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Comment author: taw 29 September 2012 10:08:52AM 0 points [-]

Your argument depends on choosing what's "central" or "archetypal" example, and that's completely arbitrary, since this doesn't seem to mean "most common" or anything else objective.

It really falls apart on that.

Comment author: johnlawrenceaspden 03 September 2012 03:27:56PM *  0 points [-]

Hmm, apparently 'behavioural modernity', 'most recent common ancestor' and 'out of Africa' are all around 50 000 years ago.

Until about 10 000 years ago a great deal of the world was under thick ice sheets, and probably a lot of the rest was cold, so there probably weren't that many humans alive.

If you give each living person a tiny chance of 'inventing agriculture', then "multiple recent inventions thousands of years apart" sounds about right to me.

I realize that that's a completely implausible model, but I'm not sure why a more realistic one would make it 'too ridiculous to be a coincidence', and if you require plant evolution as part of the scheme, that will push the expected dates later.

Comment author: taw 04 September 2012 01:47:16AM 1 point [-]

Some counterpoints:

  • "Behavioural modernity" is a hypothesis which is very far from being universally accepted. Many features supposedly of behavioural modernity have some reasonable evidence of existence far earlier.
  • Any hypothesis linking behavioral modernity with language (the only plausible common cause) is on extremely shaky grounds since as far as we know Neanderthals had language just as well, and that pushes language to nearly 1mya.
  • Behavioural modernity without common cause like language, and without any definite characteristics that weren't present earlier in some form is far less plausible, and pretty much falls apart.

  • Migration out of Africa is dated at anywhere between 125kya and 60kya, not 50kya.

  • Even starting count at 60kya, agriculture being invested 10kya multiple times independently is still extremely surprising.

  • Even disregarding admixtures with Neanderthals, Denisovans etc. most recent common ancestor is more like 140kya-200kya by mitochondrial and Y chromosome dating. Dating anything here is very dubious, so you can find a number that fits your hypothesis whatever your hypothesis might be.

  • At each point of history vast majority of humans lived in places very far from those covered by ice, or particularly cold. Agriculture was invented only in places far from ice. These are still climatic effects like rainfall that depend on glaciations, but these are much more tenuous links.

  • Modern attempts at domesticating plants and animals show it takes a few decades, not tens of thousands of years. Now these are done with benefit of modern science and technology, but still it doesn't imply tens of thousands of years.

  • Agriculture developed in some places very soon after human settlement, like maize and potato agriculture, so that's another argument against requiring thousands of years of plant evolution.
  • If it took plants and animals tens of thousands of years on average, then surely there would be a huge spread in time of domestication. Instead we have an extremely quick succession of domestication events even more ridiculous than the original coincidence (since now number of events is not 7+, it's 100+).
Comment author: TheOtherDave 31 August 2012 01:50:31PM 1 point [-]

Backing up a step from this, actually... how confident are we of the "no contact with each other" condition?

Speaking from near-complete ignorance, I can easily imagine how a level of contact sufficiently robust to support "hey, those guys over there are doing this nifty thing where they plant their own food, maybe we could try that!" once or twice a decade would be insufficient to otherwise leave a record (e.g., no commerce, no regular communication, no shared language, etc.), but there might exist plausible arguments for eliminating that possibility.

Comment author: taw 01 September 2012 09:42:56AM 0 points [-]

Well, we know pretty well that even when societies were in very close contact, they rarely adopted each other's technology if it wasn't already similar to what they've been doing.

See this for example:

Agriculture probably initially expanded because farmers pressed north through the continent, not because hunter-gatherers adopted the practice on their own, Scandinavian scientists say.

If in this close contact scenario agriculture didn't spread, it's a huge stretch to expect very low level contact to make it happen.

Comment author: DaFranker 30 August 2012 08:33:41PM 4 points [-]

This really doesn't have a good explanation, it's too ridiculous to be a coincidence, and there's nothing remotely like a plausible common cause.

Odd. Last I checked there were a dozen or two prominent theories on this, and at least twice as many hypotheses in general as for why we would observe this. Most of these I find plausible, and rather adequate considering the amount of information we have.

One of my favorites is that long before this happened, some individuals learned how to do it, but could not transfer a sufficient portion of this knowledge to others, until selection effects made these individuals more frequent and improvements in communication crossed a threshold where it suddenly wasn't so prohibitively expensive anymore to teach others how to plant seeds and make sure they grew into harvestable plants. Once evolution had done its job and most ancestors were now capable of transmitting enough knowledge between eachother to learn basic agriculture, it seems almost inevitable that over several dozen generations, for any select tribe, there will be at least one individual that stumbles upon this knowledge and eventually teaches it to the rest of the tribe.

Naturally, testing these hypotheses isn't exactly easy, so one could reasonably claim that there is no "good" explanation here. However, I wouldn't go cry "Amazing Anthropomorphic Coincidence That Trumps Great Filter!" at all either, as you say, and I'm not quite sure where you were going with this other than "oooh, shiny unanswered question!", if anywhere.

Comment author: taw 31 August 2012 10:38:55AM 0 points [-]

All theories of emergence of agriculture I'm aware of pretend it happened just once, which is totally wrong.

Is these any even vaguely plausible theory explaining how different populations, in very different climates, with pretty much no contact with each other, didn't develop anything like agriculture for very long time, and then in happened multiple times nearly simultaneously?

