Singularity Stuff

Check out this interview of the 1st Apostle of the Singularity, Ray Kurzweil, as he says the event will occur by 2040.Kurzweil Interview on VBS.TV

I think we have to get by the End of the Age Mayan Calendar change-over in 2012 first Ray.

Or is it the Rapture?

I can’t tell which, there’s so many to choose!


Speaking of the Singularity, George Dvorsky of Sentient Developments asks the question, “when (or what for that matter) is a person a person?”


A number of Sentient Developments readers have asked what I mean when I refer to non-human persons and the personhood spectrum. It’s a fair question, and to be honest, I have yet to see a satisfying personhood taxonomy with an attendant list of traits that fully circumscribe the personhood continuum. I consider this an incredibly important issue as we move into a ‘transhuman condition’ and as we work to give non-human animals greater moral consideration. If I ever go back to school I think this will be a likely topic for a thesis.

A big question I would like to answer is, should personhood status be described as a spectrum or as a definitive, fixed state. In other words, are dolphins and bonobos as much persons as a genetically modified and cyborgized transhuman? And is such a distinction even necessary? Should persons, regardless of where they are situated in the personhood spectrum, all have the same moral and legal considerations?

More philosophically, given the space of all possible minds, how can we begin to identify the space of all possible persons within that gigantic spectrum?

I’m assuming since George is a Transhumanist, beings such as uplifted apes and dolphins, and various machine intelligences with “conscious” software should be considered “legal persons”.

This matter is not at all cut and dry.

Given the number of conservative societies we have in the world, the US and most Moslem nations being the most rightist, I foresee a problem getting such beings any kind of civil rights at all.

That will be moot if DARPA’s plan for the Google-Plex to turn hyper-intelligent pans out, then humans will be behind the curve!

But I have doubts about that happening.
What is a person?


As a parting shot at (for?) the Singularity today, Adam Korbitz of Estimate of the Situation sez that “Mind Reading Computers are already here”:

…this year you will be able to buy for about $300 a headset that enables you to use EEG technology to control computers with thought alone.

I know, the computer isn’t reading your mind, humans are the ones doing the controlling.

But for how long?
Mind Reading Computers





4 responses

  1. Re this:

    “I consider this an incredibly important issue as we move into a ‘transhuman condition’ and as we work to give non-human animals greater moral consideration. If I ever go back to school I think this will be a likely topic for a thesis.”

    Good idea! A philosophy thesis pushing hard into ethics is clearly in the cards here, and it would be interesting to know more about how this issue is being considered right now. Not to mention the good SF that churns around the issue.

    1. Hi Paul, thanks for coming by!

      My take on it is if we “uplift” animals such as other primates or any kind of cetaceans to human equivalent intelligence, we have an obligation to ensure they have the same civil rights as legal persons, and not be as human beings are wont to do throughout history, use them as “disposable people.”

      If we don’t insure this, we should leave the animals the hell alone and let them live as nature intended!

      Also I think George included AI-augmented animals (humans too) into the mix. The same applies. If we take this upon ourselves to perform Brinian-like (my term) on ourselves and other animals, it is a moral duty to recognise these beings as legal persons (a Stephan Baxter term I believe).

      Speaking of science fiction themes, I wonder how David Brin feels about this?

  2. Hi dad2059,

    Re: Ray Kurzweil et al. predictions for the future…

    My sense tells me that December 21, 2012 will come about and on Christmas day of that year everyone will be scratching their heads and asses to the fact that the 21st; ie., the winter solstice was just another change of season and a flip on the calendar.

    We’ve been through this concerning Y2K which turned out to be a bust for all the doomsayers etc.

    The only “singular” thing that will happen to humanity by 2040 is 12 billion people or more will be mucking about in the detritus of their failed paradigm; ie., civilization gone bust!

    We’re headed for wars upon wars waged for the acquisition of resources and territory. We’ve already reached peak oil and it’s estimated that the wells will run dry in about 12 years from now!
    Potable water supplies will even become headlines as current sources fail or simply disappear.

    If anything is to happen; I visualize a remnant civilization with people living in a “Mad Max” world or better yet “Beyond Thunder Dome” type of scenario. It’s going to be a dog eat dog world while those that have been instrumental in raping civilization for their personal gain will be living a sybaritic self-supporting lifestyle in faraway retreats.

    Carl Nemo **==

    1. It could get as bad as that Carl, but I’m hoping not!

      My point is that all during history, various civilizations have had stories of apocalypses and of “saviours”/”events” that will come to save the righteous and punish the evil.

      Sadly, as you pointed out, apocalypses come, but there is no saviour, or ‘singularity’/’event’ to save the righteous, and it’s the righteous who generally suffer the collapse of civilization the most.

      The better-off do survive a little longer, until the unwashed masses smashes down their gates en mass and do a little “income redistribution” themselves!

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