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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.


The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Computers or Humans, Which Will Achieve Superintelligence First?

Here's an interesting little Web article by Peter Voss on "Why Machines Will Become Hyper-Intelligent before Humans Do," the arguments of yet another artificial intelligence researcher on why AI is going to leave all other sentient beings in the dust. In Peter's own words:

These notes detail some of the reasons why it will be much easier to build hyper-intelligent non-organic machines, than to dramatically enhance individual human intelligence – why SI (super intelligences) will appear before radical human IA (intelligence augmentation).

In this context, super/ hyper intelligence refers to general intelligence far exceeding current top human abilities in (at least) the areas of abstract thinking, innovation, and practical problem solving; Systems obviously clever enough to understand human language and affairs, science and technology, and – crucially – to be able to
radically enhance their own design.

He adds:

Individual versus collective smarts/ Maximum versus aggregate intelligence – Individual, maximum intelligence is an overall limiting factor. It imposes limits on the maximum complexity of problems that can be effectively tackled. Quantity can ultimately not make up for quality: A million monkeys can not solve problems that individual humans can – A million porn or Pokemon messages will not cure cancer (see note1). This is not to say that group interaction and collaboration add nothing - they clearly do increase overall smarts.

Rates of change in individual human intelligence, machine ‘intelligence’, and overall human ability -
· Maximum individual intelligence has remained about constant over the past two thousand years: Aristotle - or someone as clever as him - would have formulated a ‘Theory of Relativity’ 2000 years ago given Einstein’s knowledge base
· Overall human knowledge and ability – smarts – has been, and continues to, accumulate and increase exponentially
· Machine intelligence is only just starting to emerge. The last fifty years have seen exponential improvements. I predict that machine progress will become hyper-exponential once near human-level intelligence is reached (causing a self-improvement feedback loop – more details below)

One of Voss' core arguments in favor of artificial superintelligence emerging before human superintelligence is that biological minds are extremely complex, difficult to tamper with, and effectively near the apex of biological evolution already.

Some additional problems with radical human intelligence enhancements/ upgrades:
· The human brain is already highly optimized by thousands of generations – difficult to improve further.
· Substantial difficulties with experimentation, development, and implementation:
a) Practical/ technical - see above: re-boot, hack, duplicate, increase speed, etc.
b) Social opposition – eg ‘Frankenfood’, human genetic engineering
c) Regulatory – eg. FDA restrictions, costs, delays – government bans
· Brain design/ structure does not lend itself well to integrating with existing digital data and communications (data formats, serial communication).
· Working with biological cell/ axon/ receptor structures essentially requires advanced biological nanotech. More generally, the level of computer technology needed to overcome IA’s technical problems will already at or near SI level – ie. SI will be at the hard-take-off point. In other words: Computers smart enough to help us dramatically enhance human brains will be more than smart enough to radically enhance themselves. A related point is that to the extent that we figure out the workings of the brain, this knowledge can (and is) immediately used to improve artificial systems.

I'm personally not as convinced of these arguments as Peter Voss is. He may be right... or at least, we may end up with superintelligent AI before we develop superintelligent humans. But I wouldn't necessarily bet on it. Why?

Because we still don't have the beginnings of even human-equivalent artificial intelligence (admittedly, the takeoff point for many radical evolution scenarios), and in the meantime, most of the technologies that can drive AI can also be used to improve humans -- as can all of the exclusively biotech research being done to protect and enhance human health.

More to the point, we already have various technologies and mental disciplines that significantly increase human intelligence, and not only can we develop more, there is nothing to prevent us from using more and more of these tools synergistically to produce truly radical augmentation with our existing resources. Even as officials argue about whether or not our latest Olympics have displayed the feats of genetically modified athletes, and a coach to Olympians faces charges related to (among other things) "gene-doping," we know that the bodies and brains of animals have already been successfully augmented by biotech treatments.

What is more, we know there are effective nootropic drugs, a number of relatively effective nootropic herbs and nutrients, accelerated learning methods, creativity stimulating techniques and non-invasive "mindtech"... all of which are capable of enhancing human intelligence. What happens when someone combines a few rudimentary genetic enhancements with all of the above options?

Done correctly, we could have a "transhuman" or "posthuman" already, with nothing but our present-day technology.

Which poses some interesting questions in itself. If we aren't prepared for the ethical questions and competitive element of a genetically modified athlete or ten at the Olympics, are we ready for a posthuman (or 50 million) of unfathomable intelligence? My answer would be, probably not...

