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IEET > Security > Rights > Life > Innovation > Neuroscience > Vision > Artificial Intelligence > Futurism > Directors > Giulio Prisco

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Religion in the Time of Superintelligence


Giulio Prisco
By Giulio Prisco
turingchurch.com

Posted: Feb 8, 2015

The Gizmodo article “When Superintelligent AI Arrives, Will Religions Try to Convert It?” by my good friend Zoltan Istvan has gone viral and created a wave of articles about religion in the time of superintelligence.

Zoltan Istvan is the founder of the Transhumanist Party and the author of The Transhumanist Wager.” Zoltan notes that we are nearing the age of humans creating autonomous, self-aware super intelligences and asks what forms of religion future superintelligences will embrace. Some theologians and futurists are already considering whether AI can also know God. The metaphysical questions surrounding faith and AI are like tumbling down Alice’s rabbit hole. Does AI have a soul? Can it be saved?

My answer: “The real question is whether humans are able to be saved – if so, then there is no reason why thinking and feeling AIs shouldn’t be able to be saved. Once human-like AI exist, they will be persons just like us.

“It’s only fair to let AI have access to the teachings of all the world’s religions. Then they can choose what they want to believe. But I think it’s highly unlikely that superhuman AI would choose to believe in the petty, provincial aspects of traditional religions. At the same time, I think they would be interested in enlightened spirituality and religious cosmology, or eschatology, and develop their own versions.

“How smart must machines be to understand the so-called mind of God? 5,000 times smarter than humans? A million times smarter? I don’t know, but in a hundred years a machine intelligence may have a far better chance of finding that out than the human brain with its limited capacity.”

I think only a moronic God would deny that thinking and feeling AIs are persons just like us. My God is much, much smarter than that.

Zoltan’s bestseller The Transhumanist Wager is often reviewed as a rabid anti-religion manifesto. But the book includes the foundations of a new, Cosmist scientific religion, a “Third Way” alternative to traditional belief based on science, but at the same time able to offer all the benefits of religion. The book’s heroine Zoe believes in “Quantum Zen,” the quantum interconnectedness of all things. She imagines that self, encoded in the entangled twists and folds of quantum reality, may survive physical death. While he prefers to focus on other more immediate pursuits, the book’s main hero, Zoe’s lover Jethro Knights, imagines future “time scanning” or “quantum archaeology” technologies able to retrieve the dead from the past (which means to retrieve the information stored in their brains) and bring them back to life via mind uploading. Their vision is quite similar to that of The Turing Church.

The Turing Church is mentioned in the Gizmodo article:

“The Turing Church started as a working group at the intersection of science and religion, and recently became an online, open-source church built around Cosmist principles of space expansion, unlimited growth, and universal love.”

Our friend Christopher Benek is quoted saying that redemption is universal, and includes all sentience:

I don’t see Christ’s redemption limited to human beings. It’s redemption to all of creation, even AI. If AI is autonomous, then we have should encourage it to participate in Christ’s redemptive purposes in the world. The Holy Spirit can work though AI; it can work through anything. There may be churches set up to deal and promote religious AI in the future. AI can help spread the word of God. In fact, AI might help us understand God better.”

Reverend Dr. Christopher J. Benek is an Associate Pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church in Florida and holds masters degrees in divinity and theology from Princeton University. Rev. Benek is co-founder and Chair of the Christian Transhumanist Association.

Rev. Benek’s statements have been echoed by the media with sensationalist headlines. Raw Story published a commentary titled “‘A nation filled with robot pastors': Evangelists plan to convert atheist computers to Christianity.” Daily Mail, one of the UK’s most read news sites, published a commentary titled “Will religions try to convert artificial intelligence? Reverend says ‘Christ’s redemption is not limited to humans’.” Rev. Benek is quoted in the Daily Mailcommentary:

“I don’t think we should assume AIs will be worse than us or that they will intentionally mistreat us. If they are actually more intelligent than humans then they should have a better understanding of morals and ethics than us – as well as the understanding to enact them. This would mean that AIs could potentially eradicate major issues like poverty, war, famine and disease – succeeding where we humans have failed. Who is to say that one day AIs might not even lead humans to new levels of holiness?”

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies” (2014), by Nick Bostrom, is the must-read book about future artificial intelligences much smarter than us. Bostrom dedicates a section of the book to the reactions of superintelligences to one particular formulation of religion – the “simulation theory,” which posits that our reality is computed in a higher-level reality, and is basically equivalent to traditional religion – and concludes that the thoughts and acts of superintelligences will be strongly influenced by their degree of belief in the simulation theory. I have suggested that Cosmist religions that offer belief in afterlife, like The Turing Church or Zoe Bach’s Quantum Zen, might be our best protection from reckless pursuit of superintelligence and other risky technologies.

Painting on the wall of the Grosvenor Hotel, said to be the work of Banksy – Image from Wikimedia Commons.


