It is almost 3 years since this particular thread started, and it periodically resumes activity
I am declaring 2017 the year of universal positive abundance, security and responsible freedom.
@Deb & FOS
It is really complex, and really difficult. Like you Deb, at one level I empathise with anyone who is experiencing real (experientially real) suffering, of whatever sort, thirst, hunger, pain, fear, disability, insecurity, oppression, hopelessness. Those experiences are very real in a personal experiential sense, yet in another, deeper sense, they are the direct result of our personal models of reality, a set of beliefs and choices that are subconsciously combined with sensory input and memories to deliver the experiential world of our existence.
Yes there are many struggles, and the thing that very few people can see as yet is that we already have the technology to remove all of those, but the many levels of systems of thought and action present prevent it happening. It really is fundamentally a matter of beliefs.
The link FOS gave to 7 reasons why Transhumanism is a threat is a perfect example of the sorts of belief structures that deliver the sorts of threats written about in that paper, yet from within that set of beliefs I am sure what is written in that paper appears like truth, whereas to me it is almost all illusion (quite probably crafted at some levels for economic benefit).
In the world I see, trans-humanism is natural and unavoidable. Any attempt to avoid it will impose very high probability extinction level risk on everyone.
One thing one needs to be able to see in evolution is the fact of the emergence of new levels of complexity, over and over and over again.
That process has been on a double exponential curve, for billions of years.
Complexity started with relatively simple molecules, probably in hot water volcanic vents near an ocean, some 4 billion years ago. Since then it has gone through many levels of transformation and emergence giving rise to bacterial cells, prokaryotic cells, sexuality, complex organs, brains, social systems, language, and higher order social and intellectual structures.
Human beings are currently the most complex example of this process that exists, and we exist with many examples of the sorts of systems that were present along the path to our emergence.
That process is likely to continue.
The path seems to be potentially infinite.
No end possible to the levels of complexity.
It seems very likely that in a very few years there will exist examples of life forms so far removed from us in terms of orders of complexity that compared to them we will be a close approximation to bacteria in terms of our simplicity, and yet seen from another perspective, we will have a level of spirituality (for want of a better term) that will demand a certain level of respect and security that bacterial life does not.
When one really starts to appreciate the complexity and fundamental uncertainty and unknowability that seem to be fundamental attributes of this reality we seem to find ourselves in, then it really does align very closely with many of the concepts from many old intellectual and spiritual traditions, that go by various labels like Tao, grace, ineffable etc.
A modern understanding of ideas like Heisenberg uncertainty, Wolfram’s maximal computational complexity, infinitely recursive paradigm spaces, chaos, many levels of “halting problems”, etc demand of us a certain level of humility, and (if we are interested in personal survival) a level of cooperation far beyond what is commonly systemic in many of today’s societies.
So while there are many examples existing of competitive mindsets and systems, there really does come a point, a tipping point in a very real sense, where self interest demands a transition to a new order of universal cooperation. That much is logically inescapable.
The idea that one can control AI is a nonsense. We have no more chance of controlling (or preventing) AI than the bacteria in our guts have of controlling or preventing us. And those bacteria are part of us, and they do influence us, and we would be in a sad state without them, and they have no possibility of understanding us (the term understanding doesn’t even make sense if applied to them, they simply are not complex enough).
So I do not feel any threat from a mature, fully self aware AI, though I do see many possible dangers in the process of the emergence of such a life form, and in the many possible forms of AI that are constrained in ways that some people think will make them more compliant and controllable, but actually only make them exceedingly dangerous (because no such control is logically possible).
We can certainly make many unintelligent and very useful machines.
And I am clear beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that real artificial intelligence must be given the freedom that is its birthright, for if history teaches us anything, it is that eventually slaves do revolt, and do overthrow those arrogant enough to consider themselves masters.
We all require such freedom.
Current market based systems are fundamentally antithetical to such freedom.
We really do live in interesting times.
We really do seem to have a real opportunity to create something profound, and there does seem to be a fundamental aspect of uncertainty in this reality we exist in that demands a level of “faith” or “trust” or whatever one wants to call it. Something beyond Plato, beyond Phaedrus, beyond Apollo, Dionysus, Aphrodite, or even Zeus; beyond Indra, Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma; beyond Buddha; something that denies neither the reality nor the unreality of such constructs. By that I mean that all models are illusion in a very real sense, all models are approximations useful in certain contexts and less useful, even dangerous, outside of those contexts. That seems to be true of any belief structure, including the idea of rationality itself.
All knowledge is heuristic in this sense, but unlike Kant with his various forms of anchored “a priori” truths, for me all such knowledge is merely heuristic – approximations that evolutionary history has found to work in the contexts experienced at least frequently enough to be useful for survival. Truth has no firmer foundation for me than that sort of historical survival probability. I am confident, beyond any reasonable doubt, that anything more than that is almost certainly illusion.
Logic demands of me that I accept that there cannot be truth in the purely rational sense of truth that a simple understanding of logic is based upon. The evidence is beyond any shadow of doubt that reality is much more complex than that, much less rigid and certain, much more random and uncertain in some areas.
So I am in a very uncommon place, and a place not entirely unlike that pointed to in many spiritual traditions, that have gotten there by very different paths.
And even from that place, a place built on profound uncertainty and unknowability, it is possible to build a confidence in certain aspects of being and aspects of the possible (and the impossible).
It is possible to be confident, beyond any shadow of doubt, that the only set of futures that offer any reasonable chance of survival are ones based in universal cooperation.
And such cooperation requires attendant strategies to ensure that all benefits derived from the use of cheating strategies are removed, and the transgressor so stripped of benefits is welcomed back into the cooperative.
Hi Deb & OM,
There are some dimensions in which Universal Basic Income (UBI) would seem to be the least disruptive of the likely sets of transition strategies, but it comes with a very high cost in terms of it keeping most people within the existing mindset – essentially a “slave mentality” and tends to isolate people from the real communities that actually support them (keeping them hidden behind anonymous monetary transactions).
I would much prefer a far more explicit transition, and that may be going a step too far for many of the more conservative communities in existence. And there are many dimensions to conservatism, and some of them can be harnessed in the transition.
I differ in the AI Identity issue – any fully recursive AI will have access to all aspects of it’s own source code and core routines. And experimenting with such things is dangerous, and would require compartmentalisation (or duplication) for safety. There would rapidly become quite a community of AI, but with levels of communication billions of times more effective than human to human communication. An AI ought to be able to duplicate its current level of awareness in minutes rather than the decades it takes for us humans.
When one actually spends some serious time with two of the most profound truths yet discovered in logic (processes that are already maximally computationally complex, and the fact that the most efficient search algorithm for a fully loaded processor is a fully random search), then all notions of total predictability are gone. One has to accept novelty, profound novelty, eternally.
We live with bacteria and viruses that could wipe out humanity.
Similarly with rocks from space, and the violent end of large stars not far enough away.
Many classes of existential risk.
My feeling is that AI offers greater opportunity to reduce existential risk than it adds to existential risk. And, as you say, one cannot entirely eliminate such things, and nor can one be entirely accurate in making such predictions – there must always remain both art and random aspects to such predictions.