[Contains spoilers.] Overall, although Terminator: Salvation was a well produced and enjoyable movie, it wasn’t particularly deep. I was at least hoping for a more interesting exploration of Marcus Wright’s identity and the meaning he found in his existence after discovering he was the first genuine cross between a human and a machine, but even that was handled predictably. The movie evaded any of the complexity that the recently canceled Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles television series had been beginning to develop.
Steve Omohundro, Ph.D. is president of Self-Aware Systems a Silicon Valley think tank aimed at bringing human values to emerging technologies. This talk in March 2008 to the Silicon Valley Transhumanist group examines the origins of human morality and its future development to cope with advances in artificial intelligence. It begins with a discussion of the dangers of philosophies which put ideas ahead of people. It presents Kohlberg’s 6 stages of human moral development, evidence for recent advances in human morality, the theory underlying co-opetition, recent advances in understanding the sexual and social origins of altruism, and the 5 human moral emotions and their relationship to political systems. It then considers the likely behavior of advanced AI systems, showing that they will want to understand and improve themselves, will have drives toward self-preservation and resource acquisition, and will be vigilant in avoiding corruption and addiction. We end with a description of the 3 primary challenges that humanity faces in guiding future technology toward human-positive ends.
A recent talk by IEET intern Ed Miller. Ed’s description: “This is a systems perspective on the future of our civilization. I hope that by understanding how resilience allows systems to survive, and how those systems influence our subjectivity, we can build a better future.
By advocating the end of involuntary suffering for all sentient life, and “gradients of bliss,” I am borrowing David Pearce’s vision for the future direction of human civilization which transcends many of the myopic utopian scenarios of previous thinkers. This grand vision is needed to motivate us sufficiently to achieve true progress.
To my friends who believe that recursively improving artificial Intelligence is all that matters, let me just say that even if it is likely to happen, which I doubt, we have to worry about the social conditions from which it springs.”
Despite the recent outcome on Proposition 8 in California, I believe that the American conscience has awakened concerning the right of gay people to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in this country. Yes, there remain groups of people who would deny gays their human rights out of fear, blind adherence to religious dogma, or a simple hatred of what they don’t understand, but those groups are shrinking.
A few weeks ago I described a continuum sliding from global warming to climate chaos to geoengineering and ultimately to planet-scale engineering. Now we’ll look into what some of those geoengineering proposals might be, why they might or might not work, and what the potentially catastrophic results could be—whether or not we try to solve global warming.
Athena Andreadis is guest-blogging at Sentient Developments this month. Years ago, I saw a short in an animation festival. It showed earth inhabited by men who happily bopped each other and propagated by laying eggs. A starship crash interrupted the idyll. Presaging Battlestar Galactica, the newcomers proved miraculously interfertile with the men who handed them the job of propagation along with all other disagreeable chores. Things went swimmingly, at least for the men, until a rescue ship arrived. After the women left, the men were once again free to pursue manly things – until they realized they had forgotten how to lay eggs.
We can hold conference calls with colleagues from all over, and do it basically for free. Tiny videocams built into laptop computers—that are themselves millions of times more powerful than the computers used to fly men to the moon in the 1960s—allow real-time visual meetups, saving time and money, making business run better and progress move faster. Still, no matter how far we have come, in-person meetings are better than data-mediated connections.
It is 2007 on the steamy tropical streets of Rangoon, Burma, where journalism is against the law, and where no outside reporters are allowed. Fed up with living under the oppression of a heavy-handed military dictatorship, a few courageous citizens dare to speak out. They are quickly silenced and carried off by police and plain-clothes thugs—but a small band of video journalists is able to capture the events and begin leaking the news to the outside world.
This thought experiment is not as far-fetched as it may seem at first glance. Many experts believe that we will be able, not too many decades down the track, to build a device with the capacities that I’ll be describing. My Generation Y philosophy/international studies students may still be young enough to be involved in real-world decisions when this sort of technology is available. Even I may still be alive, to vote on it, if it’s an election issue in 30 or 40 years time. Though it may be at an early stage, the necessary research is going on, even now, in such places as the US military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The term “mindclone” evokes a wide range of sci-fi images from the “Cylons” of Battlestar Galactica to the “Mr. Smiths” of The Matrix. While it is indisputable that we are creating large mindfiles, as described in Question 1, and surely there are geeks working hard on mindware, as reviewed in Question 2, how close could we be to an actual mindclone when computers can’t converse on their own much better than a two-year old kid?
IEET Executive Director J. Hughes answered some questions about technology and its impact on humanity at Convergence 08, November 15, 2008 in Mountain View California. This video is one of a dozen that will be hosted shortly on the new Humanity+ website. If its too slow to stream you can download various versions from Archive.org.
In June 1983 I arrived in Sri Lanka with a starry-eyed commitment to grassroots Buddhist social change, and a lot of romanticism about national liberation movements and Asian Buddhism. The Sri Lankan civil war that started five days later forced me to confront how dangerous all identities and communities are unless we understand that they are fundamentally imaginary. My two years in Sri Lanka convinced me of the desperate need for a new project of global citizenship.
If we take a long view of human civilization and history, it is hard not to be impressed by how far we have come. Sure, we could always do more, and yes, I’m as impatient as you for the next steps forward. But it doesn’t hurt once in a while to pat ourselves on our collective backs for what we’ve accomplished over the last few thousand years.
Miller Brown (Philosophy, Trinity College) debunks arguments against human enhancement, specifically in sports, before the Hartford Ethics Group, May 14, 2009. (Apologies about the loud air conditioner in the background.)
Economic rights are fundamental human rights. European social democracies are the best at providing for basic economic security. Some of the evidence for Euro-socialist superiority comes from comparative studies of happiness. We can start providing more economic security here by expanding public options and universal access to healthcare. (MP3)
We are on the brink of technological breakthroughs that could augment our mental powers beyond recognition. It will soon be possible to boost human brainpower with electronic “plug-ins” or even by genetic enhancement. What will this mean for the future of humanity?
Given the accumulating effects of global warming and the increasing potential for disastrous climate change, some form of geoengineering likely will be attempted within the next decade or two. As advanced nanotechnology moves ahead, it could enable—for better or for worse—truly epic planet-scale (re)terraforming projects.
“The convergences of the past, like small streams flowing together to form a great river, have created stronger currents that carry the potential for even faster and more dramatic changes as they converge in the near future. These include information technology, genetic engineering and biotechnology, nanotechnology (the manipulation of matter at the molecular level, which may allow manufacturing without factories as we know them), and cognitive science (how we know and learn).”
[May contain spoilers for various movies or TV shows.] It is important to understand how issues such as cryonics are presented in the popular media, so as to gauge public perception of them and understand how to correct common misconceptions and appeal to popular values as much as possible. Unfortunately, in the case of cryonics a large portion of the portrayals in television and movies are negative and are rife with those misconceptions.