Re: Basement Education

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Wed Jan 24 2001 - 21:44:14 MST

Ben Goertzel wrote:
> > Sorry to keep throwing buckets of cold water over everyone, but if you're
> > worth your salt, you're really talking about the end of the human
> > race here.
> Not necessarily, no. The advent of humans was not the end of nonhuman
> primates, nor was their advent the end of "lower" mammals.

Well, on the one hand, yeah.

On the other hand, humans didn't (and still don't) have the technology
necessary to convert nonhuman primates into computronium.

There were lotsa medical advances for ten kiloyears that didn't wipe out
pain in surgery... along comes anaesthetics and *poof*, it's gone. The
past is a poor yardstick for what new technologies can and can't affect.

The advent of transhumanity may not mean the end of the Amish, but the
advent of an unFriendly AI could easily result in the end of *useful
intelligence* in the Solar System; the killer AI might not really be a
person, just an autonomous wavefront that converts matter into
computronium doing nothing much interesting. That's the nightmare

> But the things I value most deeply in humanity -- intelligence, love,
> compassion, creativity --
> aren't specifically tied to our human form, are they? They may well -- and
> I believe they will --
> continue and blossom in post-human life-forms.

When I was a little lad (nine? eleven? probably nine) I read a book called
"Little Fuzzy", the plot of which is that furry, cute beings named
"Fuzzies" are discovered by prospector Jack Holloway on the planet
Zarathustra. Holloway notices that these beings are toting around tools,
and tools to make tools, a sign of sapience. The Chartered Zarathustra
Company, which owns the planet, immediately (much faster than Holloway)
realizes that if a native sapient species is discovered, the Company's
charter is null and void. (All previously discovered species, unlike the
Fuzzies, fell under the talk-and-build-a-fire rule that was previously
used as snap proof of sapience.) Fortunately the Terran Federation is a
strong intersystemic government, and also the book was written way before
"Neuromancer", so it's a "fight it out in court" novel rather than a "one
man on the run from an evil megacorporation" novel.

I would live out the rest of my entire life taking for granted that shape
has nothing to do with sapience. In fact, it took me a long time to
understand why the abortion debate wasn't just referred to the
neurologists, which *still* seems to me like the obvious thing to do.

Hence the email address.

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

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