Accelerating Future Transhumanism, AI, nanotech, the Singularity, and extinction risk.


Aubrey de Grey on the Singularity and Longevity Escape Velocity

Read Aubrey's 8-page paper "The singularity and the Methuselarity: similarities and differences" at the SENS Foundation website. The arguments are quite subtle and complex at points, providing a lot to chew on. Here's a quote:

Let us now consider the aftermath of a “successful” singularity, i.e. one in which recursively self-improving systems exist and have duly improved themselves out of sight, but have been built in such a way that they permanently remain “friendly” to us. It is legitimate to wonder what would happen next, albeit that to do so is in defiance of Vinge. While very little can confidently be said, I feel able to make one prediction: that our electronic guardians and minions will not be making their superintelligence terribly conspicuous to us. If we can define “friendly AI” as AI that permits us as a species to follow our preferred, presumably familiarly dawdling, trajectory of progress, and yet also to maintain our self-image, it will probably do the overwhelming majority of its work in the background, mysteriously keeping things the way we want them without worrying us about how it’s doing it. We may dimly notice the statistically implausible occurrence of hurricanes only in entirely unpopulated regions, of sufficiently deep snow in just the right places to save the lives of reckless mountaineers, and so on – but we will not dwell on it, and quite soon we will take it for granted.

Shades of The Future Might Be Like the Past... At First.

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  1. How exactly do you propose engineering something that is by its very nature continually, exponentially evolving to be permanently anything? Let alone deeply concerned about our well being.

    If Techno-Jesus is infinitely more complex than us he is going to have far more interesting things to worry about than some apes that can’t clean up their own mess.

  2. Precise weather control strikes me puny human brain as an awfully difficult and roundabout way to benefit the species.

  3. Precise weather control would be hard, but maybe not impossible, so it works as an example, I think. More practical might be creating a virtual world with a high enough resolution (“eg, the matrix”) that people are satisfied.

  4. Bob,

    Life has been continuously evolving for billions of years but there is a set of core features and biochemical pathways common to all life. In the same way, humanity has been evolving culturally and gone from a few naked tribesmen on the savanna to a world-spanning civilization, but a whole lot about our brains and bodies is basically permanent. Things can undergo radical development and retain certain features. That retention would be even more possible if actively guided by an intelligence that wants to retain certain features.

  5. I don’t think precise weather would be impossible, I just bet you could do much, much more for the species by first focusing on things like access to nutritious food, comfortable housing, and medical care. I’d be deeply disappointed if a superintelligence tinkered with hurricanes while leaving our pathetic distribution systems untouched.

  6. I’d postulate that Aubrey doesn’t understand the singularity, or more likely he treats the the concept as he hopes the Singularity treats humanity – leave it alone ‘for now’ until there is better understanding of the implications.

    Clearly I don’t agree. As saint mike has shown me the truth about Cosmicist singularitarianism, saying, even if we have a ‘Ghandiularity’ – the most demure and decent Singularity, or e ‘Jeevesularity’ – the most dilligent, discrete and subservient one – the majority of humans will be very intensely upset anyways.

    Good Singularities cannot be anything else than a 6 meter knife balancing on its point. It may be possible to create it, but they won’t last and tip over fast. Singeys will respond to environmental and physical stimulants we have no clue off when designing it and evolve away into a blind spot region real fast. That is why I postulate calling the Aubrey de Grey Singulatarians “green cheese” singularitarians – they assume anything totally weird might happen, such as the singleton turning everything to green cheese, so why bother speculating about it? He probably thinks, these phemonena will be transcendant, unknowable, pervasive and metaphysically powerful (magical), and beyond definition – so lets stick to what I do know and ignore the intense stuff.

    There is much to say for such an approach. H+ians are all betting people in a way. We can’t prove what we do is a valid idea or strategy, and we can’t even make compelling arguments for everyone it is a valid idea in the first place. We may think we are pretty smart people, but in most places we are still met with roaring laughter.

    Even if we believe it’s all true, and we bet on the outcome, some (like me) going as far as to state that in an appreciably short amount of time ‘some kind of’ Singularity, where ‘something or the other’ grows a transcendanly quick and ‘sophisticated decissionmaking and feedbacking gland’.

    (I don’t think the world as it is can even hope to avoid it happening somewhere before 2050, but who am I? Certainly not Elizer.)

    So we all collectively hedge our bets, hoping for the best. We don’t know what precisely will happen, and we treat it with optimism, reason it away with occams razor, or “act all philosophical” about it. Is that a sensible attitude? What can caveman do about when one starts ranting about “the big change called Holocenarity” – ‘which will destroy most coastal plains with flooding’ and bring forth this arcane thing called scripture ?

    Aubrey represents the ‘one thing at time’ guy. He sets out for one task, ignores distraction and works towards his goal. A sensible betting man I’d say.

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