SL4 Readership on Existential Risk

Here’s what members of the SL4 list thought about existential risk. UFAI is radically undervalued. Gamma ray burster on par with human-originated threats? Give me a break.

I think that polls would have better results if people were actually forced to defend their positions, instead of replying anonymously. That’s where the power of prediction markets can come in.

See more results here.

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Congratulations to WTA Directors

The World Transhumanist Association just held an election for its Directorship. Out of the 5 seats that were vacated, three were held by incumbents, and two new Directors joined. Here I’ll go over the five winners of the election and take a little look at what these transhumanists are doing. The WTA is made up of people who pay dues to support this transhumanist umbrella organization, and we vote in new Directors when their 2-year terms expire.

Giulio Prisco, the new Executive Director of the WTA, was voted onto the Board again. This is no surprise, as he contributes to the movement constantly and is well-regarded among transhumanists. Read his considerations on the development of the transhumanist movement. You can also view his handiwork in SecondLife by visiting uvvy island.

Mike Treder was voted onto the Board again as well. Mike’s organization, the CRN, is looking for $22,110 for a study of

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What will the Earth look like in 50 years?

Like this, covered in self-replicating goo?

Or how about this, thriving environmentally and technologically?


Or even

(Heh! Explanation: The joke here is that we oft speak of malevolent or human-indifferent AI as having a thermostat-like goal system that mandates turning the earth into paperclips. You may educate yourself further here.)

It all depends on the decisions we make today. Bill Joy is pessimistic. At the Lifeboat Foundation, we’re cautiously pessimistic, but hopeful.

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Transhumanists, Economists, and Transhumanist Economists

This is great news. Prominent economists are writing papers and articles that reveal them to be blatantly transhumanistic. Even though I’ve been reading literature at the intersection of cognitive psychology and economics for a while, it was my colleague Michael Vassar who really kicked off my interest in economics in early 2004.

Robin Hanson is the quintessential transhumanist economist. (However, he resists the label: see the comments.) Legend has it that he has the highest IQ out of anyone in the transhumanist community. Regardless of whether or not this is true, he has contributed valuable insights to >H mailing lists for many years. Nowadays he headlines the >H-writer-saturated Overcoming Bias blog, which is the perfect symbol of the merger between transhumanism and economics. Robin has been a public transhumanist for a while now, and everyone knows it.

Then it was David D. Friedman, the son of the Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. I subscribed to his “Ideas” …

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January 12th – Cryonics Day

I propose that January 12th be henceforth known as Cryonics Day. Aside from the fact that it’s frickin’ cold outside, January 12th is the day on which the first cryonics patient, Dr. James Bedford, took leave of us. Bedford’s heart stopped beating on Jan. 12, 1967 at the age of 73, and shortly after he became the first person to be cryonically preserved with the intention of future resuscitation. That was 40 years ago. If Bedford were up and kicking today, he’d be 113 years old. In 7 years, his combined pre-suspension and post-suspension age will surpass that of the longest-lived human on record.

Our personality, memories, dreams, and goals have a physical reality – in the connections between neurons in the brain. There is no ambiguity here; the entire field of cognitive science is possible because we know for a fact that the brain is the hardware that runs the software of consciousness. Cryonic suspension preserves that connective map, opening up the possibility that one day it could be reanimated …

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State of Existential Risk in 2007

An existential risk is a global catastrophic risk that threatens to exterminate humanity or severely curtail its potential. Existential risks are unique because current institutions have little incentive to mitigate them, except as a side effect of pursuing other goals. There is little to no financial return in mitigating existential risk. Bostrom (2001) argues that because reductions in existential risks are global public goods, they may be undervalued by the market. Also, because we have never confronted a major existential risk before, we have little to learn from, and little impetus to be afraid. For more information, see this reference.

There are three main categories of existential risk – threats from biotechnology, nanotechnology, and AI/robotics. Nuclear proliferation itself is not quite an existential risk, but widespread availability of nuclear weapons could greatly exacerbate future risks, providing a stepping stone into a post-nuclear arms race. We’ll look at that first, then go over the others.

Nuclear risk. The risk of nuclear proliferation is currently high. The United States is planning to spend $100 billion …

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Top Ten Cybernetic Upgrades Everyone Will Want

Science fiction, computer games, anime… cyborgs are everywhere. Transhumanists are philosophers who believe that one day, cybernetic upgrades will be so powerful, elegant, and inexpensive that everyone will want them. This page lists ten major upgrades that I think will be adopted by 2050.

#10. Disease immunity.

Between 20 and 40 years into the future, we will become capable of building artificial antibodies that outperform their natural equivalents. Instead of using chemical signaling that relies on diffusion to reach its target, these antibodies will communicate with rapid acoustic pulses. Instead of proteins, they will be made using much more durable polymers or even diamond. These antibodies will move through the bloodstream more quickly than other cells in the bodies, and will take up less space and resources, meaning that there will be room for many more. Using super-biological methods for identifying and neutralizing foreign viruses and bacteria, these tiny robots will still function in harmony with our own bodies. They will probably be …

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Michael Anissimov Interviews Dr. Alan Goldstein

These last few days I’ve been conducting an email interview with Dr. Alan Goldstein, a member of the Lifeboat Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board who is the genius behind our A-Prize. He is a professor of biomaterials with Alfred University, and temporarily on leave to write a book on the topic of synthetic life, organisms he calls animats. The A-Prize got some decent publicity this last month – a link to it was posted on Instapundit, one of the world’s most widely read blogs. The basic idea is to give a prize to the first person that creates an artificial life form that can sustain itself in the environment, self-replicate, and doesn’t depend entirely on DNA or RNA to store its design. Dr. Goldstein proposed the prize because the current lack of attention being given …

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Recent Items of Note

Lots of cool things floating around on the Intersphere lately:

Jamais Cascio has been busy with numerous posts of great value. He warns us to be skeptical of end-of-year predictions made by fairweather futurists. He calculates the huge amount of fossil fuels that go into making a hamburger. He shows us a newspaper article from 2016. His taxonomy of existential risks, a useful contribution to this underattended field, was linked by BoingBoing.

There is a new collaborative blog on the software control of matter. Many of the usual suspects are posting there.

Now would be a good time to join the World Transhumanist Association if you haven’t yet, because it’s almost time to vote for new Directors. Three seats are opening up. It’s a self-nomination process, so you can join today and run and even possibly win!

Inside the Monkeysphere, a great piece that presents some observations from …

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