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

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Mon Dec 11 2000 - 18:54:06 MST

Ben Goertzel wrote:

> I got the impression that Yatima was supposed to be an actual AI -- or at
> least a synthesized quasi-human -- not an uploaded human...

Yatima certainly wasn't born in the flesh. Ve is an orphan, synthesized
rather than parented, but there's an enormous difference between a
synthesized human and an Artifical Intelligence (though the correct
response to that is "What kind of AI?" It's a much larger cognitive space
than the point we occupy). Yatima is analogous to a human produced by
synthesizing forty-six randomly selected chromosomes plus a handful of
deliberately mutated codons. The result is an orphan and the result is
synthetic, but the result is most certainly not an AI.

> Anyway, my guess is that uploaded humans will deviate a lot further from
> current human psychology than is depicted in this novel...

Yes, that's what I was complaining about.

> > All the characters are utterly human. Not "watered-down", I didn't get
> > that impression; but neither of transhuman intelligence, nor departing
> > significantly from the human cognitive architecture. There are people
> > alive in today's world who are less human than Yatima, Inoshiro, or
> > Blanca.
> > That's what I mean by "less human, no story". If Inoshiro had simply
> > dealt with the fear and loathing in one form or another, it would have
> > eliminated yet another emotional-tension source in the plot, already
> > fairly skimpy due to what little nonhumanity the characters did have...
> I guess what I'm suspecting is that there will be new kinds of tensions
> emerging, different from what we consider "emotional" now... but also different from
> the peculiar coolness of the Diasporans...

Perhaps. But it is beyond what even Greg Egan can ask of an audience for
us to sympathize with these tensions. The most that either author or
reader could do would be to reason about them abstractly. The hunt and
bloodlust of a Dirdir or the diffident calm of a Pnume makes a nicely
eerie *background* for a Jack Vance novel, but it would be difficult -
almost beyond imagining - to have one of them for a main character. And
even Dirdir and Pnume are still evolved organisms.

> > Of course, this makes it kind of ironic that you called Inoshiro a "he".
> > Ve's neutral.
> "He" is neutral in standard english... I don't mind "ve" but it doesn't come
> naturally...

I also used to think that "he" was neutral. Then I started reading Greg

> > The Soft Ones weren't Asimov's worst aliens, but I wouldn't rate them as
> > being Alien aliens in the tradition of, say, Jack Vance and the
> > Chasch/Wankh/Dirdir/Pnume, or even Niven and Pournelle's Moties. In fact,
> > I'd rate the Soft Ones as being considerably more human than the
> > Diasporans.
> More emotional but less human, in my view...

In one sense, I agree with you, if you mean "human as opposed to some
other evolved alien species", since the basic cognitive architecture might
well turn out to be the same. Or we could see the Pnume, but I wouldn't
really be surprised to find basically human social practices and so on,
the fundamental set of human emotion and reflexes, in a species that
evolved on another planet. Most of our emotional detail is not obviously
dependent on conditions of the Earth physical environment, but the social
environment, which floats abstractly above the color of the sky and the
force of gravity. But the Soft Ones certainly aren't AIs or even

Did you ever read "Bartlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials"?

> Anyway, it's a really good book, I recommended it to a bunch of friends!
> But I'm looking forward
> to another book that explores posthuman psychology with more subtlety...

Let me know if ever you find one.

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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