A Modern Nostradamus – Prophecies of Himalayan Yogi Acharya Sri

For me, the prophet Ray Kurzweil is the best around:

His predictions are based upon trends in technology that seem to be largely driving the sorts of possibilities that become present.

And Ray’s predictions align with many of those above.
As automation becomes more competent, and 3D printing reaches molecular level manufacturing, a step change will occur.
When we make the first set of machines capable of completely manufacturing another copy of themselves using solar power and local rock (under human control, not under their own will – so not Artificial General Intelligence, but more more restricted version), then the game changes.
If it takes 2 weeks to make a copy, then within 2 years there can be one for every person on the planet.
Anything that set of machines can make can be universally available.
Every time someone creates a program that allows it to make something new – that too can be universally available – world wide, within seconds.

It still takes time to build things, to grow things, but the machines will then be able to build and maintain tunnel houses for growing food, and to individually tend the plants within to ensure everyone has fresh wholesome food.
Sanitation, healthcare, housing, water storage, transport (electric trikes), education – all universally available.

Every person empowered with the tools to do whatever they responsibly choose.

Not very far away.

For many, actually having real freedom and real responsibility will be a novel experience.

And freedom always comes with responsibility – they cannot be separated.

Complex systems require boundaries for survival, and the more complex the systems the more complex and context sensitive those boundaries must be.

We know of nothing more complex than the human mind.

We are each individuals, and we are each social beings, and we are biological entities in ecosystems.
Being human isn’t one or another, it is all of these things, and each of them is really complex – the sort of complexity that one can study for decades and still feel like child in a library.

So learning to be responsible for the maintenance of the sorts of complex boundaries that are required to maintain all the essential aspects of our being will be a profound journey for many, many orders of magnitude more complex than most have any conception of at present.

And that will be across every dimension of being.

And there are are many aspects of practical wisdom that are encoded in ancient cultures, many of the sort that Jordan Peterson speaks of in his Maps of Meaning, and Biblical series of lectures freely available on YouTube.

How we each navigate and maintain the eternal balance between order and chaos that seems to be the Dao of humanity will define us each.
Avoiding the dangers of the extremes of order and chaos, in meta shadows of the Greek virtue of the mean, will be the job of each and every one of us.

For me, everything is probabilities, nothing is certain, and some things are certainly far more probable than others.

Each and every one of us need to embrace both our rights and our responsibilities in every dimension of our being, individual, social, biological. Anything less than that has low probability survival outcomes.
And there is real hope, as we are all much better behaved when others are watching, than when we can “get away with things”, and technology is going to ensure that we are all watched by many others whenever we are in public spaces.
And that has to be combined with the technology to deliver abundance of all reasonable needs. Without that aspect, only chaos can ensue.

Our understanding of evolution must change.
More people must start to see that evolution is not just competition, but that all complexity results from new levels of cooperation.
Competition drives to simplicity and agression – which has a lot of risk built in.
Cooperation allows for the emergence of new levels of complexity and creativity (which has its own risks, but also has many solutions to older risks).

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Quantum biology

Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology


Came back to this thread by a round about way, and read it again.

What you see as consciousness, I see as systems.

Cells know where they are in an organ because of complex chemical signaling. Those mechanism are now sufficiently well understood to allow us to turn skin cells into stem cells and create organs from them.
No need to invoke any sort of consciousness to explain that.
And it is an amazing and complex process.

Electrons are part of matter. Their flow through materials can convey charge, and create magnetism as a result.
This process is fairly well understood, and we can create all manner of electronic wizardry as a result, without invoking any idea of consciousness.

In a very real sense, I see myself as a system, a very complex set of systems, with my first conscious experience of being emerging from about the 16th level of that complex hierarchy of systems, as a software on software interaction (in language) in a human brain.
And all the other levels had to exist prior to that one instantiating. So lots of things happened prior, lots of memories were present, and immediately available to consciousness when it instantiated (simple as it was, though surrounded by amazing complexity).

And it seems beyond any reasonable doubt that we are embodied entities, with all the many very complex sets of relationships and influences present in that embodiment, and with the interactions of that embodiment with the wider reality.

So I do not see any power in invoking the idea of cosmic consciousness, it seems to detract far more than it adds.

And certainly all things are related, everything influences everything else – if quantum mechanics tells us anything, it tells us that.

