Egan’s argument against the Singularity

In his novella “Riding the Crocodile”, which forms the background for his next novel, Incandescence (May 2008), Greg Egan puts forth one very interesting — and plausible — argument against the Singularity:

Historians had always understood that in the long run, technological progress was a horizontal asymptote: once people had more or less everything they wanted that was physically possible, every incremental change would take exponentially longer to achieve, with diminishing returns and ever less reason to bother. The Amalgam would probably spend an eon inching its way closer to the flatline, but this was proof that shifts of circumstance alone could still trigger a modest renaissance or two, without the need for any radical scientific discovery or even a genuinely new technology.

Read the story!


More on Games Unboxed

I didn’t mention in my initial post about my new project, Games Unboxed (with Clark Rodeffer), that the book will be released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license, or something close to it. This means that we’ll probably have a website where you can read the rules to the games for free, and a printable PDF of the entire book that you can obtain from the website, as well as download from the usual places like BoardGameGeek and email to your friends. Even if you don’t want to print the entire book, you might want to print individual games from it, reference cards, player aids, printable boards, and so on. We’ll make those available individually as well as within the PDF.

We haven’t got a publisher yet. What if they don’t like this idea?

Sucks to ’em. Liberating our content is non-negotiable. We’ll shop the manuscript around until we find someone who will publish it. But I don’t think we’ll have much trouble. My last book, Mind Performance Hacks, has sold around 30,000 copies since February 2006, and is currently hovering around Amazon sales rank 5000 (anything above 10,000 is great) — yet it’s “pirated” like mad all over the world. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t get a Google Alert or two notifying me it’s been uploaded illegally to another site. In study after study, “piracy” has been shown to help sales.

I’ve printed many an ebook, free and otherwise, and in almost every case, I’d rather have a nice, official, bound copy than my crappy laser-printed one, crappily spiral-bound by some barely sapient Kinko’s employee working for crap wages. But if you want the PDF, you shall have it, and all permutations thereof.

Because we love you.

My little clown car

If I had $10K to blow, I would patent the alphabet.

Given the astounding shite that’s already been patented in the US, it’d be easy. First, I’d call it Novel method of representing multiple phonemes with individual graphemes, then I’d dazzle the examiner with claims about how the entire “graphemic system” could itself be used with multiple “morphemic systems” (languages). The technical illustrations wouldn’t show the Roman alphabet, but a completely different set of symbols with a one-to-one correspondence to it. Maybe I’d omit the ones corresponding to the letters J, U, and W — they weren’t originally used, and 26 symbols are much more of a tip-off than 23, even to some of the addlepates in the USPTO.

Once my patent came through, oh, wouldn’t you love to see all the reporters pouring out of the little clown car in my media circus?

What do you say? Anyone have ten grand they want to dedicate to the cause of mayhem in the soi-disant field of intellectual property? Let’s have some fun.

p.s. Next up: my plans to obtain the Presidential Medal of Freedom.