Think Twice: A Response to Kevin Kelly on ‘Thinkism’

In late 2008, tech luminary Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, published a critique of what he calls “thinkism” — the idea of smarter-than-human Artificial Intelligences with accelerated thinking and acting speeds developing science, technology, civilization, and physical constructs at faster-than-human rates. The argument over “thinkism” is important to answering the question of whether Artificial Intelligence could quickly transform the world once it passes a certain threshold of intelligence, called the “intelligence explosion” scenario.

Kelly begins his blog post by stating that “thinkism doesn’t work”, specifically meaning that he doesn’t believe that a smarter-than-human Artificial Intelligence could rapidly develop infrastructure to transform the world.  After using the Wikipedia definition of the Singularity, Kelly writes that Vernor Vinge, Ray Kurzweil and others view the Singularity as deriving from smarter-than-human Artificial Intelligences (superintelligences) developing the skills to make themselves smarter, doing so at a rapid rate. Then, “technical problems are quickly solved, so that society’s overall progress makes it impossible for us to imagine what lies beyond the Singularity’s birth”, Kelly says. Specifically, …

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Comprehensive Copying Not Required for Uploading

Recently, there was some confusion by biologist P.Z. Myers regarding the Whole Brain Emulation Roadmap report of Anders Sandberg and Nick Bostrom at the Future of Humanity Institute.

The confusion arose when Prof. Myers made incorrect assumptions about the 130-page roadmap from reading a 2-page blog post by Chris Hallquist. Hallquist wrote:

The version of the uploading idea: take a preserved dead brain, slice it into very thin slices, scan the slices, and build a computer simulation of the entire brain.

If this process manages to give you a sufficiently accurate simulation

Prof. Myers objected vociferously, writing, “It won’t. It can’t.”, subsequently launching into a reasonable attack against the notion of scanning a living human brain at nanoscale resolution with current fixation technology. The confusion is that Prof. Myers is criticizing a highly specific idea, the notion of exhaustively simulating every axon and dendrite in a live brain, as if that were the only proposal or even the central proposal forwarded by Sandberg and Bostrom. In fact, on page 13 …

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A Future Worth Working Towards

There isn’t enough in the world.

Not enough wealth to go around, not enough space in cities, not enough medicine, not enough intelligence or wisdom. Not enough genuine fun or excitement. Not enough knowledge. Not enough solutions to global problems.

What we need is more. And we need it soon. The world population is doubling every 34 years. Instead of turning back the clock, we must move towards the future.

There is a bare minimum that we should demand out of the future. Without this bare minimum, we’re just running in place. Here is what I think that minimum is:

1) More space 2) More health 3) More water 4) More time 5) More intelligence

First off, we need more space. There are seven billion people on this planet.

There is actually a lot of space on this earth. About 90 million square kilometers of land isn’t covered in snow or mountains. That’s about 5,000 times larger than the New York City metro area. Less than 1% of this land has any …

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Molecular Machine Breakthrough: Solid State Synthetic Molecular Machine

In a major breakthrough for the field of molecular machines, Canadian chemists have created a self-assembling metallo-organic molecular wheel and axle. This is the first time scientists have proved that interlocked molecules can function inside solid materials. The lead author, a graduate student, said:

“Until now, this has only ever been done in solution,” explained Chemistry & Biochemistry PhD student Nick Vukotic, lead author on a front page article recently published in the June issue of the journal Nature Chemistry [abstract]. “We’re the first ones to put this into a solid state material.”

A molecular wheel and axle in a solid state material is proof of concept for simple solid state molecular machines. A wheel can in principle be developed into more sophisticated solid state molecular machines, such as power-transfer rods and other kinetic frameworks or elements in a solid state molecular computer. The predictability of the solid state environment relative to the environment of a solution is crucial for developing predictable molecular machine systems, and makes it easier to apply certain general principles of macroscale engineering to …

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Interviewed by The Rational Future

Here’s a writeup.

Embedded below is an interview conducted by Adam A. Ford at The Rational Future. Topics covered included:

-What is the Singularity? -Is there a substantial chance we will significantly enhance human intelligence by 2050? -Is there a substantial chance we will create human-level AI before 2050? -If human-level AI is created, is there a good chance vastly superhuman AI will follow via an “intelligence explosion”? -Is acceleration of technological trends required for a Singularity? – Moore’s Law (hardware trajectories), AI research progressing faster? -What convergent outcomes in the future do you think will increase the likelihood of a Singularity? (i.e. emergence of markets.. evolution of eyes??) -Does AI need to be conscious or have human like “intentionality” in order to achieve a Singularity? -What are the potential benefits and risks of the Singularity?