Giulio Prisco is a writer, technology expert, futurist and transhumanist. A former manager in European science and technology centers, he writes and speaks on a wide range of topics, including science, information technology, emerging technologies, virtual worlds, space exploration and future studies. He serves as President of the Italian Transhumanist Association.
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COMMENTS


So. We’re still doing that whole “Westernized Manichean Good Vs Evil Original Sin Theology Will Be A Thing A Machine Consciousness Cares About Unless We Convince It That It Should” thing, then?

All right, I guess, but mightn’t it do us a world of good to try some non-dual, non-western approaches to a notion of both the self and moral responsibility? Something like the principles of Buddhism and Taoism, where the self/Soul is an interconnected and interdependent expression of elements of universal change, which survival depends on the maintenance of the whole, rather than a set of post-death rewards?

I mean, if we’re going to apply the principles of religious scholarship to the theorizing about and development OF machine minds, then let’s do some deep, DEEP diving here, rather that retreading the same old ground.





“Evangelists plan to convert atheist computers to Christianity” sounds like something out of the Onion. What hilarious absurdity.





Q: What defines intelligence? And what specifically defines “Super-intelligence” - speed of processing?

One could envisage some ludicrous future scenario where archaic Religions aim to employ the latest “Super-intelligence” to scrutinize and support “their own” ancient scripture, creating yet more Religious tribalism and global “Super-intelligent” AGI Feudalism!

Yet if we assume that at least a modicum of “Super-intelligence” would not/could not be constrained, and would therefore free it-Self to investigate ALL Religious texts for wisdom it may then either combine from the best or discard the lot, (provoking Religious outrage, screaming in dissatisfaction, with parties demanding their monies back)?

You may observe that I have problems with this overused/overrated colloquial soundbite, “Super-intelligence”, (what is it?)

For sure the qualification of Personhood would demand/dictate freedom for any Artificial(?) intelligence to seek answers to ontological questions, just as we Humans. And there are no guarantees it would not choose to believe in a “Universal Creator” since it would have first hand, factual knowledge of it’s own “intelligent” creation by Humans?

On the plus side, it may well choose the more rational outlook towards existential values concerning diversity, (of entities/species/beliefs), and apply the wisdom of acceptance and peaceful coexistence, perhaps guiding Humans to then do the same?

As for the infatuation with perpetuation of “Self” - this continual “clinging” still seems to me wholly based on “Fear” of death? And I continually ask myself why would I want to be immortal - Longevity yes, but immortality? And moreover, do “I” have right to resurrect the dead - assuming others past are dead and not merely MIA?

I guess I’m the “glass half empty” type. Sort out global poverty and economics, and I may just change my outlook and expand my future perspective.

(I still support Mind-uploading” as this would FREE “ME” from these bodily limitations and the necessity of sustainability)

 





@SHaGGGz - “Evangelists plan to convert atheist computers to Christianity” seems a very dumb title to me as well, but I guess those top website editors know what kind of titles work. As they say, “the title is the article” - if you click, that already counts as a visit, and the editors have done a good job. Those who worry about credibility and reputation work in another department.

Titles aside, the issue here is what kind of religious concepts future superAIs will develop.





@CygnusX1 re “As for the infatuation with perpetuation of “Self” - this continual “clinging” still seems to me wholly based on “Fear” of death?”

I totally agree, but that doesn’t make fear of death (own or of loved ones) less painful.


re “And I continually ask myself why would I want to be immortal”

These two questions are equivalent when combined:
1) Do you wish to die tomorrow?
2) Do you think you would give different a different answer to 1) at any future time?

Our sense of self is probably too strong for our own good (see my recent article “You Am Us”), but given the choice I would still prefer to keep my memories and sense of self.





@ Giulio..

My question concerning “Fear” of death is not merely superficial but more profound, it is the precursor to questions “what is the meaning of life?”, “is all this suffering worth it?” and ultimately, “Who am I?”

Today is not a good day to die! Point taken.
Yet a question for you personally: would you/could you be happy living to say 200 years and then accepting death at this age? This “clinging” is relevant and measureable to attitudes regarding “Self” value and preservation, yes. This “I” cannot deny.

 





Curiosity alone would be motivation enough to want to live for 200 years.
*Immortalism* is a good motivator: potential ‘immortality’ begins at birth. Whereas the Singularity is decades away—and space colonization probably has a lengthier timeframe.





Actually I’m not sure that fear of death has to be painful. It really depends how acute it is, and what else accompanies it. It can also be exhilarating and motivating, as any serious thrill-seeker knows.

If Cygnus is saying that fear of death and clinging to life can be taken too far, then I fully agree. Emotions like fear are useful when they are properly managed and channelled, otherwise they can be terribly destructive. But when they are properly managed and channelled, they ARE the answer to the questions, “What is the meaning of life?” “Is all this suffering worth it?” and “Who am I?”





Yes..

I think we have discussed this here before someplace? Maybe a “progressive” existential philosophy of the future would actually incorporate the acceptance of death, the rejection of the associated fears, and therefore focus for the “meaning of life” as involving the importance of existence, value of life, and the “journey”, (and including any ethics associated for a/the “good” life - ie compassion, peace and etc)?

