Author Topic: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?  (Read 35139 times)

Bebek Sincap Ratatosk

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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #60 on: January 08, 2009, 04:19:25 pm »
I'm not really sure that the singularity requires magic robot brains... From what I've read by RU and Kurzweil, the singularity is all about the maths related to the speed of technological advancement. The Transhumanists seem to have varied views about the ultimate state of humanity beyond the singularity or what the impact of the singularity may have on what it means to be Human... but that seems to be similar to the eschatology arguments of religious people. That is, their views may appear wildly different and seem to say more about the individual than an objective view of what is likely to happen. The basis for all of their positions though seem to boil down to two key points, both of which might be reasonable.

1) Technology will continue to merge with human society and the human individual.

This seems a given, we get closer and closer to our communication devices each year. In Japan, there is a prototype of a cell phone built into the human body, run off of energy from the body. Artificial limbs, regrown tissue, pacemakers and performance enhancing drugs already exist and are in common use. Transhumanists have pushed this even further. One experiment embedded magnets into the fingertips of an individual... originally for carrying things, but that failed. As a side effect, though, the person picked up a sixth sense. The magnets responded to electromagnetic fields around the person... and they received a tingling sensation right before phone calls etc. A new sensor system is being used to help blind people see via their tongue. A system captures video, translates it to pixels and a flat tab in the users mouth sends electrical signals to specific parts of the tongue for each black or white pixel. The scientists involved claim that the brain still sends this data to the visual cortex and they see the cortex reactivate and begin processing this new data. Where will this take us? Probably where the Transhumanists claim... a continual merging between technology and humans, probably to some point where the difference will be moot, or at least so common that it's barely noted.

2) Technology will reach a point where it improves itself... technology will cease to follow Moore's Law and growth will be exponential rather than linear.

This also seems entirely possible. Particularly if we use a broad definition of technology. A smart scientist, on smart drugs, surviving because of a pacemaker, uses a really smart network of computers to build a system that is self-improving based on external data... Technology sent Technology on a quantum leap. And we still haven't gotten to any requirement for a Turing Test or an AI.

I think that both of these claims are probably reasonable. Humans and technology are already merging and once we open up stem cell research genetic therapy etc, Humans will likely no longer share many of the experiences common to humans since they've been called human. That's a pretty big deal. I also think its reasonable to think that technology will create a complex enough environment that some breakthrough will emerge and growth will likely surpass 'doubled every 18 months', at least until we hit the next plateau.

It seems that most of the Transhumanists take these views and incorporate them into a Utopia or a Eschatology of some sort... but it seems that the above are the bare bones beliefs which define Transhumanism, I think... based on what I've read in the past few weeks.
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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #61 on: January 09, 2009, 07:14:24 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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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #62 on: January 09, 2009, 07:23:37 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.


Downside of mechanical brain: drugs no longer work.

Biological drugs may not work... but It seems entirely possible for me to imagine digital drugs in a reality where computer systems were complex enough to act as human brains.
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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #63 on: January 10, 2009, 01:26:21 am »
"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.


Downside of mechanical brain: drugs no longer work.
Depends on the drug, assuming the individual still has biological systems.  And what Rat said.

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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #64 on: January 11, 2009, 04:13:46 pm »
I find that, when trying to get an idea of what the future holds, it helps to frame the present state of affairs in relation to the past. In a sense we are already "transhuman" in comparison to even a couple of hundred years ago. Think of how much more sophisticated our intellect has become. Many notions and concepts that we (as a modern civilisation) take for granted are things that would be inconceivable to the average 1809 punter.

We carry devices in our mobile phones which would essentially be described in terms of telepathy by the people back then. We are more and more reliant on the technology we create. The symbiosis inherent, even despite the fact that most of it isn't directly wired into our bodies. Yet.