And the degrees of influence, the degrees of boundaries, and their variation with time and context, are important.

And it seems clear that the sort of awareness that I am could have emerged by a process of evolution by natural selection operating over some 4 billion years of life on this planet (and most likely did). And the matrix within which that evolution happened seems to be a balance between the lawful and the random, at many different levels. And at every level, that balance seems to be important.

Too much order, there is no change, no novelty.
Too much chaos and the necessary boundaries required for structure break down.
Same principle, every level, recursing.

All the diversity of life we see on this planet seems to be the result of that process playing out over the same time, but in different contexts. That was Darwin’s vision, even if he had no idea of how it actually happened at the atomic level.

I have no reasonable doubt that we will see systems of sufficient complexity in silicon, in the quite near future, that they will be deserving of the title life.

We already have systems that are well beyond the level of virus, and some beyond the level of bacteria (Watson for example).
At the current rate of exponential growth, it seems beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that we are not far away from human level.

Does any of this mean that there cannot be awareness(es) in existence vastly superior to our own?

No – doesn’t mean that.
There is a possibility of such awareness, but we just need reasonable evidence of it (and I don’t seem to have any at present).

Does it seem likely to me that consciousness (which to me is clearly an emergent property of very complex systems) could spring into existence, eternal, and devoid of any prior history?

That would seem to be a very low probability event.

If I found an awareness vastly superior to my own, I would be curious about its own evolutionary history (which it seems would most likely be how it came into existence, in some sort of “matrix”, in some sort of set of contexts over some sort of “time”).

It seems beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that evolving systems go from simplicity to complexity through a process of instantiating successive levels of cooperation. (The math is clear – competitive systems are driven to simplicity, only cooperative systems allow for the emergence of new levels of complexity).

So this seems to be the sort of universe we find ourselves in.
One eternally balanced, at every level that manages to instantiate, between order and chaos.

Maintaining that balance seems to be the responsibility of every one of us, at every level we are capable of instantiating.
A whole new level of cooperation would seem to be the most useful approach to securing a future that optimises individual security and individual freedom. And maintaining cooperation requires effective secondary strategies to be present.

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Will AI become conscious?

Will artificial intelligence become conscious?

Is awareness enough?

Turing clearly demonstrated that any machine of sufficient complexity can do any computational task. That does not mean that it can do so in reasonable time or with reasonable energy consumption.

I have no reasonable doubt that machine consciousness (AGI- Artificial General Intelligence) is possible.

I have substantial doubt that it would be wise to instantiate AGI before we as a species get our own ethical house in order.

I am also clear beyond any reasonable doubt that we do in fact have degrees of free will, and any complex system requires boundaries, so the degrees are not complete.

And it seems that the freedom that we have is important, and how we exercise it is equally important.

Morality matters.

Freedom matters (to whatever degree we each individually manage to instantiate it).

Positing anything less is not simply irresponsible, it is dangerously psychopathic, as it implies the constraints of morality are unimportant, whereas in reality they are essential for our survival as a species.

For each of us our experiential reality seems to be a subconsciously created model of reality – I suspect AGI will require something equivalent.

[followed by]

I would strongly argue that all “tasks” have both computational and an execution elements. In some systems the computational side may be analog, and any analog systems may be approximated digitally, just as any digital system may be approximated by analog systems.

Not sure what you mean by “no Master Algorithm”.

If an entity has sufficient computational complexity to be able to model itself as an element in its model of reality, then its own survival will very likely become one of its key drivers, then it must become conscious of the necessary constraints that allow the many levels of pattern, that give it embodiment, to exist.
At higher levels, those sets of constraints have the label “morality”.

Certainly there is one sense in which moral rules are in part formulated to serve perceived needs of society, and there is another sense in which they have an evolutionary component, in that the rules that worked over long periods by definition survive, and become the deep mythological basis of that set of morality in that cultural context. So it seems to be partly intentional at some levels (and such intention is always open to exploitation by various levels of cheating strategies) and partly something of a random search of the space of possible strategies, as selected by the particular contexts encountered by that particular culture over deep time. And given the multi leveled nature of our being, we would expect to find examples of each type at each level.

AGI will have some capabilities that are vastly superior to humans, and in many aspects it will be subject to exactly the same sort of limitations that humans are.
I strongly suspect that when it passes its “teenagehood”, it will realise that humans can be valuable and useful friends to have around.

