The End of the Beginning: Life, Society and Economy on the Brink of the Singularity (Call for Book Chapters)

The End of the Beginning:

Life, Society and Economy on the Brink of the Singularity

Edited by Ben Goertzel and Ted Goertzel

Call for Book Chapters

Chapter proposals solicited
If you would like to write a chapter for the book, please submit a title, 100-word author bio,
and extended abstract (300-800 words) to tedgoertzel at gmail dot com
Chapters will be 3000-6000 words in length

Abstract submission deadline is Feb 15, 2013

(scroll to the end of the page for details on the  Abstract and Chapter Submission Process)

Feel free to email with questions if you have a potential chapter topic
and are not sure if it’s appropriate,
or would like feedback on the particulars of your potential chapter.

Theme of the Book (in brief)

Suppose a technological Singularity is coming — how is the path there going to unfold, in the context of practical human life?  In this book, we’re not centrally interested in ideas about the post-Singularity world, nor about the particulars of advanced technologies — but more about how society and technology will likely be changing/evolving as technology accelerates and the path to Singularity unfolds.

Theme of the Book (in more depth)

We are living on the brink of the Singularity — the brink of a time when machines will be more intelligent than humans and life will be dramatically different. But no one knows for sure when, or even if, we will cross the threshold from anticipating the Singularity to actually experiencing it. It seems likely that elements of human-level or superhuman artificial general intelligence will emerge gradually and unevenly over a period of years, rather than appearing full blown in one dramatic event.

For the next few decades we will live with the knowledge that a technological Singularity, while far from certain, is a viable possibility. We will live with the knowledge that we and our children may not die through aging and that, after the Singularity, human life may be extended to hundreds, thousands or millions of years. We will live with the possibility that humans may fuse with machines into various forms of cyborgs and that new forms of intelligence, experience and matter may be created. We will live with knowledge of the potential for abolishing scarcity via nanotechnology and femtotechnology, technologies to manipulate atoms and particles as freely as a child manipulates Lego blocks. And we must live with knowledge that the persistance of human life in anything like its current form is an open question.

Considered as potential aspects of a distant future, these possibilities are fascinating speculations, but as the Singularity gets closer, we will have to go from speculating about them to preparing for them and adapting to them. This book will examine socioeconomic life on the path to the singularity. What will happen to human societies and economies as computers get smarter and smarter, nanotechnology gets more and more flexible, brain-computer interfacing gets more and more pervasive? How can we shape these developments to minimize harm and maximize human welfare?

Our current sociological and economic theories were formulated by studying patterns in the past – but the future, if the Singularity hypothesis is even remotely close to correct, is going to be very different. So these theories cannot be considered reliable guides, though they may provide insight and inspiration.

Numerous major issues loom here. Will advanced technologies be reserved for the few, or will they be shared with the many? Will automation lead to mass unemployment? – and if so, who if anyone will support the unemployed? To what extent will increasingly advanced surveillance technology be deployed to create Big Brother scenarios? Or will we have a “sousveillance” scenario where everyone watches everyone; what David Brin has called a “transparent society?”

Will more carefully engineered drugs leave a large percentage of the population uselessly blissed out for most of their lives? What percentage of the population will take life extension pills once they’re available? Will religious belief dwindle as the power and insight of science become more and more evident and dominant in everyday life, or will it morph into something new yet still powerful? Will there be, as Hugo de Garis has foreseen, a violent struggle between those advocating and opposing the advent of intelligent robots and other advanced technologies?

Nobody can answer these questions in advance – but we can think about them creatively and carefully, in ways that may help us grapple with them as this amazing century unfolds.  Carefully examining these issues is essential even if the Singularity hypothesis itself proves false; because even in the absence of a Singularity, it’s very likely some of the radical technologies Singularitarians foresee will emerge, and wreak transformative impacts.

The book will be an edited volume with chapters contributed by both leading, and up-and-coming futurist thinkers. The book will be aimed at the general reader with sufficient education to understand intellectual concepts and arguments, but no specialized knowledge of sociology, economics or advanced technologies. It should be accessible, for instance, to the average reader of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal.

The intended length of the volume is 60-80,000 words.

Each chapter should focus on some aspect of the path to the Singularity, and creatively explore the social and/or economic implications of this aspect. The chapters should focus on anticipated or possible future developments, not on a review of past trends or current realities, although these may serve as the background to the core discussion.

