh and blood person but a computer than simulates “the mind”).
Treatments to boost the human immune system against cancer and effective and cheap early detection of cancer cells will enable a massive decrease in cancer deaths.
The SENS project has raised over ten million dollars and is launching projects for each of the seven parts of the initial program to substantial extend human lives. This would be a major first step on the actuarial escape velocity path.
Regenerative medicine is making substantial advances with stem cells, tissue generation, and increasing the regenerative capability in humans to be more like salamanders (able to regrow limbs.) This research is well funded by the US defence department with the AFIRM (Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine funded for $250 million for five years) project.
3. Eliminate the bungled mechanisms that introduce imperfections into the human body: Enhance various performance aspects of the human body. Various medical and mechanical enhancements will be discussed which will be significant advances to existing performance enhancement.
Effective and safe myostatin inhibition will likely be developed which will enable most people to become several times stronger and closer to the best levels achievable now (one in one million people already have myostatin inhibited and it is four times as effective as high doses of steroids).
Craig Venter, billionaire and enabler of new gene therapy and synthetic biology technology, has indicated that very strong cognitive enhancement is possible, desirable and a goal that he wants to achieve.
From the Eric Drexler website – things that MNT would enable.
– desktop computers with a billion processors
– inexpensive, efficient solar energy systems
– medical devices able to destroy pathogens and repair tissues
– materials 100 times stronger than steel
4. Blood stream robots or achieving the goals (cellular surgery and repair) for which blood stream robots were proposed using other means. [medical devices able to destroy pathogens and repair tissues]
5. Materials 100 times stronger than steel [cheap and commonly used] : Production or access to diamond and carbon nanotubes increased by 1000 times and using diamond as a primary material for house sized objects and for electronics.
Very large (multi-carat) diamonds can be produced very fast since 2005 Current methods can produce, three-dimensional growth of colorless single-crystal diamond in the inch-range (~300 carat) is achievable. Large scale production and scaling up diamond creation is an active and well funded area.
6. Open access to space [within the solar system for human and robotic travel and small probes up to a significant fraction of light speed for interstellar access]
7. Pollution “elimination” : Reduction of pollution into the environment and nearly complete elimination of deaths caused by pollution.
The use of the uranium hydride and molten salt reactor would greatly reduce the use of fossil fuels.
8. Desktop computers with one billion processors (or performance greater than one billion of todays processors)
9. Shape changing functional devices like utility fog
So how much of some of the key goals of a transhuman singularity can be achieved without fullblown molecular nanotechnology, AGI or fusion ? Quite a bit. which is why the real deal with molecular nanotechnology, AGI and fusion will be really impressive. The mundane technological singularity shows the kinds of societal shifts that will be needed in order to fully take advantage of the upside. A lot of systems and processes have to be redesigned. The mundane singularity is 100 to 1000 times faster in terms of production and various capabilities.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.