Author Topic: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?  (Read 33561 times)

nurbldoff

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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #45 on: November 17, 2008, 03:16:40 am »
Transhumanism seems like fun (it's mostly intellectual masturbation as far as I can see) but I do think they have got some things backwards.

Eliminating suffering on a neurological level (or whatever) seems great on paper, but somehow I don't think it will actually make us a lot happier. We tend to judge what's good and bad in relation to our present "standard" state, which means that we'll just shift our expectations until we're perfectly capable of feeling miserable again. I just don't think it's a meaningful goal. Also, our survival hinges on our ability to feel emotions, especially bad ones, since they help us avoid the really bad ideas. I recommend the book "Descartes Error" by Antonio Damasio to anyone who doubts this.

Another thing is the whole idea of the "technological singularity" which seems to be the wet dream of a lot of transhumanists (and also the new "FTL" of SF writers). I just can't see why it should ever occur. And if it does, it's defined in such a way that we can't possibly predict what it will be like. What's the point of waiting for something completely unknown and unknowable? Maybe we won't even notice it. Anyway, it seems to me like a pointless exercise in extrapolating.

"Uploading" reminds me of the classic argument against teleportation: what if it's just a copy of you that comes through, and the original is destroyed? The copy won't notice, but it's the end of the line for you... and there's no way for an observer tell the difference.

I'm still interested in the AI field, although it seems like nothing much has happened for a long time now.
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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #46 on: November 17, 2008, 03:36:49 pm »
The Singularity is the hidden belief in Christian eschatology at the centre of some transhumanism and I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds it suspect as fuck.

Of course, the same could be said about the elimination of suffering and the desire to be not-human....for more, consult Prof Herr Nietzsche on Christian hatred of reality and line up the parallels.

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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #47 on: November 18, 2008, 07:57:10 am »
I wouldnt find it suspect because of the apparent relation to Christianity. McKenna calculuted the moment for Timewave Zero (that is, the Singularity, also it's convieniently on December 2012) using the I Ching for instance :)

but you mean the Judgement Day, in Christianity right?

I can see how the idea of the Technological Singularity would roughly appeal to a Christian that believes in Judgement Day, but I don't really believe that it holds the other way around.

As far as I've read about the Singularity, the idea stems from those psychonautic hippies (what are they called, McKenna, Leary (?), Sheldrake ..) and sort of took off from there, not Christianity. Especially considering the Technological Singularity is something that mankind is doing all by themselves, no Divine Intervention involved, it's our technology, we are building it up to some hypothetical asymptotic point, not God. Wouldnt that idea rub a lot of Christians the wrong way?

otoh, I can totally imagine some transhumanists suddenly turning out to be very creepy Christians, as well.
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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #48 on: November 18, 2008, 11:05:39 am »
I mean it relates to Christianity in positing a teleological system with an utopian ending.

Which, to my mind, is suspect as fuck in and of itself.  It is a hidden implication in many strands of Western philosophy and, like many hidden assumptions that later turn out to be false, deserves to be mercilessly stamped out before it does any more damage.

Also, many transhumanists are scary glibertarians.  Case study: http://pajamasmedia.com/instapundit/

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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #49 on: November 18, 2008, 11:15:43 am »
okay, although I never quite see the Singularity (if it's going to happen) as particularly utopian. The Transhumanists would probably, though.

but as far as I know, current guess as to what the Singularity is going to be is "Seed AI" (that is AI able to fix and improve itself, so it would quickly surpass human intelligence). it is my strong opinion that this guess is most probably going to be entirely wrong because of Fooled by Randomness and Black Swans and our total inability to predict fuck all espeically if it's going to be based on technology that is based on other technology (etc) that won't exist for a few decades or so.
but even then, if it's going to be Seed AI, Science Fiction (like the Matrix, and such) tells me it might just as well go horribly wrong as right.

i see the Singularity (if it's going to happen and even if it's not) more as something that's a sign of the Strange Times, i mean, it does seem that technology and information is moving at a faster and faster pace, right? if it's going to coalesce into something .. singular, i don't know, but things do seem to be getting more strange, faster. or do you think that ideas like this are more of a kind of relativism / narrative fallacy thing, that in fact things aren't really moving faster, but they seem to be moving faster and have always seemed to be moving faster?
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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #50 on: November 18, 2008, 11:27:08 am »
Quote
The technological singularity is a theoretical future point of unprecedented technological progress, caused in part by the ability of machines to improve themselves using artificial intelligence.