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Superintelligent Will

New paper on superintelligence by Nick Bostrom:

This paper discusses the relation between intelligence and motivation in artificial agents, developing and briefly arguing for two theses. The first, the orthogonality thesis, holds (with some caveats) that intelligence and final goals (purposes) are orthogonal axes along which possible artificial intellects can freely vary—more or less any level of intelligence could be combined with more or less any final goal. The second, the instrumental convergence thesis, holds that as long as they possess a sufficient level of intelligence, agents having any of a wide range of final goals will pursue similar intermediary goals because they have instrumental reasons to do so. In combination, the two theses help us understand the possible range of behavior of superintelligent agents, and they point to some potential dangers in building such an agent.

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More Nonsense Reporting Overblowing IBM’s Accomplishments

Last month in New York I had the pleasure to talk personally with the creator of Watson, Dr. David Ferrucci. I found him amicable and his answers to my questions on Watson very direct and informative. So, I have nothing against IBM in general. I love IBM’s computers. Several of my past desktops and laptops have been IBM computers. The first modern computer I had was an IBM Aptiva.

However, there is a constant thread of articles related to claims being reported that IBM has “completely simulate(d)” “the brain of a mouse (512 processors), rat (2,048) and cat (24,576)”, which was revived in force this last weekend. This is entirely false. IBM has not simulated the brain of a mouse, rat, or cat. Experiments have just recently been pursued to even simulate the 302-neuron brain of a flatworm, for which a wiring diagram exists. Instead, IBM has made “mouse-SIZED” neural simulations, “rat-SIZED” neural simulations, and “cat-SIZED” neural simulations, given certain assumptions about the computational power of mammalian brains. The arrangements between neurons being simulated bear …

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The Mundanity of Physical Enhancement

Although physical enhancement is what most people associate with transhumanism, it’s not particularly interesting. A man with tentacles and wings who can fly and breathe underwater is still just some dude. Humans are primitive beings, with conspicuously primitive minds — we just recently evolved from un-intelligent apes that used the same stone tools for millions of years.

Everything truly exciting about the transhumanist project lies in the mental realm. Only through opening up and intervening in the brain can we really change ourselves and the way the world works. Anything else is just the surface.

What approaches can we take to cognitive enhancement?

First, take brain surgery. It is extremely unlikely that cognitive enhancement will be conducted through conventional brain surgery as is practiced today. These procedures are inherently risky and only conducted under necessary circumstances, when the challenges of surgery outweigh the huge cost, substantial risk, and long recovery time of the procedures.

More subtle than brain surgery is optogenetics, regarded by some as the scientific breakthrough of the last decade. Optogenetics allows researchers …

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What Does it Mean to be a Transhumanist?

To me, transhumanism is a temporary movement — transitional. Its role is to help individuals and society transition to living in a world where some portion of society technologically transforms their minds and bodies on both incremental and fundamental levels. This might range from getting a Google-connected neural implant to uploading one’s consciousness into a virtual world. We transhumanists consider (cautious!) developments along these lines to be a good thing, and feel that the most pressing objections and concerns have been adequately addressed, including:

- What are the reasons to expect all these changes?Won’t these developments take thousands or millions of years?What if it doesn’t work?Won’t it be boring to live forever in a perfect world?Will new technologies only benefit the rich and powerful?Aren’t these future technologies very risky? Could they even cause our extinction?If these technologies are so dangerous, should they be banned?Shouldn’t we concentrate …

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Reductionism Implies Intelligence Explosion

The key discovery of human history is that minds are ultimately mechanical, operate according to physical principles, and that there is no fundamental distinction between the bits of organic matter that process thoughts and bits of organic matter elsewhere. This is called reductionism (in the second sense):

Reductionism can mean either (a) an approach to understanding the nature of complex things by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental things or (b) a philosophical position that a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts, and that an account of it can be reduced to accounts of individual constituents. This can be said of objects, phenomena, explanations, theories, and meanings.

This discovery is interesting because it implies that 1) minds, previously thought to be mystical, can in principle be mass-produced in factories, 2) the human mind is just one possible type of mind and can theoretically be extended or permuted in millions of different ways.

Because of the substantial economic, creative, and moral value of intelligent minds relative …

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