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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Confirmed: Key Activities by “Anonymous” Masterminded by Small Groups of Decision-Makers

In a recent post I  made on “Anonymous”, commenter “mightygoose” said:

i would agree with matt, having delved into various IRC channels and metaphorically walked among anonymous,i would say that they are fully aware that they have no head, no leadership, and while you can lambast their efforts as temporary nuisance, couldnt the same be said for any form of protest (UK students for example) and the effective running of government.

I responded:

They are dependent on tools and infrastructure provided by a small, elite group. If it weren’t for this infrastructure, 99% of them wouldn’t even have a clue about how to even launch a DDoS attack.

A week ago in the Financial Times:

However, a senior US member of Anonymous, using the online nickname Owen and evidently living in New York (Xetra: A0DKRK – news) , appears to be one of those targeted in recent legal investigations, according to online communications uncovered by a private security researcher.

A co-founder of Anonymous, who uses the nickname Q after the character in James Bond, has been …

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Happiness Set Point and Existential Risk

Talking to Phil, Stephen, and PJ on FastForward Radio last night, I made a point that I make often in person but I don’t think I’ve ever said on my blog.

The point is a reaction to accusations of doomsaying. People say, “you’re so negative, contemplating catastrophic scenarios and apocalypse!” My response is that rather than being indicative of me being pessimistic or depressed, it is actually evidence that I am a happy person. Because I have a high happiness set point, I am enabled to consider negative scenarios without suffering personal depression or momentary sadness. I am immune from the reactive flinching away that most people have when they consider nuclear war or robots destroying all humans. Well, not entirely immune, but certainly more immune than most, and acclimation is part of it.

Because of my high happiness set point, there are greater volumes of idea space that I can comfortably navigate. Try it. Can you consider nuclear war in an entirely objective way, thinking about scientific facts and evidence, rather than fixating on the emotional human impact? …

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Katja Grace Honors Thesis Now Available

See the summary here, download it at the little box towards the lower right. Title: “Anthropic Reasoning in the Great Filter”.

A major part of this effort is asking the questions, “what are different possible reference classes for anthropics/Doomsday Argument and what do they imply?”, and “can we agree on updating our probabilities for being close to the Great Filter (whatever is responsible for the Fermi Paradox) if we aren’t absolutely certain what reference class we’re in?”

Read this first.

My current position is that it’s extremely unlikely that life would develop to our stage because we live in a simple universe where even the evolution of consciousness is a miracle, but if it never happened, we’d never be around to observe it, so we happen to find ourselves in a universe where it did happen — but just barely. Because there are many more simple universes (without life) than those with it (assuming whatever process generates universes in the multiverse generates more simple universes than complex ones), we should assume to find ourselves …

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“Liberal Eugenics” — An Awkward Term

I just ran into “liberal eugenics” on Wikipedia:

Liberal eugenics is an ideology which advocates the use of reproductive and genetic technologies where the choice of the goals of enhancing human characteristics and capacities is left to the individual preferences of consumers, rather than the ideological priorities of a government authority.

The term “liberal eugenics” does not necessarily indicate that its proponents are social liberals in the modern sense or that they are non-classist and non-racist. Rather, the term is used to refer to any ideology of eugenics which is inspired by an underlying liberal theory but also to differentiate it from the authoritarian or totalitarian eugenic programs of the first half of the 20th century, which were associated with coercive methods to decrease the frequency of certain human hereditary traits passed on to the next generation. The most controversial aspect of those programs was the use of “negative” eugenics laws which allowed government agencies to sterilize individuals alleged to have undesirable genes.

Historically, eugenics is often broken into the categories of positive (encouraging reproduction in the designated …

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Assorted Links September 6th, 2010

Robin Hanson on Who Should Exist? and Ways to Pay to Exist.

IEEE Spectrum has an interview with Ratan Kumar Sinha, who designed India’s new thorium reactor.

