Re: Disquieting transhumanism: quotes from Moravec

From: Jim Fehlinger (
Date: Mon Jan 22 2001 - 17:49:41 MST

Jim Fehlinger wrote:
> Samantha Atkins wrote:
> >
> > Jim Fehlinger wrote:
> > >
> > > Moravec paints some pretty scary pictures himself...
> >
> > Really. Could you point out where he says the Exes would lie in wait
> > [for] newcomers from earth? I didn't see that. And I find it extremely
> > unlikely.
> Well, I'm afraid I can't -- my copy of the book seems to be lent out.

I repurchased the book in paperback this weekend (Moravec's
_Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind_ [not _....Being_ as
I had it]), so I can supply the quotes I was thinking of.

They're in Chapter 5, "The Age of Robots", in the section
"The Long Run (2100 and Beyond)" beginning on p. 143:
"The garden of earthly delights will be reserved for the meek,
and those who would eat of the tree of knowledge must be banished."

p. 144: "Residents of the solar system's wild frontier will be shaped
by conditions very different from tame Earth's... Like wilderness
explorers of the past, far from civilization, they must rely on
their own resourcefulness... Ex-humans, from the start, will
be free of any mandatory laws."

p. 145: "An ecology will arise, as individual Exes specialize.
Some may choose to defend territory in the solar system... Others
may decide to push on to the nearby stars... There will be
conflicts of interest and occasional clashes that drive away or
destroy some of the participants. Superintelligent foresight
and flexibility should allow most conflicts to be settled by
mutually beneficial surrenders, compromises, joint ventures,
or mergers. Small entities may be absorbed by larger ones...
Parasites, in hardware and software, many starting out as
component parts of larger beings, will evolve to exploit the
rich ecology. The scene may resemble the free-for-all revealed
in microscopic peeks at pond water. Instead of bacteria
and rotifers, the players will be entities of potentially
planetary size... An entity that fails to keep up with its
neighbors is likely to be **eaten**, its space, materials,
energy, and useful thoughts reorganized to serve another's
goals. Such a fate may be routine for humans who dally too
long on slow Earth before going Ex."

p. 146: "Some ex-humans may invest their severance pay in fast
starships, to dash off in an unexpected direction into the
vastness beyond the solar system's dangers, morsels too tiny
to be worth pursuit. They will be like newly hatched marine
turtles scrambling across a beach to the sea, under greedy
swooping birds [Hah! When I alluded earlier to Tennessee
Williams' _Suddenly Last Summer_, I had no conscious
recollection of this line in Moravec! :->]. Others may
prenegotiate favorable absorption terms with established Exes,
like graduating seniors meeting company recruiters, or Faust
soliciting bids for his soul from competing devils."

In a sense, I suppose, this is just business as usual for
anyone deeply acculturated to the Darwinian view of life. I guess
that most serious Darwinians are professional biologists; the rest
of us mostly take pains to **avoid** having to think about these
unpleasant realities. Also, I suppose that if your self-confidence
is such that you think of yourself as Atlas who shrugged
for Ayn Rand, then of course you expect to be among the survivors of
the earliest transcendents, running the show. However, for
those whose serotonin levels are pitched to a lower key, the
thought of being "absorbed" must be at least a disquieting as
the prospect of taking a new job with a really nasty
consulting company :->

Oh yes, and Moravec also adds (in the section "Coddling Earth"
on p. 154): "The genteel earthling lifestyle cannot last
forever. Sooner or later something in the exponentially
developing Ex ecology will come back to bite."


Jim F.

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