Re: Dangers of human self-modification

From: Jef Allbright (
Date: Wed May 26 2004 - 08:41:43 MDT

Ben Goertzel wrote:

>>>I'm not saying that smart humans will necessarily become evil or
>>>careless -- in fact I think the opposite is more closely
>>true -- but
>>>it's clear that it will be hard to predict the ethical inclinations
>>>and quality-of-judgment of intelligence-enhanced humans.
>What this thread really leads to is the (obvious) conclusion that we'd
>be better off to enhance humans for IMPROVED WISDOM before we enhance
>them for improved intelligence.
>However, this seems fairly unlikely to happen, because wisdom, rather
>than intelligence, will be seen as providing less competitive advantage
>to the parties pushing for genetic modification of humans.
An important concept, or view, appears to be absent from this
discussion. It is that increasingly, wisdom and decisions of large
import are the result of group thinking. This goes beyond the obvious
intentional collaboration on group issues that is fairly well
recognized, especially in today's business world, as necessary for
success. It consists also, in ways that are more subtle and pervasive,
in the shared access to global knowledge and opinion via the media, and
in the indirect effects of immersion in a common economy and social
structure. All of these lead to an effective intelligence (resulting in
decisions and actions) greater than any individual human.

This is difficult for many of us to see, especially in the West, because
we are steeped in the illusion of Self as some kind of discrete entity.
And so we naturally think in terms of enhancing this Self, or creating a
greater Self to guide us. It's not so much that these viewpoints are
wrong, but that they are incomplete and miss the bigger picture that we
don't operate alone, and that increasingly, it is the human matrix
(including culture, but also the shared infrastructure, values, economic
and social ties, etc.) that has the power to affect change. [Some may
feel an uncomfortable reaction at this point, a signal that it may be
useful to look deeper and ask why.]

A related concept, I refer to it as the Arrow of Morality, says that as
our access to information grows, and as our interdependence grows, our
decisions naturally and necessarily become increasingly moral overall
(from the point of view of the larger organization, and secondarily from
the point of view of its members).

If we accept the above, and that we are now entering an inflection point
of human development, we may want to contribute to this process in a way
that minimizes the pain of change and adaptation for humanity. Helping
to create an effective infrastructure for global knowledge sharing,
creating devices and methods to facilitate access to information, tools
for collaborative efforts and decision making are all ways that those of
us with technological inclinations can contribute to creating an
effectively more intelligent human society to carry us through this
phase of our development.

- Jef

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