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IEET > Security > SciTech > Vision > Bioculture > Fellows > Ben Goertzel

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Is God an Alien Mathematician?


Ben Goertzel
Ben Goertzel
Hplusmagazine

Posted: Apr 16, 2012

Ben Goertzel converses with Hugo de Garis on his transhumanist argument for the reality of a Creator.

BEN GOERTZEL: Hugo, you’ve recently published an article on KurzweilAI.net titled “From Cosmism to Deism”, which essentially posits a transhumanist argument that some sort of “God” exists, i.e. some sort of intelligent creator of our universe – and furthermore that this “creator” is probably some sort of mathematician.  I’m curious to ask you some questions digging a little deeper into your thinking on these (fun, albeit rather far-out) issues.

Could you start out by clarifying what you mean by the two terms in the title of your article, cosmism and deism?  (I know what I mean by Cosmism, and I described it in my Cosmist Manifesto book, but I wonder if you have a slightly different meaning.)

HUGO DE GARIS: I defined these two terms rather succinctly in the kurzweilai.net essay so I’ll just quote those definitions here.  Deism is “the belief that there is a ‘deity’ i.e. a creator of the universe, a grand designer, a cosmic architect, that conceived and built our universe.”  Cosmism is the “ideology in favor of humanity building artilects this century (despite the risk that advanced artilects may decide to wipe out humanity as a pest).” 

Artilects are “artificial intellects, i.e. godlike massively intelligent machines, with intellectual capacities trillions of trillions of times above the human level.”  Deism is to be distinguished from theism, which is the belief in a deity that also cares about the welfare of individual humans.

BEN: Previously you have talked about “Building Gods” as the ultimate goal of artificial intelligence technology.  So is your basic argument in favor of deism that, if we humans will be able to build a god once our technology is a bit better – then maybe some other intelligence that came before us also was able to build gods, and already did it?  And maybe this other intelligence built (among other things) us?

HUGO: Yes, pretty much.  The traditional arguments in favor of a deity (as distinct from a theity, which I find ridiculous, given that last century 200-300 million people were killed in the bloodiest century in history – so much for a loving deity) are less strong and persuasive in my view than the artilect-as-deity argument.  The rise of the artilect is based on science, and the extrapolation of artilectual intelligence to trillions of trillions of times above the human level, seems very plausible this century.  If human beings (e.g. Prof Guth at MIT) have theories on how to build baby universes, then perhaps artilects could actually build them, and hence, by definition, become deities (i.e. creator gods).  That was the main point of the kurzweilai.net essay.

BEN: I see…  This is actually very similar to the “simulation argument” made by Nick Bostrom, Stephen Wolfram, Jonathan vos Post and others – that since creating computer simulations as complex as our universe is probably possible using advanced technology, the odds seem fairly high we’re actually living in a simulation created by some other intelligences.  But Bostrom, for instance, focuses on the simulation itself, whereas you seem to focus on the intelligent entity involved, the assumed creator of the simulation.

And this brings up the question of what intelligence means.  What’s your working definition of “intelligence”?  In other words, how do you define “intelligence” in a way that applies both to human minds and to the potential super-intelligent universe simulation-creating deity that you hypothesize?

HUGO: As a common sense, man-in-the-street definition, I would say, “Intelligence is the ability to solve problems quickly and well.”  As a research scientist, I am made constantly aware, on a daily basis, of the fact that intelligence levels differ greatly between individuals.  I spend my time studying PhD level pure math and mathematical physics, trying to wrap my head around the works of Fields Medal winners such as Ed Witten, Michael Freedman, Richard Borcherds, etc, all mostly likely with extraordinarily high IQs.  Believe me, with my only moderately high intelligence level, it gives me “brain strain”.  So it’s easy for me to imagine an ultra-intelligent machine.  I only have to imagine a machine a little bit smarter than these genii.  I am in awe at what these genii create, at what the best examples of the human intellect are capable of.  I am in awe.  However at a neuro-scientific level, we don’t know yet what intelligence is.  A five-year-old can ask questions about the nature of human intelligence that are beyond state-of-the-art neuroscience to answer, e.g. “What was so special about Einstein’s brain that made him Einstein?”  “Why are some people smarter than most?”  “Why is the human brain so much smarter than the mouse brain?”  I dream of the creation this century of what I label “Intelligence Theory” (IT), that would provide real answers and understanding to such questions.

We should aim at a universal definition of intelligence that would be applicable to all levels of (humanly) known intelligence.  It is an interesting question how far up the superhuman intelligence level a human concocted IT could go.  One would think that the finite level of human intelligence, by definition, would preclude humans thinking of an IT at a level that an artilect could manage.

