Regulation, Government, "The Singularity is Near"

I didn't touch on Kurzweil's views on the interactions between overbearing government, regulation, economics and the rate of technological progress - in medicine and elsewhere - in my last post on "The Singularity is Near" (TSiN). They are a challenge for libertarians, even pragmatic libertarians such as myself: Kurzweil says that past evidence of exponential growth in technological capabilities over a period with "extensive regulation in place" is sufficent evidence to suppose that "short of a worldwide totalitarian state, the economic and other forces underlying technical progress will only grow with ongoing advances."

I'm not sold on this idea of economic incentives and the technological imperative as a gel-like mix in a packet - squeeze them down with economic damage, poor governance or regulation (which are all much the same thing) in one part of the world, and off they flow to the regions of least pressure to do their work there. To my eyes, this world doesn't have a constant amount of freedom, nor a constant amount of incentive and imperative - the freedom to research and enact progress is something we must fight for, not take for granted.

Despite exhortations here and there, there is a curious kind of passivity underlying the discussions in TSiN. This is the most dangerous form of futurism, the one that takes the future as a forgone conclusion to be prepared for, rather than something that must be worked on, nurtured and built.

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Take a look at what is happening in the areas of fetal stem cell research in other countries that do not have the regulations that the US has in place (N. Korea, Singapore). This is the kind of interaction you will have that will cause economic incentives for the US to remove the regulations. There will always be some country that does not have limiting regulations where the science can go, and once it is there, it will sprout up all over, like a weed in a sidewalk.

Posted by: David Canning at September 26th, 2005 8:12 AM

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