As such the basic human being, equipped with his mundane technology is capable of feats that would have been considered godlike back in the "goode olde days" We are already more than human, in this respect, and it's only going to continue at a speed approaching exponential but, just as 1809 guy could never begin to imagine this, neither can we imagine 2209, other than in tiny snippets that I'm pretty sure will fall way short of the actual mark.
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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #65 on: January 13, 2009, 06:43:43 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.


Downside of mechanical brain: drugs no longer work.

Biological drugs may not work... but It seems entirely possible for me to imagine digital drugs in a reality where computer systems were complex enough to act as human brains.

I have reflected on my post.  I imagine it's possible to mechanically simulate a neuron without learning to simulate mind.  Computerized drugs would make sense in that model, but I still wonder if the limitations on a mechanized brain would feel different.

Would it make it at all easier to modify one's perceptual mechanisms?  I mean "faster-clock" and "slower-clock" would be easy, but what of "see aliens"?  Or, "don't worry, smoke moar!"?  Clearly, though, transhumanism isn't exactly suited for the entheogen-oriented.

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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #66 on: January 13, 2009, 07:59:35 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.


Downside of mechanical brain: drugs no longer work.

Biological drugs may not work... but It seems entirely possible for me to imagine digital drugs in a reality where computer systems were complex enough to act as human brains.

I have reflected on my post.  I imagine it's possible to mechanically simulate a neuron without learning to simulate mind.  Computerized drugs would make sense in that model, but I still wonder if the limitations on a mechanized brain would feel different.

Would it make it at all easier to modify one's perceptual mechanisms?  I mean "faster-clock" and "slower-clock" would be easy, but what of "see aliens"?  Or, "don't worry, smoke moar!"?  Clearly, though, transhumanism isn't exactly suited for the entheogen-oriented.

Well, if you take a small view, maybe...

But, what if they could modify *insert entheogen here* at a genetic level so that it worked better, produced more, had less risks... What if they start splicing various entheogenic components? Or what if they develop a brain jack that can record what you're neurological system is experiencing and can play it back later for review, meditation, examination etc?

The brain doesn't have to be replaced in a Transhuman future... it may just get upgrades, peripherals, usb ports and maybe a built in helicopter roter sticking out the top like a "Bio Beanie"
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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #67 on: January 13, 2009, 08:17:54 pm »
...
2) Technology will reach a point where it improves itself... technology will cease to follow Moore's Law and growth will be exponential rather than linear.

This also seems entirely possible. Particularly if we use a broad definition of technology. A smart scientist, on smart drugs, surviving because of a pacemaker, uses a really smart network of computers to build a system that is self-improving based on external data... Technology sent Technology on a quantum leap. And we still haven't gotten to any requirement for a Turing Test or an AI.

Yeah, I agree that it is a possibility, and apparently an almost irresistible one to SF writers. But I see some fairly big "ifs" in there. It seems we're already closing in on the practical limit in miniaturization of solid state electronics for example. Sure, maybe someone comes up with an alternative that gives a new boost to Moore's law, but my guess is that ultimately the rate of improvement is going to be capped by physics, and if the rate should start going
exponential, we'll just reach that point sooner, that's all.

Aaaanyway, I think you captured some of the core ideas of transhumanism there and I agree that they are somewhat interesting as ideas. However, the actual transhumanists I've encountered (in fact, I linger on some transhumanism mailing list for some reason) don't seem very much fun unless you're into intellectual masturbation. Paraphrasing what someone else said, it's a lot of words but not a lot of action.
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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #68 on: January 16, 2009, 06:55:56 am »
Computer technology already is exponential in growth.
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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #69 on: January 16, 2009, 10:14:00 am »
"has always been exponential in growth".

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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #70 on: January 16, 2009, 03:40:40 pm »
Ooops. Anyway, an exponential increase alone won't give rise to mathematical singularity.  I guess the "singularists" aren't necessarily saying that the growth rate will become infinite, just very high; "practically" infinite.
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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #71 on: January 16, 2009, 06:57:03 pm »
Ooops. Anyway, an exponential increase alone won't give rise to mathematical singularity.  I guess the "singularists" aren't necessarily saying that the growth rate will become infinite, just very high; "practically" infinite.