BEN: Following up on that, one question I have is: if there is some superintelligence that created the universe, how similar do you think this superintelligence is to human intelligences?  Does it have a self?  A personality?  Does it have consciousness in the same sense that humans do?  Does it have goals, make plans, remember the past, forecast the future?  How can we relate to it?  What can we know about it?

HUGO: My immediate reaction to that question is that with our puny human brains, we very probably can’t even begin to conceive of what an artilect might think about or be like.  If we think that a universe-creating, “godlike” artilect has the human like attributes you list above, then that might a “category mistake” similar to a dog thinking that human beings are so much smarter and capable than dogs, that they must have many more bones lying around than dogs do.  One thing that is interesting about this question though, is that by conceiving of the artilect as a scientific-based creation, we can begin to attempt answers to such questions from a scientific perspective, not a theological one, where theologians are all too likely to give all kinds of untested answers to their particular conception of god.  Is a consciousness, or sense of self a prerequisite to the creation of superhuman intelligence?  These are interesting questions, that I don’t have answers to.  Perhaps I haven’t thought deeply enough about these types of questions.

BEN: In a nutshell, how does your deism differ from conventional religions like Christianity, Islam, Judaism and so forth?  And how does it differ from Buddhism, which some have argued isn’t really a religion, more of a wisdom tradition or a practical philosophy?

HUGO: Traditional religions such as the above, that were invented several thousand years ago, after the agricultural revolution and the growth of cities (with their occasional genius level priest-theologian) I find ridiculous, utterly in conflict with modern scientific knowledge.  The cultural anthropologists of religion have shown that humanity has invented on the order of about 100,000 different gods over the broad sweep of history, and across the planet.  These many gods are so obviously invented (e.g. New Guinea gods have many pigs, etc) that their human origins are obvious.  However, the fact that every primitive little tribe has invented its own gods makes one deeply suspicious that human religiosity is in fact physiologically based, and hence has Darwinian survival value (e.g. if you can believe in a loving god, you are less likely to commit suicide in a cold, indifferent, callous universe, so religiosity-inducing genes would be more selected for).

Deism, on the other hand, especially with the artilect-as-deity argument, is much closer to modern science in its conception.  The very real possibility of the rise of the artilect this century virtually forces anyone confronted with the argument to accept its plausibility.  Our sun is only a third the age of our universe, and there are a trillion trillion 2nd generation stars that we can “observe” that probably have generated life and intelligence.  Once a biological species reaches an intelligence level that allows it to have mathematics and science, it is then only a small step for it to “move on” to the artilectual stage, whose potential intelligence is astronomically larger (pun intended) than any biological level.  An artilect of the distant past in an earlier universe may have designed and built our universe.  It would have been our deity.

BEN: Traditional religions serve to give people comfort and meaning in their lives.  Do you think that the form of deism you advocate can serve the same purpose?  Does it serve that purpose for you – does it make you feel more meaning in your existence, or in existence in general?

HUGO: I look down on traditional “religionists” as ignorant deluded fools.  The fact that where I lived when I was living in the US, namely Logan, Utah, there were hard-science professors who were converted Mormons, showed me that the human brain is modular, with some compartments isolated from other parts, e.g. the religious areas from the critical analytical scientific areas, so that these professors were unable or unwilling to destroy their religious beliefs with just a little analytical scientific thinking.  I don’t have much patience with people who have low “RQs” (reality quotients).  If I present these religionists with the idea that many tens of millions of theists last century were killed in the bloodiest century in history, they just block thinking about its implications.  If I show them the evidence that humanity has invented 100,000 gods, they do the same.  I don’t deny that if one is able to believe in a loving god, it might be comforting.  Especially to someone who is, in Darwinian terms, sexually unattractive, and gets no human partner, so remains unloved – especially older widows, whose supply of men has run out due to the greatest of human realities, death.  But emotional comfort and high RQ may not be compatible.  If forced to choose, I prefer not to be a gullible child.  A non-theist deist looks at the massively indifferent universe as a given.  Having “faith” is no argument to me.  Believing something simply because one wants to believe it allows one to believe in the “tooth fairy.”

Accepting the idea that a deity might be possible certainly increases my sense of awe.  Imagine (if that is humanly possible) the capabilities of such a creature that can design and build a whole universe.  That is why I call artilects “godlike”.  They may have godlike capabilities, but still can be thought about (by humans) as falling within the domain of science.  Such a possibility makes me look on existence with a different light.  I would then see the universe as having a meaning, i.e. the meaning given to it by its artilect creator.  Of course, one can then ask, how was the artilect that created our universe itself created?  The ultimate causation question simply gets put back a step.  The ultimate existential question “Where did all these embedded universes come from and why?” remains as mysterious as ever.  But, thinking about what was going on in the “head” of an artilect deity when it designed our universe (with all its wonderful mathematical physical design) is fascinating to a scientist.  How to design a universe? What a wonderful challenge for science to grapple this century and beyond.  Of course, as humans, we may be too stupid to answer such a fascinating question.

