The Final Weapon

It’s not really “fair”, but history generally consists of people getting better and better weapons, and whoever has the best weapons and the best armies makes the rules. The number of historical examples of this phenomenon are practically unlimited. The reason America is respected and feared today is because of our military capabilities, particularly nuclear weapons. Complain if you want, this is reality.

I am excited by the possibility that the 200,000 year arms race will finally come to an end by a singleton. It had to end sometime. Personally, it will be a relief, if we survive. While many people can happily enjoy their lives on a daily basis, just focusing on their tiny sphere, myself and others are cursed with concerns about the overall trajectory of humanity and human conflict. My relationship with Murphy’s law is so close that I would hardly be surprised to hear the detonation of nuclear weapons in the distance, practically anytime or anywhere.

Nuclear weapons, of course, are toys in comparison to the products of MNT, or worse yet, true superintelligence. MNT could enable the creation of “fingers of god”, large satellites that condense sunlight to deliver terrific beams to the surface. A square mile of space-based solar panels, properly utilized, would provide enough energy to set entire districts alight. Anti-satellite missiles could be quickly detected by their thermal signature and neutralized long before reaching the target.

In comparison to the weapons of the future, nuclear weaponry is quite mundane, which makes living in 2011 less distressing than living in the future. However, there’s plenty to look forward to. The world’s most sophisticated militaries are aggressively pursuing AI technology for robotic warfighters. The problem with mindless AI soldiers is that it decouples the delivery of force from the ostensible wisdom and benevolence of human actors. This is the problem with nukes as well — for all of Reagan’s faults, at least he was terrified of nuclear war, and would have done anything he could to avoid one. One can only hope Obama would have the same attitude. Bush Sr. probably would have as well, but who knows? Eventually there will be a President that won’t hesitate to press the button. I have sympathy for Robin Hanson’s position that he votes for Presidents entirely based on their propensity to initiate wars or not. Everything else is truly secondary.

It might be overly masculine of me, but I see the Singularity as the final chapter in this ongoing and stressful arms race called human history. A recursively self-improving AI is the way of securing the highest power available in this time and place, and directing it towards constructive ends. Once we press the big red button, that’s that. It won’t matter so much who did it, as the effects that flow from that cause. It’s easy to imagine AI or human goals drifting under self-improvement to the point where the singleton doesn’t really care whether we’re around or not, and starts sucking up all the air or free energy for its own purposes. After all, our planet is tiny. Truly bite-size from the perspective of a self-improving superintelligence, it could be consumed in a matter of days.

Transhumanism itself is secondary to this event. In retrospect, no one will care so much about cyborgs. They will care about recursively self-improving superintelligence undergoing a hard takeoff. Cyborgs, implants, gene therapy, life extension, seasteading, the Internet — these are toys. Superintelligence is what really matters. I’m truly happy that more people are beginning to understand that.

Comments

  1. Apocalyptronium

    This is pretty much the grandest scale of thinking that’s possible for any sentience in the universe.

    What do you read to come up with such visions?! :)

  2. Khannea Suntzu

    You are right.

    However between now and then we will have a convulsive global collapse of the entire western world worse than what the USSR experienced.

    You keep spouting long term warnings and these warnings even though valid, fall to deaf ears when millions of people in your and my continent will not be able to put food on their families.

    I invite you, Mike, to focus on what our respective movement can do for people in the next ten years. I mean other than *talk*.

    • Mark Plus

      You might want to read Mike Darwin’s discussion of how badly humans predict “the future”:

      http://chronopause.com/index.php/2011/06/29/future-babble-a-review-and-commentary/

    • Khannea,

      Good to hear from another transhumanist who is likewise really worried about the next 10 years. I agree that a collapse could happen which would be so severe that technological progress as we know it today could halt (unless maybe 5% of the population manages to insulate itself somehow from the collapse, and there are lots of innovators among them). I used to read this blog every day, but now I spend my time instead reading blogs that help me prepare myself and my family for some really hard times that could be dead ahead.

  3. PariahDrake

    The solution to all the world’s problems is anarchy, openness, transparency, and the global village.

    Open source the world.

    The suffering we cause is directly proportional to how long it takes us to achieve this.

    If we do not reach worldwide egalitarianism, then we cross our fingers and hope that Quantum Archaeology actually makes sense.