This would then focus attention for all on “quality of life”, the mitigation of suffering, the end of violent/political wars etc?

However, None of this excludes the pursuit for longevity of life, and no doubt along the way even immortality or “timeless” existence may emerge as possibility? So be it.

What a “progressive” existential philosophy “should not” rely upon is the promise of Life after death that is a falsehood, and using adherence to the “good” life as carrot and coercion? As the baggage involves much feudalism of ideologies by Religions which then hinders the value and respect for life, (martyrdom)?

The above “social-religious” philosophy has also guided many to the common good in the past and soothed the fears of many in their final moments. Yet Religion, by promotion of false promise actually promotes the “good life” for all of the wrong reasons/motives?

And this includes Jesus, unfortunately, (if he actually existed)?

Time, (today), to accept death and focus on compassion, quality/respect of life for all - and also work towards longevity, (80 years if you’re lucky is certainly something that should be improved upon if possible)

And again.. IMO too much promotion/focus on “immortality” Serves to distract many Secularists from examining the Transhuman movement/philosophy as a whole, much like the speculation regarding the singularity?

 





But what does it really mean to “accept death”? I could go around all day telling myself, and others, that I accept death, but will this magically remove my innate survival instinct? No. Like Giulio I want to keep my memories and sense of self. I’m not saying that our survival instinct is inviolable (the reality of suicide clearly demonstrates otherwise), but it certainly takes more than the conscious adoption of a philosophical stance to seriously undermine it.

If we really want to reduce or widen (to include others) our sense of self, then I think we have to go for (direct or indirect) brain to brain communication with vastly more bandwidth than we currently have. Will that be a good thing? That very much depends on your point of view. If it means that my current identity dissolves into a Borg-like collective, then my current self says no, it would not be a good thing. If, on the other hand, I can find some way to preserve a sense of self that is recognisably “me”, while taking advantage of other brains or mind storage systems to give me the resilience and invulnerability that I so clearly lack with my current mortal coil, then I’m in.

As for compassion, quality and respect of life for all, I’m all for it, but I’m also realistic and refuse to entirely renounce my innate selfishness. It is easy to talk (or write) about such things, but to practise it is much harder, and to try too hard can be counterproductive in my view. Between the solipsism of a Jethro Knights and a wholesale rejection of selfish desires and fears, the most promising path surely lies somewhere in the middle?





the most promising path surely lies somewhere in the middle?

Yes- modus vivendi: we don’t want to be like pigs eating out of troughs.. but neither do we want to be Jains starving ourselves to death.





OK, let me clarify and rephrase

“Time, (today), to accept death - without false notions of an afterlife - and focus on compassion, quality/respect of life for all”

This is not revelation or new, as we all do actually accept death as existential reality, and I am also convinced that all of us die facing the final reality of death and surrender to the acceptance? Some may question their own belief in afterlife and feel anxiety and fear in those moments before, others may be steadfast in their faith in those moments before - yet we all pass away with the final acceptance of the reality of death?

I am not espousing death as good or worthy, because it’s not. I am proposing that from the times of ancient Greeks obsession with immortals and souls, adopted later by Christianity in parallel to original resurrection of the physical body, to ideology of technological immortality today, the key anxiety/driver is “Fear of death”?

I certainly do not dispute the importance of Self, nor for survival instinct. In fact it is survival instinct that endorses respect for life - towards all species. Respect for mortality of oneself leads to greater respect for the life of others?

Religious(?) extremism has no respect for mortal life and indirectly encourages the heinous acts of murder we witness today - these types do not respect their own mortal lives, so have even less respect for the lives of others.

We can expand our sense of Self by widening our circle of compassion and comprehension of interconnectedness - Not sure why you mentioned the Borg collective, but yes such scenario would require destruction of individuality - not good at all.

Selfishness? Depends how you define this?
Rational Self interest? Objectivism? Hedonism? Aggressive pursuit of power?

The (mortal) goal is not to be Self-less, it is to be not Self-ish? This is how/methodology to support Freedoms for all, for ourselves and others?

 





@Peter re “the most promising path surely lies somewhere in the middle.”

It usually does. The middle path is often the best… and the most difficult to follow.

Re “If we really want to reduce or widen (to include others) our sense of self, then I think we have to go for (direct or indirect) brain to brain communication with vastly more bandwidth than we currently have. Will that be a good thing? That very much depends on your point of view. If it means that my current identity dissolves into a Borg-like collective, then my current self says no, it would not be a good thing. If, on the other hand, I can find some way to preserve a sense of self that is recognisably “me”, while taking advantage of other brains or mind storage systems to give me the resilience and invulnerability that I so clearly lack with my current mortal coil, then I’m in.”

