« ATOM Award of the Month, October 2017 | Main | Recent TV Appearances »



I agree completely, it seems increasingly unlikely there is other intelligent life in our galaxy. Other galaxies are a different story.

There are some truly fascinating insights coming out of the world of geology lately that you should be aware of, and support some of this. Geologically speaking, we have found evidence of microbes on the earth 400 million years after formation. It is likely they were present even sooner than that - fossil preserving rocks of that age are quite rare, and the first stirrings of life were likely unrecorded. NIH geneticist Alexei Sharov and theoretical biologist Richard Gordon decided to look at DNA as information, and chart the fossil record (when a plant or animal appeared against the amount of information encoded into its DNA). Interesting the complexity of DNA seems to follow Moore's law, with complexity doubling every 376 million years.

Extrapolating back to complexity = zero life originated around 9.7 +/- 2.5 billion years. That is before the solar system existed. Heck, the entire galaxy is just 12 billion years old.

This is our life, here on earth. It seems likely that it originated just about the time the galaxy formed. And it has taken billions of uninterrupted years to evolve to us.

Ergo, given the massive time scales, and the fact our very DNA suggests an origin close to the start of the galaxy, it is likely we may well be the very first intelligent species in the galaxy. That is to say, since life started evolving almost immediately after formation of the galaxy, it is unlikely there is life much older than we are - our DNA proves it. Assuming the doubling rate for DNA complexity is the same on all planets, intelligent life is likely only just beginning to appear anywhere at all in the universe

So this theory, which depends on life taking a very loooong time to increase in complexity, predicts that intelligent life will be very rare, perhaps unique at this point in the history of the universe. Again, the longer something takes, the more opportunities there are for something to intervene and prevent it from going forward. The great sieve.

Which ties in nicely with astronomical observations - we are not seeing other intelligent life because there is a very high likelihood we are the first, if not only, intelligent life to have evolved.

In millions of years there may be more planets with intelligent life, but for now, we might be it.

Anyway, when theories from multiple lines of evidence start to converge on the same answer - we are alone - that is when I start to take notice. Geology, DNA, information theory, and extrasolar planet observations appear to be in alignment.


One last line of evidence - the panspermic theory strongly suggests that the entire solar system was doused with microbes. Every planet, moon, comet, etc. On only one, Earth, did intelligent life evolve. Ergo, the conditions allowing for the stable accumulation of DNA complexity are quite rare in our solar system, and likely elsewhere in the galaxy. Again supporting the hypothesis that we are likely the first and only intelligent species.


Golly - three posts? Slow day at work!

Lastly, and I mean that, there is a finite number of planets to find, so I suspect that the doubling of planets found will end very soon. There are 260,000 stars within 250 light years of earth. Assuming they each have 4 findable planets, we might ultimately locate a million or so extraterrestrial planets. That is a lot of planets, but at some point, discovery will begin to slow down significantly. Our discovery rate will begin to look like an S curve.....

Kartik Gada


Which ties in nicely with astronomical observations - we are not seeing other intelligent life because there is a very high likelihood we are the first, if not only, intelligent life to have evolved.

Yes. I am coming to that conclusion as well, after 30 years of initially believing what Carl Sagan believed (and what Star Trek made millions of people assume to be true).

The accelerating rate of change greatly increases the chances of us being the first, and accounts for the Fermi Paradox very well. By 2030 the case can be made with a level of data that can be deemed sufficient. So the believers in E.T. have 13 more years to find something.

Remember that SETI@Home used a PtP network to generate enough computing power to run its program, but since 15 years of Moore's Law have elapsed since then (1000x), the same concept can conduct a far greater search, which means the lack of findings becomes ever-more telling.

Perhaps Intergalactic communication/detection is the real 'First Contact'.


Well there is the alternate theory - that our time as an intelligent species prior to the singularity is so short that the odds of two civilizations occupying the same galaxy at the same time are infinitesimally small.

Post singularity perhaps there is no point to radio. Alternate means of communication have been developed, or intelligent races turn inwards, and stop broadcasting. They never bother exploring space, because they decide it is pointless.

All that is tad ominous.

Kartik Gada


I would say that post-singularity, AI housed in small, microscopic bots and radiating outwards across space is probably the outcome. Maybe the microbes that got dusted all over our Solar System (and probably all others) were just the 'seeds' of the past such civilization.

Even if the window between radio signals and the singularity is just 150 years, there are still outward propagating shells that are 150 ly thick, and we might be in some shells of detectable signals right now. There still might be something to detect.

The jury is out until 2030. After that, if nothing is found, we can re-evaluate.


Thanks for the insights. This topic brings out another very related paradox which I find hard to explain.

The paradox is basically: "Why now? ", that is, why are we born now, just a mere millisecond in geological time past the point where life assumes some conscience?

Now, we don't have to be exact in what we consider the point of "conscience". Let's say, vaguely, that this "conscience" is what makes us uniquely human. That conscience does not seem to be much older than half a million years. That is less than 1/8000th of the total time life seems to have existed in the universe. And if we assume that conscience is even more recent then the coincidence becomes even more extreme.

So the obvious question arises: "Why where we born so soon after conscience?".

Careful! There is no point in asking why were we not born before conscience. A person born before conscience cannot even explore the paradox. The question is why aren't we born some reasonable time AFTER conscience? Why aren't we, for example, born a more reasonable mere 1% of time after conscience (compared to the total trajectory of life in the universe)?

To make an analogy, assume a story similar to Superman where an intelligent being is sent out to space in a random direction to escape a planet that is annihilating. And let's additionally assume that the capsule in which he's traveling in suspended animation cannot survive water landings. Our space traveler randomly falls on planet earth. If he falls in the water then he's destroyed and never wakes up. If he lands on dry land then he survives and resumes consciousness. Well, he does wake up and, by golly, finds himself right on the beach right at the edge between survival and destruction! He naturally asks: "What a coincidence!" The coincidence is not that he has not fallen in the ocean in which case he perishes and thus cannot even ponder the coincidence. The coincidence he's wondering about is: "How come I didn't wake up a little bit further inland?

Now, it could be that our appearance on earth right after the moment of conscience is indeed just all a coincidence. After all, very rare coincidences do happen. However, current standard scientific practice is to actively seek alternative explanations when faced with seemingly extreme coincidences.

Since you are pondering the trajectory of life in light of the ATOM, I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on this, if it is somehow related or explained through the ATOM, or our impending approach to the singularity is perhaps starting to reveal to us unimaginable things (like the ATOM is expected to do after all).

P.S. I'm not religious. At least in any conventional form.


Hi HB,

Why after conscience has emerged? because of the anthropic principle.

And why so close to that point?

Just look at it from the exponential point of view. The life has started at least for 3 B years. With exponential improvement we are already very close to the singularity. After the singularity you can think of everything else being stuck in the event horizon.

It does not mean that the time stops. It just means that either the humans will become quasi-immortal with close to zero birth rate or will be irrelevant. And there comes your narrow gap. The consciousness has emerged some 100K years ago. The human population had a few doublings in the last 200 years, so some 5-10% of the human beings ever born are alive now (depending on the estimates you can even go up to 50%). So your chance to be alive just before the singularity is about 5%.

Kartik Gada


Here is a useful chart on 'years lived' and GDP. Even if modern humans emerged 100,000 years ago, a huge portion of years lived is much more recent.


GDP even more so (the chart only goes up to 2010).


Hi Kartik,
ironically that graph shows 5%. The same number as our chance to be born and alive today.

Another interesting metric, which could be seen on the graph is that the economic output vs manyears lived grows with time.

Kartik Gada

Another interesting metric, which could be seen on the graph is that the economic output vs manyears lived grows with time.

Oh, it should, as per capita GDP is rising. If we excluded the very poorest people (who are neither getting most of the growth but also have the highest birthrates), this ratio would be growing even faster.


Fatcat, Kartik,

Thanks for the insights. The singularity does provide some resolution to the paradox, as I suspected. But it's a vague solution, as it perhaps ought to be, by definition, since it is virtually impossible to imagine what happens after the event horizon/singularity.

If I understand your explanation fatcat, you are essentially saying that: if the singularity represents the end of conventional conscience, then our only option of being born with conventional conscience is in the relatively narrow time band between conscience and singularity -- no matter how improbable.

The anthropogenic principle by itself explains only why it is pointless to ask "why was I not born before conscience", a question that, as I explain in my original post, is not part of the paradox. The "why so soon after" is the paradox.

Absent the singularity, the chart referred to by Kartik, I think reinforces the paradox. This is because the exponential nature of the number of years lived makes it more likely to be born in the future. Again, this is absent the singularity which throws an element of unknown with its event horizon.

So, in a way, the paradox ultimately supports the existence of the singularity.


Fatcat - you stole my answer! And HB, nice response - I think you are right - the paradox is explained by the singularity, and vice versa.

Actually one could also make a lottery analogy. Someone wins the lottery. But the odds of an individual player winning are infinitesimally small. The winner says "how did I get so lucky?" The rest of us look on and say "well, someone was bound to be, because there always was going to be a winner." The individual player looks at the odds of winning, the rest look at the odds of any winner existing, which are 100%. A trillion supermen launched at the earth, at least one was going to land on the beach.

It also changes your perspective when you realize this is not an Earth lottery - this is a solar system, and likely galaxy wide lottery, or even universe wide lottery. But someone was going to win. It was baked into the cake from the start. We can see it in biology, and the laws of physics.

That to me is the extraordinary revelation - that this is a lottery at all, that a winner was inevitable with enough tickets sold. If DNA complexity is following some form of Moore's law (which it appears to be), the universe, the dead matter of the universe, was destined to wake up. I can think of no outstanding non-metaphysical explanation for the universe to exist as a system by which information is accumulated and stored over billions of years (in defiance of natural entropy), or one where the complexity of the information stored accumulates at a set rate. It is truly one of the great, baffling mysteries of the universe. It appears to be created to evolve intelligence.

Not many notice how incredibly weird that is. There are numerous laws in the universe that seem to encourage the exact opposite - the destruction of disbursement of information over time. the laws of thermodynamics are firmly against intelligence. It shouldn't be possible. Yet...here we are. And we appear to be not incredible...but inevitable. knowing what we know now, the odds of intelligent life evolving somewhere in the universe was 100%.

I count myself extremely fortunate to be alive in this time and place. We all should be. We are among the very small percent of intelligent beings ever who will likely experience life both before and after the singularity.

sorry to ramble...

Kartik Gada


If DNA complexity is following some form of Moore's law (which it appears to be)

Oh, it absolutely is (or at least intelligence is). No matter what extinction event happens, the trendline of the intelligence of the most intelligent creature alive has always been an uninterrupted trendline upwards. The two big extinction events (Permian-Triassic and Cretaceous-Paleogene) that each killed 70-90% of all large creatures did nothing to interrupt the trendline. Nothing at all. In the first one, amphibians were superceded and crowded out by reptiles, and in the second one, reptiles by mammals. But the trendline of complexity of brain function never deviated.

It never stopped rising, and the subplot of ever-rising computational density and AI algorithms seems set to eventually supercede the biological trend in order to continue the megatrend.

We are among the very small percent of intelligent beings ever who will likely experience life both before and after the singularity.

Well, if you feel you can make it to 2060-65. In fact, being born after 2000 vs. before 1975 seems like a very binary division of fortunate/unfortunate. People in between will see very varying individual results.


Well, I'm in my early 50s, but my expectation is to live at least another 20 years. And in 20 years, I expect medical technology to advance so that I may live another 20 years beyond that. That gets me to the singularity quite handily, barring unfortunate accidents.

My children, however, were born to be immortal. I'm doing my best to raise them right.


