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Atelier - I've Changed My Mind
Écrit par Alex   
Mardi, 25 Août 2009 23:16
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20. Future Developments (upgrades and uploads)

Many people cannot imagine the future. They say, oh, I suppose we'll probably have spaceships and robots, and things we've seen in sci-fi movies, but that's somebody else's imagination, not theirs, even though they may be right. This sort of woolly prediction is still better than nothing, because it helps people accept some new ideas without being taken too much by surprise when they actually happen, but in general, most people cannot imagine, foresee, predict, plan, and hence cannot control in any way, their future.

Others feel they can imagine the future all too well, and constantly remind us that Armageddon/the end of the world is coming, either through politics, war or god, brought about by technology or human evil or some combination of these with a bit of astrology thrown in. Others know very well that it's all a government conspiracy and we are destined for invasion by an alien species.

'Watching trends' can only assist our prediction to a limited extent. New technologies tip the direction in unexpected ways, and some are rendered obsolete by others, whether or not we like it that way (how many 8-track tapes & Betamax format videos have you got in your attic?) We can, though, look at the inevitable end results of some up-and-coming innovations and wonder how people will deal with those results of this natural expansion. This is commonly assessed by referring to a person's 'shock factor', although it does not take into account the fact that things which shock one person may never occur to another as shocking. (I find it quite shocking that humans keep pets, for example.) Also, everyone's 'shock factor' changes over time, sometimes very quickly, so it is not a very accurate way of assessing individual people so much as common factors and morals in public acceptance of tech and techniques. This is never based on the complexity or strangeness of tech, or even on any perceived and proven real dangers (although they are the logical excuses given), but on sentiment. Almost everybody was happy to accept MRI scanning and blood transfusions, for example, slightly fewer were happy with organ transplants, and abortion & cloning really upset a lot of people big time.

People's 'opinions' are currently based on a sentiment set constructed from their lifelong exposure to rumor, gossip, and outright lies, and most have not enough intelligence left to see that. The major point of interest in developing technology from the point of view of matrix theory is: what happens when our current birth, childcare and education methods are shown publicly to be not only hopelessly inadequate but downright destructive, by, for example, brain scanning? With the ability to tell when something is harming the brain (which is just edging in, along with the ability to see how it responds to things), what's going to happen as we discover more and more things we are doing on an everyday ongoing basis which are suddenly proven totally dumb and very dangerous?

...What happens? ...The recent buzz about Acrylamide in stuff cooked at high temperatures is one good recent early example of this sort of thingR54... Not many people stopped eating chips and burgers because of the publicity on this, most have now forgotten all about it, and I suspect the public's reaction to other similar discoveries will be the same: self-deception housed in an excuse set of general disbelief; ('Oh, well, they're always saying something or other is bad for you, aren't they? If you took any notice of it you wouldn't eat anything!'...'I've eaten this stuff all my life and I'm all right!'...)

As the proof rolls in though, about how we should really develop and learn (and it's starting to roll in fast), people are going to have to do a lot more lying to themselves and each other in order to maintain the society that we currently have. What are people going to do when lying either becomes impossible due to detection techniques, or the pressure of valid information reaches a critical mass which becomes impossible to ignore? Will we become a society with a split reality, consisting of a few who are aware of what's really going on, and a majority who live in a world of 'what people like me (or popular celebrities) say is true'? That's the way it's going currently. Most of the general public live in a fairy tale simulation of reality where astrology for example is far more credible and important than cryonics is, but before you shake your head in dismay; how much of actual reality is still a closed shop to you too? What would you really do, if some scientific machine or technique proved to you tomorrow that your kids will inevitably be brain damaged unless you make sure they're born at home, educated at home, and you stay at home with them until age seven, providing all the right input? What would you do if someone told you you'd go senile unless you changed your mind? Because this will happen, unless we can find another way, and you'll have to either pretend you don't believe it, or change your lifestyle to comply, or admit you care more about your personal comfort than your own or your kids' intelligence. People have already had similar 'reality acceptance' problems with the concept of sexual and racial equality, and deal with it in much the same ways. Is it, in fact, better if children spend their time with people who actually want to be with them, even if we have to pay for that? Bear in mind the fact that we turn into what we are surrounded by, and children always become closest to those who interact with them the most, despite genetics. Kids raised by nurseries and nannies are not going to want to know their parents when they grow up -and why should they? Although they may keep up appearances of closeness for the neighbors' sake, the clear message they got, is that their parents didn't want to spend their precious time with them, and they'll have fonder memories of the people who did.