    Humans will not survive to the end of the century otherwise.

    So, here’s what you do: promote the hackers and the anarchists. The cyberpagans.

    We’re in your digital dreams nam-shubbing your memeplex.

  4. than

    You have a good point about the singleton.

    Everything else in this essay is less than correct, though.

    Know this: economic power is political power, not the other way around and not military power. For example, consider the Hasburg bid for mastery of Europe. What did it in was the spiraling costs of military conquest. Between 1500 and 1630, inflation caused the price of food to triple.

    Charles V found that after campaigns against the Algiers, The French, and German Protestants, neither income from The New World nor normal taxation could fund the wars. The Metz campaign cost 2.5 million ducats, ten times the income from the Americas at the time. This required fresh loans, over and over, on worse times each time. When Phillip II took over, he had inherited 20 million ducats in debt.

    Phillip floated loans at huge rates, and by the time he abdicated in 1555, the debt was 100 million. It was obvious at the time who had the superior military but it didn’t mean anything in the face of crushing debt.

    Even now, the various BRIC nations make at least some of the rules, no sabre rattling required.

    As for Obama/Regan/Bush, etc…In the Nobel prize’s first paragraph of the press release, they specifically mention Obama’s efforts to reduce nuclear arms, eventually to 0 for both Russia and US, as being the reason he received the award.

  5. PariahDrake

    Anxiety about the future is hard wired into us. It’s xenophobia.

    The emergent intelligence, whether it be SAI or something else, is very much “not-me”.

    We become aliens. And that is downright terrifying.

    Organisms seek homeostasis, but because we live in an open system, it’s impossible to stagnate.

    Chaos is inescapable, so we struggle to maintain order.

    I just can’t help laughing at it all, because I’ve seen the underlying chaos.

    Whatever we become, it will do no good to think we can maintain tight control over it.

    One has to be flexible, and with accelerating technology, to such a degree that it will seem as if you’re being driven insane.

    The changes that are shaping this world now will utterly rip apart everything we know and have come to understand about this world.

    The only real choice we have is in how pliable and flexible we are in surfing these changes. So, be prepared for maximal novelty. Adapt. Because everything is going to completely upside down.

  6. BobBedWetter Mk2

    Dear incompetent ignoramus,

    So did you basically pick through Kurzweil’s books and Engines of Creation and then put together a list of speculative technologies, and then conflate the speculation with actual existence or proof of future existence? Its amusing that people conflate you and your comments with intelligence. I have come to the conclusion that you are a chat bot that thrives on your audience blowing smoke up your ass.

    This entire post is a pure exercise in failure of imagination. You think MNT is going to be the end of the arms race. I don’t thinks, this for a futurist really represents a failure in imagination and supreme lack of intelligence.

    It is pretty obvious that you have really no knowledge of how warfare changes. Your comments about robots in war are especially funny considering the approach that is being taken and the regulations in place. But a useless ignoramus like you wouldn’t know that.

    Gosh, I really enjoy my post here. I like knowing that I am not blowing smoke up your ass. Being a troll is fun. Suck it!
    Now let the troll accusations and such flow in. Oh how I look forward to them.

    Your humble neighborhood troll.
    Long live BobBedWetter may it rest in peace

    • howaboutsomethingnew

      You exhausted your “arguments” already by the second post on this site. None of them have been actual arguments, but just opinions. Your writing is more rigid than that of a bot. But apparently you haven’t noticed or don’t care. Your mind can’t be highly developed or particularly smart since it enjoys such simple, predictable and, foremost, repetitive “pleasures”. Your output is undeniable evidence of some sort of reduced brain function, similar to that which drunk people exhibit. While everyone with a healthy and intelligent mind is sympathetic to persons with such behavioral problems, please take a while to update your ammo and refresh your style, or go to sites where they enjoy your level of copy-modify-and-paste argumentation. Perhaps set up a blog of your own.

      You may be unable – or as you
      will rationalize it, unwilling – to respond to this in a manner that a normal person would – i.e., coming up with actual arguments. But it’s ok. Nobody’s going to hold it against you if you feel the need to “drop more bombs,” since we understand that you’re a special person with special needs and are glad you’ve found a way to express yourself here. Just don’t expect to be treated as a very sophisticated mind.

