RE: Positive Transcension 2

From: Philip Sutton (
Date: Fri Feb 20 2004 - 09:48:01 MST

Hi Ben,

My guess is that, optimistically, it is going to be a decade or two before
we see AGIs capabable of driving a fast take-off to
transcension/singularity or whatever. During this time the AGIs
together with their human designers/ programmer/ trainers/ educators /
etc. are going to have to co-exisit with the rest of humanity - so that
resources can be devoted to the support of AGI (computing
power/design&programming skill etc.) and the simple right to continue
with the work/to have AGIs operating is granted by society.

If during this time people come to fear AGIs (or their potential) they
may engage in all sorts of blocking activities (legal/direct action etc.) of
a more or less extreme nature. Also people developing AGIs (and the
AGIs themselves) will need supporters to defend AGI development so
that the work and the AGIs can continue.

If AGI promoters are projecting vibes that they are not 100% behind the
protection/welfare of humans and that somehow AGIs might be
engaged in the 'demise of humanity' then some people might get a bit
jumpy and might flip into active opposition mode - and you have to
admit - if they did it would not be surprising!

Ben, I really admire the way that you have been openly exploring a
huge number of the issues related to the development of AGI via the
email lists and in other ways - so I would hate to see your style, or
anyone else's, cramped by a need for formulaic 'political correctness'.
But I think you need to keep putting yourself in the shoes of other
people who are not closely involved in the development of AGI - you've
got to be able to feel what they might feel (after the style of the
universal mind simulator! :)

Evolution (even the radical-leap forward-variety represented for
example by the first trilobite with eyes, the first human with advanced
language and the first AGI with competent self-upgrading skills) is still a
game of making steps where *each one* is viable so that future
potential can survive the present moment to be able to unfold later.

I think the safest way to get to AGIs with competently self-upgrading
skills going is to make a compact with humanity (all of them/us - even
including the vast mass of ignorant people!) that AGIs will be
developed in a way that does not violate people's desire for continued
exisitence and desire for autonomy over the nature of their lives. If
AGIs are designed/ trained so that they do not threaten the exisitence/
autonomy desires of people then I think there is a much better chance
that enough people will support or tolerate the creation of AGIs so that
AGIs actually emerge and persist long enough to be able to look after
themselves and be able to assure their own survival.

I'm NOT pushing for political correctness - I'm pushing for a politically-
savvy and compassionately-sensitive approach to co-exisitence
between the AGI developers/AGI and the rest of humanity.

As I mentioned a moment ago, I admire your intellectual openness -
and I'm not saying this to suck up to you. It's how I feel.

But I think you have to be very sensitive to the feelings of others - your
"Encouraging positive transcension" article has a major pre-occupation
with the notion of the demise of humanity as a conceivable outcome of
the development of AGI - and in saying this I'm not saying that you are
actually advocating the demise of humanity. But run the text through
the Novamente inference engine and see if I'm wrong about the

I think this line-of-thought/this outcome (the demise of humanity
through either evolution to something else or through reassignment of
mass energy(!!)) is simply not necessary to the development of AGI or
the wonderous flowering of the universe. Once AGIs have access to
the physical environment, production processes and transport -
especially if they can access places off-earth - they will not be 'held
back' by people. But leading up to this stage, AGIs and their human
designers/developers/trainers etc. could be held back or totally blocked
if an anti-AGI panic set in.

That is why I think humans working on AGI development and (later the
AGIs themselves) need to make (and honour) a pact with humanity that
the AGIs will not threaten humans exisitence and lifestyle autonomy.

If the AGIs can also help humanity to solve our many current problems
so much the better - then there will be a sound basis for mutal
recognition and cooperation.

This humanity-AGI pact is a different thing from the problem of creating
'friendly' ethics in AGI. I have no skills in AGI design or development
but your intuition that 'friendliness' will be easier to implant and retain
through massive cycles of self-modification if it is more all-
encompassing or more generally stated makes sense to me. So I'm
suggesting that we need TWO processes:

1. building in meta-friendliness towards all sentients or even to all
    life that unfailingly generates, amongst other responses,
    friendliness towards humans.

