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Transformation starts today February 15, 2010

Posted by Summerspeaker in Evo psych, Technocracy, The Singularity, Transhumanism.

That’s right. You don’t have to wait for advanced nanotechnology or strong AI. While far from ideal, the present material circumstances of the species hold much potential. We have the resources and productive power to enable everyone on the planet to live the good life by current standards. The results wouldn’t be as sweet as transhumanist dreams of utility fog and biological immortality, yet still light-years beyond the mess we’ve got now. Even without any scientific advance, we have what we need to radically change society for the better.

Transhumanists too often fall into the trap of dismissing the existing state of the human race as hopeless. I can certainly relate. Around two week ago a car hit me as I was riding my bicycle, breaking my ankle and wrist. I’ve been hobbling around my home cursing at my inability to do anything. It’s awfully rough. I’d rather not be weak flesh subject to injury, disease, and death. I long for the world of genies and eternal youth. But I can’t let that desire blind me to the possibilities that don’t require speculative advancements. Old-fashioned popular struggle promises plenty. Present problems of consumption and distribution come out of a specific cultural and social context. We humans are remarkably flexible creatures; it’s wildly speculative as well as downright lazy to assign the current ills to inherent flaws.


1. Zack M. Davis - February 16, 2010

I’m sorry you got injured!

“the possibilities that don’t require speculative advancements […]”

To your list I would add rationality training. Intelligence enhancement may be far off (or maybe not), but studying the basics of choice and belief can provide an impressive results today.

2. Zack M. Davis - February 16, 2010

“can provide an [sic] impressive results today”

Regrettably, proofreading skills are another matter entirely.

3. Summerspeaker - February 16, 2010

Definitely, though I’m a little of skeptical of rationality as practiced and extolled by Yudkowsky. I get a strong sense of positivism from him, which I can’t accept philosophically. James Hughes has written an excellent article addressing this issue. I fully endorse his closing recommendations. Self-analysis needs to extend as far as Hughes takes it.

On the other hand, the practical differences can be minimal. I support much of what Yudkowsky says and does.

Another example of the benefits of encouraging people to reflect on their own thought processes comes from anthropologist Pablo Vila. His study on identity construction on the U.S.-Mexico border lays out the myriad animosities between social groups in horrifying detail. However, he went back for second interviews with all of his subjects in which he challenged to think critically about the narratives they were using to denigrate others. This produced striking results, with most quickly seeing the error and danger of what they had earlier expressed.

4. Isaac J. - March 30, 2010

If one follows the Friendly AI Theory/Plan of the Singinst then it is in keeping with their path that the FAI will provide and shelter every living human being from harm and lack of necessity in due time as a result of exponentially increasing intelligence and capability. I hope and endeavor that something such as this happens for all humanity, although I still believe certain groups, such as say the Amish, would refuse such AI assistance in the future. Such is their right to self-determination and freedom of choice. The moment the Singinst declares the FAI will enforce some brand of their hybrid liberal-libertarian ideology across the planet is the moment they lose my support.

5. Summerspeaker - March 31, 2010

What does “due time” mean, Isaac? As I’ve argued and the data show, we already have the technological ability to provide everyone on the Earth with the good life. Only human organization stands in the way. A superintelligence with access to molecular manufacturing could likely end poverty in a mater of weeks. Perhaps days. Even with existing production tech and without human cooperation it shouldn’t take more than a year or two given that AGI implies the ability to automate anything people currently do.

I hold mixed feelings about the open-ended nature of the FAI plan. Needless to I’m similarly pleased the Singularity Institute doesn’t want to program the superintelligence to follow their own ideology. However, simply trusting the singleton to come with the right answers also makes me uncomfortable. I refuse to relinquish my judgment to anyone, be they human, god, or genie.

6. Isaac J. - March 31, 2010

Due time means whenever the AI does it. Like you said, it can be relatively fast or relatively slow. It also depends on whether we have a hard or soft take off. Human organization will never change in a manner that will provide everyone with a “good life”. Blame the human psyche, volatile emotions, ideology or any other factor but a benevolent AI, whether by the Singinst or not, should by the nature of benevolence end human-controlled economic models and distribution. AI should exist to build paradise for every living thing, not to continue our global economy in the current model or to let humans continue with their mistakes.

7. Summerspeaker - March 31, 2010

Human organization will never change in a manner that will provide everyone with a “good life”.

That’s pure conjecture at this point. We don’t have the equipment to put this hypothesis to the test.

8. The Singularly may not be near « Queering the Singularity - October 28, 2010

[…] must work with what we’ve currently got. As I’ve written in the past, there’s no need to wait for nanofactories to produce material abundance. Rational use of existing technology would produce […]

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