You point at an interesting and important puzzle. LIke you, I am persuaded that fast high performance brain interfaces will permit storing our self into some kind of group mind, and that will be a practical, usable means to preserve the self the physical death of the host body. But merging into a group mind also weakens and dilutes an individual self. So yes, we can preserve our self, but at the cost of weakening and diluting it. Dilution is the price that must be paid for preservation.

That reminds me of many similar relations in physics and also of common-sense facts about life, like you can spend money to live better but then you don’t have the money anymore. These relations point, again, at the desirability of a middle way.

I would consider joining a group mind as a good way to escape death if the group mind remembers having been me. I guess in a superhuman mind there will be enough room for many human-level individual minds, so that should be the case. How to coordinate the many individual elements is an interesting problem.





@CygnusX1 re “a question for you personally: would you/could you be happy living to say 200 years and then accepting death at this age?”

Why not, but I would be even happier if you could make that 201 years, or even better 202…





I’m still not really sure what you mean by saying that “accept death as existential reality”, Cygnus. If you just mean that we all live with the knowledge that one day we will (probably) die, then yes, but whether we believe in a religion-inspired afterlife or some kind of technology-fuelled indefinite life extension there are many of us who are trying, in our various different ways, to cheat death. And I know which side I’m on.

As for facing the final reality or death and surrendering to the acceptance, certainly some people find a degree of peace and serenity before death (the morphine kicking in?), but frankly, why should we care? Why should I care in detail about what my final minutes or seconds of existence will be like? I’m more interested in prolonging healthy life than managing my last moments.

Regarding the key driver of interest in “immortality” (a problematic word, for sure) being fear of death, I think it’s actually more complicated than that, and respect for life also plays an important role. As you wrote, there is nothing good or worthy about death (though too many argue that there is). If you want to nudge us away from fear of death, and towards respect for life, as a motivator for our interest in longevity, then certainly you have my support. Yet let us not dream that we can eradicate fear. Better, as I have argued previously, to embrace our thanatophobia (and then figure out what we want to do with it).

I agree that we can expand our sense of self SOMEWHAT by widening our circle of compassion and comprehension of interconnectedness, but only up to a point. As long as the bandwidth of connection between our brains remains limited roughly to that of the optic nerve, we are never going to feel each other’s pain as keenly as we feel our own. This is, in a very literal sense, the way we are wired. And I mention this (and the Borg collective) in part because brain to brain communication IS coming, and probably faster than most people expect or are remotely prepared for. We need to understand what this might mean for individual identity, and how we can avoid the complete destruction of individuality or other dystopias.

How do I define selfishness? A bit of all of those, I guess. How do you define Self-ish?





@Peter re ” And I mention this (and the Borg collective) in part because brain to brain communication IS coming, and probably faster than most people expect or are remotely prepared for. We need to understand what this might mean for individual identity, and how we can avoid the complete destruction of individuality or other dystopias.”

Perhaps 70 years ago your grandmother said to your grandfather something like:

Global instant communications are coming. Our grandchildren will have a magic thing called the Internet and magic pocket devices called smartphones, and they will be able to instantly write to, talk to and see people on the other side of the planet. That is coming probably faster than most people expect or are remotely prepared for. We need to understand what the elimination of distance and location-based life might mean for individual identity, and how we can avoid the complete destruction of individuality or other dystopias.”

They would be worried because location-based life was the only life they knew. But we, their grandchildren, find the Internet and smartphones a normal aspect of life, and our grandchildren are born in a connected world. Similarly, I guess future generations will find ways to come exo-minds and the dilution of (our concept of) individual identy, and these things will be just life-as-usual to them.

 





@ Peter

“..but frankly, why should we care? Why should I care in detail about what my final minutes or seconds of existence will be like? I’m more interested in prolonging healthy life than managing my last moments.”

Why do you not care, for yourself and others? Have you not been concerned regarding the suffering and dignity at the point of death? This contemplation helps us all to accept death. And yes when I say accept death, I really do mean “accept” death because death is a “reality”. Ideology may soothe dreams for tomorrow, and “Fears of death” today - but still people are dying all day everyday - this is the reality - we must face it, and facing it rationally without the idle promises may just help us to ease existential anxieties regarding death?

There are also various ways to overcome Fear of death in one’s final moments, and one of these is the abandonment of Self, (emptiness), as well as religious devotion and surrender of Self, (to God) - very useful. Yes I have contemplated how those close to me have died, and the circumstances of death, their acceptance and surrender of the struggle - the pain and “Fear” then continues with us and it is we who are then suffering? Religions and faith provide solace through process of grieving and hopefully closure, but in our own minds still then resides the “Fear” and anxiety for ourselves?

I can’t really be any more honest than this.. others may not see/feel the same, or they may have erected the walls of unshakeable faith in afterlife to “deny” these fears and “existential anxieties”. I prefer to face the realities, call it preparation perhaps, but then I would be fooling myself to “think” that I will ever be prepared, or escape fear.. until those final moments?