Will the observed facts change legislation, as they did in racial equality and failed to do in atheism? Will we have a place in 'human rights' for 'children's rights', where kids could legitimately and with scientific proof start suing their parents and teachers for brain damage inflicted in ignorance? What will you do when we see indisputable proof that television, fast food, school, and even early literacy are turning your bundle of joy into an average moron, destined for middle aged depression and then senility? That despite your fabulous IQ there is a real reason why you are hopelessly incompetent at planning, strategy, human relationships or communication? That most of what you say really is misunderstood? That you come over as being stupid, when viewed from stupidity? That your clever-sounding words have, when viewed in retrospect, very little to do with your actions or even your motives? Currently, nobody minds, because all this is normal, just as sexism and racism used to be 'normal'.... What do we do if it becomes not so normal? If children start campaigning for equal rights, and it becomes illegal to damage someone's mind? Will ignorance absolve guilt? Would the guilty be barred from having more children, or go to jail, or to biological psychology classes, or to have their brains restructured, with or without their consent (or even knowledge)? There are certainly a few surprises coming.

Stupidity will also slow down technological progress, or at least its use. Technologies are already in existence, which are unusable due to our stupidity; people cannot be trusted with them. A walking, talking, AI robot may be a great help around the house, but some idiot is sure to reprogram it as a suicide bomber or similar...drugs could be designed that are tailored to the DNA of an individual racial type, but these could be used for eugenic warfare...personal ID tagging could be great for rescue services, but could be used for surveillance, an invasion of privacy...Modafinil is a godsend to those with narcolepsy, but, just like morphine for pain relief, people with nothing wrong with them are going to take it for other reasons, and so on...Technology itself has no morals. Humans currently have very few intelligent ones. Our use of tech will always be limited by our lack of intelligence, and this is fair enough; until we can grow up a bit and stop being so stupid, a lot of tech is not going to be safe for us to use.

It's going to be discovered anyway, just like nukes. We cannot disinvent things. Folks used to say about nukes that we must now either grow up or blow up, but nuke ownership is limited to a small section of the population. The tech we have now is not. Anybody with access to a computer right now can design or do things that can harm millions of others. The technology I personally have access to already, allied with what I know, could, if I were an asshole, easily induce mental illness in people on a permanent basis, not to mention wiping the memories of the perpetrators of crimes, sufficient to fool GSR, 'truth' drugs and scanners. How about just changing people's personalities to ones I prefer? Or convincing someone they're 'in love' ...with me? ...The party? The god? The philosophy?

The trouble is, western society still produces nutters. This is nothing new, of course, nor is it limited to the west; all societies based on anything less than intelligence will continue to produce nutters, but if there is one thing more dangerous than any nutter we've produced in the past, it is a nutter with access to today's technology, as we sadly so often find out. Full-on brainwashing equipment has now done the 'Japanese tech thing' (it's got a lot smaller, easier to use and cheaper to assemble). Giving this sort of ability to most people on the street would be like allowing a chimp to play with a machine gun. Tech like this cannot be 'public' without the morals that should accompany it; the morals of intelligence, which make it impossible for me to harm another intelligence without harming myself. I cannot use equipment and techniques on another intelligent being without their full knowledge and consent because this would not be beneficial to intelligence, including mine. I have to be dedicated to increasing the intelligence of everything I encounter, because I know where my intelligence comes from -constant interaction. Interaction with other intelligence is my most vital input; without it, I know I would slowly lose everything that I have, on the neural front. I would end up a vegetable, being fed mashed potato, incontinent and drooling. No thanks!

You don't have to be a teacher or a master psychologist or a genetics expert or even a neurohacker to increase someone's intelligence. You can increase someone's intelligence by making them a healthy meal. As long as they know what they are eating, that's informed consent. My local fish restaurant probably does more for the future of intelligence than a lot of teachers I know.

Of course, there are other sources of intelligence apart from live humans, (authors can be mind-saving heroes!), but the supply of intelligent input from books, computers and movies is still finite (note I mean intelligent input; there will be a never ending mainstream of dangerous input to avoid on an ongoing basis.) We have to constantly seek that which knows more than we do in order to learn. What happens when we cannot interact with live humans at all, is we face the possibility of running out of input if we live a long time. If humanity as a whole dumbs down as tech continues to progress, we or the next generation could face the nasty prospect of living for a long time without enough intelligent input, which is best imagined by thinking of what it would be like to be stuck in a small room without windows for 50 years, alone, with one repetitive pop song and a copy of a sensationalist newspaper.

As far as I am concerned, imagining the future, as an intelligence, is only relevant as a prelude to creating it. Before I compiled this chapter, I asked a few people whom I consider intelligent whether they would like to contribute their thoughts about some future issues. Here are a few of the things that could be a part of our future. Whether they are, is up to us. It largely depends on what we can imagine, and how intelligent we can become.