What Kartik defined as economic singularity is accelerating and exponential economic growth that passes the tipping point of 50% per annum.
But it is so much more. It will mean countless more discoveries and points of view we(current us) cannot even comprehend.

One of those possible venues is anti-aging. It seems to be close enough to deliver some more hanging fruits and has already attracted financing (calico)

So far no marketable proven therapies, though. All of the discovered treatments are no better than a weekly fasting once a month (all kinds of calorie pathways that basically mimic some aspects of fasting)


Anyways, even countering the effects of overeating junk food can do wanders for the median population. So there seems to be some more hanging fruits.


We are closer than you might think. Drug trials are currently ongoing for a variety of anti-aging medications. Novartis’s is pursuing a study on Everolimus. Rapamycin is being tested as a life extender for dogs. Last year Unity Biotechnologies, a new biotech with plans to use drugs to eradicate aged cells, raised $127 million. That followed Google’s spinout in 2013 of the anti-aging company Calico, which has $1.5 billion to spend.

Past studies have found calorie-restrictive diets has helped extend the lifespans of mice. Elysium has found another way to boost this activity — through NAD (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide). Best of all it is considered a food supplement, so no medical testing required.

Anyway, there seems to be 4-5 pathways that look promising.

Kartik Gada

I believe that technology can extend average lifespan to 100, but I am not betting on beyond that. The reason being that if accelerating computational density and the eventual proliferation of intelligence into space are the goal, then AI is just far more effective for that than humans. Too few humans are furthering technology, and too many have behaviors that are directly opposed to advanced civilization. In other words, does the ATOM truly benefit from extreme human longevity? Or does Geoman's analogy of humans becoming like pet dogs relative to more advanced AI concerns manifest as the endgame (I think it does).

Add to that the fact that just 0.1% of those who cross 100 reach 110, indicating a much harder 'wall' to overcome. I will change my mind about this if/when I see a much larger number of people crossing 110.

Uploading a person's personality and memories into a cloud, that can take their old form in VR, however, is pretty easy. This is the most likely form of 'immortality via avatar'.

Coming back to space.


There are numerous laws in the universe that seem to encourage the exact opposite - the destruction of disbursement of information over time. the laws of thermodynamics are firmly against intelligence.

This is interesting. Pls elaborate further.


Since the maximum confirmed human lifespan is a tad over 120 there is nothing really outrageous to move the m median life-changing to 110.

Will that be desirable for the entries in power is quite a different question.

But if the scientific discoveries and medical technologies follow exponential path then the super intelligent overlords would apply a tiny budget to the remaining human population just reduce the maintenance associated with frail and sick pets.

But let's jump from that bridge when we reach life expectancy of 110


And on an unrelated topic the mainstream press now acknowledges looming job reduction in the banking industry due to automation:

I think that algo trading is worth a special ATOM monthly award.

After all, huge financial streams are controlled fully by automata to the extent that no human can react on time. A couple of years ago there was a market drop due to a bug and the stock exchanges had to close. Also Goldman Sax have laid off a few thousand traders . Anyway the automation of the stock exchanges and automated trading algorithms have large enough influence on the world economy to be worthy for the Award. I am not sure what is the GDP increase due the trading automation but for sure it increases the market efficiency and by extension eases raising capital for promising ventures.


"There are numerous laws in the universe that seem to encourage the exact opposite - the destruction and disbursement of information over time. The laws of thermodynamics are firmly against intelligence."

Simply put, the laws of thermodynamics state that energy can be neither created or destroyed, and also state that entropy always increases. Think of a hot cup of coffee. Over time the coffee cools. But it doesn't really cool - the heat is disbursed into the room, which warms slightly. The heat in the room is disbursed into the city, the city into the world, the world into the universe. The heat in that coffee is never destroyed, just made increasingly less concentrated and more disbursed. The energy is not destroyed, just disbursed.

Order becomes disorder. We call it entropy. Information = order.

Matter is a form of ordered energy. It too becomes more disbursed over time. Molecules should become simpler. They should encode less information. Therefore there is no reason in the universe for information to accumulate and grow, to become more concentrated over time. It should become more disbursed.

Living organisms obviously are highly ordered systems, far more ordered than non-living things. The naturalistic origin of life would require that disordered non-living things gave rise to ordered living things, which would amount to an increase in order and thus would appear to violate the second law of thermodynamics.

It is difficult to reconcile with evolution. If DNA has been accumulating and storing information for billions of years, if organisms are becoming increasingly complex, it appears to violate the second law of thermodynamics. Even worse, if we evolve super intelligence that spreads throughout the galaxy, that seems to be reaching the opposite end state that the laws of physics propose.

Now, we get around this by saying life is an open system, and steals order from somewhere else. In our case, the atoms in the sun are being converted to energy (becoming more disordered). Molecules here on earth harvest that energy to generate pockets of order. But...such pockets, by definition, should not be stable. They certainly should not be growing and spreading over billions of years.

Anyway, this is not meant to be metaphysical, just an observation of the paradox between intelligence, the singularity, and entropy. The singularity is even more remarkable in that context - it results in a massive increase in order.

Alex Wissner-Gross of Harvard is an interesting read. He has proposed something called "causal path entropy". I'm not sure I completely understand it, but he postulates that a single atom in a box will not wander randomly around the box, but will eventually assume a position in the exact center. Why the center? Because it is the best position to move elsewhere. He describes it as a rudimentary intelligence that is baked into the cake of the universe. Systems move toward configurations that maximized their ability to respond to further changes. To me this sounds a lot like evolution. This form of entropy, this property of the universe, explains the rise of intelligence in opposition to entropy. In fact he postulates it may be a side effect of entropy.

Anyway, it is all a bit too big for my head to contain. Other than this supports the concept of the universe being a lottery, with a guaranteed winner, and that the rise of intelligence, and the singularity, were inevitable.


I think this article explains it better than I did.


Geoman, as you say, life does not evolve in a closed system. Life decreases its entropy by increasing entropy even more somewhere else. There is thus massive (I mean truly massive) free energy to be harvested in the universe to feed the singularity. I think it is more likely than not that AI will surpass human intelligence before we have even consumed the free energy available on earth, let alone the sun, the galaxy etc. Now what happens after the singularity's event horizon is too indeterminate to ponder at this point.

In summary, I don't see a major impediment to the singularity from the laws of thermodynamics.

I disagree though with implications of a hard limit whereby human biological life cannot be extended past a century. That is because we have not yet found and thus have not been able to intervene in the fundamental biomolecular mechanism of aging itself. Once aging is stopped, or reversed in real time, then the life limit becomes indeterminate. Humans were made by nature as unable to fly -- until they did.

Referring to Kartik's comment, if I understood it correctly, the more likely scenario whereby the AI singularity arrives before we get to addressing the fundamental mechanisms of aging is a valid point. Actually, life (as in evolution) has already discovered the mechanism of aging, that is why life has created life forms from moths that live days to trees that live millennia. In other words, the mechanism is already known to life on earth. It's just that life has found it more efficient to renew individuals very frequently in order to create advantageous near eternal species -- until now though perhaps! Until the forefront of life intelligence (we humans) decides it is in its best interest to upend this process. In other words, biological shortness of life does not seem to be something fundamental, like the laws of thermodynamics, but rather an evolutional choice to create a more robust species overall through individual death and renewal. But we -- as humans approaching the singularity -- don't have to go for that.

I agree with Kartik that the quest for radically expanded biological longevity is competing with digital longevity/eternity, but I would not bet that the latter will come before the former on our way to the singularity. We are now making exponential progress in decoding the basic bimolecular nature of life. A disruptor could be just around the corner. For example, it could turn out that telomeres are indeed the (pre-programmed and indeed intentional) mechanism of aging. As such I can easily see how defeating that mechanism might already be on the horizon. But even if the mechanism of aging is more complex (likely) we are now making exponential progress in these areas. Unless one takes a more mystical view that somehow we will never be able to decode our own selves, I don't see why we will not be able to discover and intervene in most fundamental biological processes relatively soon, including aging.

Now, to jump into another sphere and consider immortality ... perhaps we may even be resurrected some day by the post singularity intelligence, who knows how? Perhaps from the echo of our past existence that will still be traveling relatively close to earth outward by the time the singularity arrives. Or...who knows? I cannot decode the singularity. Come to think of it, this possibility has some elements of convergence with major religions. Now what interest will post singularity intelligence have in us? I don't see why we assume that post singularity intelligence will be cold selfish and calculating. After all, we only became interested in our own ancestors as an intelligent species. The more primitive the life form the less it cares about its ancestors. Why should we assume that this trend will necessarily change. I think we might be influenced by pessimistic sci-fi movies that see evolved intelligence as cold, calculating,...dumb in a sense. That to me could be interpreted as hubris. Who knows? Perhaps post singularity intelligence is the all caring God that some humans have intuitively felt for a while now.

PS. Personally, I have a much more banal explanation for major religions, so I'm not personally religious in any conventional sense.

Kartik Gada


If DNA has been accumulating and storing information for billions of years, if organisms are becoming increasingly complex, it appears to violate the second law of thermodynamics. Even worse, if we evolve super intelligence that spreads throughout the galaxy, that seems to be reaching the opposite end state that the laws of physics propose.

This could very well be likely. Intelligence arose in order to eventually saturate the entire universe.

This also leads me to think that AI eventually takes over the mantle. Not only is AI likely to eventually reach a level thousands of times greater than humans, but it will be millions of times more computationally dense and energy-efficient. Plus, to spread across space, the fact that AI does not need air or water, and can survive in much greater ranges of temperature, pressure, gravity, and radiation than a human, really seems quite convenient in terms of an end game.

Even if intelligence arises somewhere else at the same time (unlikely and perhaps unnecessary), when the two intelligences that originated many parsecs apart meet, they can still reduce their communication to the assembly-language or even 1-0 binary level, and combine. If life originates from microbes dusted everywhere, it seems logical that intelligences converge to a similar form.


HB - we are not in disagreement. My question was more along the lines of how it all got started - the law of thermodynamics is opposed to life even beginning, much less evolving intelligence. New theories state that the eventual rise of intelligence is an inherent property of the universe. Make of that what you will.

"I don't see why we assume that post singularity intelligence will be cold selfish and calculating." I go back to a species that has already experienced its own singularity - the dog. Certainly many dogs are loved and well cared for, others less so, some downright abused. Overall abuse of dogs is frowned on, even punished, but it still happens. And naturally dogs don't get to vote, or drive the car, or decide what to buy at the store. they are dogs after all.

So, I imagine we will be much like them. hopefully not abused, but only dimly aware of what is happening, and certainly not making any important decisions. It will be a strange paradise.

Heck, come the singularity, we might not even know the singularity happened. To us things will get better, our lives will get more comfortable, but more and more of what goes on will be outside our decision process, or even our perceptions.

"Siri - why is the sun suddenly dimming?"
"bing bong - the sun is dimming due to some...experiments. Don't worry, you are perfectly safe."
"Siri - what is on television...?"

Kartik Gada


I go back to a species that has already experienced its own singularity - the dog. Certainly many dogs are loved and well cared for, others less so, some downright abused. Overall abuse of dogs is frowned on, even punished, but it still happens. And naturally dogs don't get to vote, or drive the car, or decide what to buy at the store. they are dogs after all.

So, I imagine we will be much like them. hopefully not abused, but only dimly aware of what is happening, and certainly not making any important decisions. It will be a strange paradise.

I think this is correct.

AI will probably grant humans unlimited VR entertainment, all the food and basic necessities a person can consume, and complete safety, in return for not reproducing. That is how AI will gradually moderate down the human population to a smaller constant amount (perhaps a few million people, who are themselves exceptional humans by today's standards due to CRISPR and other gene editing technologies, but still greatly inferior to the AI).