The popular website “The Big Think” has a couple transhumanist writers, Parag and Ayesha Khanna. Their latest article, Can Hollywood Redesign Humanity? continues forward the H+/Hollywood connection which has been promoted previously by Jason Silva and others. “Documentaries Ponder the Future” is another one of their articles.

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Valid Transhumanist Criticism?

Lately, I’ve been seeing something interesting — valid criticism of the transhumanist project. The concern is decently articulated by the people who are being paid to attack me and other transhumanists, over at The New Atlantis Futurisms blog, funded by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, “dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy”. To quote Charles T. Rubin’s “What is the Good of Transhumanism?”:

While some will use enforcement costs and lack of complete success at enforcing restraint as an argument for removing it altogether, that is an argument that can be judged on its particular merits — even when the risks of enforcement failures are extremely great. The fact that nuclear non-proliferation efforts have not been entirely successful has not yet created a powerful constituency for putting plans for nuclear weapons on the Web, and allowing free sale of the necessary materials. In the event, transhumanists, like “Bioluddites,” want to make distinctions between legitimate and illegitimate uses of “œapplied reason,” even if as we will see they …

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The Power of Self-Replication

How can a small group of people have a big impact on the world? Develop a machine or service that is self-replicating or self-amplifying.

In a mundane way, artifacts such as iPhones and even shovels engage in human-catalyzed self-replication. People see them, then want them, then offer their money for them (or build them themselves, in a few cases), which provides the economic juice necessary to increase production and maintain the infrastructure necessary for that self-replication, like the Apple Store.

Self-replication can be relatively easy as long as the substrate is designed to contain components not much less complex than the finished product. For instance, the self-replicating robot built at Cornell self-replicates not from scratch, but rather from a set of pre-engineered blocks not much simpler than the robot itself. Using a hierarchy of such self-replicators, where each step is relatively simple but results in the creation of more complex components used in the next stage of self-replication, could provide a bootstrappable pathway to self-replicating infrastructures. Such a scheme also makes recycling easier — if a large …

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Good.is: Criticisms of the Singularity

Yesterday, Good posted the seventh and second-to-last installment of myself and Roko’s series on the Singularity, “Criticisms of the Singularity”. (My last contribution to the series, “The Benefits of a Successful Singularity”, was promoted to the front page of Digg.) For your benefit, the complete article is reproduced here.

Part seven in a GOOD miniseries on the singularity by Michael Anissimov and Roko Mijic. New posts every Monday from November 16 to January 23.

As was previously discussed in our series, the “singularity” means the creation of smarter-than-human intelligence, or “superintelligence,” a type of intelligence that is impressively more intelligent than humans. Possible methods for its creation include brain-computer interfaces and pure artificial intelligence, among others. Various scientists, futurists, and mathematicians that write about the singularity, such as Ray Kurzweil, Nick Bostrom, and Vernor Vinge, consider such an event plausible sometime between about 2025 and 2050. Among those who consider the singularity plausible, it is widely agreed that the event could alter the world, our …

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Complexity Metric Blog on Jaron Lanier vs. Eliezer Yudkowsky

Here is the commentary. Most of all, I enjoy reviews and comments by outsiders with no contact with our current community. Here are a few quotes and my comments:

It is video conference phone call split screen debate between this Yudkowsky guy who is the head scientist at the Singularity Institute, and Lanier who has been the genius hippy in red dread locks since his early pioneering work with Virtual Reality and artificial vision systems.

Before you click the link, let me frame the debate.

These two guys represent the two extremes of a subtle range of viewpoints on evolution, AI, and human consciousness.

An interesting and subtle range that deserves more popular and academic attention and will get it sooner or later because we are building technologies that produce divisive responses to the relevant philosophical issues.

Jaron’s main criticism of the hard AI camp in this debate is that their strong attachment to finding a way past death and their apriori beliefe in the posibility of resonably building self evolving intelegence together become so rhetorically invasive …

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