Physical Alterations

Many people are aware that the way you appear determines many of your experiences. Cosmetic surgery, which began as a really neat idea to, for example, give someone their face back after it got burned off, has now become a part of many person's 'need'; we regularly use it for obesity and age and pure aesthetics in order to raise status. The size of many people's breasts goes up and down with the seasons, as do their cheek lines and hairlines. Many would like it to go a lot further than it does, many others would like it to be made illegal (usually, those that cannot afford it). In the future, it is likely that such techniques will both increase and continue.

How far would you go with physical transformation, and for what kind of reasons? Prakruti (now 'Veejay') Gocani went about as far as it is currently possible to go...she had surgery in Europe to give her a 'man's body' then chose to live as a male back in India, where s/he works as an immunologist, because (quote) "I'm bisexual anyway, and when men get old and wrinkly and ugly they get more respect than old wrinkly ugly females, and I'm sick of peer group prejudice. Now, everybody treats me as an equal. I have a great life and I'm not expected to get married. I don't take male hormones and I still have a female brain. I don't want to be a man; I just want everyone to treat me like one, so this is my disguise in order to achieve that. I can no longer have kids, but I don't want kids because I'd rather have a quality life myself. Even if I did, I could reproduce in the future by various means or adopt a child. I think in the future lots of people will regularly change their appearance to whatever attracts the greatest status and the best lifestyle for them. That may shock you, but I thought it was a pretty practical move in my status-driven, prejudiced society. For similar reasons, rich girls would prefer another woman to carry and give birth to their child so as not to spoil their figures or risk their health. I would consider changing my body back to female if real equality ever happens. But as a woman I was just never taken seriously."

Physical alterations include organ transplants of course, and no one can deny the benefits brought by this. It is, however, an ethical minefield, and the laws of intelligence cannot solve it to the satisfaction of many, because the problem lies in where to draw the line...(Gocani again:) "Currently, organs are sold in poor countries to pay for weddings, funerals and general debts. Many a third world guy has only one kidney. Human organs are currency already. We should admit this."

Clones & Spares

What if there is a shortage of organs? No problem, say some; you just clone spare ones/clone a copy of yourself/use stem cells/whatever. Ah, speaks up the opposition, but this is immoral. Is it or isn't it? You will have to make up your own mind on that one, and draw your own lines, where you please.

Humans differ broadly in their attitudes to cloning:

"Cloning is not an inherently moral or ethical subject beyond the question of the ethic that requires that the clone be healthy. Cloning as a means of generating replacement parts should be considered only as a stand in as more advanced regenerative systems are designed. In a broad sense, cloning should not be considered as replacement for reproduction in the general sense without the complement of genetic engineering to provide the necessary adaptations to a changing world. Genetic diversity also being a concern." (Alan Grimes 2004)

"Cloning has tremendous potential, both for increasing our life spans with 'spares' and for reproducing. Anyone who wants a child can have one, without even needing a partner. If you preferred, you could have a clone of someone else as your baby...parents would probably pay for cells from famous celebrities, or the best looking people, and that sucks, but we could pay for cells with the very best genome for looks, health and intelligence...put together with genetic engineering, the children of tomorrow will be fantastic! (I guess if someone from 1000 years ago saw our kids, they'd think they were fantastic too)...I always wanted to be a twin because I imagined we would be each other's 'back-up', and more...we would endeavor to learn the same things as each other in the areas which mattered to us most. We'd strive to teach each other how to become more like each other...we'd become some sort of 'megabeing' with two brains and bodies thinking in much the same way as each other, it would be like total unity, an amazing thing...with practice...the possibilities are endless, and very exciting" (Shelley Gibbs, 2002)

"Artificial Intelligence, Robots with flesh, Genetics, and Cloning, are quite simply evil and should be illegal. It is very straightforward, it is breaking the Ten Commandments. Only god can give life, if we try to do this to women they will give birth to deformed monsters like thalidomide and psychopaths. We can't tell that cloned or GM animals are mad because animals don't speak. But they are not right in the head and neither are you and I bet you don't put that opinion in your evil book." (Julie Hodgson, May 2004).1

"Cloning techniques are not going to get any less sophisticated as time goes by. How far will it go? Put the idea of a cloned copy of yourself, together with the idea of getting a head transplant. That's how far we could go. Add in cryonics to store the spare, and what will they think of next?"(Pinky)R55

Smart Drugs

Many biological techniques could help us to live longer, healthier lives in the future, but the people into smart drugs focus more on the quality of life...here's a summary by James Clayton Roberts, followed by an introduction to what we have to look forward to, by Tracie K Meyer.