This may not be 'good', but is much better than the dystopian scenarios. The reason that AI will not deliberately kill off humans is that we don't really compete for any of the same resources other than electricity, which is hardly scarce.

But at the same time, humans are definitely not the end-goal of evolution, given how few humans are naturally inclined towards ATOM principles, and how any ATOM goal towards intelligence is space is vastly more possible through AI than humans.


10 billion people can easily fit into an area the size of Texas, at Manhattan density. We don't need even a small fraction of the Earth we are currently occupying.

Heck download the population to a digital paradise, and store it all on a 1 meter square cube hooked to an atomic battery. If they need us for anything, they can always just build us a body, and download us into it.


I feel reasonably confident that unimaginable and mostly wonderful things will happen in the future -- the not so distant future. As far as manifesting themselves as an actual singularity I'm less confident. I just think that a singularity like "thing" is a lot more likely than other pathetic, almost idiotic scenarios that seem to be consuming unimaginative humans today, like annihilation or even just suffering by global warming.

But beyond the mostly wonderful human future and the potential singularity I feel totally incompetent at predicting specific scenarios, and believe the rest of my contemporary humans to be equally incapable. Trying to predict the world one hundred years in the future from today's vantage point is like trying to predict today, not from 1917, but probably from 700 BC -- It's just impossible.

I like thinking about slightly more specific scenarios (like being resurrected/reconstructed by AI from a backup we never even imagined we had left) as a mental exercise in out of the box thinking. A thinking that is more compatible with the likely outcome: A mostly wonderful future, an unimaginable and incomprehensible to us today future.

Kartik Gada


10 billion people can easily fit into an area the size of Texas, at Manhattan density. We don't need even a small fraction of the Earth we are currently occupying.

But everyone will want a large yard, particularly when robots can do all the maintenance. This is where a crunch can arise. That is why transferrence into VR is the most likely path.

Kartik Gada


Trying to predict the world one hundred years in the future from today's vantage point is like trying to predict today, not from 1917, but probably from 700 BC

This is indeed the magnitude of the delta, under the accelerating rate of change.

As far as manifesting themselves as an actual singularity I'm less confident. I just think that a singularity like "thing"

The accelerating rate of change has to culminate into a singularity of sorts. We just can't really imagine what form that takes. To people in 700 BC, our lives today may already appear to be incomprehensible.


You know this all started with a science fiction author (Verner Vinge) who had writers block. He just couldn't imagine any new futures. Then he started thinking about the past, and how cave man from 200,000 BC could be transported to 100,000 BC, or a man from 900 AD could be transported to 1200 AD without much problem, but we have trouble imagining the next 100 years. It occurred to him that change was accelerating toward some sort of end state. I think the term he used at first was "prediction wall", a moment in history where our best efforts to predict the future would fail. It reminded him of a black hole, hence the term singularity.

Kartik Gada


Certainly. I wrote about the prediction wall here :


Now, it is even closer. I have trouble predicting anything past 2040 or so (just 23 years away). If ATOM-DUES were implemented, the US DUES would easily be $25,000/month by 2040.

I still maintain a true Singularity is not until 2060-65, though.

Kartik Gada

Coming back to space :

Another thing that is annoying is how NASA's very successful probes like Voyager I and II, which were launched in 1977, have not led to Moore's Law application in new probes.

Voyager I and II were 1 ton each. After 40 years of Moore's Law, the basic instrumentation should cost a million-fold less, yet have vastly better batteries, cameras, and antennae. It should weigh only a gram, and thus be launched via cannon rather than rocket. In such a case, why not just launch hundreds of them, going in multiple directions? I am sure a private firm can design a Voyager-type probe that can be produced for $10 as an ASIC with camera and battery, and is very small.

I can't see why any new probe should be the same size as 1970s-era probes.

Hell, even Kepler, launched in 2009, should be replaced with something 40x smaller/lighter if of equal capability.


Just what everyone noticed 30 years ago - past 2040 it is very difficult to predict anything at all. Even the easy stuff. That prediction wall doesn't seem to be moving - it is still there, waiting.

In a way, a cosmological singularity is a very apt description of what might happen. Before entering the singularity we pass through the event horizon, which acts very much like our prediction wall - we cannot see past it or into it.

Kartik Gada

It will be interesting if 2040 does not budge even going into 2020 and later. It is amazing that it is still there just ~22 years before it. But I sure it will start to edge back a little pretty soon.

I do expect that in 2035, I will be able to predict 2045, and that in 2040, I will be able to predict 2048 (for the most part), but the compression is evident and distinct. That I am going to years not ending in '0' as limits is itself astonishing.


what is your definition of "true" singularity?
Apparently it is not division by zero

Kartik Gada


It is hard to say.

Perhaps when technology becomes human-surpassing at all levels.
Or when no Futurist can predict what will happen even in the immediate future (like, next week).
Or perhaps when the option to completely merge with technology exists.


Without a clear falsifiable definition it is very hard to give predictions.

* It might very well be that the technology will never surpass humans in all levels, if even for legal reasons.
I can imagine the situation where If the AI has mind and consciousnesses it might be automatically granted human level rights, which might greatly reduce the economic usefulness of such an AI.

* Ability to predict the immediate future might rely on AIs too. After all, even today is hard to make exact predictions without running simulations. And there are some things that are still easy to predict. Being bound by the speed of light. Natural birth rate should stagnate, so we can more or less safely estimate the number of natural non-cloned/non-uploaded humans.

* And what does it mean to completely merge with the technology. A person on lung-hear machine is already merged. Being able to do backup and restore of your mind or body? Mind uploading and integration with AI ?

Kartik Gada


Maybe. The very definition of the Singularity means it is hard to narrow it down to fewer than 3-4 scenarios. AIs will certainly be a larger part of prediction.

Ray Kurzweil sells optimism, but his scenario is pretty vague on specifics.


And on unrelated news: https://qz.com/1107112/there-are-170000-fewer-retail-jobs-in-2017-and-75000-more-amazon-robots/
Amazon and the likes(probably ali-express) are already causing statistically significant structural reduction of employment for the retail workers. This is probably on the scale of displacing printed media done by ebooks and online news but will be less visible since the retail industry has more complicated dynamics such as walmarts and costocs dislpacing the original deparment and locam mom&pap store....


"Another thing that is annoying is how NASA's very successful probes like Voyager I and II, which were launched in 1977, have not led to Moore's Law application in new probes."

As a rule of the ATOM - the longer we wait, the bigger the change when it comes. I think we are much closer to that reality that you think. Just look at the recent proliferation in cubesats. The Dawn mission is certainly an immense breakthrough.

The failure is NASA, who seems stuck on the idea of bus sized orbiters of the outer planets. They have this idea for a good reason - launch costs were until recently prohibitive, so only a few could be launched per decade to other planets. because the opportunities were so few, scientists would try and cram every conceivable instrument on the ship. This bloated the spacecraft, causing costs to rise, further reducing launches. Also further out planets have long transit times from earth - the the imperative is always to load up the probe with everything.

My suggestion to them is to start building small identical launch vehicles. Each has only incremental differences in instrumentation. Launch them everywhere - every asteroid and planet should have a small orbiter or lander. Work on getting continuous monitoring and data. Over time extra experiments can be launched - but keep the same basic size of the spacecraft intact.

By decreasing size and making them identical you can vastly increase your launch tempo.


"What is your definition of "true" singularity?"

When technology is so advanced and ubiquitous as to be unnoticeable and/or inexplicable. The indistinguishable from magic/humans as pets scenario. Or everything simply is available in infinite abundance, all the time. the Horn of plenty scenario. Or when our existence itself is completely unrecognizable. The Earth and most of the solar system is converted to computronium, and we exist as mere digital replicas inside it.

You know, stuff like that.

Just those three scenarios, which are fairly plausible, illustrate the vast gulf in our possible futures, and what makes prediction so hard. Heck, maybe all are true, and none.

Think about this - will there even be money? Will there be an economy? Businesses? Nations? People? Art? Music? Sex? I don't know. I literally have no idea. It is like asking what heaven or hell might be like. Like anything you care to imagine, including nothing at all.

I agree that as you get closer to the edge, you will be able to glimpse a bit beyond the barrier. We might have some choices, and be able to direct things. But it is a vast whirlpool, and how much control we have at the end...hard to say.

My guess is we will have very little say in the final configuration of our reality.

Be kind to your computer, and maybe it will be kind to you.

Kartik Gada


As a rule of the ATOM - the longer we wait, the bigger the change when it comes.

Yes. We are getting close to the time when private projects can be launched, without the obstruction of government unimaginative thinking. Probes to Jupiter are simple enough to be funded via a Kickstarter campaign. Every celestial object over 500 km in diameter should have a probe in permanent orbit around it, taking photos and transmitting them back.

The Indian space agency lowered the cost of Mars orbiters by 10x, but something like Voyager, after 40 years of Moore's Law, could be done by a private group.

NASA is rather foolish. They sent New Horizons to Pluto even after it was demoted out of planethood, just due to a lack of imagination. Sending it to an ice giant (which each has only been visited once) would have been better. Doing another Kepler-style telescope would have been better still.

Even the Dawn mission is still a car-sized probe. 40 years of Moore's Law post Voyager should manifest very soon, to the same degree that 1970s mainframes are less powerful than a smartphone of today.

When it does, the volume of photographs and data will increase by a factor of thousands or millions. Among other things, almost every NEO down to 100-feet should be analyzed for composition, to set future mining priorities. This will crush the price of gold, platinum, palladium, etc.


2040 as the "historical singularity" in terms of prediction is an interesting framing device. Even in terms of the very predictable demographics - we know the maximum number of people 60 years or older in 2040 - we don't know how different and what being a 60 year old will be like then, which make if difficult to predict even on the basis of demographics. The same is even true of ethnic demographics, because if gene "therapy" is affordable by then, nurture will really have advantage over nature.

Kartik Gada

The prediction wall hardly budging from 2040 ever since this blog started in 2006 has certainly been on my mind of late.

I do think it will start to move back. But that it is moving so slowly is itself the aegis of the subsequent Singularity.

That the period between the wall and Singularity is currently 20-25 years is also rather startling. That eventually compresses, but by 2040 we may be in a stage where even 5 years out is too complicated to predict (or, as others said, AI will become an ever-larger portion of prediction, as humans are no longer able).


You'll only be able to predict 5 years. Then 5 months, 5 weeks, then 5 days. Then 5 minutes. Then the singularity. Second to second we won't know what is going to happen next. It is crazy when you think about it.

And I have been reading a few of your old posts from as far back as 2006. A reasonably high fraction of your predictions have been accurate to +/- a couple of years. So, when you say you don't know what happens after 2040, even 11 years closer to that date, well, that is meaningful. 11 years ago you were able to see 2017 pretty clearly. Now 23 years in the future - no clue. Even 11 years from now is tough.

And I'll say this as well - predictions should start getting harder well before 2040. My guess is it won't happen all at once - but your accuracy will start to go down. Jumps forward will become more unpredictable, erratic, and abrupt. Something revolutionary will pop up, then get immediately replaced with something even better.

One thing that could delay the singularity is us - we can't or won't be able to adjust our thinking and institutions fast enough. I'd a call it the assimilation drag. The future will be right in front of us, but we will just stare stupidly at it like a caveman with a helicopter.

I'd argue we are already there now in some cases.

I'll also make a political argument here - this process will work a lot better if we devolve and reduce our laws to small entities, just to allow assimilation and experimentation to proceed more rapidly. Large, one size fits all, political entities might not be a very good solution. We can't make laws fast enough to manage the situation - things are happening faster than our laws can get made or changed. I think we are already seeing the stresses and strains of that. There are simply too many possible solutions and pathways opening up for us- there is no right way to go, and no way for us to know which way to go.