Well, more importantly, the Singularity is the point where technology improves technology at a very fast rate, without relying on/waiting on humans to figure out what to do next.
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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #72 on: January 16, 2009, 08:23:02 pm »
Ooops. Anyway, an exponential increase alone won't give rise to mathematical singularity.  I guess the "singularists" aren't necessarily saying that the growth rate will become infinite, just very high; "practically" infinite.

um, no they don't. or maybe the stupid ones do.

for starters, even if it continues to be growing at an exponential rate, it wouldn't reach infinity within any finite amount of time. mathematically speaking.

that's why the technological singularity is not the same as a mathematical singularity.

as far as I understood, the argument goes like this:

Technology is advancing. Some of these technologies will--to some extent--be paradigm-shifting (farming, industrialization, electricity, TV or Internet). This effectively puts a limit on the timeframe for which you can still make any sensible prediction of, say, human culture or something. Now, the premise is that the speed of advancement of technology is increasing (exponentially or otherwise). From this follows that the timeframe for predictions is shrinking. Believers in the technological singularity pose that this timeframe is shrinking non-asymptotically, and therefore will reach zero at some finite point in time. This point in time is called the Technological Singularity, and by definition, we are completely unable to predict what happens after this point in time.

Sure there are a bunch of holes you can shoot in this reasoning, it doesn't *necessarily* have to happen, IMO. But it doesn't seem completely impossible to me either. (In fact, I think it kind of depends on how long humankind can stay the way it is before we are globally thrusted back into the stone-age or something because we fucked up).

One possible scenario for the singularity is "seed-AI". Seed-AI is defined as a kind of AI that can improve and redesign itself. You can imagine how that, coupled with the speed and capacity of computers, might lead to a situation where we will be completely unable to predict what will happen next.

Whether seed-AI is actually feasible, is yet another discussion, of course.
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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #73 on: January 18, 2009, 08:52:37 pm »
Technology is advancing. Some of these technologies will--to some extent--be paradigm-shifting (farming, industrialization, electricity, TV or Internet). This effectively puts a limit on the timeframe for which you can still make any sensible prediction of, say, human culture or something. Now, the premise is that the speed of advancement of technology is increasing (exponentially or otherwise). From this follows that the timeframe for predictions is shrinking. Believers in the technological singularity pose that this timeframe is shrinking non-asymptotically, and therefore will reach zero at some finite point in time. This point in time is called the Technological Singularity, and by definition, we are completely unable to predict what happens after this point in time.

To put this more simply:  suppose I were to ask you to predict if the moon would have civil war within the next week.  You'd answer with a VERY high degree of certainty "Of course not, because they're couldn't plausibly be enough people on the moon by next week for their to be a war, and even if their was a way nothing in the current state of the world suggests that their will be living on the moon by the end of next week."  If I say 50 years, it gets a little more plausible - maybe by then spaceflight becomes cheaper and colonization of the moon (on a small scale) becomes feasible.  You could answer No with high certainty, or Yes with pretty low certainty.  If I were to say 500 years you couldn't be certain either way - maybe humanity's dream of spaceflight collapses as we enter another dark age; maybe the moon gets colonized and people argue over territory.  The key is that we make predictions based on our current understanding of the world and how quickly things change - not that much happens in a week, but a lot could happen in 500 years.

