“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” May 5, 2010Posted by Summerspeaker in The Singularity, Transhumanism.
The theme of deity-making resonates across transhumanism, particularly within the Friendly-AI branch of the movement. The totalitarian aspect of this vision has started to alarm me. It seems as if transhumanists, in their affection for the Enlightenment, have resurrected the ideal of benevolent despotism. The associated cultural baggage has decidedly elitist and absolutist implications. For example, AI-enthusiast Cameron waxes eloquent about the total awesomeness of super-intelligent authority: “Absolute power in the hands of the greatest minds will make for a world beyond imagination.” Hominid, another commenter, espouses a straightforward social-Darwinist explanation of history which I suspect lies behind a significant proportion of transhumanist thought. “The smart ones built a civilization, manifesting this hereditary inequality in material terms,” ey writes. “Now they own almost everything and the dumb and ugly own almost nothing.”
For my part, I echo Ben Goertzel: “I don’t just want us to build gods, I want us to become gods.” Now, I could hardly complain about hypothetical AI singleton that freely distributed value to all and used the absolute minimum of coercion to prevent violence. Whatever niggling philosophical qualms I had would be annihilated by the pure win of the situation. The problem, as Nick Bostrom notes, it getting the singleton right. This has both a technical and political element. If the folks enacting the apotheosis either have a broader notion of the artificial god’s sphere of control or simply miscalculate, then we might well have an eternal, unstoppable tyrant on our hands. If, for instance, the singleton ends up enforcing peace via terror and wanton destruction, as in The Day the Earth Stood Still, I will not be pleased.
Stepping aside from future concerns, social-Darwinist narratives, reverence for authority, and Hobbesian fear of the masses all have immediate relevance to the present day. These notions connect with continuous oppression by the state in the name of security. Our legalistic, authoritarian culture leads to people treating official violence as an amusement. At the very least, the proponents of na enlightened AI dictator need remember the distinction between that dream and the selfish, brutal bosses we have now.