BEN: I’m curious what is your own history with religion.  Were your parents religious; were you brought up in a religious environment at all?  I know you lived for a while in Utah, a very religious part of the US, and found that a bit uncomfortable.

HUGO: My parents were Church of England and sent their 3 kids to private Methodist schools.  So until my teens I was conventionally religious, having to listen to “Christist prayers” every morning at “school assembly”.  I was rather late going through puberty, so my brain didn’t start becoming adult and critical until I was 17.  I then “discovered” science with a vengeance, and decided that I would not become a doctor but a scientist.  Once I absorbed the basic scientific credo of “test your hypotheses”, my old religious beliefs began to look more and more ridiculous.  I then met an atheist who was a few years older than I was and very smart.  What he was served as a model for me as to what I could become, so I rapidly switched to non-theist beliefs. 

The more science I learned the more ignorant traditional, 2000-year-old Christist beliefs appeared to me.  For decades I was an “unquestioning atheist”, until the “anthropic principle” came along in the 1980s (i.e. the values of the constants in the laws of physics are so fantastically finely tuned to allow the existence of matter and life, that it looks as though the universe was designed) and the more math physics I learned, the more suspicious I became that the universe was designed according to highly mathematical principles – the deity-as-mathematician argument.  These two principles, the “anthropic principle” and the “mathematical principle,” feature in the kurzweilai.net essay.

BEN: Now I’m going to get a little more technical on you.  You’ve spoken of the “deity as mathematician” argument.  Is this a version of Eugene Wigner’s observation of the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics”?  It seems to me that this is an interesting intuitive argument for the existence of some fundamental hidden order in the universe – related to the order we see in mathematics – but not necessarily a strong argument for an actively intelligent “deity” with its own coherent memory, consciousness, goals, and so forth.  Can you explain how the observation of surprising amounts of mathematical structure in the universe suggests the existence of a “deity” rather than just a “subtle hidden order”?  Or is your deity basically the same thing as what I’m (somewhat awkwardly) calling a “subtle hidden order”?  Hopefully you can see what I’m getting at here; unfortunately English isn’t really ideal for discussing such things with precision (but if I switched to Lojban I’d lose most of the audience, including you!).

HUGO: Yes, subtle question.  I think the rise of the artilect with its massive intelligence levels during this and in later centuries makes it very plausible that our universe operates according to such deep mathematical principles.  These principles would be the result of the artilect deity’s design.  Whether such principles could “be there” without such design, is hard to imagine.  The deeper the physics genii of this century (such as Ed Witten, etc) delve into the deep structure of our universe, the more mathematical it seems to be, e.g. with superstring theory using the very latest ideas in low dimensional topology, with its beautiful mathematics.  This creates in my mind the deep suspicion that our universe is designed according to such mathematical principles.  If it is not designed, then is it just pure chance that our universe is so highly mathematical?  That seems so implausible.  This “mathematical principle” is closely analogous to the “anthropic principle” in the sense that our particular universe design seems so fantastically a priori improbable.  One is virtually forced to accept it has been designed.  The so called “designer” traditionally was conceived of as a theity, but now that we humans can imagine artilects, we have a new way to imagine the designer, i.e. as an artilect, and hence compatible with our deeply held scientific principles.  I guess what I’m saying is “artilectual deism is compatible with science”, whereas “traditional theism is simply pre-scientific garbage.”  You (may have) alluded to Spinoza’s ideas with your “subtle hidden order”.  Einstein talked about “der Alte” (the “old one”, who designed the universe).  He wanted “to know his thoughts.”

I agree with you that if there were no artilect-deity concept, then the existence of a subtle hidden order would support the idea of a creator less strongly.  But science-based artilects are now very credible, so give strong support to the idea of our universe being designed by an earlier artilect in a previous universe.  One fascinating question this raises in my mind is the status depth of mathematics.  Are the principles of mathematics in some sense “deeper” than even the artilect deities?  Are such artilects obliged to use mathematical principles as a given, or are these principles, in some (humanly unfathomable?) sense, concocted by these artilects?  This is a really deep mystery for me, but fascinating philosophically.