Any explanation involving "selection effects" is wrong, since these populations were not in any kind of significant genetic contact with each other for a very long time before that happened (and such explanations for culture are pretty much always wrong as a rule - it's second coming of "scientific racism").

Comment author: Stuart_Armstrong 30 August 2012 08:11:11PM 4 points [-]

Interesting! That certainly reinforces Robin's model. Do you have source for that?

Comment author: taw 31 August 2012 10:28:27AM 0 points [-]

How does that reinforce Robin's model? It goes against it if anything. Imagine if humans, dolphins, bats, bears, and penguins nearly simultaneously developed language on separate continents. It would be a major unexplained WTF.

You can start here, but Wikipedia has pretty bad coverage of that.

Comment author: endoself 30 August 2012 08:57:08PM 18 points [-]

There's a very plausible common cause. Humans likely developed the traits that allowed them to easily invent agriculture during the last glacial period. The glacial period ended 10 000 years ago, so that's when the climate became amenable to agriculture.

Comment author: taw 31 August 2012 10:22:48AM 0 points [-]

Agriculture developed very far from regions most affected by glaciation, and in very diverse climates, so any climatic common cause is pretty dubious.

Comment author: taw 30 August 2012 06:54:29PM 11 points [-]

It seems rather easy to mess with the inputs T. Weather conditions or continental drifts could confine pre-agricultural humans to hunting essentially indefinitely

This is sort of amazing, but after a couple million years of hunting and gathering humans developed agriculture independently within a few thousand years in multiple locations (the count is at least 7, possibly more).

This really doesn't have a good explanation, it's too ridiculous to be a coincidence, and there's nothing remotely like a plausible common cause.

Comment author: taw 14 August 2012 08:03:32PM 2 points [-]

But in a field like AI prediction, where experts lack feed back for their pronouncements, we should expect them to perform poorly, and for biases to dominate their thinking.

And that's pretty much the key sentence.

There is little difference between experts and non-experts.

Except there's no such thing as AGI expert.

Wellcome Collection in London has exhibition on human augmentation

3 taw 03 August 2012 08:02AM

If you live in London, it might be of some interest to you.

Comment author: satt 18 July 2012 10:38:42PM *  5 points [-]

I kind of agree. I ticked off the predictions in my own head before scrolling down to see everyone else's assessment, and here's what I decided. (I didn't consult Google or look things up, so take this with a pinch of AFAIK.)

  • 5: false. Wired mice, displays, and printers remain common, more common than their wireless equivalents in my experience. In absolute terms there are surely more wired computer components out there than in 1999.

  • 7: false. Even if the technology exists, I'm almost certain more text is still created by typing than CSR. And CSR is still less accurate than (sufficiently careful) human transcription; I vaguely remember Google recently beating Siri on this count.

  • 8: false. Even if one counts these LUIs as ubiquitous, they aren't frequently combined with animated personalities, and interacting with Siri et al. isn't much like talking to a person through video conferencing. I can't recall using LUIs or anything like them for simple business transactions (when I call businesses on the phone, for instance, it's usually a human, a recording, or a press-one-for-this-press-two-for-that menu that answers). Worse, calling my local cinema and navigating their non-CSR LUI shows that even when recognising simple phrases (like my town's name or a film's name) from a circumscribed list of possibilities some LUIs remain unresponsive and imprecise.

  • 18: weakly true. Computers aren't used in every classroom lesson and they're not in every classroom, but they're in almost every school and kids routinely use them for writing essays, learning through educational games, and doing research. Nowadays, they probably do learn more from school computers than home computers.

  • 20: false. Students now typically have a computer of their own but they aren't all smartphones. Those who do interact with smartphones don't mainly rely on styluses or speech and most of the text they enter is done with a keyboard (whether real or displayed virtually on-screen).

  • 26: false? The second sentence is true (as SA writes, screen readers confirm this prediction). However, I'm not aware of cheap, real-world, real-time, handheld OCR that reliably & automatically processes text on signs & displays (although I'm open to correction).

  • 29: true enough. I was going to call this false but that's just down to my own ignorance because I didn't know these systems existed. SA's NYT link shows they do.

  • 44: false. Intelligent roads, as far as I know, basically don't exist (at least not in a novel form that didn't exist in the '90s).

  • 48: false. I'd call the first sentence true. The second is probably false and the third is surely false, given the impact of the Great Recession. For unskilled people the economy was surely worse on average in 2009 & 2011 than it was in 1999.

  • 53: false. I generously interpreted "virtual experience software" as computer games in general. These do let users "experience fantasy environments with no counterpart in the physical world", but chances are there still isn't a game out there where you can have virtual sex with your favourite actor. Moreover, the fact that few games are virtual reality games suggests that the visual and auditory experience of VR remains uncompelling.

So I'd give Kurzweil 10-20% here, not 50+%. I think the main reason is that SA was prepared to give Kurzweil a "weakly true" if most of a prediction was solid, whereas I required every part of a prediction to be basically right. If I broke the predictions down into individual sentences and scored those sentences one by one, Kurzweil would score higher.

Comment author: taw 19 July 2012 02:13:41PM 1 point [-]

This is far more sensible judgement of Kurzweil's prediction than OP's.

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