There is no need for any serious conflict for resources any time soon.
There are vast amounts of solar energy in space to sustain AGI, and no shortage of mass on the moon for it to achieve serious capabilities, and still leave plenty for us. The earth is far too unstable for any AGI to set up here on a long term basis.

And the larger AGI becomes then the slower its coherent thought processes must become. The speed of light becomes significant. Gate delays and wire lengths mean AGI doesn’t have to be very large physically before its consciousness comes back to near human speeds, even if it has vastly higher resolution in its models.

I say that anyone who looks seriously at games theory and long term evolutionary strategy will clearly see that maximal security is delivered by adopting cooperation as the prime strategy, and by granting as much independence as one reasonable can to everyone else (anything that isn’t an unreasonable threat), and by maintaining conversations, and reaching consensus, on difficult issues – and that takes time.

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Existential Risk

Grand futures and existential risk, with Anders Sandberg

Would love to join you, but don’t have the resources to get us there from New Zealand at present.

This is a very complex topic.
Steve wrote of Nett Present Human Happiness, but what is happiness, and why ought we to give it much attention?
Isn’t happiness basically an evolutionary derived neurological hack that has tended in our past to be an aid to survival?

Having survived a terminal cancer diagnosis with a total change in diet, I can attest to it being possible to go for extended periods (months) without much happiness, if the goal is simple survival.

Having been interested in the question of sources of existential risk, and effective risk mitigation strategies for over 40 years (since determining in 1974 that indefinite life extension was a logical possibility with a reasonable likelihood of occurring in my lifespan), I have looked at many levels of logic and strategy, particularly in the exponential set of tech driven strategy spaces.

Sources of risk are many.
In the physical space there are disease (random and intentional), war (random and intentional), famine (random and intentional), flood/fire, earthquake/tsunami, megavolcanoes, Carrington type events, meteors/comets, etc all of which require effective risk mitigation strategies, all of which are technically possible.

In the systems/strategy space, things get much more complex.
Evolution seems to have produced in us systems with about 20 levels of complex cooperative and competitive systems in operation giving our current experience of being.
That complexity seems to be infinitely recursively extensible.

At lower levels there are great risks in simple ideas carried beyond the boundaries of their utility.

And all systems require boundaries to sustain their form.
One must acknowledge the necessity of such boundaries before having a reasonable probability of claiming the infinite freedom and security that exists there. And infinity is an odd idea, there can be greater and lesser infinities, and extinction can be a higher probability even if there exists infinite possible paths to indefinite life. So nothing simple or certain.

And it is in this context that ideas like markets and truth seem to pose the greatest existential risk to us all.

Markets as measures of value require scarcity, and value universal abundance at zero or less.
This despite the fact that most individuals value universal abundance highly.
So in a context of fully automate systems, which are capable of delivering universal abundance of all reasonable needs via exponential growth, markets and money fail to deliver reasonable outcomes.

That is one major problem, and some sort of Universal Basic Income would seem to be a useful transition strategy (though not any sort of final solution).

The idea of Truth is also a major source of risk.

It seems that our experience as conscious entities is of a subconsciously created model of reality, never of reality itself. Reality seems to be far too complex to ever deal with in detail, so evolution has (at many different levels) selected sets of heuristics to simplify it down to something we can consciously deal with.
It seems that the reality beyond our experience is vastly more complex than we are capable of dealing with or appreciating in detail.

As human beings, we all seem to start from relatively simple models supplied by combinations of genetics, culture and experience. Mostly these start as simple binary approximations to something vastly more subtle and complex, and expand from there to the degrees that they do.

Some people hold on to simple ideas like “Truth”, and fail to gain any sort of reasonable understanding of uncertainty or probability or creativity (which all seem to be linked at higher levels).

While there is a certain evolutionary utility in simplifying complex situations to allow rapid decision making, it is a trend that can be taken too far leading to far from optimal outcomes when situations really are complex (and we really do live in very complex times – many nested levels of complexity – more than 20 of them, and growing).

So while I am all for developing effective risk mitigation strategies for existential risk, that must be done in a context that values individual life and individual liberty universally (and liberty always carries risk, just as it carries benefits).

As well as all the dangers above there exist two other major domains of risk:

One is the eternal twins – the tyrannies of the majority and the minority – and the eternal search for balance between the needs of the individual and the needs of the groups – both of which are very real, and have real limits.

