It’s not really “fair”, but history generally consists of people getting better and better weapons, and whoever has the best weapons and the best armies makes the rules. The number of historical examples of this phenomenon are practically unlimited. The reason America is respected and feared today is because of our military capabilities, particularly nuclear weapons. Complain if you want, this is reality.
I am excited by the possibility that the 200,000 year arms race will finally come to an end by a singleton. It had to end sometime. Personally, it will be a relief, if we survive. While many people can happily enjoy their lives on a daily basis, just focusing on their tiny sphere, myself and others are cursed with concerns about the overall trajectory of humanity and human conflict. My relationship with Murphy’s law is so close that I would hardly be surprised to hear the detonation of nuclear weapons in the distance, practically anytime or anywhere.
Nuclear weapons, of course, are toys in comparison to the products of MNT, or worse yet, true superintelligence. MNT could enable the creation of “fingers of god”, large satellites that condense sunlight to deliver terrific beams to the surface. A square mile of space-based solar panels, properly utilized, would provide enough energy to set entire districts alight. Anti-satellite missiles could be quickly detected by their thermal signature and neutralized long before reaching the target.
In comparison to the weapons of the future, nuclear weaponry is quite mundane, which makes living in 2011 less distressing than living in the future. However, there’s plenty to look forward to. The world’s most sophisticated militaries are aggressively pursuing AI technology for robotic warfighters. The problem with mindless AI soldiers is that it decouples the delivery of force from the ostensible wisdom and benevolence of human actors. This is the problem with nukes as well — for all of Reagan’s faults, at least he was terrified of nuclear war, and would have done anything he could to avoid one. One can only hope Obama would have the same attitude. Bush Sr. probably would have as well, but who knows? Eventually there will be a President that won’t hesitate to press the button. I have sympathy for Robin Hanson’s position that he votes for Presidents entirely based on their propensity to initiate wars or not. Everything else is truly secondary.
It might be overly masculine of me, but I see the Singularity as the final chapter in this ongoing and stressful arms race called human history. A recursively self-improving AI is the way of securing the highest power available in this time and place, and directing it towards constructive ends. Once we press the big red button, that’s that. It won’t matter so much who did it, as the effects that flow from that cause. It’s easy to imagine AI or human goals drifting under self-improvement to the point where the singleton doesn’t really care whether we’re around or not, and starts sucking up all the air or free energy for its own purposes. After all, our planet is tiny. Truly bite-size from the perspective of a self-improving superintelligence, it could be consumed in a matter of days.
Transhumanism itself is secondary to this event. In retrospect, no one will care so much about cyborgs. They will care about recursively self-improving superintelligence undergoing a hard takeoff. Cyborgs, implants, gene therapy, life extension, seasteading, the Internet — these are toys. Superintelligence is what really matters. I’m truly happy that more people are beginning to understand that.