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Is the Terminator Coming? Reflections on Moore’s Law

Written by Gary North on September 15, 2014

Moore’s law: the number of transistors per square inch on a chip doubles every [??] months. The number of months gets shorter, decade by decade. The pace has accelerated since 1965, when Moore made his observation. It may be as low as 12 today.

The cost of information keeps dropping. It gets less, decade by decade. This has been continual since at least the U.S. census of 1890 — the first punch card census.

“When the price drops, more is demanded”: the law of demand. It is the foundation of economic science.

A constant rate of growth eventually produces an exponential curve. As I described in 1970, continuity produces discontinuity.

As I also argued in 1970, every exponential upward curve has always slowed, then stopped. It has become S-shaped. It runs out of resources. This is the law of diminishing returns. Economists have declared this for almost two centuries. But the West has had compound growth for over two centuries. The curve has not stopped. It has extended to the whole world, as free markets have extended through price competition. Liberty is getting less expensive. More of it is demanded. Price competition works. This is a very good thing.

Then there is the one irreplaceable resource: time. Time is an arrow. It does not run backward. The second law of thermodynamics is a law. Things run down. They run out. Above all, time runs out. The world is running down.

This raises the ultimate question of our era: Is Moore’s law really a law, or is it an observation of a temporary phenomenon? Moore thinks it is the latter.

Some observers don’t.


Reason published a favorable review of Nick Bostrom’s book, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. It was published by Oxford University Press.

Should humanity sanction the creation of intelligent machines? That’s the pressing issue at the heart of the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom’s fascinating new book, Superintelligence. Bostrom cogently argues that the prospect of superintelligent machines is “the most important and most daunting challenge humanity has ever faced.” If we fail to meet this challenge, he concludes, malevolent or indifferent artificial intelligence (AI) will likely destroy us all.

(For the rest of my article, click the link.)

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10 thoughts on “Is the Terminator Coming? Reflections on Moore’s Law

  1. Unless we can hardwire compassion into machines, we would create a legion of those with great power and no compassion… a legion of uberman/Hitlers.

    Even beyond that, since we have a predilection to threaten ourselves with self-destruction and by expansion our creations, it would be in the self-interest of even the compassionate, intelligent machine to doff his “owner”.

    So, yes, if we are stupid enough to answer the knock at the door, the T-series is going to enter… an even larger danger is that he may knock the door down if we allow him to enter the neighborhood.

  2. Three questions?

    What is a molecule made of?

    What is eternal life?

    Who made God?

  3. Assuming super intelligence is possible in a machine. For it to be malevolent it would also see a future gaining its own system going against humanity's? As pleasure, what would push it in a direction where it has nothing to gain. The needs of power and maintenance would be paramount. It seems to me an off switch is all it would take to negate any nefarious actions.

  4. Superintelligence would not be required. Simple intelligence coupled with a desire for self-preservation is all that is required. Simple intelligence could make a decision to ignore input from an infrared receptor or an “off” switch. You have to remember that many “off” switches are not hard off switches any longer. What if it has learned to zap you when you try to unplug it? If you don’t have James Tiberius Kirk around to fight your ultimate computer for you, you better watch out!

  5. Liberty is getting less expensive? So that's why it's less valued?

  6. Exactly ! ! !

  7. Gregory Wayne says:

    Mr. North, a believing man, I presume, has failed to recognize the 2000 year old prophecy of man and machine coming together in the image of the beast. This super intelligent image was given the power to talk. And the people, overcome by a divine delusion, marveled at it and worshiped it. This is not science fiction. It is a fact that will take place.

  8. The question, though, is machine define? Does it mean, literally, a purely mechanical machine constructed of manufactured parts? Does it mean a figurative machine, such as the war machine that cost us a trillion plus dollars over any two of the recent years? Does it mean a man or a computer? Is the exact meaning left open to speculation?

  9. “The question, though, is how is machine defined?” is what the first sentence should have been.