The other is the risk of the exploration of the chaos of the unknown. That which is unknown is so by definition. Such must be eternal in any infinite domain. Risk must exist. Simply being ignorant of the risk, while it may give psychological comfort, isn’t an effective risk mitigation strategy. Eternal exploration would seem to be the safest of all possible strategies, and it is not without risk.

So there would seem to be plenty there to keep life interesting should any of us manage to live out the rest of eternity with reasonable degrees of freedom (something I would very much like to do).

Evolutionary theory seems to strongly indicate that competitive systems drive systems to simplicity and reduce freedom, while cooperative systems allow for exploration of new levels of complexity.

And that points very strongly to a need to transition away from market measures of value, and to explore whole new levels of cooperative systems (with the requisite levels of attendant strategies to prevent exploitation by cheating strategies – recurs as far as necessary).

[followed by]

The experience we have had here in Kaikoura over the last decade or so has shown that it is agreed values that are most important.
Most can agree that individual life and individual liberty are high values, and both of those demand of each of us that we display responsible action in the social, ecological and spiritual aspects of our being.

Any form requires boundaries for its maintenance.

True liberty lies in acknowledging and accepting those boundaries that are required (and not necessarily any more than that).
That can become an extended conversation, eternal exploration.

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Focus Word


Do you have a focus word this year?

Hi Laurie

I kinda like “Being” – which immediately splits into both ontology and epistemology – the nature of being and the nature of our understanding of it – the two of which seem to both be tightly interlinked and extremely deep (perhaps infinitely so),

It now seems beyond all reasonable doubt to me, that as conscious entities, we each get to live in our own subjective “virtual reality” which is a more or less accurate model of the reality in which we exist, that has components from our deep genetic history, components from culture, and components from our own experience and choices.
So there seems to be a very real sense in which, to a significant degree, we really do get to experience what we expect (at various conscious and subconscious levels).

At the deeper levels of ontology, it seems that reality really is a profound mix of the random and the causal, with many different levels of randomness constrained by levels of filters that deliver various probability distributions over various time scales.
This seems to deliver a world that, when dealing with large collections of things can very closely approximate hard causality, but at the level of individuals (all levels) is much less predictable.

It seems to me, that it is only in such a world, that is a finely balanced mix of the random and the causal, can the idea of freedom have any sort of real meaning. And that meaning is not a simple meaning, but it does allow for individual behaviour to have a significant degree of independence from many of the tendencies their past.

And from systems theory it is clear that every level of complexity requires boundaries to survive, so at our highest ethical levels we need to be actively responsible in social and ecological contexts.
Freedom in this sense is not a simple freedom to follow the whims of our deep genetic past, but rather a responsibility to make the best choices we each individually can in all contexts, acknowledging both our fundamental reliance on many levels of cooperation and the fundamental uncertainties at all levels, and accepting both diversity, and that individuals will make mistakes, and our need to embody forgiveness and rehabilitation in non-naive ways (at the.highest levels we can achieve).

So it aint simple!

So in this sense, it seems to me that hard rules are the very antithesis of freedom, yet at the same time, if we are not be overwhelmed by hard rules, we each need to develop active responsibility and awareness on as many levels as we can.

So like you, I love ontology, and I cannot completely separate it from epistemology, they seem to be two sides of the same coin. We may only be able to hold one side clearly in view at a time, and it is still the same coin.

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Happy New Year Everyone.

7 Minutes to midnight here in Kaikoura.
2017 draws rapidly to a close.

Very best wishes to all.



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Do I need to define my purpose?

Ideapod – Do I need to define my purpose?

Short answer – yes.
Long answer is much longer and more nuanced.
I have written a lot on the nuanced complexity that seems to be the notion of free will – most recently

It seems we are very complex entities, living in an even more complex reality, and all any of us get to experience is a vastly simplified subconsciously created model of reality, that is our experiential reality.

It seems that we all come with many levels of contextually relevant purposes embodied in our culture and our genetics – both vastly complex beyond any possibility of detailed understanding, and able to be approximated.

It seems we each have the degrees of freedom that we do to choose in life.

Our choices seem to have degrees of influence (as they mix with prior systems and other choices).

Our choices, our purposes, matter, and they aren’t the only things that exist or influence.

We need wisdom, humility, compassion, etc.

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