BEN: Hmmmm…  You say “If it is not designed, then is it just pure chance that our universe is so highly mathematical?”  But it seems to me that an alternate hypothesis would be self-organization…  That is: perhaps abstract mathematical structures are in some sense “attractors” of hyper-physical self-organizing processes.  Imagine some primordial “stuff” self-organizing into a more concrete state.  At first it’s so abstract it’s not governed by any specific physical laws, but then physical law gradually emerges within it.  This is the great physicist John Archibald Wheeler’s notion of “law without law”.Then imagine that this self-organization process inexorably tends to lead to the formation of physics-es with the same habitual deep structures in vaguely the same way that multiple molecules with different structures tend to form similar crystalline patterns, because these particular patterns are attractors of crystalline self-organization.

So it could be that math is what tends to self-organize when primordial stuff concretizes into universes with concrete laws of physics.  That’s pretty much what John Wheeler thought.

Of course, that “law without law” idea doesn’t contradict the idea of a deity that was constructed by prior advanced civilizations.  But it’s an alternate possible sort of explanation for why there might be so much abstract math in the universe, and it’s not a boring facile explanation like “random chance”.

Anyway, while we’re on the topic of physics, I’m also intrigued by your notion of hyper-physics – i.e. the study of the physical laws of all possible universes, not just the one we happen to live in.  But I’m perplexed by the role played in this notion by the choice of one’s mathematical axiom system.  It seems to me that if one has a fixed choice of mathematical axiom system (say, standard Zermelo-Frankel set theory, or whatever), then one can ask which “physical law sets” (which “physics-es”) are consistent with this axiom system.  So for instance, if one has a theory of what kinds of sets qualify as “space-time continua”, one can then ask what kinds of space-time continua are possible according to ZF set theory.  But then the question becomes: where does the axiom system come from?  Godel showed us that there’s no one correct choice of mathematical axiom system.  So it seems to me that hyperphysics ultimately rests on an “arbitrary” choice of mathematical axiom system, if you see what I mean.  You can’t get away from making some kind of foundational assumption, if you want to say anything.  Or am I somehow misunderstanding your idea?  Do you think there’s some special distinguished mathematical axiom system governing all the universes in the hyperverse?  If so, which one is it?!  Or maybe this is something only the transhuman mathematical deity knows?

HUGO: Your questions are getting deeper and subtler.  I had to think about this question a while to get its essence (maybe).  I interpret your question to mean “How to map the hyper-physics to a mathematical axiom system?”  The ZF system currently used by us seems to work for our universe.  Our (human) mathematics seems to be sufficient to understand the physics of our universe.  Whether it may prove sufficient for a hyper-physics is a deep and unanswered (unanswerable?) question.  As humans, it is possible that we may never get an answer to that question.  Our human intelligence level is finite.  There are probably many deep questions that we are too stupid to find answers to.  There may be many other questions too subtle for us as human beings to even conceive of.  Just how deep does mathematics go?  Are we humans evolved to be mathematical? 

Perhaps the universe was built according to mathematical principles, hence for Darwinian survival reasons, our brains were forced to evolve to think in mathematical terms to interpret the behavior of our universe, to survive.

BEN: Yeah… the point is that the scope of all “possible” physics-es is (explicitly or implicitly) delimited by some mathematical axiom system.  So it seems to me that what happens is:

A)  a mathematical axiom system is, somehow, chosen

B) within that axiom system, many physics-es are mathematically possible, each corresponding in principle to a different universe

So one question, in your transhumanist mathematical theology, would be whether deities can choose not only to build different possible universes, but also to operate within different mathematical axiom systems, each giving a different definition of what universes are possible.

In a sense, a mathematical axiom system serves as a “meta-physics”, right?

Arguably, if a deity operates internally according to a certain mathematical axiom system, then it can’t create universes outside the scope of this axiom system, except by making choices that are “random” from its perspective.  So mathematical axiomatizations might form a constraint even on deities, to the extent these deities are rational and logical.  On the other hand, deities might totally transcend our petty human concepts of logics, axioms and laws…

So all in all, I guess the basic question I was asking is whether you think mathematical axioms serve as a constraint on deities, or whether deities can create their own mathematical systems and structure universe based on them freely.

But of course, none of us stupid little humans knows the answers to those questions, do we?  So asking such questions is more useful for exploring the scope of possibilities, than for getting at answers in the current timeframe.  Although, if you do have an answer, that would be great.

HUGO: When you put it like that, it’s very clear, I have no problem getting your question.  It is a fascinating one, and I have as yet no thoughts on the matter.  Your question stimulates me though.
The only thing I’ve come across related to it, was the SF novel by Sagan, Contact, in which at the very end, the hyper intelligence that kept an inventory of life forms in the galaxy was smart enough to put a message in the decimal digits of the value of pi.  You may remember that lovely little twist at the very end of the novel.
My human intuition is that math is prior to the deity.  That even deities must obey them.

BEN: Hmm, OK.  My intuition is otherwise – I tend to think a mathematical axiom system is a representation of a certain point of view, rather than something absolute in any sense.  But I don’t see how to resolve the difference of intuition at this stage… we’re really reaching far beyond the scope of anything either of us could be confident about.