Emphasis mine.  And yes, it doesn't sound utopian (or even very plausible) to people like me (who think unprecedented technological advance will look more like Fringe than Star Trek) but I'm working from within the transhumanist framework, where such a thing is.  Because, to be honest, Heaven on Earth and the Eternal Reign of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ doesn't really appeal to me either, but within the Christian framework it is the utopian goal.

I don't disagree that technology and information transfer are increasing, I just don't think we're going to see an explosion of knowledge and technological process a la The Singularity, because of physical upper limits relating to transfer, assimilation and research, and exhaustion of resources necessary to economic growth that technology relies on.  What happens when oil runs out, for example?  Or we exhaust the cobalt mines we are currently fighting for in the Congo?  Technological growth relies on an expanding economic base, and that is something that cannot be relied on.

Its a goofy, pie-in-the-sky wankfest for technological fantasists.

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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #51 on: November 18, 2008, 11:52:08 am »
okay, so the expanding economic base cannot be relied on. that's something people tend to forget, yes. but it doesn't say when or how it would crash, right? what i mean is, the economic base could hold on just long enough for some singularity type of thing to occur. could. possibly.

as far as my understanding of what the Singularity means, is that it's in fact decidedly also a function of what the human mind is capable of [predicting]. see, given technological advancements and the impact they have on society, there is always a sort of point in the future whereafter we cannot make any sensible predictions about society anymore because technology has caught up with us and society might look rather different by then and your predictions are worth shit. (say, in 1980 this range was about 20 years cause by then the Internet changed a lot about the world works.. or something).
now, the hypothesis the Technological Singularity is based on the following. Given that technology and information transfer are moving at an increasinly faster and faster rate, this "window of prediction" is getting shorter and shorter. the idea is that at some point in time the size of this window will reach zero, and by definition it's impossible to say what happens after, even from five minutes before it happens :)

from what i see, the problems with this idea are:
- will the technology and information rate keep increasing indefinitely, or at least long enough for the Singularity to happen?
- will the "window of prediction" actually reach zero at some point in time? or will it perhaps asymptotically ( = never reach) approach zero, or perhaps it will stabilize at some average timespan that society/culture as a whole can still comprehend, somewhat (the "speed of culture"?)
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nurbldoff

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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #52 on: November 18, 2008, 10:34:21 pm »
I haven't really researched the idea of the Singularity but I think it's sometimes traced back to Teilhard de Chardin, who was a jesuit BTW, and his ideas of mankind basically evolving into god, or something like that. But generally the idea in its modern form is usually credited to Vernor Vinge, who's just a pretty good SF writer (and mathematician I think). But I do get disturbing "rapture" overtones from some transhumanist people.

Aaanyway, I'm not saying the singularity won't happen (although I'm skeptical) I'm just saying there's not really any point in theorizing about it because it wouldn't be a "singularity" if we could understand it. I'm not prone to predicting doomsday scenarios, but I can't say I'm looking forward to the event horizon...

I've also read a few SF novels basically just using the singularity as a "magical" explanation for all sorts of weird stuff. Pretty lazy IMHO.
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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #53 on: November 19, 2008, 02:09:26 pm »
I've also read a few SF novels basically just using the singularity as a "magical" explanation for all sorts of weird stuff. Pretty lazy IMHO.

Are you referencing "Childhood's End," by Arthur C. Clarke? That book had more holes in it than a snitching mobster, post-exposure.
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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #54 on: November 19, 2008, 08:02:53 pm »
Interesting thoughts ITT.



I hadn't considered the christian parallels --

The Dark Ages : Doomsday ::
Information Age : Singularity ?


Or that both Christians and the Transhumanist camp are trying to escape Original Sin (in some sense).



As for the speed of the singularity --

but as far as I know, current guess as to what the Singularity is going to be is "Seed AI" (that is AI able to fix and improve itself, so it would quickly surpass human intelligence). it is my strong opinion that this guess is most probably going to be entirely wrong because of Fooled by Randomness and Black Swans and our total inability to predict fuck all espeically if it's going to be based on technology that is based on other technology (etc) that won't exist for a few decades or so.
but even then, if it's going to be Seed AI, Science Fiction (like the Matrix, and such) tells me it might just as well go horribly wrong as right.

if anything, the Black Swan should stand as a lesson that the Singularity is going to be hard to classify as "good" or "bad".