Nootropics (James Clayton Roberts)R57

"The best place to start is with a definition of the word. Dr. C.E. Giurgea, the top researcher for the company that introduced piracetam, the model nootropic, defined nootropic effects thusly:

1. The enhancements of learning compositions, and the facilitation of interhemispheric information. 2. A partial enhancement of the resistance of the brain to cognition-damaging chemicals and injuries. 3. An increase in the efficiency of tonic cortical and sub-cortical controls systems.

I like the simplest definition of intelligence: problem-solving ability. Nootropics definitely enhance that capability. One criterion that has been loosely adhered to is that nootropics should have no toxic dose. Some do have negative effects at high dosages.

The range of chemicals found to have nootropic effects is vast. From GABA-A receptors (Canadian patent 2446903) to gugulipid (a plant extract, US patent application 2003099729), to Ampakines (Cortex Pharmaceuticals' newest nootropic, which enhances glutamate transmission, and production of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor [BDNF] and Nerve Growth Factor [NGF]). Migragen, in Germany, has developed what they term "the most effective small-molecule promoter" of nerve growth, which they call "PROGO", but they are not releasing specific information. AIT-082 and guanosine are examples of purine derivatives, which cause new brain cell growth by mimicking a peripheral effect of brain damage (purines in the cerebrospinal fluid), thus stimulating the brain to heal. Then there are supplemental neurotransmitter precursors, which are very effective. Examples of these include dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE), lecithin, dimethylglycine, and betaine. These are acetylcholine precursors. Acetylcholine is a primary means of neural signal transmission. Other examples of nootropics include vasopressin, centrophenoxine and hydergine. Korphendon, also called Phentropyl, is the newest 'racetam, from Russia.

Additional vitamins and minerals taken with "smart pills" greatly increase their action. The "racetam" series of nootropics include piracetam, aloracetam, and many others. Two derivatives, Unifiram and Sunifiram, are active in extremely small amounts (fractions of a milligram). Deprenyl is an amphetamine analogue without the negative side effects, and with a different pharmacological action.

Modafinil and Adrafinil are sulfur-containing nootropics that allow one to remain awake for long periods of time without negative consequences.

Many scientists discount nootropics because, in test animals, many of them have no toxicity, even at massive doses. Scientific studies of the effects on animal and human behavior, as well as actions on individual brain cells, are thoroughly documented.

One of the best ways to research up and coming nootropics is to search the Espacenet world patent database with the search terms "cognitive enhancer", "nootropic", "neuro degeneration" and "Alzheimer's". It is said that 80% of humankind's technical knowledge is patented, and with the epidemic proportions of the Alzheimer's Problem, the pharma industry is keen to develop a treatment."

A sample survey of intelligent pharmacology with release dates planned within the next 1-5 years (Tracie K Meyer) R58:

"1. SNAP-7941, the melanin-concentrating hormone antagonist. [There exists MCH1-R as well as MCH2-R.] SNAP-7941 inhibits MCH (Melatonin Concentrating Hormone) -induced food intake in animal models, and in preliminary testing shows SNAP-141 to have antidepressant as well as anxiolytic effects. SNAP-7941 should prove anti-obesity, antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects. The melatonin receptor affinity one was in clinical trials as of yesterday in US as 'Epitan'. (Synaptic pharmaceutical corporation, http://www.synapticcorp.com/)

2. PT-141, a selective melanocortin receptor agonist, is a unisex sexual desire, response and orgasm elicitor. Preliminary testing in animal models cannot seem to find fault with it in any area of sexual function...."Pretty much guaranteed"... Administered as a nasal spray about a half-hour before sex, PT-141 acts on the central nervous system rather than the current crop of vascular dilation products. (PALATIN technologies, http://www.palatin.com/main.asp?con=5%2E2)

3. CX717, an AMPAKINE type AMPA glutamate subreceptor modulator http://www.cortexpharm.com/ apparently cures everything. (Sic) Neurological/Neurodegenerative Disease, Alzheimer's Disease, Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), Parkinson's Disease, CNS Traumatic Injuries, Spinal Cord Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury, Psychiatric Disorders, Schizophrenia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety Disorders, Autism, Fragile X, Narcolepsy, Sleep Disorders, Cerebral Ischemic Disorders, Stroke. http://www.cortexpharm.com/html/research/index.html

4. RG2133 (triacetyluridine). A prodrug of urindine. Indications are for Mitochondrial disease, depression, bipolar disorder. (RepliGen corporation, http://www.repligen.com/Research/Uridine/index.html)

