“Singularity Report” Website
A “Conceptual Design Sketch”
November 12, 2002
This brief informal document presents an idea for a website.
If executed properly, it should also serve another purpose as well: disseminating certain types of valuable scientific knowledge effectively throughout important segments of the general public.
I don’t have a great name for the site yet. “Singularity Report” is not so wizzy. I hope someone can suggest something better.
I am aware, of course, that the superexponential advance of technology does not in itself tell the whole story of the Singularity. The deeper story of the Singularity lies in the dramatic transformation of the nature of mind & physical reality that will follow once this superexponential advance has brought us to a certain point.
But the idea of this site is to tell an important, easily told portion of the story of the Singularity. Because this portion can be told very convincingly. Once an individual has fully understood this portion, they’ll (in most cases) be able to more fully begin the struggle to grasp the further, deeper parts of the story.
The primary navigational metaphor for the site will be a set of graphs, similar to the growth curves in Kurzweil’s book The Singularity is Near. Each graph will correspond to a certain quantifiable aspect of technology or science – e.g. computer processor speed, cost of computer chips, accuracy of brain scanning, smallest functional machine, etc.
The graphs must be both dynamic and interactive.
Interactive as follows: Clicking on a point on the graph, should bring you to a news article or Web page describing the science or technology leading to that point. So, for instance, clicking on the 1997 point on the brain-scan graph would bring you to information about brain scan tech as it existed in 1997.
Dynamic as follows: When new advances occur, they should be promptly posted onto the relevant graphs.
Of course, the graphs should show, not only the past and present, but also extrapolations into the future via curve-fitting. And, over time, there should be an option for the user to view the site’s prior extrapolations and compare them to recent history.
Users should be able to subscribe to the site, and subscribers should receive an e-mail when a new point is added to one of the graphs.
Each graph should come along with a list of experts who are willing to be contacted by reporters, on the general topic of the graph, or specific subtopics. This is a way of getting Singularity-savvy researchers in front of any press who should browse the site.
There could also be an “overall Singularity progress” graph, estimated as an average of all the other graphs.
Finally, there could be a “What then?” page, linked to from the far right end of each graph, containing links to sites involving interesting speculations on post-Singularity mind and reality…..
Many more details of the site design could be elaborated of course; these comments are just a beginning. But it’s important to keep things as simple as possible. We don’t need another general science news site or another site on the theory of the Singularity. The point is to make progress toward the Singularity visible and tangible to individuals who have a concrete rather than abstract approach to understandng such things.
[Remember, journalists are looking for interesting things to tell their audiences. They want you to give them interesting information – but, most of the time, they want this information IF AND ONLY IF it’s pre-packaged in a way that they can sell to their audiences right away. ]
Of course, all this is far easier said than done.
However, I believe it could be done on a relatively low budget. The key thing is to get the site up and working with rich content. After that, if the site is successful, money for more bandwidth will be possible though not easy to come by. Getting funding (philanthropic or business) for a site with a lot of hits it not as easy as it used to be, but it’s still a lot easier than getting funding for an idea whose popularity has been proven.
Each graph should be maintained by two or more volunteers: at least, one primary and one backup (to take over when the primary goes on vacation etc.). Each volunteer must monitor the news in their area of science or technology each day, and post updates as appropriate. In order for this to be feasible, some decent automation tools will have to be written. It must be possible for a volunteer graph-maintainer to log onto a web page and fill out a form to add a new graph point with associated text and/or hyperlinks.
A site like this will require a dedicated, part-time administrator, because there’s a lot of automation involved and things will inevitably break.
But the main bit of work is in creating the site in the first place – the graphics, the scripts for users and volunteer graph-editors, etc.
This is a lot more work to make than a site containing text about the Singularity. But I also think it can make a lot more impact.
Naturally, one can start with a small number of graphs and expand the total set of graphs gradually. But it seems to me that setting up the infrastructure for 5 graphs is not significantly easier than setting up the infrastructure for 20 graphs, actually. I’d suggest to start with 10-15 graphs and then expand incrementally. We need a bunch of different graphs to give a qualitative sense of the breadth of progress toward the Singularity.
With a dedicated, full-time professional team, this could probably be put together in a few months. With dedicated and talented part-time volunteers, a year is probably a more realistic timeframe.