Theodore Modis, Growth Dynamics
There Will Be No Singularity
Many arguments can be made against the possibility of a Singularity around mid-21st century and I make them in my critique of Kurzweil's book (Modis 2006) and more extensively in a dedicated chapter in the upcoming Springer-commissioned volume. But let me present here the simplest and most fundamental one.
Every exponential curve that represents a real growth process constitutes part of some logistic curve (S-curve). The "knee" of an exponential curve defined as "the stage at which the pattern begins to appear explosive" is bound between an upper and a lower limit. The upper limit is around 13% penetration toward the S-curve’s ceiling because at that point the S-curve and the corresponding exponential differ by 15% which is difficult to overlook.
The lower limit is around 10% and can be established by Infant mortality and common sense. Any natural-growth process that has achieved less than 10% of its final growth potential cannot have a very serious impact on society. In fact 10% growth is usually taken as the limit for infant mortality. A tree seedling of height less than 10% of the tree's final size is vulnerable to rabbits and other herbivores or simply to be stepped on by a bigger animal. (Of course, from the point of view of a cell embedded in one of the seedling's roots, the size of a few centimeters may seem unimaginably large, but this is really an inappropriate if not a distorted point of view - which may be the case with the point of view of the Singularitarians anyway).
In summary then, any trend that may appear exponential and approaching a "knee" today has a remaining growth potential of a factor between 7 and 10 on the size already achieved, and I cannot think of any growth process today that warrants particular concern in view of such remaining growth potential.
I am aware that this reasoning may sound simplistic, particularly in view of the fact that S-curves cascade and a new one may pick up where the old one leaves off, a phenomenon that I have studied and understand fairly well (see for example Modis 1994). But cascading S-curves involve slow-growth periods in between. During these lulls "things" regroup and reorganize themselves most often - and best - in the absence of conscious human intervention.
In any case, we will not see runaway exponential trends up to the mid-21st century.
- T. Modis (1994), "Fractal Aspects of Natural Growth", Technological Forecasting and Social Change 47: 63-73.
- T. Modis (2006), "Critique of the Singularity Thesis", in: Ayres, R.U., "Book review: Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology", Technological Forecasting and Social Change 73(2): 104-112.