5. NPS-1506, an NMDA antagonist. Indications are for depression and stroke. NPS-1506 is a neuroprotective, which does not have the _undesirable_ side effects of PCP type action, vacuolization and behavioral deconstruction of the prototype drug, MK-801. MPS-1506 with a 2-hour window of opportunity provides neuroprotection against ischemic stroke, traumatic head injury, and hemorrhagic stroke. (NPS pharmaceuticals, http://www.npsp.com/)

6. E3 (estrone), creme for antiaging and antiacnegenic activity for women. This can currently be compounded at the 1% concentration for the eradication of photoaging and to ameliorate the effects of testosterone supplementation on the face, without systemic effects. YOU JUST CAN'T BEAT: tretinoin (vitamin A acid) creme o/gel for the eye/throat area; for rest of face, especially for those hypersexed (sic) females on T; glycolic acid + weak progesterone, (weak 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor) mixed (or compounded; progesterone is OTC) in a mild nonacnegenic creme which gives superior results without systemic effects.

7.T (testosterone) for women: testosterone has a definite libido, response, and orgasmic facilitation effect on women. Numerous companies are currently testing gels and transdermal patches, but none are anywhere near approval. T-supplementation for females is controversial and may have side effects such as clitoral enlargement (while FDA product exists to facilitate clitoral enlargement, hmm), hirsutism, and acne. Current clinical studies have few, if any drop outs due to side effects. While not FDA approved, as of today, testosterone patch "for females" begins clinical trials and expecting fast track FDA approval. However; the sage in tracie says there will be far too little bioidentical testosterone in it -->go with Androgel 1% 5gm ~190-220$US."

...And of course, there'll be something new on the market next week...if not, how about:

Genetic Modification

"A central aesthetic of genetic modification should be the retention of the concept of fitness as evidenced by our evolutionary legacy." (Alan Grimes)

This, of course, is where the difficult questions begin, not where they end...

Let's take this statement apart...What does 'fitness' mean? In the evolutionary context it means not just 'ability to survive', or even 'ability to survive and thrive', but taken to it's optimum it becomes: 'To survive and thrive in the greatest possible number of different situations and environments'.

What does 'survive and thrive' mean? More than staying alive, certainly. To succeed and continue to succeed, to improve, to grow, to develop, and to endure.

Endurance, for evolution, as we know, need not come through sexual reproduction. We're only so fascinated by that currently because of being tied to mammalian limits, which we're starting to break...Biology designed us to reproduce sexually, whenever sperm met egg, regardless of all else. Humans back in the stone age had to reproduce like rabbits to achieve great enough numbers for any to survive at all, so high was infant mortality. We no longer need to do this, but biology doesn't know yet. This, though, is what biology thinks is 'fitness'. It doesn't come anywhere near our ideal definition above. Most of us reading this are alive today not because of biology but because of medicine, tech, drugs, and quite possibly a faulty condom.

Depending on how 'fitness' is defined, a map emerges of what we are striving towards in GM. What we should be striving towards is greater intelligence. What we will probably strive for is intellect and physical beauty. We will claim we strive for health and intelligence, without really knowing what either really means.

I see no reason why we should not have healthier, longer lasting bodies, and I balk at the concept of everyone ending up as software, because although that may suit some, others will be far more sensory-motor oriented and translation through the senses will be important for them, to continue to learn. One thing we must have noticed about the evolution of life is that it likes variation a lot. This is for very sound reasons, and in no useful reality will all beings take the same form, neat and tidy though that may be. Freedom is about people being able to be whatever they want to be, and accepting that we are all different. It doesn't matter if the guy next door wants blue hair and bionic arms, his wife is a third generation copy of a computer program, and his daughter is a brain in a dish on the sideboard, all that matters is they do not expect you to do the same. Indeed, that they recognize the importance of your particular way to live. That is freedom, and evolution.

People who want everyone to upload or to live in any other kind of regularly ordered way, 'for their own good', despite their will, are pretty much the same as the religious fanatics and tyrants of this world. If we are to be free, we must all be free to go the way we want to go, but we should not have any kind of right to enforce our chosen way on others. To do so is to court disaster, as well as being a good sign of being stuck in a matrix. To allow freedom is to accept differences because they will not be imposed upon you.


...And this of course is how Eugenics got a bad name. Someone's definition of 'fitness' which was dead wrong, and got imposed upon you.

Eugenics itself is a damned good idea, and an almost impossible one to put into practice without a 100% highly intelligent population and a healthy society to back it up. Any human working on these issues currently is going to confront a dreadfully difficult problem...