So let’s get back to the practical a bit, to the notion of mathematical deism as a religion.  Right now your approach to deism is unusual, whereas religions like Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism occupy most of the world’s population.  What do you think are the prospects for a broader acceptance of your form of mathematical deism?  Do you think this will become a common religion among human beings as the Singularity gets nearer?  Do you think it can help people deal better with the unsettling nature of the technology-driven transformations to come?  Perhaps making cosmism more appealing to people who are attached to some sort of religious point of view?  Do you envision the emergence of actual Mathematical Deist churches, where people sit and ritually collectively worship mathematical order, and the priest recites great theorems to the crowd?  Where is this all going?

HUGO: I spent about 30 years of my life living in Western Europe, which is highly secular.  Traditional religions have pretty much died out, especially in countries like the UK, Scandinavia, etc.  People are becoming better informed about the basic principles of science, so will be more accepting of a science-based deism.  But, since this is a rather intellectual conception, it may only be popular with the “sages” (my word for the intellectual, high IQ types – I intend writing a book on sageism in the future, which hopefully will raise people’s consciousness that sages are discriminated against in the modern world).  As the “species dominance debate” (i.e. should humanity build artilects this century or not?”) heats up in the next few decades, the cosmists (i.e. people who want to build artilects) will use the “building gods” argument as one of their strongest, to persuade people to choose to build artilects.  As secularism becomes more widespread, as theism dies, then the Darwinian religiosity components of our brain can then be “satisfied” with a “science-based religion”, i.e. cosmism, the ideology in favor of building artilects.  I see the “religiosity argument” of the cosmists being their strongest.  Will there be Cosmist churches?  Maybe… for the less intelligent.  Churches are for the masses.  Cathedrals evoke a religious response.  They are bigger than a human being, making people think about higher things than where their next meal will come from.  Maybe some reader of this essay will start the “Globan Cosmist Church.”  (Globa is the name I give to a global state, the topic of my second book “Multis and Monos”).  I’ve seen a video on YouTube of some Scandinavian guy invoking the name of Turing as a future god, with “religious gestures” and incantations using words such as the bit, the byte, etc.  It was quite hypnotic.  I felt like rushing out into the street shouting, “I’ve been forgiven of my bugs, saved by the great compiler in the sky.”

But how about you?  What’s your view on deities and math?  Have you given the question much thought?

BEN: Hmm…  I do feel there’s something deeply spooky in the universe, related to the omnipresence of subtle math structures in the universe.  And I’ve had my share of strange spiritual experiences, which have made me sometimes feel very directly in contact with transhuman intelligences – not necessarily (though maybe) creators of universes, but intelligences that are very powerful and certainly not human.  So, at a gut level, I do feel there are intelligences greater than ours out there somehow, some “where.”  But, whether these intelligences created our universe or somehow co-evolved with it via some self-organizing process – on that I really have no strong intuition.

Really, I find that the older I get and the more I think about the singularity and the real possibility of transhuman intelligence, the more humbled I am regarding the tremendous ignorance of the human race, and our limited capability to understand the universe.  Do these words of ours like “deity”, “mathematics” and “create” really say anything much about the universe, or are they pretty much as limited as a dog’s conceptual vocabulary, compared to how a post-singularity mind is going to understand things?

HUGO: Gosh, I didn’t know you had had experiences with higher powers.  Do you take them seriously, or interpret them as happening while you were in a certain state?

BEN: Heh… I suppose I take them about as seriously as I take everything else, which is to say, not totally!  I go through my life intensely aware that Hume’s problem of induction is not solved, i.e. we have no sound logical or empirical reason to believe the sun is going to rise tomorrow just because it’s risen on so many previous days.  Every time you pick your foot up and then set it down again assuming the ground is still going to be there, you’re making a leap of faith!  So I suppose I interpret my peculiar spiritual experiences about the same as I interpret all my other experiences.  If I find out there are superintelligences out there I won’t be shocked, and nor will I be shocked if I find out this world we’re living in is just some video game created by some bug-eyed alien in his kindergarten programming class (and that he got a bad grade for his project because the humans in his creation are so extremely stupid ;p).  Nor will I be shocked if it turns out the modern scientific consensus view is correct and we’re the only intelligent life forms in a physical universe that was created by nobody for no purpose whatsoever.

The main point, to me, is to improve our intelligence and our wisdom and our scope so that we can understand more and more of the universe and ourselves.  I don’t know if there’s a deity or if our universe is a simulation, nor if the deity is a mathematician if there is one, but I’m sure I’ll understand these ideas better if I can multiply my intelligence by a factor of 100.  If I’ll even be “me” at that point, anyways… but that’s another thorny futuristico-philosophical question, better left for another interview!