  7. Prakash

    Michael,

    Do you believe in quantum immortality? The implication to existential risk is – Maybe the only version of the world we’ll end up seeing is the one where things worked out.

    regards,
    Prakash

  8. Wazabi

    The respected troll(s) seem(s) to be engaging in this or an adaptation thereof (picked from another thread here):

    “Power by association through talking about something you want to be associated with is an illusion, but one that many in the audience fall for. It’s attractive because it offers a quick path to prestige without having to actually accomplish anything. Talk about big things and big players, and you’re somehow one of them. Mention the powerful and it’s as if you’re fighting in their field as their equal.

    It’s the oldest trick in the world that religion and politics have perfected, and especially used by those that mix the two, like him, the religious conspiracy theorist type who can’t tell the difference between astrology and astronomy.”

    Nutjobs like the trolls here love it, because they get a positive response from people at their level of sophistication or less – and that’s the biggest audience. It’s how they’re “winning” their arguments in the eyes of the public, and of course in their own – self-deceit that’s a win-win.

  9. trolltroll

    @Wazabi, howaboutsomethingnew
    (Snip actual comment and insert drooling idiot speak)

    Why don’t you two apes come up with some better material and stop beating your chests like you have a pair.

    I am a troll do you honestly think this me, or represents what I think. Seriously how dumb are you?

    Changed the name I think its better.

    • Trolldar Mk 9000

      We are all mightily impressed by your trolling. Don’t worry, everyone knows you’re actually a Pulitzer winning Nobel laureate – minimum.

    • notimpressed

      You’re not even a troll. Real trolls respond to arguments. They actually engage their targets and the audience. You don’t, and the assumption is that you don’t because you can’t, even if you tried. You just pretend they don’t exist or say something completely pointless, irrelevant, juvenile and dumb in response, barely capable of entertaining retards (except, well, we know you are entertained).

      As pointed out you’ve been boring since your second post already and that’s no way to be a troll, so shape up or shut up, trollboy. Though I’m actually holding my breath for another useless copy-paste-nonresponse, so please don’t disappoint.

  10. trolltroll

    @Trolldar Mk 9000
    “We are all mightily impressed by your trolling. Don’t worry, everyone knows you’re actually a Pulitzer winning Nobel laureate – minimum.”

    My pride ouch, how ever will I recover. My self-esteem is destroyed. Because I certainly give a rats ass about the opinion of a nothing like yourself.

    Anyways Mikey Boy invited me he said that trolls should bring it on. I am. Now go pick the fleas out of your fur coat and beat your ape chest around some one who actually may be impressed.

    Your grasp of sarcasm is profound. My gosh you might be an ape. So how many years did you study basic vocab.

    Cheers my monkey friend.

  11. nh

    Doesn’t that apply pretty much exactly also to transhumanism, even as a prime example of this?

    I mean with Jupiter Brains, Singletons and such we’re as far beyond world politics as world politics is from your local knitting club.

    If such borrowed power and status is occurring, the question is: is this cheaply and easily acquired power and influence an illusion or is it as good as real? Does it matter?

  12. nh

    Regarding the power transfer assuming it exists, I don’t think Anissimov or transhumanists in general are, at least consciously, attempting to exploit the phenomenon, like religious people do, who claim to have merely the powers of the creator of the universe on their side.

  13. Marc

    Some people like Dale Carrico would probably claim transhumanism is nothing BUT this; instead of a deity, there’s imaginary technology that will some day save us all. All the prestige and influence has been strictly borrowed – very little or in many cases not a shred of it actually has any real basis – from the imagined, non-existent, utopian ideas, that have been super-sized and super-sized again and their promises pulled ever closer to the present – “The Singularity is not far” – over the years as the movement has grown and assumed more and more of the selling tactics of sci-fi entertainment – offer something even more fantastic, soon in a shop near you, every year to keep them coming for more.

    But, having said that, I personally do not think that is the case at all with transhumanism.

    I think transhumanism is quite something else: it is simply the future of any intelligent species that will some day occur as inevitably as the local star will die, forcing the species to move on. And transhumanism is just a short step on that path. The end result is posthumanism and post-posthumanism and so on, until the universe no longer supports computations.

  14. S2045

    Commercialism isn’t yet a problem in transhumanism, but it could become one as the “customer base” grows.

