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September 11, 2011

The 9/11 Singularity [ArthurK]

There's a recent concept called a Technological Singularity. To oversimplify it, that's the idea that exponentially accelerating progress in Artificial Intelligence will lead a new world that we can't even begin to comprehend before it happens. The point I want to get across is that when we cross a singularity the stuff on the other side seems weird and incomprehensible based on what we knew before.

On Sept 11, 2001 we passed a cultural singularity. Imagine that you fell asleep on Sept 10 and woke up on Oct 10, 2001 and saw this newspaper front page.

Mirror Oct 10 2001.jpg

In October 2001, I thought about that as I was looking at the front page of the LA Times (I couldn't find a good LA Times front page so the Mirror will have to do.) A man from Sept 10 would have no concept of the world shown on the Mirror's front page! Anthrax? Guys in bio-hazard suits? It's deliberate? The RAF is at war? Wait a minute - backing up US strikes?! Then the US is as war too! A terror war? Fourteen Pages of war coverage!?

This Mirror front page just has 2 stories. The LA Times front page I recall was mostly text and had story after story - None of which made sense to a Sept 10 person.

If you had looked at a paper from Jan 1942 (after skipping a month of existence) you'd see all sorts of stuff about the US involved in WW2 - but WW2 was already running hot a month earlier. The only real surprise would be that US was in it up to its neck.

I was born in 1956. The 9/11 attacks were the most shocking, impactful, non-personal* events of my life. Not the most important event (the end of the cold war, for example, was bigger) but the biggest change.

*I had a massive heart attack a month earlier. That was a personal singularity!

The famous Chinese curse goes, "May you live in interesting times.". Here we are.

(published out of draft by Andy)

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posted by Open Blogger at 12:00 PM

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