Re: Pre-Singularity human enlightenment

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Sat Sep 21 2002 - 13:23:26 MDT

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:
> Samantha Atkins wrote:
>> Considering that we haven't really bad even written records for more
>> than 10,000 years, that is about 40,000 years too much to consider.
>> Also, until recently, as I have attempted to point out, we were not in
>> a technological and economic position to escape certain harsh
>> realities. Those potentially open new possibilities for how we
>> consciously perceive what "life is all about".
> Okay. I have no problem with restricting it to the last 10,000 years if
> it's something that requires writing but hasn't been tried over that
> time, or the last 500 years if it's something that requires printing but
> has never been tried, and is significantly different and significantly
> more powerful than anything that has previously been tried.

I am attempting to point out that exponentially increasing
technology cuts more than one way. It enables psychological,
social and economic changes that would not have been considred
or would not have been viable earlier. I also have some
misgiving about the truly effective or worth doing, by
implication above, being limited to the "significantly
different" and "significantly more powerful". It tends to
limit consideration to *the* most singnificantly different and
more powerful we can conceive of. It tends to miss cumulative

> Again, not trying to be difficult; this is a test met by seed AI, as a
> strategy in the battle against human suffering.
>> Now, don't get me wrong. The above is a good question. However, I am
>> not yet prepare to offer an answer I believe goes deep enough to satisfy.
> Okay. I'm glad you're not jumping on an answer. Just remember that
> there *is* at least one answer which *does* satisfy the above the
> requirements. And that some of us are moving on it already. Speed
> counts, sometimes. If you want us to do something differently, such as
> spend X% of our resources on something else, we're going to want
> concrete answers to certain questions.

I don't agree the requirements are actually all required to
significantly increase the well-being of humanity and better
insure our survival or that the above requirements provide
coverage of what is needed. The seed AI may or may not lead to
the well-being of humanity. It is a good bet, but it is not the
only one or so obviously the very best one to me.

>>> Remember, us AIfolk have to deal with the shadow of fifty years of
>>> failure; everyone wants to know what we're going to do that hasn't been
>>> tried before. You have to dig yourself out from under the heap of other
>>> people's failures; show that your thinking is new enough not to
>>> belong in
>>> the trash heap with the things that have been tried before.
>> I think this is a poor way of thinking. Each effort stands more on
>> its own merits without being bogged down by everything before. Yes we
>> learn from past failures but we do not have to personally redeem all
>> that baggage.
> Why not? It seems like a good test to me.

Because it is "putting new wine in old bottles". It is starting
from a place of apology and differentiating from instead of
explication, creation and refinement of what I wish to see come
into existence. I don't have to dig myself out from under this
heap unless I agree to be buried under all that stuff. Now, it
is certainly true that people will ask and should ask how what
is proposed is different from what has been proposed and tried
before and/or how the situation now is more conducive to
something similar working. But at some point the work has to
stand or fall on its own merits and find its own form rather
than being defined in terms of similarities and differences to
what has come before.

>>> Why is your thinking that new? Why are your plans that original?
>> New and original are not necessarily primary criteria. The situation
>> is new. The communication bandwidth is new. Can something effective
>> be done with that? Perhaps. It is to be designed.
> Then just do it. It's the very first test you're facing. It is very
> far from the last. It's what you have to do right at the beginning in
> order to get started. *Meet* the challenge, don't just acknowledge it.
> Face it down, accomplish it, get it over with, and go on to the next
> step on the path. You are running out of time. Admiring a problem is a
> poor substitute for solving it, especially if it's just a first step.

I really, really hear that! I am very much aware that there is
little time - that if anything is to be done it must be done
soon and it must begin *now*. Since I believe this strategy is
very much needed I must, out of my own caring for humanity,
pursue it. At the very least I must work it through to where I
can see if it is as real and viable as I believe. I would not
be able to believe I had done everything possible to be of help

>>> Understand, I am not asking this in order to be difficult. I can
>>> think of
>>> at least three things you could try, in terms of promoting greater human
>>> enlightenment before the Singularity, that have never been tried
>>> before. What I want to know is what *you're* thinking of.
>> Please share those things. They may make a real difference. My
>> thinking is early and tentative. I am not fully ready to lay it out.
> 1: See whether humans can use feedback from realtime fMRI to help
> identify internal rationalization, hatred, tribal-based thinking, etc.
> You may not get all the bugs, but if you can get just some, it may be
> enough to tip the internal mental balance. Evolution has no experience
> puppeteering humans with access to that information.
> 2: Collaborative filtering and/or the Earthweb; a means whereby one
> good idea can very rapidly spread to billions and be built upon by
> thousands. Accelerated memetic evolution.
> 3: See whether humans who talk to infrahuman but clear-thinking
> Friendly AIs learn anything from that about how to think rationally. In
> other words, AI-trained humans may be doable pre-Singularity.
> What I'm trying to say is that you have not accomplished anything until
> you pick one of those strategies or something like it, and get started
> on implementing it directly. The Singularity is not a religion, it is a
> GANTT chart. You cannot worship it, admire it, believe in it, or accept
> it into your heart; you have to find one of the open boxes and turn it
> green.

While some or all of the above are of some help I do not believe
any or all of them are a panacea or that nothing at all can be
accomplished without them. A lot of my particular focus is not
in the technological area. It is more concerned with the
consciousness of the users of the technology which drives what
they use the technology for and in what context. It drives what
their extensions of the technology and all other parts of their
life will be. That said, (2) and many variants, is quite
interesting to me and promoting/building some parts of it will
be one thing I am involved in. It is one of several tools that
is needed to do the work more effectively.

>>> It doesn't do much good to issue calls to action without a strategy that
>>> promises to work. Not a strategy that *sounds* good. Not a strategy
>>> that blazes like a banner and uplifts your heart. A strategy which,
>>> unlike the stuff that's been previously tried over the last 50,000
>>> years,
>>> will actually work.
>> Uplifting the heart and firing the imagination is of course still a
>> crucial part of reaching enough people. What do you believe will
>> actaully work?
> Seed AI.
> Or computer-mediated telepathy between 64-node clustered humans whose
> prefrontal cortices have learned to talk to one another over meganeuron
> broadband connections.
> Some form of transhumanity which can be achieved as rapidly as possible
> using our existing technological base; that's a big enough hammer. I
> don't believe there's much else that *really would* work, however nice
> it sounded.
> Uplifting the heart and firing the imagination is a crucial part of
> reaching enough people, but having a workable strategy comes first.
> Otherwise the cheering doesn't *accomplish* anything. Humans like
> cheering and will cheer whether or not anything gets done as a result.
> I am deeply suspicious of cheering, and I speak as a cheerleader.

If you can focus enough people a bit differently that can
accomplish wonders. It is a lot more than "cheering". It is
changed lives, perceptions and actions (to name a short list)
that I am after. I want to see a changed set of assumptions
about what life is about and what its possibilities are, locally
and globally.

>>> Again: What are you going to do, and why is it going to work when
>>> everything previous has failed? To quote Doonesbury, "Let's kick
>>> butt!" is not a plan unless you know which butts to kick, how far,
>>> and in which direction.
>> That notion of kicking butt is actually almost diametrically opposed
>> to what I believe needs to happen.
> I know. Still a good quote.


- samantha

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