Advancing Technology

14 posts / 0 new
Last post
Erenthia Erenthia's picture
Advancing Technology

One of the things I really like about Joss Whedon's show, Dollhouse (incredibly appropriate to EP if you've never seen it) it that through flashbacks and the progression of the series it demonstrates technology that is not static. The Mind downloading technique they use has changed over time and their techniques improve. Subtle hacks they come up with to solve a problem-of-the-week actually have world shattering repercussions. Coming back to EP, in a setting where a hypercorp can have simulspace full of Cog 40 forks using various skillware and lesser minds as research assistants, all running at x60 speed technology is simply not going to stay constant. What corporation wouldn't benefit from 30 years of R&D accomplished in 6 months? (admittedly, they'd be slowed down somewhat by having to assemble prototypes in real time, but still the advantage is clear). I had this in mind when I read the following link.

http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/09/harold-white-warp-field-mechanics-update.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2Fadvancednano+%28nextbigfuture%29

So what's your opinion? Could R&D teams in EP expand on this kind of research and actually build a warp ship? This is not so much a setting altering question (or I would have posted in Homebrew) but a question of what hypercorps could accomplish during the course of a game. Technically any technology progress changes the setting, but I'm keeping this in terms of technology developed in 10 AF or 60 subjective years later in 11 AF.

The end really is coming. What comes after that is anyone's guess.

RalphusMaximus RalphusMaximus's picture
I think it stems more from an

I think it stems more from an having a drive. The tech was expanding rapidly up to the Fall. Since the Fall, rapid tech expansion seems to have slowed a bit as they are now taking a much more cautious step. Much more similar to our own Space Program has ceased manned missions beyond our own orbit after the Challenger incident. Only now are we actively searching for a means to put a human on Mars.

“Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh 1.5 tons.”
Popular Mechanics, March 1949

Prophet710 Prophet710's picture
There would definitely be a

There would definitely be a benefit to such a practice, but, it wouldn't be as far reaching as it might sound. You already noted the fact that you'd have to slow down the operation to construct and test prototypes in "the real world" in order to actually have finished product. This is going to further complicate the matter as our understanding of physics, even a theorized 10 AF is only still so catalogued. IF a working prototype were to be constructed, and then it subsequently opens up a new realm of sub-science within the physics field, it feels as if real world data would need to be collected and collated and then injected into the simulspace architecture before the super-cog A.I. scientists could go back to a new projects drawing board.

"And yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this Earth with envious eyes. And slowly, and surely, they drew their plans against us."

Lalande21185 Lalande21185's picture
60x Simulspace may not actually be available...

The current absolute land speed record is over 1,220 km/h. The average consumer vehicle can't go anywhere near that fast. Just because simulspace acceleration up to 60x is possible doesn't mean it is cheap, easy (may require extensive implants to use), safe (may cause insanity like the Lost project, only faster), effective for R&D purposes (it might only be able to simulate a white featureless room), able to be run for more than a fraction of a second, or available to consumers (the only place in the system to get 60x acceleration might be a single research lab at UoM where they research cutting edge VR and they are only doing it to show up TAU who have only been able to achieve 58x, mostly because TAU doesn't have indenture 'volunteers' to test it on).

NewtonPulsifer NewtonPulsifer's picture
In my EP universe 60x

In my EP universe 60x simulspace hosting costs about 30 credits per subjective hour to rent. So a week of subjective 60x simulspace would cost 5040 credits, and last 168 minutes objective. It takes a large amount of specialized hardware (the kind hosted in data centers with lots of power and cooling).

I allow up to 4x simulspace to run on the equivalent of a laptop or ghost rider module ("low" cost computer) for one alpha ego, or time share that 4x with a group of other alpha egos.

"I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."- Isoroku Yamamoto

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
I think it is sensible to

I think it is sensible to assume fast simulspaces are more expensive, but that doesn't mean much on a corporate level: 5000 credits is nothing on a corporate budget, even if it deters thrill-seeking private people.

If you can speed up things S times at a cost of C(S) times higher (simulspace cost and, perhaps, higher salaries) you end up with finished products earlier (market positional advantage!) and can do more (productivity per person goes up by S). If C(S) is linear, then either it is almost never worthwhile to use (the exception might be if the positional advantage is very valuable), or it should *always* be used and run as fast as possible. In the more plausible case that C(S) grows as a concave function of S (maybe an exponential, say), then there will be an equilibrium point where the productivity gain of speeding up is counteracted by the higher cost of faster processing.