The idea behind the Technological Singularity is that once that happens, so much stuff could happen in any given timespan that any kind of meaningful prediction about the future of human affairs becomes impossible.  Once we're in the Singularity, for instance, a wi-fi brain network of students in Argentina on intelligence boosting drugs could produce an entire new field of mathematics while you're sleeping, which is applied by the Berkeley-Microsoft Xbox Live Protein Stability Computation Grid to invent a protein that synthesizes a high-powered fuel out of topsoil and salt water.  Because of advances that make the internet more efficient at circulating useful information, every business-minded biologist in New Euromerica switches on his Synthavirus Gene Lab and transmutes a tub of yeast into a tub full of yeast that makes cheap fuel out of dirt and salt water.  An architect realizes that the aluminum bars in every persons' prefabbed home could now be used as a very powerful railgun, mentions this to an engineering forum, and within an hour the brain network in Argentina (who has now solved mathematics, and is quite bored) comes up with a way to quickly and turn any house into a rail-gun launched spaceship.  By this time P&G has switched from biowarfare to energy production and is making a killing selling 1.2 jigga-amps to every house in the world.  One Hundred and Seventeen, the premier magazine for hip youngsters just out of their first century, runs an article on space fashions mentioning this new development, causing people all over the world people to press the "Reconfigure" button on their houses to convert them into space ships and take off for the moon.  Unfortunately, the Neo-Feynman uses the new math and lucky guesses to crack every encryption algorithm in the world, revealing every deep-cover troll used by the Department of Motor Vehicles, leading Senator Chuck Norris, /b/-Canada, to call for a purge of the hated DMV trolls.  Firefights break out all over the world, as roughly 50% of the population is a DMV troll.  The fighting extends to the flash mob on the moon, which manages to form a Lunar Government only after all the next-gen fusion bombs have already been launched.

At this point you wake up, and are very, very confused as to a) where all the topsoil has got to, and b) why there are 500 people dressed as 1920's business men dueling with power drills in your back yard.  Then a large radioactive chunk of what was formerly the moon falls on them, and you are merely left to wonder where all the top soil went.

So if somebody asked you if any given event was going to happen tomorrow, the best you could have done would have been to flip a coin.
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Re: What does everyone here think of Transhumanism?
« Reply #74 on: January 19, 2009, 12:00:58 am »
The idea behind the Technological Singularity is that once that happens, so much stuff could happen in any given timespan that any kind of meaningful prediction about the future of human affairs becomes impossible.  Once we're in the Singularity, for instance, a wi-fi brain network of students in Argentina on intelligence boosting drugs could produce an entire new field of mathematics while you're sleeping, which is applied by the Berkeley-Microsoft Xbox Live Protein Stability Computation Grid to invent a protein that synthesizes a high-powered fuel out of topsoil and salt water.  Because of advances that make the internet more efficient at circulating useful information, every business-minded biologist in New Euromerica switches on his Synthavirus Gene Lab and transmutes a tub of yeast into a tub full of yeast that makes cheap fuel out of dirt and salt water.  An architect realizes that the aluminum bars in every persons' prefabbed home could now be used as a very powerful railgun, mentions this to an engineering forum, and within an hour the brain network in Argentina (who has now solved mathematics, and is quite bored) comes up with a way to quickly and turn any house into a rail-gun launched spaceship.  By this time P&G has switched from biowarfare to energy production and is making a killing selling 1.2 jigga-amps to every house in the world.  One Hundred and Seventeen, the premier magazine for hip youngsters just out of their first century, runs an article on space fashions mentioning this new development, causing people all over the world people to press the "Reconfigure" button on their houses to convert them into space ships and take off for the moon.  Unfortunately, the Neo-Feynman uses the new math and lucky guesses to crack every encryption algorithm in the world, revealing every deep-cover troll used by the Department of Motor Vehicles, leading Senator Chuck Norris, /b/-Canada, to call for a purge of the hated DMV trolls.  Firefights break out all over the world, as roughly 50% of the population is a DMV troll.  The fighting extends to the flash mob on the moon, which manages to form a Lunar Government only after all the next-gen fusion bombs have already been launched.

At this point you wake up, and are very, very confused as to a) where all the topsoil has got to, and b) why there are 500 people dressed as 1920's business men dueling with power drills in your back yard.  Then a large radioactive chunk of what was formerly the moon falls on them, and you are merely left to wonder where all the top soil went.

:lulz:

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So if somebody asked you if any given event was going to happen tomorrow, the best you could have done would have been to flip a coin.

Except you couldn't even be sure it would land before somebody figured out how to flip gravity.
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