Daily Archives: May 24th, 2007

Climbing Mount Improbable

From Transumanar:

To read the rest of this fascinating article, click on the above link, good stuff!

From the Inquisition placing Gallileo under house arrest, to the Scopes Monkey Trial, there have been examples throughout history of dogma standing in the way of scientific knowledge. Transhumanists know only too well the frustration that must have been felt by those individuals whose ideas have been attacked on the basis of contradicting entrenched dogma. It also seems that, where transhumanism is concerned, fundamentalism has a certain advantage over its predecessors. I mean, if you hold the belief that our planetary system has the Earth at its centre, and not the sun, the objective truth will ultimately be determined, since we are talking about an outcome of physical laws laid down tens of billions of years before human beings existed. Fundamentalists could deny the objective truth, but could not actually rewrite the physical laws of nature and inevitably their folly was exposed. But transhumanism is somewhat different. It IS in our control, we DO have an active influence in the direction technology heads. This was the take-home message of Bill McKibben’s book ‘Enough’. Literally, that society could, if enough people wish it, decide that we need not guide technology down roads that lead to a fundamental redesign of the human species.

While McKibben wrote his book, and while I read it, there were several companies and organizations explicitly working on technologies that will usher in the radical future. As well as providing the research and development required to realise transhumanist dreams, I believe they serve the purpose of giving false hopes to those groups who stand opposed to these goals.

This sense of security comes in two forms. Firstly, the difference between what would be required to realise nanotechnology, negligible senescence and strong AI, and what represents today’s state-of-the-art…well the gap seems so huge it is foolish to believe such breakthroughs can happen in a lifetime. So it seems! Secondly, when it seems a breakthrough is likely, the opponents no doubt think they can prevent it. All they need do is get the public on their side and lobby for the closure of these organizations, and we will all go back to life As It Was Meant To Be (copyright, Leon Kass).

I did say these were false hopes, and the reason I believe this is so is because I see the radical future emerging, not so much because of a few institutions explicitly working on it, but because it is the inevitable outcome of cumulative and convergent knowledge. D’you remember how Velociraptors hunted in ‘Jurrassic Park’? One distracting its prey’s attention while more sneaked up on it from behind? That is what companies explicitly working on GRIN technologies are like. They direct the attention of luddite groups, get them focused on one narrow area, and while they are distracted technology as a whole can sneak up.

Now, I do not believe that this is an intentional strategy of these organizations. It is just that they give the impression that nanotech etc is the pre-determined goal of centralized institutions. But the majority of inventors, companies and organizations have no interest on explicitly realising transhumanist goals. They only wish to research and impliment sensible, reasonable upgrades to existing tools and services. It is this ongoing effort, the desire to provide better medicine, more efficient manufacturing, software a bit smarter than last generation’s, that the goals of transhumanism will actually arise from. Keep your eye fixed on the likes of Zyvex, or the Singularity Institute, and you are probably going to miss the direction from which GRIN tech really comes!

But when it does seem that breakthroughs are near, a public scared by such extreme tech will give weight to Luddite calls for relinquishment, right? Actually, I think a propper consideration of ‘cumulative’ knowledge shows the answer to be ‘no’. Cummulative knowledge is most eloquently explained by Richard Dawkins as ‘climbing Mount Improbable’. In his own words, ‘one side of the mountain is a sheer cliff, impossible to climb, but the other side is a gentle slope to the summit. On the summit sits a complex device’.

Chances are I’m going to be flamed for this post, from people who believe in God, and people claiming that I’m playing both sides of the fence. That’s okay, because I’m stating issues as I see them.

I explained when I opened this blog why I consider myself a transhuman, because modern technology saved my life and improved the quality of it. And I believe, barring a man-made crisis, that technology will improve exponentially to a point where there will be a Singularity, where one cannot predict the outcome of the technology sufficiently to get a handle on things. An example would be the invention of a true self-aware computer, or any kind of artificial intelligence that utilized quantum computing and quantum tunnelling. The machine would be able to “talk” to itself forward and backward in time, thus enabling itself to improve itself to the point where it could become “godlike”. And this could take place in a matter of minutes, or even seconds once the creature awakened. One would only have to be familiar with Moore’s Law to see that this isn’t just fantasy. Another example would be a human being augmented with AI gear, such as an Alzheimer’s patient, hooked to the Internet, to enhance the person’s memory. I could go on. So the ability to improve humanity to the point where we don’t require physical bodies any longer and become “god-like” is not beyond the weird or tinfoil. Now the question is, “Will the NWO suppress the technology and keep it for themselves?” Sure they can attempt to. But every time an authoritarian regime tries to attain complete control of things like the Internet, some smart hacker kid in his/her basement ruins things for them. My friends who believe in God say that Lucifer is creating the lie of science and that none of this will happen. And becoming “god-like” is the ultimate blasphemy against the Lord, and that is why Lucifer was cast out. I ask, “If science and its ultimate quest without God is evil, why is the Universe so huge and immense?” It would seem to be a total waste of space if you ask me. A friend of mine told me that our measuring instruments aren’t accurate and that our observations could be an illusion. Maybe. But I trust our observations of the Universe so far, I don’t have a reason to doubt them, yet. My atheist friends would say I’m a closet religionist and that science doesn’t have any reason to support the possibility of God, or god-like beings. But as the posted article says, “will science reveal the answer? Or maybe philosophy? Perhaps theology? Or should we conjecture that these are all manifestations of a grander overarching conceptual framework that we currently cannot comprehend, but may come to appreciate as we ascend to a state that might appropriately be defined as ‘God’

Extropia DaSilva is a “transhumanist avatar”, a ‘Fascinating and Mysterious Virtual Personality’, and is the author of this article.