Diaspora, the future of AI & value systems, etc.

From: Ben Goertzel (ben@intelligenesis.net)
Date: Mon Dec 11 2000 - 07:28:27 MST

Well, I finally read the novel Diaspora ....

Most of all it reminded me of Olaf Stapledon's "Star Maker," though lacking
a bit of the
latter's primal energy...

I definitely enjoyed it -- it livened up a week's worth of subway rides into
the office...

Technologically, I found it to be a plausible extrapolation of current
computing technology...
the move into alternate universes was a nice touch (back in Stapledon's
time, a single universe was
adequate to sound gee-wizzy, but we've gone beyond that now!)

The most peculiarly disappointing aspect of the book, however, was the
extreme lack of imagination in
the area of "AI psychology." The AI's seemed to have personalities closely
resembling watered-down
human personalities.... Perhaps this is just because Egan is weak at
characterization -- I haven't
read any of his other books, so I don't know. Perhaps it mainly reflects a
choice by the author to focus on technology rather than psychology. But to
some extent, it must
represent the author's prognostication, and to this extent, I think he's got
to be way wrong....

When the AI Inoshiro gets frustrated with the pains of life, he loads a
Buddhist frame of mind and gets locked
into an endless attractor? It was a fairly funny scene -- even my wife,
who's a Zen Buddhist priest, got
a bit of kick out of it. But it's odd to think that future AI's won't have
entirely different psychological
tricks to deal with such things...

Asimov, in "The Gods Themselves", did a pretty good job of envisioning an
alien psychology (I hope I got the
name of that novel right... I'm thinking of the one where he describes a
species with three sexes....) I'm sure
that future AI's will have far more bizarre (to us) and diverse
psychological aspects than Asimov's three-sexed

One thing that fascinates me a lot about the future of AI is the possibility
of a dissolution of the boundary
between self and society. We think about individual minds, or about "borg
collective" type hive minds, but there
have got to be a lot of possibilities "inbetween" ... social mind-fields
with temporary bubbling-up pattern-
attractors serving as ephemeral individuals, for example... This is where
the future of mind is going to get
really trippy!

Value systems as we know them are about restraining the will of the
individual in order to achieve the good
of the collective. But our very notions of "individual" and "collective" are
a consequence of the peculiarities
of our physical embodiment. Value systems as we know them aren't going to
exist for long, because the
preconditions for their meaningfulness will disappear...


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