Looking at a non-controversial issues - what should we do in space? back to the moon? capture an asteroid? mars? space station? All of them? none of them? Which launch system should we invest in? Manned or unmanned spaceflight and exploration? This didn't used to be an area where there was a lot of debate, yet each year it gets ever more confusing and contentious. there are so many players going so many directions.

I was thinking about net neutrality the other day - answer is, I have no idea whether it is a good or bad thing. truth to tell, a vast majority of people with strong opinions one way or another probably don't know either. We really just don't know - things are changing so fast, the issues is so complex...new technology may make either decision moot, or one vastly preferable over the other. So I'd say - don't make a rule - let local states, consumers, corporations, etc. sort things out. Then we can see what works.

To be even more blunt - capitalism and free markets, ever more of it, is the only possible way to deal with the coming singularity. It is the only thing with even a chance of adjusting fast enough. Even it will fail, eventually. but it keeps us in the game a lot longer than any top down decision making possibly could.


As things happen faster and faster, and get harder to predict, even small initial advantages of one company over another, or one country over another, will result in hugely disparate results.

Imagine a military with a 5 year technological advantage over another. 100 years ago it wouldn't have made any difference in the fight. In 2040 it will be like people with sling shots fighting off nuclear missles.

We HAVE to keep up. Now more than ever. The future will belong to whomever can assimilate it the fastest. One wrong step and we could lose the race.


Geoman, I couldn't agree more with your last post. What you describe is the fundamental inexorable reason for what is often (and wrongly) derided as "rising inequality" -- and those who try to reverse it will quickly find themselves a few decades, years or even months further away from the singularity. Time spans which, as you mention, will in essence represent an eternity.

My personal advice is: Stay internationally mobile! -- so that you can join those fastest moving towards the singularity. As a corollary, emigration will accelerate dramatically as we move closer to the singularity. Counting that your country will be the one reaching the singularity first seems like a long probabilistic shot, even if your own country is an otherwise good candidate as seen from today's vantage point

Kartik Gada


Oh, by far the biggest obstacle and element of risk is government.

The productivity gap between the sectors with the least govt. involvement, vs. govt itself, is getting wider and wider. It is now untenable.

The basic services of government should be decreasing in cost, not increasing. Instead, a vast portion of society's resources are diverted into electioneering that only benefit the careers of a few thousand people.

Two technologies, AI and Blockchain, can disrupt government. Why does a Delaware LLC still charge $300/year to run (+$50 for the registered agent fee)? That should be just $2/year if modernized. A country like Estonia or Singapore might do that, and undercut outdated US price structures.

Government jobs, even the ones that are not useless, are all below a certain skill ceiling that is nowhere near that of even a Vice President at a tech company. Most of those could be done by AI, which would be a huge and direct savings to the taxpayer (and thus enable 0% income tax if the ATOM-DUES program were implemented).

Politicians and govt. officials trying to preserve their own rice bowls may take extreme actions to halt technological displacement (up to and including starting wars). This is where the risk in the system is.


As a general rule, the more government is involved in a particular industry, the slower that industry evolves. In the past it didn't much matter because evolution was so slow. Now? It matters more and more.

And I am not faulting the people in government. I'm sure they do their best. Problem is we are using a method of governance designed in the 1700s. There has been very little political innovation in the past 100 years. We are trying to control supercomputers with vacuum tubes. People wonder why our political dysfunction seems to be increasing - it is because the institutions of governance are grossly inadequate to the times.

Kartik Gada


Problem is we are using a method of governance designed in the 1700s. There has been very little political innovation in the past 100 years.

Yes. Almost no innovation in the US (an outright reversal, in fact). The drift into socialism is quite pathetic, since even the Republican, at this point, is a big government politician. In 1987, even the New York Times said the real minimum wage is zero. But now, $15 min wages have actually passed.

Similarly, the narrative in the US is that the US won the Cold War. Did it? It seems we have gone into socialism starting around 1992 or so. If we really look at who won the Cold War, the answer is China, since they are the one big country that is dramatically better off than it was in 1991, and has wasted no money or lives on wars in the elapsed time. It also runs a trade surplus, even now. East Asia is the only place where some minimal political innovation has happened in the modern era, under multiple models.

People wonder why our political dysfunction seems to be increasing - it is because the institutions of governance are grossly inadequate to the times.

AI + Blockchain can, in theory, cut the cost of core government functions by 99%. This is part of why the ATOM program can easily enable 0% income tax IF one agrees that government should only perform certain core functions, and is not meant for massive vote-buying (at least 90% of US government spending is massive vote-buying, direct and indirect, at this point).

People talk about private sector jobs being eliminated by AI (truck drivers, accountants, customer support reps). In reality, it is government where the vast majority (90% or more) of jobs are quite repetitive, low productivity, and suitable for automation. Of course, they don't want their rice bowls threatened, and will do anything to block this transformation, up to and including the invention of new wars. The resistance of government to ATOM forces could needlessly cost millions of lives just to protect the rice bowls of a few thousand high-ranking officials and politicians across the world.

I mean, the $3.5T that the US collected in Federal income tax in 2017 carried so many opportunity costs as to be a net waste in the current ATOM level. The complexity of the code, the suboptimal business decisions made just for tax reasons, etc. Put another way, 0% income tax is much cheaper than anyone thinks IF society is willing to excise the vote-buying function of the Federal govt, and even a gradual, 10-yr transitionary process is erring on the safe side.


While I don't think you can get an agreement to excise the vote-buying, I do think that we are at Peak Bureaucracy for the reasons you state - AI is very good at following rules, and other AIs can then follow the rules for you.

Kartik Gada


They will never agree to excise vote-buying, but technologies can force a disruption nonetheless, particularly by a small country which up till now did not have the manpower to compete with a large country in a certain governance function.

Coming back to the same example, if Singapore (or an even smaller but similarly well-reputed country) says that LLCs amd C-Corps are just $2/year with blockchain that makes it MORE secure and AI to answer all support questions, rather than $350/yr in Delaware (or $900/year in CA), then a lot of companies will just switch over. This is not very headline-grabbing or fancy, but represents billions of dollars saved per year. A lot of bureaucrats in the US will get laid off, but startups will have billions of dollars per year more to invest into their businesses (the Corporate registration fees, while not huge, take capital from exactly the companies that are most cash-strapped, thereby stifling small businesses).

There are millions of active LLCs and C-Corps, so this is possible. The billions upon billions earned from renewal of corporate registrations can be kept with the businesses.


That is a good example.

One thing I have been thinking about is the knowledge problem.

Socialism and communism fail, but most people don't realize that the reason for their failure is mathematical and entirely predictable - it is rooted in something called the knowledge problem.

The entire purpose of capitalism is the allocation of scarce resources. What is their most productive use? Socialism and communism assume that the best use for limited resources is something that can and should be determined by individuals. However, centralized control and decision making is simply inadequate to ensure optimal results - the economy is too complex for anyone to manage successfully without tremendous opportunity losses. Slowly but surely socialism and communism eat away at the country - it becomes stagnent and poorer and no one seems to know why. Tyranny is often the result of frustration - only by exerting greater and greater control can socialism and communism be made to work. That only accelerates the decline.

Capitalism, for all its faults, fixes that problem through a form of distributed computing. The exchange of money is based on needs and values, and is constantly re-collecting real time information and re-computing the best use of any resources. A healthy growing economy is the result. In effect we have a "auction" for resources, and those willing to pay the most typically have the greatest need, and generate the largest return on investment.

The singularity will bring about two things - abundance of materiel wealth, and the ability to actually calculate in real time the best use of resources. I still think capitalism is the way to go (your proposed DUES retains that feature) however, the temptation toward communism and socialism will become ever greater. More centralized control will be possible, with less opportunity loss. More materiel wealth will mean fewer hard choices. Fatter finances can support even more dead weight "decision-makers".

And there seems to be an endless number of people that enjoy telling people what to do, and a even larger number that enjoy being told.

I think the temptation to go down this route will be enormous and almost unbearable for the current bureaucratic types.

Kartik Gada


I think the temptation to go down this route will be enormous and almost unbearable for the current bureaucratic types.

That is why some country, somewhere, has to start replacing human bureaucrats with AI.

An AI draws no salary, expense account, and pension. It does not take bribes, and does not peddle influence. For all the talk of truck drivers, customer support reps, and accountants vanishing into AI, lower and mid-level government bureaucrats are where the greatest upside of AI is.

The same goes for juries. The jury system relies on people who just want to get out of there. AI is more likely to continuously assess the full body of precedent from all cases ever.

The exchange of money is based on needs and values, and is constantly re-collecting real time information and re-computing the best use of any resources. A healthy growing economy is the result.

What is sad is that people never learn, and the government likes it that way. The fact that surge pricing by Uber is seen as 'bad', and $15/hour minimum wage laws are actually passing, is a disgrace. At least with the minimum wage law, that accelerates automation AND legal tax avoidance, thereby inflicting more pressure on government itself.

And there seems to be an endless number of people that enjoy telling people what to do, and a even larger number that enjoy being told.

This may never change, which is why humans are probably not the end form of evolution.



The advantage of capitalism in the current setting is not only the better allocation of scarce resources. The other main characteristic and advantage of capitalism is much greater individual motivation. In other words the creation of more "human" resource.

People exhibit superior motivation to work and superior long term ambition under a system that lets them keep the fruit of their labor as opposed to working 9-12 for their families and themselves and then 12-5pm being forced to work for distant unknowns.

In a way, in the longer term, the singularity does provide some peculiar hope for socialists -- if political systems as we know them still make sense close to the singularity. The hope is that technological advancement will either create (or mutate in vivo) humans who maintain unaffected motivation to work and ambition to succeed when most of their labor is harvested away to serve distant others, as socialism does. Clearly this is not going to happen with our current biology, no matter how much majorities and supermajorities keep trying to implement it. Hence, those societies who inevitably fall for this strongly redistributive vote buying system will fall behind on their way to the singularity with, well, singularly catastrophic consequences.

This will happen on our way to the singularity. Once again, whether this assessment still holds even past the event horizon is impossible to say. Whether an AI that is smarter than we are today will be more intrinsically altruistic or more selfish than we (the biological humans) are is clearly something that I cannot ponder from today's vantage point.

Most likely both approaches will be tried by different countries on our way to the singularity-- with radically diverging consequences. One of the main goals in my family planning is to stay on the winning high growth side of the world. If the US loses its edge I will emigrate in a heartbeat -- once again.

PS. As a corollary, I'm not convinced that ATOM dues differ that much from socialist redistribution. When someone receives ATOM benefits without contributing to it then somewhere there is redistribution. Sure enough the ATOM may create such massive wealth that there's enough to spare to distribute and placate the non participating masses, so that, at least, they do not sabotage fast motion towards the singularity. But it is redistribution nonetheless. My guess is that the more successful societies will minimize or bypass coercive redistribution and reach the singularity first. As the singularity approaches, and growth rates explode, the most wretched losers of the faster growing societies will still live much better than the top rungs of the slower growing societies.

Kartik Gada


I'm not convinced that ATOM dues differ that much from socialist redistribution.

Nothing could be further from the truth. How is 0% income tax 'socialist'.

When someone receives ATOM benefits without contributing to it then somewhere there is redistribution.

False. REdistribution involves taking from another. This is not, as taxes are simultaneously lowered to 0%. I am not sure you have understood that the reduction of income tax to 0% is just as important as the DUES within the ATOM program.

Your own comment speaks of people 'keeping the fruits of their labor'. When the tax rate on marginal effort falls from 50% to 0%, then the return on such effort is twice as high.


