RE: Pre-Singularity human enlightenment

From: mike99 (
Date: Sun Sep 22 2002 - 16:08:12 MDT

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:
> 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.

I would like to see this attempted. It may, however, require far smaller,
portable equipment in order to capture the brain events in the midst of
real-life activities. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging in this
way could be similar to the use of biofeedback machines by meditators. Also,
the work of Dr. Michael Persinger at Laurentian University in applying
external magnetic field to induce brain changes may give some hints.
Persinger is especially interested in how transient electrical spikes in the
temporal lobe are correlated with subjective reports of blissful, unitary
mystical states. Stimulating different areas can result in hellish, paranoid

> 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.

I think the Net has already shown us that this is a real possibility. In
order to work effectively though, we probably need ubiquitous computing,
high-bandwidth wireless, and sufficient security/authentication so that
people feel comfortable with a high degree of intimate real-time

> 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.

Again, I think this is very possible. Setting aside for the moment the
problem of getting that FAI in place, I believe we've already seen evidence
from the use of certain expert systems that people are quite willing to
converse with a non-human "intelligence" and even to share intimate
information with one. Example 1: The surprising success of the old ELIZA
(spelling?) system that was designed to parody the question&answer pattern
of a psychiatrist and patient. The patient would type a statement and ELIZA
would extract certain key words (e.g., mother, father, sex, love, etc.) and
then build a question around these. Example 2: Some medical doctors have
installed terminals in their office waiting rooms so patients can begin
entering data about their complaints. Most people respond very well to this
innovation. They seem to be more comfortable giving detailed, "embarrassing"
information about their health condition to a non-human system which
responded with questions based on their input.

> Or computer-mediated telepathy between 64-node clustered humans whose
> prefrontal cortices have learned to talk to one another over meganeuron
> broadband connections.

This is a development I'd like to see, but one which would probably freak
out a lot of the population, even if they had no interaction with the
clustered humans. We need to watch our backs for approaching peasants with
pitchforks when we begin walking down this road. Scare headline: "When SL0's

> 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.

I agree that cheering is both necessary and insufficient. In fact, wrongly
used it can be downright counterproductive. Homo sapiens in large groups can
be swept up in mass cheering to the point that they abandon reason and go
with surges of emotion. There is a reason why the Nazis favored mass
rallies held at night with torches, marching bands, and emotional speeches
designed to pluck the heartstrings of nationalism, tribalism, racism, etc.
Subtract the racism and similar ideas, replace them with salvation through
faith, change the musical genre, and you're got a Christian fundamentalist
revival meeting.

Michael LaTorra

Extropy Institute:
World Transhumanist Association:
Alcor Life Extension Foundation:
Society for Technical Communication:

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