Re: De-Anthropomorphizing SL3 to SL4.

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Sun Mar 14 2004 - 22:21:39 MST

At 05:05 PM 14/03/04 -0800, you wrote:
>Based on some readings I've done recently I've come
>acress a new context to understand the singulairty.
>I think it can be stated without much argument that
>the history of our universe has been a continuous
>ingression of intelligence into matter.

To date, and as far as we know, this process has been centered on a certain
small planet.

> From lesser
>complexity to greater complexity. If this is not
>apparent, then I suggest reading either Stephen
>Wolfram’s or Stuart Kaufmann’s work.

Robert Wright's Non-Zero supports this view as well.

>Even though this acceleration of intelligence seems
>continuous there is at least a few punctuated periods
>of more rapid acceleration. I think the singularity
>represents a punctuated rupture with at least one
>historical precedent - the birth of language, the jump
>from genetic to epi-genetic information transfer.
>Until Modern Humans emerged on the scene, all
>evolution was happening via DNA information transfer ­
>a very slow glacial process of evolution. At some
>point in Homo sapiens evolution we developed symbolic
>manipulation ability.

Well, at least at some point along the line of evolution.

>Here is some snippits about the Singularity (a bit
>long but interesting) from Mark Pesce, inventor of
>The thing that separates us from the Neanderthal isn’t
>brain size, or brute strength, but a symbolic
>manipulation capability.

This may be true, but I don't think you can prove it. Oh well, not long
from now we will have the ability to either analyze Neanderthal DNA with
computers that can simulate embryogenesis, or we will just construct some
and see how good they are at symbolic manipulation. (It isn't a good idea
to take a hard line on something that can be subjected to actual


>We assume that we are masters of language, of word and
>I disagree.
>The situation is exactly reversed. We are not in
>control of words, they control us.
>Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins got it entirely
>right when he invented the concept of “memes,” which
>can be thought of as the linguistic equivalent of

This is not exactly on target. Memes are best seen as elements of
culture. Culture, the meme pool, has an analogy to the gene pool of a
species. Linguistics operates on a slightly different level, coding
memes. (It would be hard to make a case that the meme for a pot or a shoe
is different just because the people cooking in pots or wearing shoes spoke
a different language.)

>Rather than being part of the bios, memes are
>the carriers of the logos.
>OK, so we’ve covered the emergence of the bios, some 4
>billion years ago, and the emergence of the logos,
>perhaps as much as 150 thousand years ago.

Even chimps have a certain degree of culture that varies from place to
place. It is hard to say just exactly when people became critically
dependant on culture. It could have been carrying unworked stones to drive
off major predators. If you decide worked stone to be the boundary, then
we are talking about 2.6 million years ago.

>We, as a species, have been driven by memes for the
>last hundred thousand years, and this has forced us
>further and further away from any direct connection
>with the natural world.

Until we can live on electric power, this is a bit overstated.


>So we have three waves, biological, linguistic, and
>technological, which are rapidly moving to
>concrescence, and on their way, as they interact,
>produce such a tsunami of novelty as has never before
>been experienced in the history of this planet.

The real question is "does anything interesting survive"? (Where entities
able to tame wild galaxies are "interesting.")

*If* technophilic life is common then the answer is *no.* Our chances are
really rotten if the last 10 or 100 million species to reach this state
were eaten by gray goo or unfriendly AIs. If species that reach our stage
are so rare that there are none in our light cone, then the future is
unknown. Scary perhaps, but not a death sentence.

Keith Henson

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