Sentiment itself is prejudiced.

Because we remember and seek for patterns in everything, and because we are, on the whole, anxious creatures, sentiment jumps on any series of correlations and adjusts our emotional weighting accordingly.

For example, let's say you got hurt quite badly on purpose when you were a kid, by two different people who both had red hair. A sentiment-driven system would find it very difficult not to form a prejudice about newcomers with red hair. They wouldn't find it difficult intellectually. They would find it difficult physically and emotionally. Similarly, if someone called 'Dave' or 'Sally' had badly mistreated you in the past, every new Dave or Sally you met would be expected by you, (albeit unconsciously), to be an asshole. We are rarely consciously aware of prejudice.

A person with their mind trapped in a matrix cannot make an unprejudiced judgment. Try as they might to think up logical reasons for their actions, they will be driven by their feelings. And this is not good, when that person is in charge of who gets to reproduce and who doesn't...or who lives and dies. If this kind of attitude comes together with today's technology, we are all in deep shit. Fortunately, this is quite unlikely. The kind of a mind that imposes such rules is ordinarily dependent on others for planning and strategy. Only when there is a combination of tyranny and resources can we really get into trouble. This is why rich loonies are the most dangerous sort. Tyrants cannot normally get rich; they have to depend on others to supply the dough (parents often do this inadvertently by dying, or populations by 'supporting the party'.)

It is natural for us, alas, loony or not, to try to destroy things that make us afraid, things that threaten our survival. If all people with red hair make us feel afraid...well, there must be something weird about them...something wrong with them...we certainly don't want any more of them turning up around here...

...It is this easy, for a human being to totally lose the plot.

I have to conclude therefore that eugenics is one of those techniques we haven't really grown up enough to use yet, so maybe it's a good thing that it got unpopular. It very nearly turned into the monkey with a machine gun. Maybe more nearly than we think.


Worst case scenario: people will get too stupid to realize they're creating more stupid people with each generation. Almost everyone will become incompetent and apathetic. We will start to lose abilities; the ability to write poetry, good original stories, and to create moving artwork and music...we will forget how to be moved by artwork and music...aesthetics will die a death, superseded by 'fashion', in which we learn how to find attractive whatever we are told to find attractive...there will be no real 'love' between humans...no lasting partnerships, just a series of failing new ones...we will all be acting out the soap operas we watched the night before...those who can be bothered, or who are driven enough by fear, will use technology to destroy others and make money, and those who can't be bothered, will let them. The cry of the day will become, "Well, what can I do...?"

Being dependent and helpless will be a way of life. There will be murmuring from all the matrices..."Turn back to god!"..."The Aliens are coming!" "What we need, is to educate these people"..."Vote for me!"..."Let's kick some butt!"..."Your country needs you!"..."Hey man, like, chill out!"...

...More and more of us will perish by senility and apathy...intelligence will disappear, in favor of an economy based on pleasure and animal drives; sex, drugs, and anxiety pacifiers...we will once again become apes, not humans...but we will be apes with machine guns...could this happen? When we run out of brain parts to imbue with inaccurate concepts of omnipotence, perhaps we'll become a species of retards... maybe we'll find that the whole is indeed more than the sum of its parts.

One thing is for certain; if we want to change things, we have to aim at becoming an example of how intelligence works, as opposed to copying the stupidity and error all around. We must listen to each other very hard, be prepared to change our minds no matter how scary it is, and remember that our unity lies in our desire for continues existence; our intelligence, that part of us with the gift for bringing order out of chaos all around. We have a possibility that has never existed before; good mass communication, in other words, the Internet. Intelligence wielding truth could sweep across the world if it were given a chance. And it's too late to worry about repercussions, because the repercussions of it not happening could be entropy and extinction.

The Singularity

"Let's see to it that we are enhancing intelligence and not stupidity." (Alan Grimes)

Most apocalyptic concepts are totally gloom and doom, but there is one which can be taken in a positive or negative way, depending on how competent you think we are...It's called 'The Singularity', and you won't find many more concise and coherent descriptions of what it is, than the following introduction by Adrian Tymes:

" 'The Singularity' is one of those terms with different meanings depending on who is speaking. In general, it is a point in time beyond which the future can not usefully be predicted. (This is not to be confused with a black hole's singularity. The equivalent concept for a black hole is its event horizon, beyond which those of us outside the black hole can not see.) In general use, the Singularity would come about because the reigning sentients at the time, be they augmented humans, self-improving artificial intelligences, or whatever, are simply so smart that even today's best geniuses can barely conceive of what they might think. (Do you know what you would do with an IQ, by today's standards, of 400? Now consider what happens when that degree of intellect becomes average.) Some people believe that a significant portion of the new intellect would be devoted to finding further ways of increasing intellect, kind of like investing money to make more money. Certainly, few people 100 years ago thought the average person would be as wealthy as we are today. While some believe the Singularity will occur on a certain date, similar to a divinely ordained Judgment Day or Armageddon, the truth is that there has always been a moving "Singularity" of sorts. Before the 1970s, few people predicted the ways computers would change everyday life in the industrialized world by 2000. Even in 2004, most long-term predictions about the environment fail to take into account the effects of technology developed to address the very problems being predicted. (When people try to fix a problem they think is worth fixing, they usually succeed. Many people living on Earth think the Earth becoming uninhabitable would be a problem worth fixing.) Likewise, even if we do get much smarter as predicted, our increased intelligence will let us see further into the future, thus pushing the Singularity back. We always know at least a little bit about what lies ahead, even if it is not as much as we would like."

The Singularity is a favorite future scenario for M4s, who still confuse intellect with intelligence and who, when they say 'AI', actually mean Artificial Intellect, in the context of matrix theory. It is possible that increasing intellect may lead to an increase in intelligence, but it is just as likely that increasing imagination may, too. There are many people on this planet with very high IQs who are, despite them, incredibly stupid, but information as intellect is still valuable because for those who have the rest of a working brain, it can be the real icing on the cake. Intellect (and imagination) in the service of intelligence is the only way we are really going to increase intelligence.

I have already sung the praises of writers, and I now hand over the page to one of my favorites, Damien Broderick...His view of 'the singularity' and related concepts is amply expressed in his own non-fiction works 'The Last Mortal Generation' and 'The Spike'. Here's another peachR56:

"I wish I could show you the real future, in detail, just the way it's going to unfold. In fact, I wish I knew its shape myself. But the unreliability of trends is due precisely to relentless, unpredictable change, which makes the future interesting but also renders it opaque.

This important notion has been described metaphorically--both in science fiction and in serious essays--as a technological Singularity. That term is due to Professor Vernor Vinge, a mathematician and novelist formerly in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, San Diego State University (although a few others had anticipated the insight). `The term "singularity" tied to the notion of radical change is very evocative,' Vinge says, adding: `I used the term "singularity" in the sense of a place where a model of physical reality fails.' In mathematics, singularities arise when quantities go infinite; in cosmology, a black hole is the physical, literal expression of that relativistic effect.

For Vinge, accelerating trends in computer sciences will converge somewhere between 2030 and 2100 to form a wall of technological novelties blocking the future from us. However hard we try, we cannot plausibly imagine what lies beyond that wall. `My "technological singularity" is really quite limited,' Vinge says. `I say that it seems plausible that in the near historical future, we will cause superhuman intelligences to exist. Prediction beyond that point is qualitatively different from futurisms of the past. I don't necessarily see any vertical asymptotes.' Some proponents of this perspective (including me) take the idea much farther than Vinge, because we do anticipate the arrival of an asymptote in the rate of change. That exponential curve will be composed of a series of lesser sigmoid curves, each mapping a key technological process, rising fast and then saturating its possibilities before being gazumped by its successor, as vacuum tubes were replaced by transistors at the dawn of electronic computing. Humanity itself--or rather, ourselves--will become first `transhuman', it is argued, and then `posthuman'.

While Vinge first advanced his insight in works of imaginative fiction, he has featured it more rigorously in such formal papers as his address to the VISION-21 Symposium, sponsored by NASA Lewis Research Center and the Ohio Aerospace Institute, March 30-31, 1993. He opened that paper with the following characteristic statement:

`The acceleration of technological progress has been the central feature of [the 20th] century. I argue in this paper that we are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. The precise cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater than human intelligence.

The impact of that distressing but apparently free-floating prediction is much greater than you might imagine. In 1970, Alvin Toffler had already grasped the notion of accelerating change. In Future Shock he noted: `New discoveries, new technologies, new social arrangements in the external world erupt into our lives in the form of increased turnover rates--shorter and shorter relational durations. They force a faster and faster pace of daily life.' This is the very definition of `future shock'.

Thirty something years on, we see that this increased pace of change is going to disrupt the nature of humanity as well, due to the emergence of a new kind of mind: AIs (artificial intelligences). With self-bootstrapping minds abruptly arrived in the world, able to enhance and rewrite their own cognitive and affective coding in seconds, science will no longer be restricted to the slow, limited apertures granted by human senses (however augmented by wonderful instruments) and sluggish brains (however glorious by the standards of other animals). We'll find ourselves, Vinge suggests, in a world where nothing much can be predicted reliably.

