RE: Multiple Future Bens

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Mon Dec 23 2002 - 19:00:38 MST

Eliezer wrote:
> The SF plots that have been posted to this thread don't look to me like
> changes at all, just running in the same place, because they don't alter
> any of the things I have learned to see as important. It seems like
> displacement activities for deeper wishes that are harder to verbalize.
> Has anyone here said "I wish to be happy", or "I wish that it didn't take
> so much effort just to exist", or "I wish I understood reality and my
> place in it", in among the dreams of cloning and robot bodies?

Well, I believe that a totally deeper/different understanding of mind,
reality and cosmos will come along with the Ben4/Ben5 incarnations. Since
Ben5 was hypothesized as a being with exponentially increasing intelligence,
it's pretty clear he's going to go beyond all that's human pretty quickly,
including the notions of happiness existence and understanding....

In this message, I will try to more fully elaborate the psychology &
philosophy underlying my hypothetical interest in multiple, progressively
advanced incarnations.

Of course, I recognize the tremendously greater profundity of the
transformation into Ben5 (who will lose the human notion of self, will go
beyond all human ways of thinking, acting and perciving), as opposed to the
minor transformations into Ben1-Ben4.

However, I find myself drawn in two opposite philosophical directions:

1) the desire to transcend, to become better and better and more and more,
to attempt to become infinite -- in intelligence, awareness, power, wisdom,

2) the acceptance of what is. What is, is -- and need there be any more?
In a way, truth lies in acceptance of the moment, not the seeking to get out
of the moment into a different sort of moment.

Accepting Ben0, the current Ben, who without technological innovation will
grow old and die, would be the ultimate expression of philosophy 2. But I
don't go quite that far toward philosophy 2!

The multiple hypothetical Bens represent a set of points on the continuum
from philosophy 2 to philosophy 1.

So it's really not about gadgets and robots. It's about the acceptance
versus the desire for betterment.

It could be that the lower Bens will choose to annihilate or upload
themselves, or that the higher Bens will intentionally absorb them.... Hard
to tell!

> If humans
> end up walking down the slow path, and smelling the flowers, it will be
> because some Friendly AI blazed a trail all the way to the end, just to
> make sure that there are no dangers that slowly blossoming humans
> wouldn't
> see. No gamma-ray bursts, exploding galaxies, decaying laws of physics,
> hostile superintelligences, what-have-you. Even if the greatest
> amount of
> fun comes from stopping to smell the flowers, there has to be at
> least one
> sentience who sacrifices leisure and burns for the light as fast as
> possible.

Well, that is one scenario, but there are there alternatives.

For example: Maybe when a being gets intelligent enough, it pulls an Honest
Annie and stops communicating with lesser minds. So that there's a fairly
low upper limit on the intelligence of beings who bother to help out lesser
beings with nifty technologies.

In the multiple-Bens scenario, the question is: Is it Ben5 or Ben4 who will
be involved in making the universe safe for his (intentionally) less-evolved
brothers ... if indeed these less-evolved brothers are allowed to (or choose
to) exist at all...

> 1) We don't know whether it's the journey or the destination;
> 2) Even if it is the journey that counts, and not the destination, I
> expect at least one sentient mind will blaze a trail for the rest;
> 3) And as a result of that superintelligence being around, anyone making
> a slow journey will do so without any visible gadgetry, because only
> clumsy technology is visible.

But, in the Honest Annie scenario, this line of reasoning might not hold....

And even in the helpful-superintelligence scenario, some could use clumsy
technology by choice -- or by choice of their neighborhood god
(superintelligence) -- ...

-- Ben

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