Ben Goertzel Ph.D. is a fellow of the IEET, and founder and CEO of two computer science firms Novamente and Biomind, and of the non-profit Artificial General Intelligence Research Institute (agiri.org).
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COMMENTS


... love this interview.





I have found an exact equivalency in the definitions of God and point-like Singularities.

I don’t know whether point-like Singularities themselves exist or not (and here even the exact meaning of the word “exist” comes into question), but the point is, in as much as either God or point-like Singularities exist, you will find that in both cases they are equivalent to each other.

Anything else is a demiurge.

Both God (God the Creator, God Almighty, First Cause, etc.) and point-like Singularities (whether they be found at the center of a galaxy, or the center of a proton, or the center of an electron, or the center of mathematics) always possess exactly the same attributes.

So, in conclusion, it is logical to say that our knowledge of God is also equivalent to our knowledge of point-like Singularities.

What is true of one, is also true of the other.

If one set of conditions applies to point-like Singularities, then it also applies to God.

For all intents and purposes, God = point-like Singularity.

The study of point-like Singularities, in mathematics, astronomy, cosmology, and physics, is equivalent to the study of God, therefore -

Cosmology/math/physics = theology

It’s entirely possible that point-like Singularities don’t “exist” at all (perhaps renormalization will cause them to disappear in the end - or maybe not), or that we need a different word to describe them (“infinite unactualized potential”, Spinoza’s “substance”, “positive infinity” .....????), BUT IF THEY DO, the point is that everything that is true about a Singularity, is ALSO true of GOD.





Ben and Hugo… very interesting discussion.  A few points?

1- I’d include Hans Moravec of Carnegie-Mellon as one who early on spoke of the Simulation Hypothesis.

2- While some of these “deus ex machina” notions date back to Olaf Stapledon and others, probably the most lavish and sytematic treatment came in Frank Tipler’s brilliantly infuriating book THE PHYSICS OF IMMORTALITY.  True, his future deism is propeled by the cosmology of a Big Crunch… and current astronomy seems to rule that out.  Still, it is by far the most lavish treatment of the concept.

3- My own story “Stones of Significance” - set in a post singularity civilization - takes the concepts a bit farther.  Of course it plays strongly in my new novel Existence.

4- While initial design by an artilect would move us back one square, we are still left with the chicken-egg problem… which is largely solved by Lee Smolin’s notion of evolving universes.  The expansion of context is awe-inspiring.

5- testability?  Is the fuzzy STOP to size examination in quantum mechanics, plus the speed of light limit, evidence for a modeling computer with computational constraints?

david brin





This theory sounds a lot like the premise for Isaac Asimov’s under-appreciated classic short story, “The Last Question” published in 1956(!). The story explores how to build a new Universe with an artilect, or rather how it will end up recreating the Universe after it fizzles out from entropy. Highly recommended.

And while I like the phrase “infinite unactualized potential” (from ipan’s comment above), it also sounds a lot like how my high school guidance counselor described me, though I admit that ‘infinite’ might be a little bit of an exaggeration.





On artilects:

Neutron stars fascinate me.

This side of the event horizon, they might be as close to optimal computing we can get.

This was cool:

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/27074/

Neutrons Become Cubes Inside Neutron Stars

Inside atomic nuclei, protons and neutrons fill space with a packing density of 0.74, meaning that only 26 percent of the volume of the nucleus in is empty.

That’s pretty efficient packing. Neutrons achieve a similar density inside neutron stars, where the force holding neutrons together is the only thing that prevents gravity from crushing the star into a black hole.

Today, Felipe Llanes-Estrada at the Technical University of Munich in Germany and Gaspar Moreno Navarro at Complutense University in Madrid, Spain, say neutrons can do even better.

These guys have calculated that under intense pressure, neutrons can switch from a spherical symmetry to a cubic one. And when that happens, neutrons pack like cubes into crystals with a packing density that approaches 100%.





What compells us to strive towards a believe in a greater realitiy.
What would be the result of coming to conclusion of us being here, as we are, no magical, probable tricks.

Ill give you a hint.  People would scream, cry and grieve.

And then we would fix this fucking shit of a reality.

Good that you allow yourselves to have an imagination and let it flow through humanity.  If all would have that self consent, what a wonderful distorted world we would have.

Emotionally distorted deduction in the cloak of a wise man, fucking up peoples prioritizes until we all walk towards certain death, smiling at the face of probable immortalilty.

Fuck that classical intellectual low self esteem distracting you from enhancing humanity.

Shame on you.





I agree with Farbaute, using the ‘god’ buzz word is a distraction.