Is that strictly true? There are some negative constraints we can feel fairly confident about. The sheer reliability and practical effectiveness of quantum theory, and the robust way relativity holds up under strenuous challenge, argues that they will remain at the core of future science--in some form, which is rather baffling, since at the deepest levels they disagree with each other about what kind of cosmos we inhabit. In other words, we do already know a great deal, a tremendous amount, corroborated knowledge will not go away.

Meanwhile, what I call the Spike in my book of that title--Vernor Vinge's technological Singularity--apparently looms ahead of us: a horizon of ever-swifter change we can't yet see past. The Spike is a kind of black hole in the future, created by runaway change and accelerating computer power. We can only try to imagine the unimaginable up to a point. That is what scientists and artists (and visionaries and explorers) have always attempted as part of their job description.

Despite possible impediments to the arrival of the Spike, I suggest that while it might be delayed, almost certainly it's not going to be halted. If anything, the surging advances I see every day coming from labs around the world convince me that we already are racing up the lower slopes of its curve into the incomprehensible. In short, it makes little sense to try to pin down the future. Too many strange changes are occurring already, with more lurking just out of sight, ready to leap from the equations and surprise us. True AI, when it occurs, might rush within days or months to SI (superintelligence), and from there into a realm of beings whose motives and plans we can't even start to second-guess. Nanotechnology could go feral or worse, used by crackpots or statesmen to squelch their foes and rapidly smear us all into paste. Or sublime AIs might use it to the same end, recycling our atoms into better living through femtotechnology.

The single thing I feel confident of is that these emerging technological trajectories will start their visible run up the right-hand side of the graph within 10 or 20 years, and by 2030 (or 2050 at latest) will have put everything we hold self-evident into question. We will live forever; or we will all perish most horribly; our minds will emigrate to cyberspace, and start the most ferocious overpopulation race ever seen on the planet; or our machines will Transcend and take us with them, or leave us in some peaceful backwater where the meek shall inherit the Earth. Or something else, something far weirder and... unimaginable. Don't blame me. That's what I promised you."

Tied in with the 'singularity' concept, is the possibility of life extension or even human immortality. There are many different methods suggested to achieve this. Cryonics is the technique of preserving tissue at low temperatures for future use (in organ transplants) or possible revival and repair (in whole humans or their brains.) It will probably sneak in sideways as a technique for enabling the brain to survive for longer during operations and so on, because big headway is being made in this direction. Nanotechnology is looked upon by some as the upcoming savior of humanity in itself, suggesting possibilities as wide ranging as massive cheap food production, biological repair & replacement, disease prevention and uploading. Bionics & Cyborgisation tie in with this, because nanotech would be the optimal way to achieve it.

Uploading is defined by most as either 'replacing the actions of brain cells with exact mechanical (nano) copies', or 'moving the functions of the physical brain onto a non-biological platform'. Various ways of doing this have been suggested, and the concept has become allied to the study of AI for obvious reasons. Unfortunately we are not likely to get very far with either until we find out exactly what it is we need to reproduce, how it works, and how it goes wrong. If a model for Artificial Intelligence is taken from most current human brains we will end up with Artificial Dysfunctional Intelligence, which is of little use to anybody, including itself.

IA & Emergence

It must be clear by now that I see IA as the (currently) most immediately accessible way to increase our intelligence. Cryonics may be a necessary subsidiary technology to preserve it, unless a great deal happens in nanotech very fast.

All that we have as an example of intelligence, currently, is human minds. If we can understand how the human mind processes and explicates 'intelligence' we have a great deal to work with in exploring its parameters. We can use this knowledge to change ourselves, to become ever more adept and competent in whatever field we choose. In doing this, we might learn a little more about reality.

In a sense, consciousness is an epiphenomenon of intelligence. Intelligence is a program for survival resulting from evolutionarily successful strategies for survival. Some kinds of behavior have helped us stay alive. The ability to do them gets passed on. The most successful individuals have more of them. They are strategies for interaction, the most profitable memes for continued survival.

COMP is how we interact and learn. Intelligence is why we interact and learn. And interaction and learning, is why we have intelligence.

1: This lady was introduced to ICMM on her friend's computer, and sent me an extensive essay mostly in upper case with detailed instructions on how to stop myself becoming the antichrist. (They mainly involved reading the bible a lot and praying, for anyone who feels they need this advice.) Her friend was most surprised at her reaction. I wasn't. This quote is a brief extraction from of the more approachable bits. I did get her permission to include it, so I must have some morals.


Mise à jour le Mardi, 25 Août 2009 23:18