Comment of the Day: GMcKCypress: Reading: Robert Gordon (2014): The Demise of U.S. Economic Growth: Restatement, Rebuttal, and Reflections: "If you're looking for a sound-bite definition of 'singularity'...

...I think the definition of a weak singularity as "a structural change that makes the future profoundly unpredictable given the past" is quite reasonable. The Kurzweil/Vinge strong singularity is more religious than scientific.

Apologies if I've said this here before: In 2014 Cosma Shalizi listed some evidence that the Industrial Revolution qualifies as a technological singularity. Shalizi has a very good list of criteria that should be satisfied in order for a singularity to be recognized. As someone who did research in cell biology and in social sciences at different times long ago, I think there are a lot more in the history of life on the planet. Here's a list of past (and 1.666 future) candidates -- most of Shalizi's criteria are met by each one. Note that when I say "discovery" I mean discovery by "selfish genes" or "memes" that spontaneously replicate and are naturally selected for, not by individuals.

  1. The sequestration of molecular replication in membrane-bounded cells
  2. The switch from storage of genetic information in RNA sequences to its storage in DNA sequences.
  3. The discovery of photosynthesis by the ancestors of cyanobacteria.
  4. The discovery of the rules for cellular differentiation, adhesion, and migration that led to multicellular organisms
  5. The discovery of backwards development by deuterostomes that led to internal skeletons rather than exoskeletons Not saying that arthropods are bad, just that endoskeletons are better at growing big. Deuterostome development certainly leads to other severe problems.
  6. [not saying anything about all the mass extinctions that led to mammalian domination of land animal life]
  7. The discovery of learning by imitation rather than individual trial and error
  8. The invention of controlled fire
  9. The discovery of information storage and retrieval from conspecifics by means of reverence for tribal elders, e.g. "old wives' tales"
  10. The discovery and institutionalization of marketplaces
  11. The invention of writing
  12. The first industrial revolution
  13. The second industrial revolution of information technology, robotics & biotechnology
  14. The third technological revolution of controlled ecological engineering

Humanity is involved in the most recent 8 singularities, Gordon seems to be interested only in industrial/technological revolutions. Robotics & longevity don't do happy things to median income when most people have minimal net worth to invest in compound-interest-yielding capital.