Future Imperative


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that if a person consistently applied a number of the accelerated learning and self-improvement techniques on a regular basis ansreally embedded these at a cellular level that we would then have that posthuman level of intelligence...and more. I'm talking about such practices as Image Streaming, Cybernetic Transposition, Lucid Dreaming,etc. I am so often appalled at the craving for an artificial intelligence when we can already perform these functions.I truly believe the day is coming when humanity will find itself in a very bad place due to its laziness.

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Anonymous Wendi said...

I am sure you have heard the song "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club but have you ever given much thought to its meaning? While on Earth, you are living in a world of reincarnation which is governed by the law of karma. Karma begins to propel you as Soul on a personal journey through the universe. Karma ends when you have reached enlightenment and fully realise that this physical reality and the Universe itself is just an illusion. When you reach a state of knowingness that there is but One all pervading essence and that essence or consciousness is You!
So what is Karma and how does it work? While in the illusion you have a soul. This soul lives past, present, and future lives. To grow in love, joy, and awareness, you reincarnate into a series of physical bodies to experience different existences. This road leads to the experiences of being both sexes, all races, religions, and ethnic types throughout many lifetimes.
Karma in its simplicist terms can be described by the biblical statement "as you sow, so also shall you reap". Karma is the principle of cause and effect, action and reaction, total cosmic justice and personal responsibility. It brings 'good' experiences as well as 'bad' - a debt must be repaid and a blessing rewarded.

A more indepth esoteric look at karma gives us the following distinctions: Sanchita Karma: the accumulated result of all your actions from all your past lifetimes. This is your total cosmic debt. Every moment of every day either you are adding to it or you are reducing this cosmic debt. Prarabdha Karma: the portion of your "sanchita" karma being worked on in the present life. If you work down your agreed upon debt in this lifetime, then more past debts surface to be worked on. Agami Karma: the portion of actions in the present life that add to your "sanchita" karma. If you fail to work off your debt, then more debts are added to "sanchita" karma and are sent to future lives. Kriyamana Karma: daily, instant karma created in this life that is worked off immediately. These are debts that are created and worked off - ie. you do wrong, you get caught and you spend time in jail.
As a soul, you experience a constant cycle of births and deaths with a series of bodies for the purpose of experiencing this illusionary world gaining spiritual insights into your own true nature until the totality of all experiences show you Who you really are - the I AM! Until you have learned, you will find that pretending that the rules of karma do not exist or trying to escape the consequences of your actions is futile.
Although it may often "feel" like punishment, the purpose of karma is to teach not to punish. Often the way we learn is to endure the same type of suffering that we have inflicted on others and also rexperience circumstances until we learn to change our thinking and attitudes.

We are all here to learn lessons as spiritual beings in human form. These lessons are designed to help us grow into greater levels of love, joy, and awareness. They teach us our true nature of love. Where we do not choose love, show forgiveness, teach tolerance, or display compassion, karma intervenes to put us back on the path of these lessons. Quite simply, the only way to achieve a state of karmic balance is to be love.
Before you incarnated into your present personality, you agreed to put yourself in the path of all that is you need to learn. Once you got here, you agreed to forget this. Karma is impersonal and has the same effect for everyone. It is completely fair in its workings and it is predictable - "do onto others as you would have them do unto you" is a way to ensure peace and tranquillity in your own life as well as the lives of those you come into contact with. The law of karma is predictable - "as you sow, so shall you reap" what is done to you is the net result of what you have done to others!
Karma gives you the opportunity at every moment to become a better person than you are and to open up to the realization that you are the master of your own fate.

The goal of karma is to give you all the experiences that you need to evolve into greater levels of love, joy, awareness, and responsibility. Karma teaches that you are totally responsible for the circumstances of your life. They keep you on the straight and narrow until you have mastered your vehicle and can ride freely on your own. Once you understand that you are the master of your own circumstances and that everything you experience is a direct result of your past actions due to your thinking and emotional responses you can overcome its seeming negative effects by creating only 'good' karma.
Karma forces us to look beyond ourselves (oneness) so that we can see ourselves as we truly are Whole, Complete, at One with everything. Once we truly understand ourselves, we can see our divinity and our unity with all life.
Karma drives us to service. Love means service. Once you accept total responsibility for your life, you see yourself as a soul in service to God. Once you do, you become a fully realized being, allowing God to experience the illusion through you.
Belief in karma and an understanding of its workings will lead you to a life of bliss. Only your own deeds can hinder you. Until the time comes when we release ourselves from our own self-imposed shackles of limitation and fully understand who and what we are we will live under the mantle of karma. So until that day why not create some wonderful experiences for ourselves by "doing onto others, as we would have them do unto us". personal development

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