Re: human-computer integration is rewiring society; electronic intelligence is constantly emerging & merging

From: Pope Salmon the Lesser Mungojelly (
Date: Tue Oct 11 2005 - 12:39:32 MDT

On Tue, 11 Oct 2005 05:32:07 +0000, H C <> wrote:

> As far as computer intelligence goes, it appears to me you are
> drastically underestimating the impact. (Yes, the rabbit hole goes much
> much deeper, in fact- its something of black hole, or ... *cough*
> Singularity... hehe).

Well let's not get into a fight over who can be most awed by the
incomprehensibility of the Singularity. There's no winner to that
conversation; it descends instantly into madness. For instance, we can
readily assume that over the next decade or two we will invent The Orgasm
Button (prototypes, for women only alas, are already in use) and generally
otherwise intimately control our own pleasure and pain responses.
Therefore the question "what will posthumans do with these amazing powers"
can only reasonably be answered "why, whatever they program themselves to
do." There's no sense to it.

So all we can really do is look at what the approach is going to be shaped
like. Orgasm Buttons (and all the future versions, such as True Love
Buttons and Complete Relaxation Buttons), in spite of the fact that they
will fundamentally alter the basic equations of human society in ways
which (combined with everything else going screwy) make it impossible to
even vaguely imagine how things will end up, will at the beginning be
simply objects existing in the actual society which we have grown up in.
Given the combined hedonistic consumerism and puritan moralism of the US,
how widely are Orgasm Buttons going to be implanted here? Will there be
attempts to make them illegal? Or will they somehow slip under the radar
and become as widely pacifying as television? Will some parts of the
world be hooked up before others?

It's important to think about, not because we can predict what the end
result is going to be after everything becomes integrated into society,
but because different orders & rhythms of the process may produce very
different results. Would a Singularity where most of the instigating
primate race are on The Button make things simpler & reduce the dangers of
panics & so forth? Would it make society unable to respond quickly enough
in the face of major risks, because nobody can be bothered to care so much
about the real world anymore? Would it make everyone more capable of
rationally considering situations & less involved with their own personal

In other words, I'm not ignoring the strangeness of the Singularity
because I'm not aware of it. I'm ignoring it because I believe that the
only answerable questions lie on this side of it. We have no choice but
to take things one step at a time.

> The fact that an intelligence is on a computer is much more than just
> computer abilities being "added on" to human abilities. It isn't just
> human+computer, but human^computer. Each bit of computer ability that is
> added, also totally overhauls and modifies the human side. Intuitive
> algorithms (like tying your shoe) could be modified to have independent
> awareness (ie. information searching, processing, intelligent analyzing,
> etc). You could transfer yourself into an "accelerated simulation" where
> every 24 hours of subjective time is equal to a nanosecond- thus living
> multiple lifetimes in the span of one second. Matrix-uploading of
> knowledge will be possible. You could spend an entire simulated lifetime
> constructing a single email, no harm no problem- especially because you
> could modifty yourself to not get bored by the incredibly long journeys.
> Every tiny piece of "real-time" empirical observation could be analyzed
> in a million different ways for years at a time, and compared and
> analyzed against the entirety of public human knowledge- all in less
> than a second- in fact, all in less than one *subjective* second,
> because the entire process could be both *really* intelligent and
> automated on a PURELY intuitive level.

OK, sure, but this still seems to me like monkeys imagining what it'll be
like to be human-- "We'll get the bananas SO easily man you don't
UNDERSTAND!! There'll be big PILES of bananas!!"-- Who is it that's going
to write this email? Who are they writing to and why do they care? These
aren't just souped up humans we're talking about, really. The bottom is
going to fall out. Being human is about having evolved to survive in a
mammalian body on the planet Earth; it's going out of style.

It's sort of like what I've noticed about the expansion of the world wide
web. At first it was an expansion of this one network, basically,
connected by links. Then, as it got really really really big, it started
to have subprojects within it that followed the same expansion curve.
Wikipedia hit its own curve and quickly became as big as the whole web was
a few years ago. Livejournal is as big as the web used to be. Bubbles
are going to continue expanding in this boiling broth, until there are
various regions that are as big as the whole web is now-- as big as
Wikipedia and Livejournal and Slashdot and everything else, all combined.
Many of them. The cycles will continue until every detail of the physical
world is known with fantastic intimacy. They will continue as real worlds
emerge, other worlds, full of characters as intelligent as human beings
are now. They'll keep expanding. Sure, it goes all the way down.

Since the only answer to "how will people feel about these new powers" is
"however they program themselves to feel," one scenario is that everyone
does something completely different. One person might form a clone army,
with millions of copies of themselves, all assigned to different tasks.
Another person might go around scanning trees and flowers and become a
forest internally. Someone might specialize in breeding artificial life,
which would develop to the point where they were genuine alien
intelligences. Then every part of every person goes through its own
expansions and does something different from every other part. People
become as big internally as the whole Earth is now.

What's your plan? What kind of god do you want to be? I'm just trying to
focus on getting us to survive our approach.

> Try to imagine a real-time conversation between two people with these
> faculties, Alice, and you will see humans have barely even stuck their
> toe into the rabbit hole.

It's like getting into cold/hot water, though-- the first toe you stick in
is the hardest part.

Besides, how we deal with these first hints may set the tone for how we
deal with the real deal. That's why we're here, right? It's not just the
fact that far out stuff is coming up-- we always knew it was coming-- it's
that it's become obvious that it's coming up really fucking fast. So
we're going to try to figure it out. Quickly. Practically. We need to
get some traction on it.

Time is changing, so we may have to alter our perimeter. Soon, looking
ahead five minutes will be as hard as looking ahead 500 years used to be.
It's already become very fuzzy looking into just the next decade.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, nobody has any clue what they're getting
into. Normal people are still integrating the fact that Yahoogroups
exists. To us, Yahoogroups is just a toy; it's a baby step or two ahead
of majordomo (and not as friendly). To them, it's some weird new useful
thing that magically appeared in the universe. Hardly anyone over a
certain age really groks the concept that the internet knows more about
every subject than any library ever used to know; a relative of my
husband's assumed that Google was a pay service and thinks that
downloading is illegal. What are these people going to do with the powers
they are being given?? It's looking like it's going to be shepherds and
sheep, unless those bountiful technology curves somehow supply us with
some way of quickly getting comprehension into these brains.

So the question of how societies go about integrating these technologies
may end up being even more essential than the technologies themselves.
The personal power of information technology means that people matter.
Crazy ignorant confused normal people are going to write the script for
how this shit goes down.

The Pentagon is, in all seriousness, considering the military applications.


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