Re: Michael Anissimov's 'Shock Level Analysis'

From: Jeff Bone (
Date: Wed Jan 16 2002 - 23:27:18 MST

"Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" wrote:

> What is this strange fascination that the word "SL5" seems to exert over
> people? Why do so many people, confronted with SL0 through SL4, feel this
> impulse to top it by coming up with SL5?

One possible reason with some amount of merit:

There're a number of folks in "the community" for whom the Singularity is
viewed as "opaque," apocalyptic, something beyond which nothing can be known
--- or at least, beyond which probabilities for various scenarios cannot be
calculated at all. For these folks, the Singularity is a kind of Rapture, an
almost mystical, eschatological event in itself. Let's call those folks
"transhumanists" with a nod to their tendency towards viewing things from a
kind of genericized humanist viewpoint. Let's say those people are the ones
for whome SL4 is really a terminal concern. These people are, for example,
very concerned about the potential loss of individual human lives in the time
between now and Singularity.

SL5 folks would then be those for whome the truly long-term outcomes of generic
intelligence and the universe itself --- the cosmological eschatology implied
by physics and technology --- is the thing of interest and motivation, who do
not reject the idea that even today's knowledge can tell us something about the
post-Singularity long-term. For these folks, Singularities aren't
eschatological in any sense; they're just business-as-usual, a standard stop
along the road from eukaryotic life to ascendant intelligence. Let's call
those folks the "posthumanists" and posit that they've abandoned priorities of
individual or even species survival in favor of the notion of ultimate survival
of intelligence in general.

I'm not sure that there are really hard-and-fast boundaries between these
things; any classification scheme (like the existing SL levels) is a coarse
and inaccurate tool. However, it might be useful to consider these two points
of view as relatively distinct.


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