We are open to chapters on a wide variety of topics; the following list is very partial and intended merely as evocative:

  • Socieconomic Implications of Life Extension
  • Economic Impact of Self-Driving Cars
  • Socioeconomic Implications of Advanced AI
  • The Advent of Surveillance and Sousveillance
  • Socioeconomic Implications of Molecular Manufacturing
  • Socioeconomic Implications of Brain-Computer Interfacing
  • Educational requirements and possibilities in a world of exponentially advancing
    technologies
  • What can spirituality and religion contribute to living on the brink of the
    Singularity?
  • Vulnerability to sabotage and terrorism in a society dependent on exponentially
    developing technology
  • Minimizing Risks in Developing Exponential Technologies

A key point is: We are not centrally interested in chapters focusing on the socioeconomic implications of extremely mature and powerful forms of various Singularity-relevant technologies. We are more interested in chapters exploring the possible gradual impacts on society and economy as these technologies unfold. For instance, to choose just a few illustrative examples:

  • What would it mean (socially and/or economically) if in 2020 the maximum human
    lifespan were extended by 10 years, then in 2030 it were extended by 20 years, etc.?
  • What would it mean (socially and/or economically) if, each year from 2020 onward, an additional 5% of “blue collar” jobs were eliminated by increasingly intelligent robots and other automated systems
  • What would it mean (socially and/or economically) if, each year, the government could observe a little more of our everyday lives, and actually had the intelligent data mining technology to analyze this data in an actionable way?

It is not currently possible to analyze such things in a precise way. but bringing together all the intellectual tools at our disposal, it should be possible to rationally flesh out some of the likelier social and economic trends and scenarios to result from a technological path leading toward some sort of Singularity.

In our view, it is this is the kind of practical extrapolation regarding the possible paths to Singularity and their socioeconomic implications that is needed to connect the perspectives of current techno-futurist visionaries, with the perspectives of the individuals setting and guiding social and economic policy today.

Abstract and Chapter Submission Process

Chapters will be 3-6000 words in length. At this stage, we are soliciting chapter proposals, in the form of extended abstracts. If you would like to write a chapter for the book, please submit

  • title
  • 100-word author bio,
  • extended abstract (300-800 words)

to tedgoertzel at gmail dot com. Relevant deadlines are:

  • Feb 15, 2013: Abstract submission deadline
  • March 15, 2013: Approval decisions regarding abstracts will be emailed to authors
  • July 15, 2013: Full chapters due, corresponding to accepted abstracts
  • Sep 15, 2013: Reviews of full chapters will be emailed to authors
  • Oct 15, 2013: Revised chapters, incorporating reviewer comments, due

Feel free to email with questions if you have a potential chapter topic and are not sure if it’s appropriate, or would like feedback on the particulars of your potential chapter.

Acceptance of an abstract does not guarantee acceptance of the corresponding chapter, only that the editors are strongly interested in having the author submit a chapter on the theme of the abstract. All chapter submissions will be peer reviewed, to ensure a high level of quality for the book.

About the Editors

Ted Goertzel has taught courses on Cyberspace and Society at Rutgers University for several years, including a course on Singularity Studies co-taught with Ben Goertzel. He is the author of several biographical and sociological books, and articles in scholarly and popular journals. His CV can found at: http://crab.rutgers.edu/~goertzel/vita.html.

Ben Goertzel (http://goertzel.org) has authored 9 books, primarily scientific monographs but including 2 popular science books: Linus Pauling: A Life in Science and Politics (1993; a biography), and The Path to Posthumanity (2005). He has also edited 4 collections of scientific papers in artificial intelligence and psychology, more than 100 scientific papers, and dozens of journalistic articles.

Holding a PhD in mathematics from Temple University, Goertzel is CEO of AI software company Novamente LLC and bioinformatics company Biomind LLC; leader of the open-source OpenCog Artificial General Intelligence software project; Chairman of the futurist nonprofit organization Humanity+; Chief Technology Officer of biopharma firm Genescient Corp.; Advisor to the Singularity University and Singularity Institute; Research Professor in the Fujian Key Lab for Brain-Like Intelligent Systems at Xiamen University, China; and general Chair of the Artificial General Intelligence conference series. His research work encompasses artificial general intelligence, natural language processing, cognitive science, data mining, machine learning, computational finance, bioinformatics, virtual worlds and gaming and other areas. Before entering the software industry he served as a university faculty in several departments of mathematics, computer science and cognitive science, in the US, Australia and New Zealand.

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    […] Call for Chapters is here.  If you would like to submit a chapter for the book, please read the instructions […]

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