If Science Fiction makes us expect the worst, then the Black Swan would hint that change is coming on an unexpected angle. We're culturally primed for a fight against the robots, some archetypal discord still humming from the Industrial Revolution... but I don't think we're in any way prepared for the technology of 2020.

Quote
i see the Singularity (if it's going to happen and even if it's not) more as something that's a sign of the Strange Times, i mean, it does seem that technology and information is moving at a faster and faster pace, right? if it's going to coalesce into something .. singular, i don't know, but things do seem to be getting more strange, faster. or do you think that ideas like this are more of a kind of relativism / narrative fallacy thing, that in fact things aren't really moving faster, but they seem to be moving faster and have always seemed to be moving faster?

I think things are moving faster, and as those changes become broader, we'll need a word to describe the disorienting pace at which technology is changing our day-to-day lives. Singularity is that word, but I don't think we'll ever really reach the singularity. It'll remain something we're on the cusp of. Like the Age of Aquarius, dig?

The rate of technological advancement will hit a ceiling because it takes time for humans to adapt to new technology. People weren't plugged into their ipods and wireless internet the day it was invented - it took years for society to weave these things into the collective tapestry.

Likewise until machines start inventing new tech, technology will only advance as fast as the humans (and bureaucracy) involved with those creations.

nurbldoff

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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #55 on: November 21, 2008, 12:08:37 am »
I've also read a few SF novels basically just using the singularity as a "magical" explanation for all sorts of weird stuff. Pretty lazy IMHO.

Are you referencing "Childhood's End," by Arthur C. Clarke? That book had more holes in it than a snitching mobster, post-exposure.

No, haven't read that one. Off the top of my head I can only remember "Singularity Sky" by Charles Stross and "Newton's Wake" by Ken Macleod (haven't finished the last one). Not terrible books either of them, but the ways they use the singularity idea just annoy me. Anyway maybe it's just that I don't read a lot of SF and I happened to pick the "wrong" ones.
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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #56 on: December 02, 2008, 04:37:55 am »
Singularity Sky isn't a singularity piece, even if it uses a lot of the predicted technologies that led to the idea of the singularity.  Accelerando (same author) actually tackles the singularity, but you can't really do it right, since by definition, the singularity is the point past which futurists decided they have no clue what will happen.  In the language of the board, its a black swan so big you can see it coming, but not past it.

RE: the op; transhumanists are the new rapturists.
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nurbldoff

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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #57 on: December 28, 2008, 11:07:54 pm »
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Singularity Sky isn't a singularity piece, even if it uses a lot of the predicted technologies that led to the idea of the singularity.

Well, it's not about the singularity itself, but I'd say a lot of the elements of the intrigue rely on a singularity having happened to humanity... e.g. the fact that time travel that defies causality is forbidden. Having finished "Newton's Wake" I have to say that the scenarios as regarding the singularity and its results seem to be handled pretty much in the same way in both books. Is there some kind of consensus among SF writers about this? :)
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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #58 on: January 07, 2009, 09:20:02 pm »
I only read the first and last pages of this thread.

Eliminating suffering might be a good aim, if you're doing it to everyone else first.  I'd never try to eliminate the ability to feel pain, though.  With all these nerve and brain structures built to handle them, not to have pain would be a terrible waste.  As long as it's possible to "do it wrong", you really should be able to know it without resorting to the third circuit.  Even suffering might be necessary, as Dark Nights make Days Bright.

Fuck the singularity.  Minds are too varied in structure to expect any sort of computerized mind to be built or emerge, and then survive.  Not without constant tending.

I've not seen too much of transhumanism, but I imagine that it refers to good ideas, without delivering.  Fools' ambitions, all.

Perhaps more wierdery should end in .exe.

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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #59 on: January 08, 2009, 12:43:20 pm »
"Uploading" reminds me of the classic argument against teleportation: what if it's just a copy of you that comes through, and the original is destroyed? The copy won't notice, but it's the end of the line for you... and there's no way for an observer tell the difference.


This was the first thing that worried me about the idea of uploading but then I read a bit about the idea of an advanced robotic surgeon, replacing your neurons, one at a time with a patch into the mainframe. There was even the example that, since the brain feels no pain in and of itself, you could remain conscious throughout the process, even having a celebratory glass of champagne when the robot hits the half-way mark.
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