There is a price for diluting Transhumanism with lies meant to achieve a greater following.

Some apparently think that it is for the ‘greater good’ that we manipulate human weaknesses to get them to support Transhumanism but does this really have a positive effect on the world or simply build a following for those seeking greater value in a social arena?





@Abolitionist re “There is a price for diluting Transhumanism with lies meant to achieve a greater following.”

Lies? Nobody is selling certainty here, just offering hope. I am not certain that there are God-like beings in the universe, but I hope there are some —- and their possible existence is perfectly compatible with our scientific understanding of reality. If there are no God-like beings at this moment, I hope we can build and/or become God-like beings, and this is also perfectly compatible with our scientific understanding of reality.

These thoughts give me sense of wonder, awe, and happiness, and I wish to offer these good things to others. WTF is wrong with that?





Giulio Prisco ;

Why do you think that the existence of a creator is hopeful?

Or that the existence of a creator inspires mankind to take responsibility?





More an observation than an assertion, in the interest of steering this discussion clear of divisiveness:

I think it’s perfectly natural to take comfort in the notion of a higher power/creator, or the notion that, as Ben put it above, “we’re the only intelligent life forms in a physical universe that was created by nobody for no purpose whatsoever.”

While the conclusions (or perhaps more appropriately, inclinations) may be at odds, they are both the product of the same human motivation, and that’s the survival-based need for control (or at least the perception of control).  The perception of control is enhanced when we feel we understand our surroundings/environment, potential threats, “safe-zones” etc.  It’s not hard to imagine why such a need for such understanding would enhance the survivability of the species.  (Today we might label it as seeking “Truth,” Truth being the optimal degree of understanding.)  Moreover, it’s not hard to imagine why such understanding would need to be arrived at expediently (or risk being devoured by a bear while we were still figuring things out!).  Therefore, based on evolution, in order to safely navigate our environment, we need to:
- Understand our environment
- Understand it expeditiously

As the species has climbed Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we’ve gained the “luxury” of not having to be quite so expeditious in the mapping of our surroundings, but the primal motivator to enhance the perception of control is still just as much an element of our neurological wiring as it was 30,000 years ago.

So, what is the feeling that embodies the perception of control?  It’s a feeling of superiority over one’s surroundings (including other humans).  Is it no surprise then, that a common denominator across traditional religions is the notion that its members are the “chosen” ones, the ones who will be first in line at the gates of heaven, procure the most virgins (or pick a benefit).  I.e. typically, each religion regards itself superior to all others.  Similarly, it’s the need for that feeling of superiority that underlies Hugo’s comment above, “I look down on traditional ‘religionists’ as ignorant deluded fools.”  His primal motivation is the same as that which motivates those he’s regarding.

Therefore, I would suggest we pause before we pass judgment on our fellow humans, to recognize we are bonded by common motivators, even if those motivators manifest themselves in different opinions/inclinations/conclusions.  I realize the suggestion runs in the face of our primal instinct to judge (i.e. arrive at an understanding of our environment expeditiously), rather it’s more in line with another survival instinct, that of congregation and being responsible to other humans.

If ultimately it’s comfort we’re all seeking to attain, perhaps we can find it in the recognition of our common motivations, as opposed to finding commonality in our views of the universe.





To Giulio:

Nothing is wrong with that, so long as you stop preaching when whoever you’re talking to declines to take you up on your offer to share with them the thoughts that inspire your sense of wonder, awe, and happiness (key word being “your”).

The problem, and the way religion becomes the scourge of the planet (not just society) is when a bunch of people get together, write a book, nominate a leader, give him an enormous hat and declare that he’s the middle-man between God and man and that his interpretation of what God told him (and the stuff in the book) are how it’s gonna be for everyone. THAT is the problem, not anyone’s actual beliefs.

And in any case, if the wholesale slaughters of the 20th Century (among others) are any indication, then God is clearly a proponent of Tough Love. Very tough.





@Abolitionist - the possibility of the existence of a creator inspires hope in resurrection, and the possibility to become creators inspires mankind to take responsibility. This may not apply to all people, but it does apply to some (for example to me).





Giulio Prisco ;

So an advanced being beyond our comprehension that created the world with calculations so that we have the present situation inspires hope?

How does the existence of a creator mean that we can be resurrected?

How does the possibility of resurrection inspire us to take responsibility for life and death?





Some news on backwards information propagation:

http://phys.org/news/2012-04-quantum-physics-mimics-spooky-action.html

Physicists of the group of Prof. Anton Zeilinger at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI), the University of Vienna, and the Vienna Center for Quantum Science and Technology (VCQ) have, for the first time, demonstrated in an experiment that the decision whether two particles were in an entangled or in a separable quantum state can be made even after these particles have been measured and may no longer exist. Their results will be published this week in the journal Nature Physics.