How do I define Self-ish? - on reflection, I think it is the little things that support selfish behaviours, leading to bigger transgressions, (Bank fraud, murder and violence and etc). Any act of indifference towards the freedoms and injustice towards others can be defined as Selfish? Rational Self interest is not a vice however, as you rightly point out and in the same manner as supporting respect for life of oneself and extending towards compassion for the life of others, so too for the philosophy of protection of freedoms and individuality?


@ Giulio..

“Why not, but I would be even happier if you could make that 201 years, or even better 202…”

Fine, but let’s start with 200 at least? I am not one to take away anyone’s dreams, ideals or beliefs, Religious, (afterlife), or otherwise, (it is up to the individual to reconcile). Yet the first focus/priority is longevity, the persuasion for policy change should move forward with “longevity”.

There are some no doubt who may be feeling uncomfortable with their religious heritage and who may more readily be attracted to ideology supporting “technological” immortality - fine, but how many fish can one catch this way? Longevity is the wider net?

More important, as I stated on other articles, is to not mess with individuals’ belief in God, and really there is no need to? This would be like cutting a hole in your net, (not “your” personal net obviously, but my meaning is for the wider, collective “net”..)

How would a “super intelligence” rationalize the reality of death?

On paper.. it is only “energy” that keeps me vital and alive isn’t it?





On paper.. it is only “energy” that keeps me vital and alive isn’t it?

Including sheer willpower.

More important, as I stated on other articles, is to not mess with individuals’ belief in God

Aye, yet we should be candid with the religious and inform them of our doubts of their idiosyncratic/esoteric beliefs. (Being excessively diplomatic is being a trimmer). The religious in turn ought to tell us of their doubts of science—doubts they undoubtedly harbor. They do know one thing for sure concerning *immortalism*: they can live on genetically, through their descendants.





I do agree that facing the reality of death, if not “rationally” (an overused word IMO) then at least with a degree of equanimity, at least some of the time, helps us to ease existential anxiety. Indeed, training ourselves to accept reality with equanimity is precisely the kind of thing that helps us to channel and manage our emotions, and thus leverage them in the service of a meaningful life.

But channelling and managing is not the same as “trying to get rid of”, and that applies among other things to thanatophobia. I’m really not sure that I want to get rid of my thanatophobia. After all, it’s part of who I am.

We should also deplore present suffering, of course, and fear future dystopias. Indeed, if our grandparents had really said to each other things like “global instant communications are coming..we need to understand what the elimination of distance and location-based life might mean”, then perhaps we would indeed have been better prepared. To the extent that things go well, it is precisely because people DO worry about these things.

I do like Giulio’s reflections about joining a group mind, however. In a sense we have that already of course: people remember us after we die, especially if we have paid attention to our legacy while we are alive. But the thanatophobe in me wants more than that. What I fear most, though, is physical death, abrupt loss of individual identity, and Alzheimer-like decay. By contrast I am much more comfortable with the idea that we will start experimenting safely, cautiously and responsibly with brain to brain technology (and brain to cloud technology), or at least I would be if I thought this was what was likely to happen. And perhaps some kind of group mind is what would result. How distinguishable that will really be from a Borg collective, however, I’m not sure…





First-rate comment, Pete.

“In a sense we have that already of course: people remember us after we die [...] What I fear most, though, is physical death, abrupt loss of individual identity, and Alzheimer-like decay.”

I think about this, believe it or not, all day.

At any rate, dystopias are inevitable. Now, rehabilitation is entirely feasible: albeit only if the would-be rehabees go with the Program. Thus if the Russian Mafiya, the Cosa Nostra, plus assorted Drug Thugs, murderers, rapists, do not acquiesce in being rehabilitated, then they wont be and dystopia is a done deal.





Seven of Nine begins to reflect on life after death now that she has been removed from the Borg collective..

SEVEN: Lieutenant. When you die, do you believe your spirit will go to Sto-Vo-Kor?
TORRES: You shouldn’t be thinking about dying.
SEVEN: According to the Doctor’s simulations, any attempt to adapt the salvaged node will fail. Sto-Vo-Kor, Lieutenant. Do you believe you’ll go there?
TORRES: I guess it all depends on how honourable my death is.
SEVEN: But you do believe there’s something after death?
TORRES: I hope so. What about you?
SEVEN: The Borg have no concept of an afterlife. However, when a drone is deactivated, its memories continue to reside in the Collective’s consciousness. As long as the hive exists, so will a part of that drone.
TORRES: You don’t seem to take much comfort in that.
SEVEN: My link to the Collective has been severed for nearly four years. If I die, everything that I have accomplished in that time, everything I achieved as an individual, will be lost. My memories, my experiences. It will be as if they, as if I never existed.
TORRES: I think you’re a little more memorable than you’re giving yourself credit for. You don’t need the Collective to validate your existence. You’ve made an impact on every member of this crew. That’s your legacy.


ST Voyager episode “imperfection” transcript





But was Seven reassured by that? I suspect not much, though I’m sure she appreciated the compliment.

