Re: Dangers of human self-modification

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Thu May 27 2004 - 14:42:08 MDT

On May 26, 2004, at 5:40 AM, Ben Goertzel wrote:
> Samantha,
> I agree that the ethics of enhanced humans will be easier to predict
> than the ethics of self-improving AGI's.
> However, the ethics of AGI's produced by enhanced humans will not
> necessarily be easier to predict than that of those produced by
> ordinary
> humans. That depends on the orientation of the enhanced humans: are
> they trying to make more predictable AGI's or are they serving some
> other purpose in their AGI design?

Degree of intelligence counts. If the humans building/training the
AGIs are brighter then they are more likely to succeed and more likely
to succeed in instilling Friendliness if that is their goal. As I
know you have build quite sophisticated systems I know you are
painfully familiar with the limits of what even very bright people can
accomplish in a given amount of time. You are quite aware of where
the limits are.

> 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.

We need both. One way to proceed is to find relatively wise people
and enhance them (if it seems wise to them).

> 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.

I am not speaking of embryonic genetic enhancements. There are some
gene therapy regiments beginning to appear that seem (in lab mice at
least) to enhance memory by roughly 30% and cut learning time in half.
   If such works for humans then it would be a candidate. There are
also some new drugs just coming to market that have significant
beneficial effects. Beyond this I believe a lot can be done with
computer-based (wearable soon) of human information handling abilities
and boosting memory, association, integration, logic computation and
grasping of larger patterns.

On the wisdom side of it I am less sure what can be done. I think many
can be made wiser by even very old techniques. But it takes time and
commitment that few are ready for. Plus the older techniques are
buried often beneath a lot of superstition and mumbo-jumbo. That
turns many off. I don't have a lot of hope for many to become wiser
quickly. I do have some hope that a more positive and helpful set of
memes can capture the minds and hearts of many.

> "Genetically engineering a wiser human" is an excellent transhumanist
> project. If I weren't so busy with AGI maybe I'd take it up myself.
> Hopefully some of the things I'm doing with bioinformatics at Biomind
> will ultimately be useful for this goal ... in the unfortunate
> circumstance that we fail to create a benevolent AGI before biotech
> advances to the point enabling the creation of wiser OR cleverer humans
> by genetic manipulation, that is.

We might create highly enhanced humans by accident in reaching for AGIs
as we are likely to want pretty tight HCI to the young AGI in its

- samantha

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