Ethical basics and Singularity Meme

From: Michael Roy Ames (
Date: Wed Jan 23 2002 - 19:22:49 MST

Elieser Yudkowsky wrote:
>As for trying to propagate the meme outwards, I've been trying to do that
>for six years! And I've made some progress, although not as much progress
>as I would be making if memetics, rather than AI, were my full-time job. <

Elieser's work has been surpassingly good IMO, and has set a very high
standard. His work has an 'explanatory' flavour that I personally find
delightful. But it is not the best style for PR impact, it is not easily
digestable by 'viewing public', those attuned to sound bites and tabloid

When reading Michael Anissimov's writings here, and on his website, I sense
frustration with the slow progress of the Singularity meme (please tell me
if I'm wrong about this M.A.) This can lead to impatience with people who
just don't 'get it', and who won't put in the effort required to make an
informed assessment. And make no mistake, it takes a non-trivial effort for
most people to educate themselves about the Singularity. From being
impatient it is dead easy to start characterizing these individuals as
stupid, closed-minded, backward, animals, luddites... something derogatory.
Even if this is a lighthearted characterization aimed at amusing those of us
'in the know', it WILL WORK AGAINST US.

Elieser Yudkowsky wrote:
>But I've been doing it very very carefully, because again, historically,
>this is a very very dangerous thing to do! Projects have been destroyed by
>going public the wrong way - not rarely, but *frequently*. <

Indeed. However, an (almost) worse fate is to be ignored, and to die in
obscurity. We have presenting arguments to win over
people's *minds* via rational argument. We do not have people out there
trying to win people's *hearts*... at least none that I've heard of. Now,
don't get me wrong, I am not advocating that we do this in the year 2002,
but its gonna have to happen sometime and we had better plan for it.

Elieser Yudkowsky wrote:
>Singularity, right now I'd tell you to spend the next three years
imitating Gandhi, because whatever "pragmatic" ethical compromise you try
right now is solidly *guaranteed* to spin out of your control. <

Good advice. Before acting/posting/compromising we should take a lookin the
mirror and ask ourselves "Would I put my life in this person's hands?" %\

There was one particular argument that Elieser made that really took hold of
my _guts_ rather than my intellect. He wrote (paraphrase): "I want to look
back [on SI creation] and be able to say we won this cleanly, easily and by
a wide margin". In times of fear and uncertainty, that is just the sort of
PR that is going to grab people, and make them give you money, vote for you,
and defend you in public.

If Michael Anissimov's writing needs a bit of work and makes some people
uncomfortable, I say that's alright. He is performing a valuable service.
We shouldn't get too comfortable. This is going to happen over and over
again as time goes on... let us have our arguments well sharpened so that we
are ready to respond effectively.

My 2cents.

Michael Roy Ames

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