By that same logic printing money and distributing it from helicopters is not redistribution either. Nothing is taken from anyone. But the currency is debased so that the benefits of production and growth can also flow to those who do not participate in it.

When out of proportion to productivity benefits flow to those who do not really contribute then somewhere there is redistribution. It's like those perpetual motion machines where it is often puzzling to find out where the conservation of energy principle is violated. So, I think that ,in the case of unconditional income where the redistribution lays is that without the unconditional income those who contribute to the ATOM would enjoy increasing massive deflation on their capital (i.e. capital they accumulated while contributing to an earlier stage of the ATOM). Unconditional income distribution prevents the benefit of this natural deflation from flowing to the ATOM contributors and thus redistributes the ATOM benefits more widely.

Admittedly, depending on the level of ATOM dues, the unconditional income may be a less distorting (and thus less damaging to economic growth) way to redistribute compared to direct taxation.

Kartik Gada


By that same logic printing money and distributing it from helicopters is not redistribution either. Nothing is taken from anyone.

It isn't redistribution if it causes no inflation. If it causes inflation, it is slowly inflicting a cost on other. But without inflation there is no cost. Indeed, letting deflation happen is also a large cost.

Unconditional income distribution prevents the benefit of this natural deflation from flowing to the ATOM contributors and thus redistributes the ATOM benefits more widely.

Partly, but don't forget the Upgrade Paradox :

The economics of technology cause technology producers to become victims of their own success unless the technology is better monetized.

Admittedly, depending on the level of ATOM dues, the unconditional income may be a less distorting (and thus less damaging to economic growth) way to redistribute compared to direct taxation.

May be? It is *vastly* less distorting. A wide range of perverse incentives, and suboptimal business decisions due to taxes, are removed. Incentives become higher. Tax complexity is a huge waste of mental energy inflicted on precisely the most productive people.


Per the upgrade paradox, the main justification for the ATOM DUES is to give people money, so they can buy more technology, and thus enable faster technological process. That seems to me the classic perpetual motion machine fallacy of Keynesian intervention and dirigism applied to ATOM thinking.

If I'm a contributor to the ATOM, why print money in indirect redistribution, a redistribution I will have to pay for by giving up on the natural technological deflation? Why not sell my ATOM products for less, thus making less profit (but also gaining from deflation) instead? The result is the same. The difference is that with the DUES, as with Keynesianism, I make the state (and the politician) an additional middleman. I will still have to support (through the existing welfare programs which will either never die or be politically reinstated soon after the establishment of DUES) those who misuse the DUES stipend, and I will still be a sitting duck for the vote buying politician who will inevitably promise to double, triple, quadruple etc. the ATOM DUES increases beyond their normal progression schedule.

Printing money to stimulate spending is like the owner of a store with slow sales, who in order to stimulate transactions, grabs cash from his register and hands it to the homeless loitering outside his store, incentivizing the vagrants to shop at his business. In the end, he is essentially giving away his merchandise and labor for free. Its like Germans giving away money to the Greeks so they can buy BMWs. They are essentially building and giving out BMWs for free (well, almost free depending on the ratio of handout money that is used for the purchases).

If certain constraints were to be followed, DUES might have been a way to a less destructive redistribution -- in theory. Because in practice I really doubt that DUES can completely replace existing welfare programs. Within a couple of months from conversion to DUES there will be millions who misused the DUES stipend crying on TV channels about "the evil system that offers no welfare". Welfare programs will then be gradually reinstated and then we'll have both welfare AND universal stipend on top. As I said, redistribution may be something that becomes necessary to placate the non participants so that they do not start a revolution and destroy the ATOM. But it is redistribution nonetheless, and those societies that succeed in minimizing it will fare better, grow faster, and reach the singularity first: a radically different outcome.

Phil Tanny

Is the author aware that the Pentagon is now confirming the existence of UFOs?


To be clear, the Pentagon is confirming only unknown aircraft with flight characteristics beyond human ability, and not alien intelligence. This seems sensible given that while there is ample evidence UFOs exist from many credible sources, theories about the nature of these craft are best described as speculation.

Still, given that the highest military authorities now confirm the existence of unknown hyper-advanced aircraft which appear to be under intelligent control, speculation that alien life may already be among us right here on Earth becomes rather more credible.


HB and Kartik,

You both make interesting points. Problem is predicting precisely how society and economics will change going forward.

HB - you are right - we are redistributing income. But the income we are redistributing is from AI machines, not people. AI is not motivated by the incentives you lay out for capitalism. Taking their income will have no effect.

Think of AI as a bunch of slaves, and the owner of that AI as the slave owner. Except, unlike past slave economies, the slaves become ever more efficient - working faster and faster and needing fewer slaves to create the same number of products. What you are re-distributing is that efficiency gain - taking a small % of just the gain and sharing it with everyone.

The alternative to Kartik's system, which may not be perfect, is massive, unending deflation of the cost of all things. Deflation, as we have seen time and time gain, is terrible for economies. There is an overall decline in asset prices as producers are forced to liquidate inventories that people no longer want to buy. Consumers and investors alike begin hoarding money to cushion against further financial loss. As more money is saved, less money is spent, further decreasing aggregate demand. Why would you spend a dollar today when the expectation is that it could buy more stuff tomorrow? And why spend tomorrow when things may be even cheaper in a week's time?

Defaults and bank runs are a result. The economy starts to shrink, even as prices and interest rates fall.

What Kartik is proposing is simply a mechanism to avoid this deflation. Ideal economies experience 2-3% inflation each year. DUES will ensure we remain in that sweet spot despite AI. That is all he is really trying to accomplish - keep the existing system going for as along as possible. Will it work forever? Probably not. But then again, nothing will.

We are entering uncharted waters here - there has never been an economic system like this in human history, and it is hard to predict how it will work best. Slavery always meant low human productivity. What will be the effect of high productivity slavery? There will certainly be stresses and strains on the system going forward.

And your last speculation about vote buying - indeed. It is a danger. But what is the alternative? I think things might be manageable because, in theory, the DUES system will always be increasing outlays. Its is not fixed, but ever growing. But I'm sure there is some awful demagogue out there that thinks that is giving $1,000 away is good, giving $1,500 is even better.

Kartik Gada

Geoman's response is perfect.


'Redistribution' is only when something is taken from one human against their will, and given to another.

A technology (say, a robot) has no such emotions or needs, so taking from them to give to humans is not any coercive or unjust action.

Natural, perpetual technological deflation could have worked if we did not have so much debt in the economy. Since we do, deflation is unacceptable, and ATOM-DUES is the way out.

Plus, you are still stuck on outdated concepts like Keynesianism. I repeat that a 0% income tax is absolutely essential for the era of high-tech. That is about as libertarian as one can get. You don't seem to recognize that 0% income tax is a crucial component of this, which itself precludes this from being called 'redistribution'.

Income tax is becoming increasingly difficult for governments to collect, and will soon be far too expensive to collect much. The cryptocurrency craze is just the latest spear that the ATOM has fired into the outdated concept of income tax.

Stephen Murray

How will the rise of pseudo-anonymous and anonymous crypto currency aid in the removal of income tax? Governments have not yet really grokked the scope of what crypto can do - but hiding wealth is but one of the disruptive effects it will have. Will it speed along the progression towards a 0% income tax ATOM age?

Kartik Gada


Bitcoin futures, launched just 3 weeks ago, can be used skillfully to achieve much lower tax rates for non-US C-Corps. Many other tokens don't really report tax data to non-US tax agencies.

Furthermore, independent of cryptocurrencies, the speed at which new tax shelters lower in cost and become more accessible to people far less wealthy than the original intended recipient, is another way the ATOM is making it increasingly harder for governments to collect income tax.

Lastly, now that the US corporate tax rate is 21%, a business that uses a lot of AI but has just one human employee has a lot of leeway in which to make sure the income is all in a C-Corp, and the human is taxed only on what is withdrawn (at a lower rate). This keeps the wealthy out of higher brackets. This was much harder before AI.

Stephen Murray


thanks for that insightful response. Would be interested to hear more about how the ATOM/AI opens up tax havens to middle class people

Will the ATOM move us more towards a more libertarian society? Ironic I know given the importance of central banks in the ATOM DUES

Ed Zimmer

"Ideal economies experience 2-3% inflation each year."

Why is that? I see no economic reason for it. I suspect it's just psychological - people just feel better and are more content when their supposed "wealth" is increasing, not understanding that "wealth" (or at least the measurement of it), exists only by government decree. Subsidiary question: What do you see as the value of money? I see it as having no more value than the goods and services it can buy. (These are just a couple of positions I'm looking for some other viewpoints on.)

Ed Zimmer

"a 0% income tax is absolutely essential for the era of high-tech"

Recognizing that the requirement to pay taxes in a given currency is a primary factor in giving that currency legitimacy, what do you propose as an alternative? I'm not likely to sell you my goods/services for seashells unless others are willing to sell me their goods/services for seashells - and getting everyone to agree to a common currency absent a government decree like a tax payment requirement seems unlikely.

Kartik Gada


Some tax structures can be cost-effective all the way down to $400K/yr households. That is not middle-class, of course, but still far below the level that the government wants to grant loopholes (usually reserved only for the most powerful).

Yes, ATOM-DUES will create a more libertarian society, despite the robust safety net. This is mainly due to the 0% income tax.

Kartik Gada

Ed Zimmer,

Taxation is not needed for a currency to be legitimate. There are countries (like Qatar) that already have no taxes on citizens, due to their massive internal wealth.

As long as the currency is tied to a nation state with an a) Central Bank, and b) Military, it works.

Bitcoin has gotten this far without either of these things. I am still not convinced about Bitcoin, but ATOM-DUES certainly can be done in an existing nation-state.

Remember, it is not as difficult of a transition as the adoption of paper money, which was very controversial at the time ('how can you stop counterfeiting?'). The US did not have paper money until 1862.

Ed Zimmer

"The US did not have paper money until 1862."

Yes, but they had commodity trading & then commodity-backed money. Today, it's totally fiat. I don't see how a fiat currency could work without a centralized entity (like a government) enforcing it's use. What is it you see in a Central Bank or the Military that would ensure use of a common currency? And that lack of enforcement power is why none of the BitCoins have worked (and will continue to not work) as a currency - it's simply a gambling media among a limited clique. I'm sure there's some enforcement mechanism (ie, something more than simply a decree) at work in Qatar. Can you point me to any web material I might explore?

Kartik Gada

Ed Zimmer,

I don't see how a fiat currency could work without a centralized entity (like a government) enforcing it's use.

The ATOM-DUES is through a Central Bank ultimately DOES enforce its use. A more stable nation-state with a larger GDP by itself is sufficient backing.

Taxation is absolutely not necessary as a condition for the use of the currency. Remember that the US did not even have an income tax until 1913. Plus, State, Local, and Sales taxes will still continue. The ATOM program is just about waiver of Federal income tax.

Ed Zimmer

I see what you're saying. If government is paying out dollars, those wishing to sell goods/services to those recipients must accept dollars in payment, so government's act of paying out the currency is fully as "enforcing" as requiring taxes to be paid in that currency.


Well, government explicitly forbids transactions that do not use the official currency. Try to agree to pay your gardener in gold without paying taxes and see what happens. Or try bartering on a large scale and see how the IRS (that is the rest of the American people) react to it -- when you undermine redistribution.

It will be interesting to see whether cryptocurrencies will at least partially supplant official currencies in transactions -- and how governments (i.e. the rest of society) will react to it and to their potentially decreased ability to collect taxes. Large penalties are the typical reaction to "illegal" activity that is difficult to catch.

If cryptocurrencies supplant even a portion of government fiat money transactions, there will be inflationary pressure on government fiat money as a smaller proportion of goods are transacted using official government currency. That may turn out to be an inflationary pressure against technological deflation.