If most of a concave C(S) comes from technology costs, then as technology develops the speed uses will increase. If C(S) is more due to overheads - salary and other HR costs, having to handle teams working on different timescales, linking internal simulations to external equipment - then things will remain more stable. But in that case different businesses will likely have very different equilibrium points: programming and indenture-using companies will have more use of fast teams than physical engineering projects using highly paid experts with family.

The real economic bomb is, as I often repeat, forking. Speeding people up just makes their results show up earlier. Forking them mean that rare human capital can be made common at nearly no cost. Currently, as far as I understand the literature, that is worth much more. There is of course an optimal trade-off (if you have limited computing resources) between number of copies and speed, but multiplicity also allows neat tricks for problem solving like running several permutations of design team membership simultaneously, and then comparing their different solutions and choosing the best.

What I think happens in EP is that most big companies have R&D departments that are fairly posthuman: they have a reason to use the most effective methods available to come up with great solutions before anybody else does. But this is balanced by the sheer complexity of the technology they are dealing with. They are unraveling new physics, the functions of the brain, how to manage legacy code systems with more than a century of development, and that takes enormous ability. Technology progresses, but probably not quite as neatly as anybody would want it.

Extropian

Erenthia Erenthia's picture
Sorry if I wasn't specific,

Sorry if I wasn't specific, but I was definitely referring to what hypercorps are capable of NOT individuals. And yes, it's true the technological progress is erratic at best even in the best of times. I think Ray Kurzweil is definitely on to something with this ideas about accelerating change, but after reading his responses to critiques of his 2010 predictions, I fear he is going down a path very similar to Sigmund Freud in his complete unwillingness to see his theories and mathematical models can now be upgraded to include further data.

That being said, while hypercorps certainly have a lot of maintenance to occupy their time, they also have competitive pressure pushing them forward. I have to wonder if the difference between simulspace acceleration and ego forking is similar to the difference between weak super intelligence and strong super intelligence. My intuition tells me that different minds might be better suited problem solving than forks of the same ego, but that might not be the case. I have to wonder if there wouldn't be a significant advantage to working alongside forks of oneself, especially if each fork is making use of different skillsofts. In particular a group of alpha forks would have a much easier time making cases to one another - explanations of requirements, appeals for resources, that sort of thing. What's lost from lacking various perspectives might be regained in a level of streamlined cooperation impossible today.

But the point is, technology will advance, and at an alarming speed although not necessarily in ways or directions anyone expects. It just doesn't make sense for the setting to remain static, especially when it's so precariously balanced. Most of my favorite roleplaying settings (such as Exalted) explicitly don't provide a steady, stable environment for the setting, but rather place every conceivable social institution as ready to collapse. This places the players in position to make real changes to the setting which makes every play through unique. And as central as technology is to Eclipse Phase, shaking up the technological framework is a perfect way to unbalance society.

The end really is coming. What comes after that is anyone's guess.

Smokeskin Smokeskin's picture
Erenthia wrote:I think Ray

Erenthia wrote:
I think Ray Kurzweil is definitely on to something with this ideas about accelerating change, but after reading his responses to critiques of his 2010 predictions, I fear he is going down a path very similar to Sigmund Freud in his complete unwillingness to see his theories and mathematical models can now be upgraded to include further data.

Well, unlike Freud, Kurzweil has made quantified predictions. Accelerating change isn't some weak unscientific hypothesis like psychotherapy. The actual pace of development will fit his predictions or not, and if they don't he'll have to adjust or look like a fool (whereas psychotherapists had the luxury of not being right for a century without being obviously wrong)

Erenthia Erenthia's picture
The hardness of hard science

The hardness of hard science vs the softness of soft science isn't really the issue I was getting at. While I'll be the first to point out the weaknesses of Freud's theories (and that it's patently absurd that people still use them) he did get some important work started. The aspect of Freud that I was comparing to Kurzweil is that they both seem entirely unwilling to modify their theories in the face of additional evidence. Both have uncovered dramatic underlying truths, both have been scoffed at by their contemporaries. Many of Kurzweil's 2010 predictions painted a vision of our time that simply did not turn out to be the case, but Kurzweil defended these predictions. I would expect a politician to use technicalities and loop-holes, but not a scientist.

Kurzweil has a phenomenal opportunity to look at the data and see where his predictions went wrong, modify his models and make better predictions, but he's too attached to his previous work. It's a very unscientific attitude.

The end really is coming. What comes after that is anyone's guess.

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Erenthia wrote:Kurzweil has a

Erenthia wrote:
Kurzweil has a phenomenal opportunity to look at the data and see where his predictions went wrong, modify his models and make better predictions, but he's too attached to his previous work. It's a very unscientific attitude.