Hugo never addressed the inquiry regarding buddhist philosophy, which interestingly enough, shares a very similar view to his. In Buddhism, the universe was created by intelligence, yes. In other traditions, this intelligence is externalized and called ‘God’, and imagined to be an egotistic asshole like the ones doing the imagining; This intelligence can also be called the ‘zero-point energy field’. A study of emergent quantum models of consciousness provides the framework for this, “Tryptamine Palace” has a good few chapters on quantum models of consciousness.

In Buddhism, consciousness is recognised as emerged from this atemporal energy field. The consciousness that recognises the display as its true essence, dissolve back into it, and never get lost in samsaric cyclical wanderings. Those who develop a conception of the outer energies as separate, and develop a conception of ego, continue along that path, becoming more and more complex, developing various emotional afflictions and other stains on their essence of pure consciousness, and wander for many lifetimes, until they find the fortune to recognise their own world-creating intelligence within their own mind.

Everything in the Bible is metaphorical. Idiots read it and think it is all literal. How can Light be created on the first “day”, before there was any sun or earth to measure days? “Day” means “epoch”, etc. Idiots who repeat sacred words without understanding their meaning, or for personal gain, do more harm to the world than dictators like Hitler, because those priests turn millions away from values like virtue and selflessness promoted by the Prophets, and those gone astray throw themselves into blatant egotism and sex, greed, and anger. Such priests are satans in human embodiments. [And those who criticise the idiots, should recognise the distinction between satanic priests and the sacred words of the Prophets (which were mostly edited out of the Bible by those satans, and declared “heresy”. They are preserved by the Gnostics, like Mother Theresa who herself was declared a heretic by the Church of Satan, i.e., the Vatican, until after her death when the goddamn politician, the piece of shit wrapped up in fancy brocade, declared her a saint.

The Trinity of Physics is Void-Light-Matter. In the Bible these are alluded to as the Father-Holy Spirit-Son, respectively. In Vajrayana, they are called the Trikaya (“3 bodies”).

Satan is the ego; Lucifer was pure Light, who separated from the essence Voidness (“God”), and fell into atomic reality, as el senoir Diablo.

Jesus was primarily influenced by Indian Buddhist Tantric masters, with whom he studied for about 12 years. Most western historians cannot explain the 13 years missing from his life story, but his name is recorded in Indian Buddhist temples.

I met a crazy genius mathematician in Dharamsala, who had had a vision of Archangel Gabriel who taught him a whole new system of mathematics, which he spent many years developing. I have carried around his paper for many years, hoping i might find a mathematician who might actually understand it (because it is chinese to me). It seems to explain the universe in line with ancient eastern philosophies, and also explains why there is asymmetry in the universe. Based on this math, he has designed a new type of electrical engine, which would create EMFs that are in harmony with human energy frequencies (unlike the evil rays we imbibe every day). His blog on the subject of the “Continuous Induction Turbine” can be found at… http:/ magneticcorepropellergenerator.blogspot.com     “a bit messy, but worthy of a glance”.
...
Saying the mathematical constants of the universe being finely tuned to life, therefore there must be creator, is like saying the surface of the earth is so finely tuned to life, [...]. We live in the biosphere because that is where life can survive, not deep inside the earth, and not in the coldness of space, which makes up the vast majority of the universe. Similarly, there may be an entire spectrum of universes with infinite variables of mathematics, but no one is in those other universe contemplating math, because physics doesn’t allow them to be born there. Or they exist as disembodied gods or spirits, unable to grasp a pencil.

I wonder if Ben’s ‘hyperdimensional intelligences’ came after invoking the DMT elves into his brain-blood? For pure, timeless, dimensionless Infinite Light, 5-Meo-DMT is the ticket; For fantastic hallucinatory displays, n,n-DMT is the ride.





“This creates in my mind the deep suspicion that our universe is designed according to such mathematical principles.  If it is not designed, then is it just pure chance that our universe is so highly mathematical?  That seems so implausible.”
For the universe to exist there must be mathematical principles in play already to begin with ... otherwise the result would be pure chaos based on nothing and there would be no universe, in short nothing. My feeling is Buddhist. There is something called Dependent Origination which basically means the universe exists as the creation of a collective mind (artilect) which came from Carl Jung’s psychological analysis of The Bardo Thodol. So in my own context I would agree with the theory of an artilect deity, but not an individual deity, A deity of collective mind.





I don’t have any pretensions of understanding even one minutia of what many of the people have posted here, but don’t you feel it’s all pretty irrelevant if the Reality of all Existence is after all existentialist? Or maybe that only pertains to our specific brain topology’s interpretation of our Reality?





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