Cryptocurrencies may supplant government fiat money in some transactions. What I don't understand is what prevents the continuous creation of ever more new cryptocurrencies, thus causing runaway inflation and eventual abandonment of the alternative currency.

Phil Tanny

Returning to the topic of intelligent non-human life...

Members should be aware, if they aren't already, that the Pentagon is now confirming the existence of UFOs. Here's a CNN interview which provides an introduction.


To be clear, the multiple radar contacts from different sources, and the visual confirmation by pilots and included cockpit video, confirms only the existence of unknown flying objects with flight characteristics beyond current human ability.

The data provided by the Pentagon tells us nothing about who or what is piloting these incredible craft, a question which remains a matter of speculation. So, proof of UFOs, but not proof of alien life.

The point here would seem to be that it seems likely we have the telescopes aimed at the wrong planets. It doesn't really make sense to put so much focus on what may be happening at vast distances when there is so much evidence that something very interesting appears to be happening right here on Earth.


Ed Zimmer - why is 2-3% inflation good for the economy? Technology causes productivity gains - doing more for less. This causes prices to drop. If consumer prices are allowed to fall due to productivity gains, you get what is called the "Paradox of Thrift" meaning people will stop spending, because next week the price for goods and services will be lower. It is very easy for this pause in spending to become chronic, feeding on itself. Deflation quickly causes more deflation.

The 2-3% inflation buffers out productivity gains, resulting in more net aggregate growth. Yes, this is partly psychological. But it is what it is. the Federal Reserve believes that the ideal rate of inflation is 2%. They keep it at this level by manipulating the money supply and interest rates.

Kartik is saying as part of the ATOM, that deflation is going to grow to be more and more of a problem. Ultimately the Fed won't be able to control it using the tools it has. There is already evidence this is occurring. Kartik believes the best solution is to increase inflation by printing money and distributing it to everyone in the economy. The reason this might work better than our traditional remedy, government deficit spending, is because government acquisition of goods and services is so poorly attuned to real needs. It might work. I think there is a limit and it is this - we can only consume so much. Eventually there will be a lot of money in individual hands with no place to go.

Kartik please make sure I didn't misrepresent anything.

I myself favor a slightly different solution. Really a variation on the same idea. I would create a series of endowments for public functions. I would endow universities to provide free education, then move down the line, endowing high schools, grade schools, pre-schools. I would endow hospitals to treat patients for free. I would endow police forces to patrol the streets in high crime area, with an officer on every corner. I would endow the Navy, to maintain and man ships and protect the nation. I would endow institutes to perform research. These endowments would be fully invested in the stock market, with a 5% spend rate each year. They would be perpetual.

Over time, year after year, more and more of the functions of government would become free or very low cost. Less of the economy or government would be under the direct control of anyone. Growth would be directly funding more and more of our society. As share prices rose, endowment size would increase, and more money would be pumped back into institutions that would lower costs and improve lives. This in turn will feed more growth, more demand. Consumers would have ever increasing disposable income, as more things (like health care, taxes, education) became low cost. This would generate the same result as kartik, but indirectly. Instead of just increasing incomes, we are reducing costs. We are forcing the technological deflation into the areas of the economy that have completely resisted it till now - the government.

We would also, theoretically, have better and better public facilities. A highway endowment that is ever increasing, with a mandate to improve transportation efficiency. A NASA endowment, with the goal of settling the moon and mars. A transmission endowment to fund long distance interconnectivity of utilities. A solar power endowment that would place free solar panels on homes. The system would enable long term planning and acquisition. It could also be designed to enable even faster growth.

The massive deflationary force of the ATOM is thereby turned back on itself, to pump even more growth into the economy. Every sector of the country, including "government" like services, becomes highly invested in growth.

Over time the government, as we know it, just sorta fades away. It is reduced to deciding which endowment needs a topping up, and policing the whole process (with IGs, and demands for reports on progress made by each endowment). Decisions about spending are almost all local, and based on local needs.

It is sorta like the Alaska or Norwegian idea of a perpetual sovereignty fund.

Anyway, I think something like this could happen pretty quickly, once initiated. Once an endowment for a function is fully established, government funding for that function becomes zero, and is available for the next endowment.

For example, the NASA budget is currently $18 billion. I say, let's make it...$20 billion. Our endowment would have to be around $400 billion. But we wouldn't have to pay that all at once. We could maintain the current level of spending, and add $31 billion into an endowment for 10 years - then never spend a dime again for space exploration. That $18.5 billion in annual government spending goes to zero, or can be used to fund the next endowment. And the next. Or simply pay down the deficit.

Harvard doesn't charge tuition, and it's endowment is $40 billion. Imagine endowing 10 or more colleges, per year, and reducing their tuition costs to zero. Hell, decide on who gets the endowment by state matching funds, and the number might be 200 colleges per year. The result would be massive economic stimulus. Since 2000, the federal government has spent roughly $400 billion on Pell Grants. Just ditching the wasteful way we are spending the money now would have a salutary effect. And instead of perpetually inflating costs, colleges would be controlled since as part of the endowment agreement they can never charge students for admission again.

Sorry this is so long.


Phil Tanny - meh. I mean, I can't get exited by this. Evidence of ...something has been out there for a long time. What that something is no one is really sure. The problem with UFO aliens is pretty simple - very little of their reported behavior makes any logical sense.

Take radar images. The aliens obvious don't want to be seen, and don't want to interact with us, otherwise they'd land on the white house lawn. However, we currently have our own tech that will prevent radar from seeing us, or for detecting radar so we can avoid it. So - do they want us to see them or not? How do we get radar images of advanced craft? Why is that possible?

There are a few interesting articles out there that correlate the frequency of alien abductions and sightings inversely with the ubiquity of cell phones (and their cameras). Such a correlation only makes sense if the reported abductions were never real in the first place. Given the increasing number of cameras in the world, we should be getting MORE images. Oddly we seem to be getting less.

Is there tech in the world that we don't know about? Yes - the government has things that they don't share with us. I recall personally seeing a B-1 bomber flying - and having its existence announced a week or so later. Boeing is unveiling a secret plane this week. The U.S. Air Force secretly developed the RQ-170 stealth spy drone in the early 2000s, finally admitting to its existence only after a photographer spotted one at an airfield in Afghanistan in 2007. The Air Force has been working on a bigger and ever stealthier spy drone called the RQ-180, along with the new radar-evading B-21 bomber. In 2014, a mysterious, wedge-shaped aircraft—possibly an early technology demonstrator for the B-21 program—was photographed flying over Kansas. Lockheed Martin has a self-funded SR-72 hypersonic spy plane. I have no idea what the X-37B is or what it does.

This is just our stuff. the Russians, Chinese, British - they have their own programs.

Kartik Gada

Phil Tanny,

If there was any chance of this being extra-terrestrial life, SETI would say something. Remember that SETI programs already have an incentive to exaggerate everything in order to get more funding. Yet they don't think this is anything.

It is far more likely that this is just top-secret classified military tech.

Remember that an advanced intelligence is extremely unlike to have 'ships' of a size that has anything to do with what humans expect.

Ed Zimmer

Don't be concerned with length of responses (to me) - I've read all your posts and find them especially insightful.

Re 2-3% inflation, thanks for explaining where that saying comes from. However the Paradox of Thrift sounds like a typical economist argument - heavy on theory; light on practicality. (If you're an economist, that's not meant as an insult. I've spent a good deal of time the past couple of years reading everything I could find on macroeconomics and have come away totally disenchanted. My current image of the field is a bunch of intelligent people totally engrossed in arguing about how many angels fit on the head of a pin.)

I agree with Kartik that deflation is a growing problem and that a new macroeconomic system is required. (I'd say "desperately" required based on my experience of living in New Mexico and talking with the low-income people I talk with daily.) But I too have reservations about his ever-growing NGDP (and not just because of consumption limits).

And thanks for the detailed explanation of your alternate solution. However, as a firm believer in the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid), I'd choose his cash payouts over your endowments. Endowments need to be administered and I believe multiple endowments would result in the same inefficiencies and unfairness of our multiple welfare programs. I favor cash payouts with no restrrictive qualifications other than citizenship and age. I believe individuals would make better decisions in using that money than any administrator(s) ever could (in full recognition that some of those decisions will be destructive to the individual). I'd favor a pay card, automatically loaded weekly with known, equal cash, with no human involvement other than determination of eligibility and investigation of cheating (if applicable). If you want to argue further for the endowment approach, I'm eager to hear them. (I'm here to learn.).

While we're talking alternatives, I'd like to hear any arguments (economic, not political) you may have why the Kartik proposal could not be put into effect today. What are our reasons for issuing IOUs when issuing new money? To me that's creating fiat debt in fiat dollars - creating the illusion of a budget to be balanced - making spending decisions overly complicated and inherently unfair. What do you see as potential problems if the federal government simply stopped issuing those IOUs?

I believe the Federal Earnings Statement (BEA Table 1.10 Revenue, 1.1.5 Expense) is our most dependable view of federal government operations. It uses accrual accounting and double-entry bookkeeping (with a Statistical Discrepency account on the revenue side accounting for the difference between GDI and GDP). In 2016, employee compensation was about $31K per capita. So what do you see as potential problems if the federal government simply started paying out $500-600/week? If the Central Bank simply monitored that statement to ensure that it stayed reasonably in balance, how could there be problems?

Phil Tanny

@Kartik Gada,

Hi there, thanks for replying to my comment.

My guess is that SETI is not excited about credible UFO reports from the highest military authorities because it has nothing to do with their work. It may in fact demonstrate that they've been looking in the wrong direction all along, wasting large sums in the process.

If UFOs are really secret government projects, why is the Pentagon publicly releasing video of these craft?? Why are they flying them over populated cities where they can be viewed by thousands (see Phoenix lights incident)??

Honestly, I've yet to see a single military or other informed observer even speculate that human beings are _maybe_ capable of creating the unknown craft being tracked on radar, which demonstrate spectacular flight characteristics. As best I can tell, nobody believes that except those determined to remain skeptics at any cost.

Also, please note, reports of these unknown craft have been piling up since WWII. If we had such craft in WWII, why didn't we use them to shoot down Nazi bombers over London?

Please note, I am not a UFO enthusiast. I'm just examining an ever growing pile of reports from ever more credible witnesses and finding the weight of such evidence to be more convincing than what the skeptics can offer.

I think what confuses many people is that UFO culture in general does often have a circus atmosphere which pollutes the entire subject with a considerable amount of unimpressive wild speculation. I'm repelled by that circus too. But the fact that this circus exists does not prove that UFOs do not exist, it just proves that human beings are capable of silliness, a well known fact.

In any case, it will be interesting to see if the Pentagon continues to release such hard evidence, and what the public reaction will be if they do.


Ed -

re endowments - I completely agree - you trade some benefits for some costs. I'm trying to stop health care, government, and colleges from bucking the trend in deflation. The endowment system grandfathers some of the inefficiency in, at the same time putting a hard cap on cost growth. If we are clever enough, we can even cram a bit of the cost reductions right down their throats.

Imagine there are three hospitals. One is lavishly endowed, and gives outstanding care away for free or at very low cost. The other two must charge patients. Insurance wise - people in the region would pay a lot less - risks are much lower for insurers. This also puts competition back into play for the two remaining hospitals - how can they ratchet up prices? They will just drive more of their potential customers to the free hospital. At the free hospital - they can't ratchet up prices either, since spending has a hard limit based on earnings of the endowment.

Everyone will need to innovate and cut costs just to stay in the game. It sounds a bit weird, but by giving them more money, you are forcing them all to spend less. Think of it the same way you save a lot of money by paying cash for your house rather than a down payment and financing.