    I’m not impressed (and wouldn’t have been in the first place) by the diluted and popularized, IMO stagnated, mainstream transhumanism that parts of the movement have turned into during the past decade, particularly with the overt emphasis on easily digestible forms of Singularitarianism.

    Presenting it as anything less than Shock Level 4 is not proper transhumanism. The next major H+-themed documentary should go fast and deep into what the whole deal about transhumanism is and stay there without apologizing for being too visionary.

    Just like music is quite something else, despite some people making it a cheap disposable item, so is transhumanism; there’s popular music and music; there’s popular transhumanism and transhumanism.

  15. trolltroll mk2

    @notimpressed
    “You’re (snip drooling idiot babble) a troll. (snip drooling idiot babble).”

    Why bother? This is fast and obnoxious. Spoken like a true ex-troll congrats on that.

    “T (snip drooling idiot babble) e.”

    True but when your target audience is made up of apes and inanimate objects (you for example) why bother. I can’t reason with inanimate objects or apes. Now go beat your chest some more, cause I like it. (insert further sarcasm I am to lazy to write)

    “Y (snip drooling idiot babble) ).”

    You do realize the more you respond to “moronic comments” the more of a tool you show yourself to be. I don’t claim be anything but what I am. Go pick your nose like the first grader you are.

    “As (snip drooling idiot babble) oy.”

    Oooh big man. You must not be well endowed so this is your form of penis extension. Well I got news for you, grow a pair and stop pretending like your comments are going to change my actions. Damn you dumb.

    “T (snip drooling idiot babble) .”

    Blow this up someone else’s nose. Stop responding and you will be less of a tool. People who respond to trolls are morons. You respond to trolls therefore you are a moron. You respond to me, and I make nothing responses back that means you are both dumb and a moron. Congrats. I think the community college gives a degree in this.

  16. evenlessimpressed

    You seem to have set up a truly invulnerable position and have apparently beat everyone at this game.

    It must feel great to have finally found something you can excel at, even if excelling means there’s no way you can fail. It’s the victory of the fundamentalist believer: I’m winning because I claim so.

    But as you’re winning by default, why the need to self-congratulate yourself on your success, and to point out to others they’re losers?
    Why does everything you say apply more – rather exactly – to your own behavior than to anyone else?

    What’s happening here is that you’re claiming to see your own behavior in others, and in fact you’re really just talking about yourself to yourself.

    There is no audience you refer to here. There’s just you and your poor imagination folding back on itself, in a boring loop nobody but you are entertained by.

    You’re free to continue but it’s clear that as a troll you’re not having much success. Unfortunately you couldn’t bring it. Better luck next troll.

  17. llortllort 3km

    @evenlessimpressed
    “You seem to have set up a truly invulnerable position and have apparently beat everyone at this game.”
    Thanks, I am pretty awesome.

    “It must feel great to have finally found something you can excel at, even if excelling means there’s no way you can fail.”
    If only you could be so lucky.

    “It’s the victory of the fundamentalist believer: I’m winning because I claim so.”
    I win because you are stupid and keeping responding to my inane comments. (I cite this latest comment)

    “But as you’re winning by default, why the need to self-congratulate yourself on your success, and to point out to others they’re losers?”
    It makes me happy, and I really like to be happy. It makes me happy being happy. I am a happy person. I am not Mr Frowny pants who tries to spoil fun. Nor am I an ape like you who beats his chest to make up for a lap pinky. I get up every morning and say I am special to myself in the mirror.

    “Why does everything you say apply more – rather exactly – to your own behavior than to anyone else?”
    Really? I hadn’t noticed, but perhaps the fact the you respond to me at all casts some doubt on that. Or perhaps I am just jerking you around. Or perhaps I am just putting on a spectacle. Do you care? Do I care that you care? No.

    “What’s happening here is that you’re claiming to see your own behavior in others, and in fact you’re really just talking about yourself to yourself.”
    I am talking to you one the morons who responds to my posts. Moron.

    “There is no audience you refer to here.”
    Really, so what is this comment I copy-pasted and responded to. A mindless ape. Yes I guess your right, apes like you don’t count as an audience.

    “There’s just you and your poor imagination folding back on itself, in a boring loop nobody but you are entertained by.”
    I care because? Your responding, and others have to. I now know to ignore any future comments you make because your brain is so small that you think responding to this crap even once is worth it.