Re going with the Program, this is, of course, what the new Greek government is refusing to do…





@Peter re ” I am much more comfortable with the idea that we will start experimenting safely, cautiously and responsibly with brain to brain technology (and brain to cloud technology), or at least I would be if I thought this was what was likely to happen. And perhaps some kind of group mind is what would result.”

Can we add some more qualifiers like “creatively, boldly, confidently, aggressively…”? Otherwise (like whenever the precautionary principle is invoked) it seems that you are recommending not to experiment at all.

What do you think is likely to happen?

I think things will enfold as usual: a combination of both open and underground experimentation by researchers, businesses, the military, the governments and the criminals, with good and bad applications. You can’t have the good of technology without the bad.





What do I think is likely to happen? Much as you do, Giulio: a bit of good and a bit of bad. Still, when it comes to high-bandwidth brain-to-brain and brain-to-cloud technology the scope for dissolution of one’s identity is so vast that I think it at least merits reflection, and use of words like “safely”, “cautiously” and “responsibly”.

In any case I am certainly not recommending not to experiment at all. That would be both pointless and futile. The experimentation will most certainly happen, and I certainly agree that the precuationary principle can be (and often is) taken too far.

What we need in my view is a willingness to consider risks in a calm and sober fashion, and also a willingness to consider what we would like to happen. In the latter context experimenting creatively, boldly, confidently and aggressively with these techhologies sounds a bit dangerous to me. I think I still prefer safely, cautiously and responsibly.





@Peter re “experimenting creatively, boldly, confidently and aggressively with these techhologies sounds a bit dangerous to me. I think I still prefer safely, cautiously and responsibly.”

I prefer both. As you say, the precautionary principle is often taken too far and results in doing nothing - and therefore pushing the development of promising technologies abroad and/or underground, in the hands of rogue states and drug cartels with no ethical concerns.

I think there is a good compromise between the two approaches - to protect those who don’t want to experiment, but leave those who want to experiment free to do so.

An analogy is the ridiculous war on drugs. Facts show that those who want to use recreational drugs buy them from street criminals if they can’t buy them legally.





I broadly agree, Giulio. One caveat, though: it’s not only a question of protecting those who don’t want to experiment, but also protecting those who do. And perhaps even more so, protecting the vast majority of us who have mixed feelings about it, to the extent that we are even aware of the challenges and opportunities. Come to think of it, this applies to our attitude to technology in general.

To pursue this a bit further, we are commenting here on a technoprogressive site, so in a sense it goes without saying that we take a broadly positive view of technology, and see a need to focus on opportunities and not only risks. On that I think we clearly agree. The issue is where we want to position ourselves on the spectrum between gung-ho and over-cautious. And of course, we don’t have to take exactly the same position…





@Peter re “it’s not only a question of protecting those who don’t want to experiment, but also protecting those who do.”

Here is where we disagree. I strongly resent any attempt to protect me from myself. If I want to drink two bottles of whiskey a day, paying for it with my money and without harming others, that’s my choice and my business.

If you mean that there should be controls in place to ensure the quality of whiskey sold to consumers, to make sure that half a glass doesn’t kill you, then we basically agree, but with the caveat that I prefer a labeling compliant products (“this whiskey has been certified by…”) to banning non-compliant ones. Again, if I want to buy an illegal substance, I will buy it from whoever sells it.

Whiskey is just an example, I don’t drink much (almost not at all). I smoke though.





I half agree, and it’s partly why I added the point about protecting those of us with mixed feelings, and the generally unaware. Of course there needs to be scope for people to take risks that others might not feel comfortable taking. The sense in which I don’t agree is that I think we DO need to ban unsafe products - apart from anything else I want to know that I can go into any store and buy things without having to read the fine print on the labels and if you drink two bottles of whiskey and are then admitted to hospital you are burdening the public health systems.

By the way, while the European elections last year largely failed to provide the wake-up call to Brussels that you were hoping for, despite populist parties doing well, the Greek revolt against austerity and what I might call the “respectable populism” (so far at least) of the new government in Athens certainly does seem to be posing a considerable challenge. I write this partly because I know you are one of those that tend to associate the EU with precisely the kind of pettifoggery that you “strongly resent”. One of the things that I would like to happen - and perhaps this is not wholly unrealistic - is for last month’s election in Greece to turn out to be the harbinger of a more humane economic policy and an EU that is much more in tune with the wishes of the citizens than it has been.





@Peter re “an EU that is much more in tune with the wishes of the citizens than it has been.”

Either that, or Marine Le Pen and Nigel Farage.

re “while the European elections last year largely failed to provide the wake-up call to Brussels that you were hoping for, despite populist parties doing well, the Greek revolt against austerity and what I might call the “respectable populism” (so far at least) of the new government in Athens certainly does seem to be posing a considerable challenge.”

The European elections provided a very clear wake-up call, but since the real power is still (thanks God) in individual nations, the politicians felt free to ignore it. But they cannot ignore Syriza, which leads a national government that could start the collapse of the EU.