2. a conscious pact with humanity that AGIs with respect humans desire
    to exist and have lifestyle autonomy/self-determination.

This pact is necessary in my view to reassure people that tolerating or
supporting the emergence of AGIs in not a threat to themselves or their
children or humanity in general.

If as a consequence of the freedom protected under this this pact,
some or all people decide to turn their back on the possibilities of
transcension *for themselves* it doesn't matter in the wider sweep of
cosmic history. Personally I think a large number of people *will* avail
themselves of the benefits of transcension - if for no other reason than
to extend their lives. Many people will also be excited at the prospect
of communicating with advanced AGIs and many people will want to be
able to personally tap the wonders of intellectual expansion that come
from augmentation or uploading.

But if other people choose not to go this way, if they even wanted to
stay exactly as they are, it doesn't matter two hoots - it should be their
choice. I don't think AGI developers/promoters should project one iota
of concern about people making such a conservative choice.

I think the AGI-human pact could start off as a one way offer - offered
by the AGI development community freely and unilaterally to the rest of
the community. If the heat builds up on AGI development then it might
be necessary later to make a formal two-way pact via the formal
political processes operating around the globe at the time.

Can I clarify - the whole of the foregoing is NOT premised on the
simple notion that the preservation of humanity is paramount over
anything else in the universe. What I'm saying is more prosaic than
that.......if you want the least-hassle path to the creation of self-
upgrading AGI then my intuition is that this is best facilitated by an
historical pact that AGIs will be designed so that as an emergent of
their ethics they are unfailingly friendly to people - allowing humans to
continue to exist and shape their own lifestyles. I do not see humans
as the centre of the universe. I don't care personally if they evolve into
something that I would not recognise as being like humanity-2004 style.
But I just want personally and for my children and for their descendents
and for other people and their descendents the freedom to exist and
shape our lifestyles. My guess also is that if there are other sentients
around the universe many of them would also be likely to want this sort
of freedom.


Ben, it seems to me that your favoured ethical structure is that all (?)
AGIs should embody a core ethical commitment to "voluntary joyous
growth" or some variant of this?

My feeling is that we should allow for a greater diversity of prime goals
than this and that if there is a greater diversity then it is necessary to
build in friendliness as an unfailing companion of whatever other goals
the AGIs might have.

I think it would be relatively easy to get concensus amongst people that
AGIs (should they exist) should be friendly to people. But beyond that
human consensus will be hard to find - even on the SL4 list or the AGI
list. I don't see this as a problem. There will be enough people
involved in AGI development who are motivated to see the wonderous
complexity and patterns of the universe unfold and so I'm sure they will
ensure that a fair number of AGIs are motivated to pursue "voluntary
joyous growth". But there are lots of other (friendliness-friendly) goals
that could motivate people and AGIs and I think the outcome of AGI
development will be even more beneficial overall if there is a diversity
of goals among AGIs.

It seems to me that you often write Ben as if you think in terms of there
being only one or a few AGIs. If I'm right about this, then I suspect this
mindset tends to lead you and perhaps others to think that there might
be only one best AGI goal set. My own default position is to imagine
that there will be lots of AGIs (with lots of different origins) and that
their goal sets could be quite divergent.

I think it is safest and most practical to start with a presumption that
there will be a diversity of AGIs with a diversity of cognitive
architectures and a diversity of goal sets.

So I'm interested in the resulting population or group dynamics that
results from interactions between people and AGIs, and AGIs and
AGIs. I think some of the outcomes we hope for from AGIs should be
sought as emergent properties arising from a diverse population of
AGIs working with a diverse population of people.

The one common feature that I think is needed for *all* AGIs
*individually* (and also all people!) is an ethic of co-
existence/friendliness or whatever we choose to call it.

Cheers, Philip

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