    “You’re free to continue but it’s clear that as a troll you’re not having much success. Unfortunately you couldn’t bring it. Better luck next troll.”
    Really, so I am not obnoxious? I am hurt. Please you have destroyed my self-esteem. I don’t know what I will do. Please help me. I am lost in a world of my own boring life. Oh wait, that describes you wasting time responding to this crap I post.

    Would it surprise you to know that I fully admit this is crap and I fully admit its useless. I also admit it is not even amusing. Yet you are so dumb that you think responding to this crap is worth your time. Damn your dumb. You really are an ape. Now please beat your chest some more ape man.

  18. AGS

    Einstein should have seen the internet. He would have felt compelled to upgrade his unrealistically low estimate of human stupidity.

    I’m fascinated by the multiple synergistic failures some minds exhibit. It’s as if they’re built to be successful at failing, to never fail at failing. Each part helps other parts to fail better. Without the internet we would have never known.

    The real challenge surely is to create human-level artificial general stupidity.

  19. Anissimov, your dream of an impartial machine god emerging from our viciously hierarchical contemporary society without a revolution strikes me as no more probable than an equivalent entity stumbling across our little planet in its march through the stars. The laws of physics don’t prevent benevolent deities from existing, but that’s minimal comfort and no serious plan for the future.

    (See more on my blog.)

  20. Amp

    nh: “If such borrowed power and status is occurring, the question is: is this cheaply and easily acquired power and influence an illusion or is it as good as real? Does it matter?”

    Ask any guy with funny old clothes and a hat reading from an (not so funny) old book in a funny looking large building.

    Borrowed power can easily be MORE real and more powerful than real (technological, scientific, and rational argument) power.

    There’s a limit to real power but no limit to the imaginary, i.e., the bs you make up.

    The towering pile of bs that supports and constitutes much of the power and influence in the world is one of the true wonders of the world, a major part of the World Heritage, a Grand Human Accomplishment.

  21. Nice entry.

    There’s two types of singleton’s and it seems you’re envisioning only one. You’re envisioning the superintelligent but locate-able singleton, exterior to us humans.

    Do you think there could be a second type?: A singleton that is a non-locate-able emergent phenomenon arising out of our collective intelligence. (Super-intelligent computers or post-humans would just be part of this overall phenomenon.)

    As an analogy, human intelligence has emerged from a bunch of neurons getting together. It’s not like there’s a superintelligent neuron that is in charge of all the other neurons.

    Evidence of an emergent, non-violent singleton is the fact that violence has always been DECREASING throughout human history. Check out this TED video on the issue: http://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_on_the_myth_of_violence.html.

    Looking forward to hearing back from you.

    • Pinker’s thesis rests on awfully shaky evidence. The archeological record shows no decline in violence in the move to cities and sometimes the opposite. See Health and the Rise of Civilization by Mark Nathan Cohen. If violence as been decreasing, it’s fairly recent phenomenon. Considering how close we are to World War II, Stalin, and Mao as well the number of people who’ve died and are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, trumpeting our age as peaceful strikes me as profoundly absurd.

  22. Who knows ? Maybe some of us are controlled from other planets using the less energy possible and best strategy just to keep PEACE in the universe, like good angel ghosts

    because at the end : it is the end , the infinit possibilities of everything …

    killing people is never the good answer, they are part of this infinity

    i don’t know, it is the greatest possibility

    I just want peace, this is all I want

    Have a good life

  23. MrTolliver

    MNT will open another door to weapons technology not previously thought possible in addition to refining more mundane weapons.

    Grey/khaki goo swarms are probably going to be the most direct application of MNT.

    Further applications of MNT in just the construction of materials (stronger, tougher alloys, better more compact energy storage devices) will finally bring about handheld energy weapons.

    Further along down line MNT will give rise to superintelligences that given enough time could reach multiple singularities

  24. Think Possible

    “technology not previously thought possible”

    That is what futurists like Anissimov and Kurzweil are trying to think about so that when they become possible, they *were* previously thought to be possible.

    Thinking about the future always involves thinking about the currently thought to be not possible. The best futurism, and technology R & D, deals with imagining the “impossible” and the hardest core of futurism (essentially cosmism) is the “impossible forever” department.

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