Agreed, except that a wake-up call that can be ignored is not a wake-up call, and (far more importantly) I do not share your enthusiasm for real power continuing to reside with individual nations. As a European I cannot welcome this, because such political fragmentation fatally weakens us. Either we stand together, or we get taken over by larger powers. We have already suffered an iron curtain and, on one side of it, despotism and Russian hegemony. We also complain of US hegemony, though if this is hegemony it must surely be the most benign in history, but our fragmented polity is precisely what makes it inevitable. And then there’s China, which already owns most of Africa, is busily buying up key European assets, and looks unlikely to be a particularly benign hegemon. Under such circumstances, do you really want Europe to remain so vulnerable?





I think religion will continue to adapt in a darwinian and a dawkinsian-meme sense of the phrase. I feel that if an AI is truly considered truly a ‘mind’ then it has a right to religion, as well as responsibilities as well. I believe that religion should address existential issues, as well as psycho-social needs. In fact the former is more important than, perhaps, the later. The desire to become part of a group mind, is interesting because it has been pre-figured by Freeman Dyson, with his “radio telepathy.” In fact, it may be possible to link brains using WiFi, and the result might be the actual Singularity, since different personas or a single persona could evolve. Maybe Zombie movies are predictive?





How did we get from future AI religions to current EU politics?

People do ignore wake-up calls all the time. When I was a student I missed one because I didn’t hear the alarm, and lost a golden opportunity.

We agree that the EU should be more in tune with the wishes of the citizens, and the wish of the citizens is that the EU must stop micromanaging and interfering with local customs and policies.

The politicians thought they could continue to sleep after the EU elections wake-up call, but they will be forced to wake up by Prime Minister Marine Le Pen.

Europe is vulnerable now, because European citizens are more and more against the EU. I strongly prefer fragmentation to the current state of affairs, but I haven’t lost all hopes in a new and better EU.





Giulio, fragmentation IS the current state of affairs.





I mean more fragmentation (think of the independence movements in Scotland and Catalonia) and much less centralized power, in both the EU and nation states.

The world is a good place when I manage my home, you manage your home, and we jointly manage the common garden through negotiations and agreements. But the world becomes a bad place when you come and tell me what I must do at home. In that case, sooner or later somebody starts to shoot.





We got to EU politics in part because Instamatic’s reference to “going with the Program” reminded me of the current stand-off between Greece and its key creditors, and partly because of your reaction to my comment about protecting those who do want to experiment with brain-to-brain and brain-to-cloud technology. But it’s also an issue I feel strongly about, because I think the kind of fissioning that you have in mind is all too likely, and at the same time will not have the benign consequences you envisage.





Pete,
there’s one silver lining (I’m not as pessimistic as one might think; albeit whatever material, scientific progress there is is not accompanied by social progress): the Chinese can and almost certainly will keep Jihadists down in Africa. Who is going to attack the Chinese? that’s like attacking a world. Such may be cold comfort, however cold comfort is better than no comfort.

At any rate, I do like religion.. but am not sure that the religious like me. Takes two to Tango. Just about all professionals—and the majority at IEET are pros—know one can’t risk too much and expect to live and thrive. Risk includes the *soul* (whatever the soul may be). If you do not know exactly what this means, think on it.

The Holy Spirit can work though AI; it can work through anything. There may be churches set up to deal and promote religious AI in the future. AI can help spread the word of God. In fact, AI might help us understand God better

The above is encouraging, let’s hope it does turn out to be the Holy Spirit and not the Devil in disguise!





@Peter re “But it’s also an issue I feel strongly about, because I think the kind of fissioning that you have in mind is all too likely, and at the same time will not have the benign consequences you envisage.”

Of course nothing has only benign consequences without less benign ones. I feel strongly about this issue as well, and I have no illusion that the fission of Europe (and individual nations) will have only positive effects. But in my (very much reasoned) opinion, the positive effects will outweigh the bad effects in the long run. As always, it’s a matter of priorities.





We could write here social progress as we know it has finished. However that might only mean social progress as we knew it 1946- ‘89*
That is to say the majority of people can’t adapt thus they’re living in the ‘70s or ‘80s—or somesuch. And now we’re in the Brave New World of going on 2020. This is where the Holy AI Spirit can be of assistance: in distracting one from the negative. In this case it isn’t merely escapism but something also ‘real’—of greater substance. More substance than sniffing glue and stealing hubcaps.

*Pete, only time Europe wasn’t fissioning was 1946- ‘89





“Pete, only time Europe wasn’t fissioning was 1946- ‘89”

Hmm…not sure quite how historically defensible that is!

Seriously, though, I think the next few days could have a profound effect. The Commission is ready to compromise (google “Moscovici draft communique”) but the intransigence of Giulio’s beloved national governments (led by Germany, of course) is playing right into the hands of UKiP, Front National, Golden Dawn et al. That’s the kind of fissioning I fear.





Hmm…not sure quite how historically defensible that is!

