RE: Ben's "Extropian Creed"

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Mon Nov 13 2000 - 21:49:52 MST

-----Original Message-----
From: []On Behalf
Of Ben Goertzel
Sent: Monday, November 13, 2000 7:43 PM
Subject: RE: Ben's "Extropian Creed"

> I also don't believe that the poor will be left out of the Singularity. I
> think that the successful seed AI will blaze straight to strong
> transhumanity
> and superintelligence and invent advanced nanotechnology, at
> which point the
> cost of personal transcendence falls to zero. I think that who gets to
> participate in the Singularity will be determined by the answer of each
> individual human to the question: "Hi! Do you want to participate in the
> Singularity?" You say "Yes", you get uploaded, you run on your
> six-billionth
> of the mass of the Solar System; whoever you were before the
> Singularity, you
> are now a Citizen of Terran Space, coequal with any other Citizen.
> One of the major reasons I am *in* the Singularity biz is to wipe out
> nonconsensual poverty.
> Ben Goertzel, does that satisfy your call for a humanist transhumanism?

Well, Eliezer Yudkowsky, it does and it doesn't...

On the one hand, I'd like to say: "It's not enough to ~believe~ that the
poor will automatically
be included in the flight to cyber-transcendence. One should actively
strive to ensure that this happens.
This is a very CONVENIENT belief, in that it tells you that you can help
other people by ignoring them...
this convenience is somehow psychologically suspicious..."

Actually, you have a problem. Given Singularity or even many of the things
along the way, providing for everyone and healing them of their fundamental
ills and limitations would not be impossible. But there is a little matter
of free will. Will you heal someone whose brain is underpowered (whether
through genetics, human condition, malnutrition or whatever) and is
therefore limited in their enjoyment of life and possibilities against their
will? You can at best only prepare the feast. No one can be forced to eat.

Convience has nothing to do with it. The reality is that you cannot solve
the problems of the poor within the same box. You have to step out of the
box and modify the parameters. Also you can't solve many problems with
merely earth-normal human brain power. Those of us who have tried for any
amount of time know this deeply.

On the other hand,

a) I'm not really doing anything to actively strive to ensure that this
happens, at the moment, because building
a thinking machine while running a business is a pretty all-consuming
occupation. So to criticize you for doing
like I'm doing would be rather hypocritical. Of course, once Webmind has
reached a certain point, I ~plan~ to
explicitly devote attention to ensuring that the benefits of it and other
advanced technology encompass everyone ...
but for all I know, so do you -- and anyway plans are far cheaper than
actions. The best I can say for myself in this
regard is that half of my employees are in a third-world country, Brazil.
Of course, they weren't poor before i hired them,
but at least I'm pumping money into the country, which benefits everyone
there, including the poor (who are VERY poor,
not like the "poor" in the US who have cars and big TV's, etc.).

This may be (is) laudable but it doesn't address the problem that deeply.

b) hey, maybe you're right. I don't KNOW that you're wrong.... Sometimes
you get lucky and the convenient
beliefs are the right ones!!

I do have a mistrust of "ends justifies the means" philosophies -- but I
also know that sometimes
the end DOES justify the means...

That is not what you have here and I am surprised you see it that way. It
looks to me like you want to both have humans as beings too limited NOT to
suffer some pretty outrageous conditions and have them not suffer these
conditions. There is a bit of a contradiction imho. As long as humans are
as they are and no more, you will have this kind of suffering.

Saying that the best way to help the poor is to bring the Singularity about
is definitely an "ends justifies
the means" philosophy -- because the means involves people like you and I
devoting our talents to bringing
the Singularity about rather than to helping needy people NOW....

Versus pouring our lives into "good works" that never have and never will
end the deplorable conditions? Only transformation will do. Bandaids and
fine sacrificial efforts are not sufficient.

This really gets back to the point that, although Sasha and I had very
different nominal political philosophies,
we actually lived our lives in very similar ways. (Well, he was single,
whereas I'm married with 3 kids ... he
was a Russian immigrant and I'm not ... so we weren't exactly clones ... but
on the spectrum of human beings
we came pretty damn close together). Only, I always felt guilty about not
spending more time helping the needy (not being comfortable with the "ends
justifies the means" approach),
whereas he always felt bad about not making a lot of money (because to him
money was an objective measure of value).

That guilt is one thing that robs all of us of our power to be the most
effective possible. That guilt does no one and certainly not the poor any
good. It keeps us all in bondage. The means and the end are as holy as it
gets and the sooner we see that the sooner we will all be running at full
power and the sooner the poor will truly be enriched maximally.

- samantha

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