This is a way to cleanse inflation out of the government, school and health care systems. And every consumer of these services sees the benefits in insurance costs, taxes, or free, potentially economically un-obtainable, services. Which means everyone benefits to some degree.

Handing people money - have you sent a kid to college lately? They have forms where they determine the extent of your financial "need". basically they decide, hey, you should pay $30k, while this guy pays $15k. It is all opaque and convoluted, and basically, while your kid is in college, you are strongly disincentivized in making more money.

Give me an extra $1,000 right now, and the college will decide I can afford to pay an extra $500 for my kid's tuition, and will withdraw a portion of their scholarship. This is why 529 accounts are such a joke - they will just charge you more based on what you saved.

So I say inflate the economy by forcing expensive inflating things (taxes, health care, school) to get cheaper, leaving more disposable income for everything else. I think you will get the same results, but manage to take down the last remaining bastions immune to the ATOM.

Kartik's plan is fine - but I suspect it will be a hard sell for most people. I think my plan actually has a much better chance of getting implemented because we can use existing dollars, and the system already exists - people know about endowments, they have been around for centuries. You can give laudable examples (St Judes, The mayo clinic, Harvard). The systems of governance are well understood. You also have the potential for the government to start spending less, a lot less, over time. It is more of an everyone wins scenario.

And it could happen quickly at low investment. Start with colleges and health care, and spiral out from there. Hell, give $5 billion to St. Judes in exchange for them agreeing to treat 10,000 additional kids per year for free. Repeat as necessary. Princeton charges $43,000 per year tuition, but has a $23 billion endowment - offer them an additional $10 billion to go tuition free. Pick off the low hanging fruit. Make offers in states willing to match the endowment.

Did you know that colleges are exempt from the 5% rule? Charities are required by law to spend 5% of their endowment each year to qualify as a charity. 5% is considered safe and consistent with the mission the non-tax status of the charities. The exception to this rule? Universities. They are not required to spend any of their endowment. None. Ever. Right now, 35 of the most prestigious schools in America are financially capable of providing free education for their students. All we need to do is repeal that rule - force colleges to spend spend the full 5% unless they provide universal free tuition. Beyond that take all the federal money spent on education each year ($50 billion) and dedicate it to creating endowments for colleges. In just 12 years all colleges in the U.S. could be tuition free. State matching? You could get there in six years. Free forever.

You don't have to endow them all, not at first. Just enough to start ratcheting up the deflationary pressure. Compounded interest is the closest thing to free money we will ever see.


"Why is the Pentagon publicly releasing video of these craft?? Why are they flying them over populated cities where they can be viewed by thousands (see Phoenix lights incident)??" Stupidity. Right hand not knowing what the left is doing. Disinformation. They belong to someone else. Radar isn't necessarily - real. It can see ghosts, reflections. We might be seeing natural phenomena. people who do hoaxes have been very crafty in the past.

"Reports of these unknown craft have been piling up since WWII." But less and less, as cameras have become more ubiquitous. "If we had such craft in WWII, why didn't we use them to shoot down Nazi bombers over London?" because they were experimental? because they didn't work? Because they were natural? Look up "Foo Fighters" some time. Not the band, the real thing. Depending on who you read they were:

1) Nazi secret weapon ground-launched, automatically guided, jet-propelled flak mine called the Feuerball (Fireball).

2) St. Elmo's Fire. It has also been pointed out that some of the descriptions of foo fighters closely resemble those of ball lightning.

3) Visual illusions as experienced by nighttime aviators.

4) Aliens.

Physical phenomena, mental phenomena, man-made, and aliens. Which is right? Aliens seem to be the least likely - the others at least reference things we know occur and exist. I'm going to go with - Natural sprites. Plasma does a lot of weird things we still don't understand. Metal, flying around ion charged clouds...? Seems like all sorts of things could happen.

I'm willing to consider things. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. I haven't see that yet.

Phil Tanny

Hi Geoman,

Were you willing to consider the CNN interview with the fellow from the Pentagon?


I would agree that everybody will decide for themselves what level of evidence is persuasive. If you care to share, perhaps you could help us understand what other evidence you would have liked to see from the Pentagon in regards to this report.

Or, would the number of similar Pentagon reports be what works for you? If this turns out to be the first of many such reports from this source, each providing roughly the same level of evidence as this report, would that make a difference?

Whatever your decision, you're entitled to it and I'm not going to argue. I'm really not a UFO evangelist, I just find it interesting how a group consensus will respond to the ground breaking changes of many kinds the future is likely to deliver. You know, even if UFOs are nothing, we're likely to see other new information which will challenge assumptions about reality we've long held.


Well, the CNN report is highly unpersuasive. They take no position on what they are observing. The evidence is anecdotal, with the hard evidence being a blurry spot on a camera.

Let us postulate for a moment - for this to be aliens, it would have to be extrasolar or extra dimensional. For it to travel between the stars on any sort of normal timeline it would have to exceed the speed of light. This requires fundamental new physics. Problem is - we have pretty much put the basic model of physics to bed. There doesn't seem to be even a pathway from here to there.

It is just that the scope and scale of what we are being asked to believe in is so much larger than just do aliens exist:

1) Habitable planets exist and are occupied by advanced civilizations that do not use radio.

2) They are able to construct craft that defy all known physics.

3) They are visiting Earth, frequently and routinely, for unknown reasons.

4) They are able to mask most of their activities, except those they do not mask, which we are able to occasionally detect.

5) Despite the enormous effort coming here, they show little interest in us, and generally avoid interacting with us. Alternately there is a vast multi-decade worldwide conspiracy to keep their interactions secret from us.

That is what I'm being asked to believe. All of it. Alternately:

1) The government has technology it doesn't want to admit it has.

2) There are physical/mental phenomena that we don't quite understand.

The two competing theories require less of a leap. Both alternate explanations fit within our knowledge of the universe, both are plausible, both have evidence in their favor.

I believe it likely that the simplest answer is more likely to be correct. Again, it doesn't disprove aliens, it just means they are the least likely of several possible explanation.

Phil Tanny

Hi Geoman,

Well, it's no fun if I don't debate you just a bit. :-) And honestly, you are making it so easy...

First, the Pentagon does take a position. The Pentagon claims they don't think these are human craft. Believe them or not, but that's their claim, clearly stated in the interview.

Second, the evidence is not only anecdotal. They have radar contacts from multiple sources over a period of weeks. They have video. The anecdotal part is from Navy pilots, about as credible a witness as there is, in regards to observing aircraft in the sky.

Third, the Pentagon clearly said that they are not claiming these are aliens. They claim only that these are not human craft. So all your calculations about aliens are not relevant to this particular story. C'mon, did you really watch the interview?

Fourth, if this is secret government technology, why have they been flying it around where thousands of people all over the world can see it for decades???

Fifth, all known physics? Known by who? Creatures only recently living in caves who currently have thousands of nukes aimed down their own throats? Did you mean that mature highly rational civilization? The history of science has edited the laws of physics too many times to count. Do you really think that process is now over?

Sixth, why are eager to reject somebody else defying the currently known laws of physics, but happy to accept the idea of humans defying the currently known laws of physics? You know, if these are government craft, they are doing things no scientist can currently explain.

I dunno, your theories seem to require more leaps of faith than us just admitting that there are unknown craft navigating our skies, and nobody really knows what they are.

I would agree that after that the explanations do get increasingly speculative. Lots of evidence for unknown craft, little evidence of them being aliens from other worlds.

What I conclude is:

1) Unknown craft are real.

2) They remain unknown at this time.

My personal pet theory is that they are future humans, but this is just like everybody else's theories, just a theory.

Ed Zimmer

Who will be funding these endowments? Are you expecting them to come from wealthy individuals or from government (after its accepted the fiat nature of its currency)? The wealthy might endow for little more than their name over a door. But they do that now. What would convince them to do more of it? And if it's government, that seems like it would be as hard a sell as every other. For any significant endowment, the politicians would argue for uniformity - my region deserves the same size and quantity of endowments as yours (and of course there'll be arguments about whether "same" means by population or any of a myriad definitions of "need'). And each politician will be asking what they're getting out of it. How do I explain to my consituency that lowering the cost of these services (which some will never use) is better than putting cash in their pocket today (& every day thereafter).

Beyond the problems of getting the endowments initially made, I'd worry about the problems of administering them. Any administrator will want an endowment several times greater than what's needed for normal earnings to protect against market flucuations. That's a huge pool of non-productives reserves that may have no significance in a fiat economy, but makes me uncomfortable. Of course the endowment could be promoted as just "lowering" prices - and then raise and lower prices in response to endowment earnings - but that seems like it would make the initial sell much harder. Politicians may see that as giving too much investment discretion to the administrators. And I have concerns of administrator wage abuse. Just browse through IRS 990s some day and look at the huge range of salary/expenditure percentages. And I worry about just what return can be expected from the future market. I know Kartik expects a booming tech sector to continue to accelerate the GDP, but I have real reservations - a flattening GDP would not surprise me.

So I'm not convinced, but still eager to be.

BTW, you appear to be giving a lot more credence to colleges than I am. I see most formal education as dying a slow death. (And if you're in education, it's not my intent to be insulting.) Because of the internet, I don't see much value in formal education beyond age 12, and even before that, in a UBI-economy, I suspect that could be better done by parents. Another discussion if you ever feel like it.

Kartik Gada

Ed Zimmer,

I know Kartik expects a booming tech sector to continue to accelerate the GDP, but I have real reservations - a flattening GDP would not surprise me.

I said that it accelerates prosperity, but that GDP is no longer the most accurate metric (see Chapters 2 and 4). But note that since ~80% of people just don't have the talent to acquire net worth, they spend everything that they get, which it turn will keep GDP rising.

At the other extreme, it is possible that people evolve to a point where most of the ATOM-DUES is saved, so that GDP flatlines (0% real growth, but still 2% nominal growth), even as net worth rises greatly. But this is unlikely, once you see the behavior of average people.


Ed - endowment by government. Politicians will fight over them? so what else is new? Let them fight...or rather...compete. I say let the colleges compete for them - who promises to do the most with the least. We are already spending the money - I say instead of "spend" we change the word to "invest". Also where is the money for the DUES going to come from? So we are talking about finding two different ways to invest - the funds originate from the same source. Also - it is easy to argue not giving away free money if you never did it before.

Arguments about administering endowments are also silly - we are just expanding a system that has existed 100 years. Every college in the country already has an endowment. Have there been occasional problems? Sure - what else is new? The 5% rule has existed for decades - seems to work pretty well.

I think the day the local university becomes free is the day everyone realizes the benefit. Thousands of students and their families benefit instantly. The positive media coverage would be tremendous. Like I say - 35 colleges (more or less) would become free on day one. We just have to force them to tap their endowments. I also see colleges dying a slow death. So? When they die, their endowment reverts back to the government for investment elsewhere.

There is this dangerous fantasy regarding overpriced things. Rolling back prices is very hard for doctors and universities. Why? Because so much has been invested. Better to "pay off" those investments, and ensure that they don't continue to grow. Besides, nothing will kill off marginal colleges faster than free college.

Imagine a college that says they will take the endowment, and educate millions via the internet. Like I said - if they are competing....? Why wouldn't some college step up and say, I can do more for less?


Hey Phil,

Is it possible that aliens exist? Absolutely! Is it possible they can travel faster than the speed of light or time/dimensions? Sure, why not? Is it likely? Nope, not likely.

Then again, is it possible that DARPA doesn't tell the Navy what they are up to? Of course. Is it possible the Pentagon would lie about secret programs? Um, yeah definitely. Is it possible that other governments have secret programs? Yes. Is this likely? Yes, quite likely. In fact, this has all happened before. Try looking up the Aurora project sometime.

