Re: Dangers of human self-modification

From: Philip Sutton (
Date: Wed May 26 2004 - 07:57:58 MDT

Hi Samantha,

You said:
> Higher intelligence can always be used for good or ill. If we were
> not already surrounded with problems arguably beyond our abilities to
> resolve then it might make sense to put off increasing human
> intelligence.

It would be great to be able to apply more intelligence to solving the
problems humanity is causing, but with the current way ways that
people live across the globe and the power structures that we create or
allow to remain in place it is not clear that increasing the amount of
intelligence grunt or the capability levels will result in any improvement
if most of that intelligence increment is not applied to solving these

We have a huge amount of hardware capable of delivering high
intelligence that is underutilised due to a failure to engage in the
necessary software development - I'm referring of course to the fact
that most humans are not adequately educated and hence they fail to
develop their full applied intelligence potential.

Also we have cultures in most parts of the world where people don't
believe they should apply their personal intelligence to helping to solve
the world's problems so while the intelligence grunt is there, it is simply
not applied to the most serious problem areas in sufficient quantities.

I know there are a few people who think I have a naive belief in the
ability of humans to solve their own problems, but I think there is a
good case to be made that much of the apparently intractable nature of
human problems lies in our cultural presumptions that it is sensible to
devote most of our resources to the private or local needs and to fail to
invest time and effort in solving problems that arise through the
dynamics of the wider community.

One area where I think advanced machine intelligence could help is in
its capacity to do massive effective modelling of complex issues so that
people have more effective what-if scenarios to learn from. We can
clearly benefit greatly from working with machine intelligence in this
area because humans aren't that good at doing massive transparent
modelling in their heads.

We can see the early effects of this capacity with the climate debate.
It's amazing to see the beginnings of major changes in the economy via
changes in the policies of governments and big companies based not
on an immediate, tangible, large threat but on the basis of expectations
of future threats that have been made possible through massive
adavnced modelling efforts (via the work of the International Panel on
Climate Change).

What I think we need is a combination of expanded modelling capacity,
intelligence enhancement of humans through good nutrition, upbringing
and education/training and a huge effort in the area of exanding our
human capacity for wisdom. This is more about *how* to use
intelligence rather than just how to get more intellectual grunt.

Cheers, Philip

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