Well, this is how most people making predictions about the future handle them. A surprisingly small number of predictions are sharp enough to be tested as strictly true or false, even when they sound sharp at first. There is a whole literature on the reliability of predictions, and the short answer is that *nobody* is good at making predictions, and that both people making predictions and the people who listen to them don't seem to care much. Kurzweil at least tries to make money from figuring out when certain technologies become viable (although he also makes money from having lots of people paying for him as a great futurist - the more money he makes from this compared to tech, the less I trust his predictions).

A colleague of mine has been analysing Kurzweil predictions in a bit more detail:
http://lesswrong.com/lw/diz/kurzweils_predictions_good_accuracy_poor/
His view is that Kurzweil is better than many people think, but not as good as he himself thinks.

He has also done a nice analysis of people's past predictions about AI:
http://lesswrong.com/lw/e36/ai_timeline_predictions_are_we_getting_better/

Extropian

Smokeskin Smokeskin's picture
I predict that Kurzweil will

I predict that Kurzweil will do what any good businessman should do - in private try to learn from his mistakes and do better in the future, and publicly try to spin things so he appears better than he actually is.

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
One important thing to

One important thing to remember about the expectation of accelerating change is that it means you should try to invest as much as possible of what you have now - it is going to grow tremendously, and you will be able to buy very cool things with your profit in the not too far future. If you think change is slower saving becomes less important: use your capital now to get a good life. Which of course means less investment and so on. Maybe this is one of the fundamental differences between the PC (and other technophile fractions like the Extropians), and the more laid back Autonomists.

Extropian

Smokeskin Smokeskin's picture
Arenamontanus wrote:One

Arenamontanus wrote:
One important thing to remember about the expectation of accelerating change is that it means you should try to invest as much as possible of what you have now - it is going to grow tremendously, and you will be able to buy very cool things with your profit in the not too far future. If you think change is slower saving becomes less important: use your capital now to get a good life. Which of course means less investment and so on.

I don't see why accelerated change should mean higher dividends from investments. Presumably the gains from progress apply to all companies and not just what you choose to invest in, so even if productivity rises competition will drive profits down.

It should affect what you choose to invest in though. If accelerating change is true, you'll be better off to steer clear of companies with large fixed assets as they're not depreciating hard enough, invest in companies conducting long term research (they'll be undervalued in the market due to investors assuming linear change), etc.

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Smokeskin wrote:Arenamontanus

Smokeskin wrote:
Arenamontanus wrote:
One important thing to remember about the expectation of accelerating change is that it means you should try to invest as much as possible of what you have now - it is going to grow tremendously, and you will be able to buy very cool things with your profit in the not too far future. If you think change is slower saving becomes less important: use your capital now to get a good life. Which of course means less investment and so on.

I don't see why accelerated change should mean higher dividends from investments. Presumably the gains from progress apply to all companies and not just what you choose to invest in, so even if productivity rises competition will drive profits down.

Check the economics of growth literature, or just the general gains on stock markets over historical time. Maybe you will not invest your pension money in just a single company or even just stock, but much of investment is based on guessing that the money will be worth more if you invest it rather than just keep it. And the growth is typically proportional to how quickly a society modernizes (this is why it is so nice to invest in emerging markets: they have a far easier time growing a lot than the already mature markets).

Quote:
It should affect what you choose to invest in though. If accelerating change is true, you'll be better off to steer clear of companies with large fixed assets as they're not depreciating hard enough, invest in companies conducting long term research (they'll be undervalued in the market due to investors assuming linear change), etc.

Yup. Of course, long term research is risky. You might not discover anything, or you might not make much money from the big discovery (case in point: Xerox, that among other things invented the ethernet, GUIs and many other big computer technologies, but never did anything with them since they thought they were a copier company). But a smart investor bets that the returns have a skew distribution: most are lost or minor, but one or two are the new Google.

So, where are the investors in EP throwing their money? I suspect one popular area is small companies doing cogno-tech, hoping they find something great and then get bought up by Cognite (a bit like pharma these days). Same thing for startups looking at gatecrasher finds. Security systems are likely also doing fine, given general paranoia and instability. Information and intelligence services have decent returns, whether they are standard outfits like Stellar Intelligence or information betting markets like ExTrade.

Mining is clearly an over-established sector that smart investors are getting out of, while nanotech has a tricky regulatory situation in the inner system and bad IP protection in the outer system. Habitat construction has likely peaked after the initial post-Fall rebuilding, but might still be doing well in Morningstar. The indenture market has also peaked, since the juiciest egos are already hired and now the second rate one's are relatively cheap. The reputation risks of being involved in AGI research or anything similar to the Lost are likely too big, unless you are a crazy Extropian.

Extropian