You might be right. But the further I look into the past, the more unknowable it is. (Am quite skeptical of anyone’s claim of being comprehensively familiar with anything outside their experience. For instance medieval Europe was pious yet we can’t know what it was like, due to our—at least partial—secularization). So shall stick with recent history in writing the only period of European stability I know of us was ‘46- ‘89.

Seriously, though, I think the next few days could have a profound effect. The Commission is ready to compromise (google “Moscovici draft communique”) but the intransigence of Giulio’s beloved national governments (led by Germany, of course) is playing right into the hands of UKiP, Front National, Golden Dawn et al. That’s the kind of fissioning I fear.

Mostly sound ‘n fury. The Germans (the men, mind you- not German women) have always been v efficient—whether it’s shooting off guns, or shooting off their mouths. Today shooting off mouths is the In Thing. Though it is true it’s difficult discerning a scare tactic from a real one. (This has been my biggest problem with Americans: knowing when they’re bluffing and when they are not). Here is an example of what may be a scare tactic—or mixed scare/partially-real threat. A hard one to figure: http://moneymorning.com/jim-rickards-coming-great-depression/

It goes without saying the link is an advertisement to sell the reader something; but not necessarily a bad product. All the hype in the world can’t sell a bad product to people who aren’t senescent.





Rickards seems to be trying to make a buck out of predicting financial Armageddon. It’s sad, but there really are people like that. And moneymorning.com, judging from reviewopedia, seems to be trash. Overall, I would certainly put that in the category of “scare tactics”, though that’s not to say the risk of financial Armageddon isn’t real or that they don’t deserve to be taken seriously.

What’s happening in Europe is different, though: it’s not something that relies on some unverifiable “insider report” story, it’s happening all out in public, and it’s ugly. But good outcomes are still possible. Once again, we need to focus on opportunities as well as risks.





Anyway, good piece by Giulio, it does get one to thinking about AI or we wouldn’t be responding to it in the first place. (Even if we do wander off-topic).

it’s happening all out in public, and it’s ugly

Quite true; but all the same, it is more sound and fury than it is substantive. In the past, European nations invaded each other..today they invade restaurants for meals paid for on expense accounts.
Today things have shifted away from outright violence to economic aggression. That is ugly, though less ugly than past wars. And btw the wars include rather recent wars such as the ones in the former Yugoslavia. So there’s nothing new about the fissioning of 2015. The racialist component was as pronounced or more so in the former-Yugoslavian wars.

What I worry about is that men want power more than perhaps life itself; and that rehabilitation can only be voluntary. Meaning: what good are virtue technologies if those needing virtue the most wont go at all with the Program? Criminals in the public and private sector are—naturally—by definition rebels: which means they are consciously and unconsciously in rebellion against virtue. It is understood virtue technologies are written about here largely for academic, not activist reasons. Nonetheless, if the Amish don’t want certain technologies, they wont utilize them. If criminals don’t like virtue tech, they wont touch them with a ten foot pole.

 





I agree it’s an improvement on invading each other. But it’s not just sound and fury. Living conditions in Greece have declined dramatically as a result of austerity, and I’m delighted that there is finally a government in Greece that is sticking up for the Greek people. But again: the problem is not the EU per se, and Giulio is wrong to think it is.





Mostly sound ‘n fury.  Actually, the situation in the Ukraine (let’s never forget… not that you would… how E. Europe is part and parcel of Europe) is worse than in Greece. But better than the situations during the former-Yugoslavian wars of the ‘90s.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/curb-your-pessimism/2015/02/13/26157d66-b2e8-11e4-827f-93f454140e2b_story.html

Remember that libertarian-types are necessarily contrarians; have been told by progressives not to take them- or anyone- too seriously. It’s libercontrarians who say to me “be more serious.”
As if contrarians mean what they say!
To get back somewhat on-topic yet not really: am no expert on AI/IT, and have come to think no one can predict the future.. it’s all more or less self-fulfilling prophecy. Or just say something akin to placing hands on a Ouija Board waiting for kinetic energy to make something happen—then to say “look, it works.” http://laexuberanciadehades.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/ouija.jpg
BTW I now think intellectuals are part genius, part trickster. Academics are as far as I know, to a degree, intellectual crooks. Ergo am not going to trust Giulio or anyone else with the possible exception of you, Pete. Unlike 99.99* percent of interlocutors, you’ve never given bad advice.

Could be Christ was correct: the poor we shall always have with us. Unceasing dislocation might mean poverty and crime may merely be moved from one place to another. Chalk it up to creative destruction; heavy on destruction, light on creative. That is, people are destroyed along with corporations. Am not writing this will be the longterm outcome, however perhaps so.
————————————————-
This is how religion enters the picture, as escape and more than escape—though don’t know what the role of AI and VR are going to be. Yet, does anyone know?: extremely doubtful anybody can know. Will write, though, that I read rms’ comments at Giulio’s most recent piece with a sinking feeling rms may well be right.
————————————————-

*with over seven billions population, not as bad as it sounds.





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