Let's try a different tact - which is more likely - that we do not understand something about unusual atmospheric phenomena, or that the time, the speed of light, and inertia are bendable physical phenomena? Both require unknown science, but one requires a giant leap, while the other, not so much.

Where I live we have an interesting phenomena called a Fata Morgana. It is an unusual and complex form of superior mirage in the sky. Fata Morgana mirages significantly distort the object or objects on which they are based, often such that the object is completely unrecognizable. A Fata Morgana may be seen on land or at sea, in polar regions, or in deserts. It may involve almost any kind of distant object, including boats, islands, planes, and the coastline. Often, a Fata Morgana changes rapidly. The mirage comprises several inverted (upside down) and erect (right side up) images that are stacked on top of one another. Fata Morgana mirages also show alternating compressed and stretched zones. They are photographable.

It occurs to me that what can be seen by the naked eye might also show up on radar - both are electromagnetic waves after all. It also occurs to me that the distorted image might be an image of the aircraft doing the observing. Also, since it is just an imagine - it's incredible speed and unusual behavior would make perfect sense - it is a flickering reflection of the aircraft being flown. It can literally move at the speed of light!

Is that what we are seeing? I have no idea, but it is certainly a plausible theory. Trained observers get fooled all the time.

I have presented you with two scenarios that account for every speck of evidence, are based on real events and phenomena, and require no new physics or aliens. I would say they are much more likely to be true. But I would say the alien scenario or future human scenario has a non-zero chance of being correct. 5% likelihood? I'd be fine with that.

So we are not arguing a yes/no question, but a % chance of one scenario or another being true. So in that case, neither one of us is ever going to be right or wrong.

Ed Zimmer

"it is easy to argue not giving away free money if you never did it before"

I don't see that as a good argument. It's been done in the past & bombed, but I'll argue that had nothing to do with "free money" but with gross mismanagement. And that's what I fear with your proposal. It's almost a rule of nature that mismanagement is proportional to complexity. I still favor automated cash dispersal.

And I still have reservations that your approach would be easier to effect. If the problem were well understood & the legislature could calmly consider the alternatives, I could see your's being a winning approach (because of legislators distrust that common man can handle money intelligently) - but it's unlikely we'll see that. Rather new macroeconomic policy will likely come about in panic.

I believe the next economic crisis will be one a few QEs won't overcome. I believe that will force government to stop issuing IOUs with the issuance of new currency, ie, to face up to the fact that our currency is pure fiat and that the Central Bank has little choice but to focus on directly controlling currency circulation. Once we've jumped that understanding-barrier, I suspect a number of alternatives to taking advantage of technology deflation (including yours) will emerge.

And we may not have long to wait for that next crisis what with both fannie mae and freddie mac boosting their DTI ration to 50% to encourage millennials to buy homes they can't afford, leading to another 2008, but this time even more poorly prepared. So we may find out how this resolves sooner than we think.


What complexity? Currently colleges, today, manage endowments worth $300 billion. If those endowments increased over time to $500 billion, so what? How has anything "changed" about the system that already exists? Instead of providing free tuition only to some students, all students admitted would get it. Nothing could be simpler. We'd also eliminate the enormous complexity of the student loan program, federal grants, scholarships, the works. You have no idea how complex it is to have a student in college these days - I have an MBA and I'm still struggling to help my kids with the financial aid forms. There is also numerous scams aimed at students through scholarships and student loans. Really heinous stuff.

How has the system "bombed" in the past? Social security? The government lied, and never invested the money in anything. Public pensions? They bomb because they were underfunded on day one.

I'd start with colleges and hospitals, and then drift toward other government agencies. NASA. The USGS. NOAA. PBS. I'm talking about essentially spinning off these agencies, one by one, into quasi public/private institutions, stripping government back down to its core functions, not by cutting institutions, but by cutting them loose from the reins of a central government. This would make government less complex over time - they would have less and less to actively manage.

It is interesting - see numerous potential financial crises on the horizon, but everything is changing, all at once. So my metrics to predict a problem are also questionable.

Ed Zimmer

I've been thinking through your proposal for a few days and I'm afraid there's no way I can favor it. I'm expecting this digital technology revolution to result in a freer, more open society. The last thing I want to see is these last-century institutions, with their entrenched bureaucracies, perpetuated. (And, yes, I'm, purposefully including schools and hospitals.) I see them just as inbred, just as impervious to outside influence, as our current government. With increased knowledge, increased accessibility to that knowledge and free and open communication, our goal should be to eliminate these institutions, not reinforce them. Entrenched bureaucracies are, almost by definition, the deathly enemy of entrepreneurship.


I agree more with Ed Zimmer's approach.

The ATOM will happen. But not through dirigism, through command and control of the economy, through the political allocation of resources, be that universal helicopter money or the selective support of industries, institutions or companies. That is old fashioned socialist thinking applied to the ATOM and, most importantly, those who fall for it (like N times humanity has in the past) will lose the race to the singularity.

Therefore, those who want to stay on the fastest route towards the singularity should stay mobile, as people remain mortally attracted to command and control coercive collectivism, and could thus derail ATOM progress at any point in any country.

Kartik Gada


The ATOM will happen. But not through dirigism, through command and control of the economy, through the political allocation of resources, be that universal helicopter money

Monetization of technological deflation is not helicopter money. Plus, you have to come up with a better solution to counter technological deflation.

Furthermore, you still don't recognize that 0% income tax is an inseparable component of the monetization of technological deflation. 0% income tax is precisely the opposite of technological deflation.

You are still hamstrung by existing paradigms.


Perhaps I am stuck to current paradigms. However I don't see the core logic whereby:

"if benefits of something (technological deflation in this case) flow to non contributors then somewhere there's redistribution"

being overturned quite yet.

That this type of redistribution is perhaps more muted compared to current schemes or perhaps just necessary to avoid bigger evils is something that I feel I cannot evaluate quantitatively at the moment.

Why is aversion to organized and scheduled helicopter money considered being hamstrung by existing paradigms while mortal fear of deflation is not? In some sense, technological deflation is natural, so perhaps let it be, or perhaps increase the money supply by rewarding only those who do indeed contribute to the ATOM.

I'm not saying that any form of redistribution and compassion is out of the question, but let's see things for what they are. If you were to claim that universal income is the most benign and least economically distorting form of redistribution given the circumstances then I'm ok with that characterization.

Now, is it politically feasible to eliminate all other welfare programs knowing that inevitably many many people will misuse the free income and end up in the ditch once again? Will enough class warriors be placated by the substitution? Is it possible to permanently prevent welfare programs from resurfacing? These are important tactical questions but seem to me secondary in this more general discussion context.

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate the ATOM. I see it as an incredible piece of work which rationalizes many of my own intuitions in a much more rational and quantitative way. Ironically, it is marvelously indicative of the progressing ATOM itself that Kartik's extraordinary work is available at my fingertips -- for free! Those who ignore the singularity are living in the dark ages. Will it happen in fifty years or one hundred? I don't know, that is why I read Kartik's brilliant analysis with interest. What I do know is that the singularity will happen well before climate doom and other similar (idiotic in my view) scenarios most of the world and politics seems to be obsessing about at the moment.

Ed Zimmer

The reason Kartik says you're "hamstrung by existing paradigms" is because you continue to use last-century words: "socialism", "collectivism", "redistribution", "non-contributors", "helicopter money", etc. "Socialism" (and "communism") have nothing to do with "free money" - they're economic systems advocating total control of the economy by government. Their past failures have nothing to do with currency distribution but with plain old mismanagement (which is what you expect when any group seeks dominant power and control).

And who defines who's "contributing"? (I'll assume you mean contributing to the economy.) Is the financial community contributing? They're being paid for providing a service of arguable value. The same can be argued for more than a few other communities. Is the artist or author (or inventor) trying to sell their work contributing? Or are you considering only what they sell as "contributing"? Is the person working 4 jobs (or 80-hour weeks) trying to keep food on the table contributing? How about the person who cannot find the jobs or work to do even that? Can you see how that term revolves around a societal view that proclaims people like me "contribute" and others don't?

And what's to "redistribute"? If you look closely at this currency you work so hard for and cherish, you'll see it's worthless. It has only the value your federal government deems it to have (and extranationally, what other nations allow it to have). Our government could say tomorrow that a new bitcoin is the official currency and dollars will be redeemed at some arbitrary rate (even non-linear to favor some voting bloc)) - or not redeemed at all - and there's little (non-violent) you could do about it. That currency you value is worth exactly what it will buy today - nothing more, nothing less.

Distribution of equal (at least sustenance) purchasing power, without limiting the acquisition of additional purchasing power, is this century's economic model. And although assisted by Kartik's assumptions, I'm prepared to argue they're not necessary - rather that he's hamstrung by some of his own existing paradigms.

Kartik Gada

Ed Zimmer,

The reason Kartik says you're "hamstrung by existing paradigms" is because you continue to use last-century words: "socialism", "collectivism", "redistribution", "non-contributors", "helicopter money", etc. "Socialism" (and "communism") have nothing to do with "free money" - they're economic systems advocating total control of the economy by government.

That is correct.

Distribution of equal (at least sustenance) purchasing power, without limiting the acquisition of additional purchasing power, is this century's economic model.

This is what the ATOM does.

Deflation would not need to be halted if not for so much debt in advanced economies. Ironically, many poor countries do not have much consumer debt, and could handle deflation more easily.


Kartik, Ed Zimmer,

Ok. I'll repeat the logic only, leaving behind the baggage of older terms that seems to be so bothersome:

When benefits flow to non-contributors then somewhere there's redistribution.

Redistribution reduces incentives (flattens the effort-reward curve) and thus slows down overall ATOM velocity compared to a non-redistributive system, or a less redistributive system -- with magnified catastrophic consequences in a high growth exponent era.

Ed Zimmer,

I use the term "non-contributors" as a shortcut. I don't mean to imply that humans are strictly separated into "contributors" and "non-contributors". However, the amount of contribution differs multiple orders of magnitude amongst individuals. In a free market system your contribution more or less matches your pay over longer periods of time. The various political -isms start when in an otherwise free market system enough people start proclaiming: "I'm contributing more than I'm being paid -- and I'll use the political system to rectify that!". That is when meritocracy begins breaking down and the rewards of a (slower growing pie) start being (re)distributed through politics rather than free markets.

I disagree with your implied position on the financial sector. The efficient allocation of capital is an extremely difficult multi-criteria and multi-parameter optimization problem that requires superlative intuition and expertise, including technical expertise (BTW, I'm not a financier, I'm primarily a scientist and engineer). Save any distortions that the various political -isms support, the financial sector is well worth the money it earns.


Regarding developed world debt:
The ever faster growth exponent will force much more radical changes in thinking than simply altering the way we view and deal with debt. Perhaps those who lent in the past, under a set of assumptions that are becoming less and less valid by the day, may have to take a haircut in their expectations. Some who see that coming may optimize their life trajectories by gradually adjusting their positions before too many others catch on...

Again, a moderate amount of redistribution via universal income may be preferable (even though I'm extremely weary of such irreversible redistributive changes that play to old fashioned self destructive tendencies). That is a valid position. However, labeling universal income non-redistribution just because nothing is visibly taken from anyone is, in my view, equivalent to a conceptual gimmick.

Kartik Gada


When benefits flow to non-contributors then somewhere there's redistribution.

Redistribution reduces incentives (flattens the effort-reward curve) and thus slows down overall ATOM velocity compared to a non-redistributive system, or a less redistributive system

It is not redistribution. The 're' in redistribution implies it is taken from someone else. It is not, as technological deflation is not a person or group of people.

Calling it 'redistribution' is like classifying any productivity gains as redistribution.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)