Re: Trans-Human Intelligence (was: Gender issues)

Omega (
Sat, 25 Jan 1997 14:51:12 -0800

Eugene Leitl wrote:

> On Fri, 24 Jan 1997, Omega wrote:
> > I agree only to the extent that the things you mention reduce to human
> > behavior, which is what I consider to be, by far, the biggest factor in
> > this whole process, but not with what you characterize as the hardware
> > requirements.
> Currently, only humans are doing research. Machines are but tools
> (growing smarter, granted). Cancel the humans from the equation now, and
> everything will come to a crashing halt. What we need is the
> sustainability of R & D progress (wonderful term, this) in the absence
> of of humans. In a pinch, a pretty smart von Neumann ecosystem should
> suffice, after we're gone.

Agreed. The day when humans are no longer necessary is the day we cross
the event-horizon of Vinge's "singularity"; an event which will give the
term "Brave New World" true meaning. Till that day, the obvious require-
ment for further advancement is work (albeit with preferably ever incre-
asing applied intelligence and efficiency) combined with a deeper under-
standing of human politics/behavior/motivation/emotion so that our
actions don't collide with our underlying nature.

> Hardware requirements for a human equivalence _are_ exorbitant. Do your
> back of the envelope, semiconductors won't do. Molecular circuitry is
> required, which is not easy to do at all.
> While wormholes is lunatic fringe technology, our current circuitry is
> already constrained by (relativistic) physics. Do your back of the envelope,
> it's really revealing.

I understand that electronic circuitry has these constraints, but I disagree
as to the relevance of these constraints in our lives. Human equivalent
intelligence is readily available in humans themselves. Babies may be
expensive, but for what you get, the prices are not in any way exorbitant.
I think we tend to forget that computers are the most extreme case of idiot
savants imaginable, and that by focusing entirely on invented things, we
forget that trans-human intelligence is at all times available to us through

At any moment in time, human intelligence can always be improved with:

1. Computers and communications technology.
2. Near future in vivo cybernetic supplementation.
3. Pharmaceutical supplementation.
4. Personal memetic reprogramming including:
a. Additional education.
b. Organizational improvement.
c. Any number of cognitive disciplines (how to think smarter).
5. Improved pedagogical/educational practices within society.
6. Near future application of non-nano in vivo biological modifaction.
7. All the myriad things I can't think of at the moment.

Yes, the brave new world of the created trans-human is a ways down the
road, but if we focus on the created hardware and ignore our own role
in the process, it's easy to get pessimistic. But I am strongly inclined
to believe the message your belly was telling you about how cold liquid
nitrogen is, is very closely related to the pessimism we feel. When we
focus entirely on the created hardware, we are hiding ourselves from the
fact that trans-humanism is going to be "in our faces" and very personal.
Your next quote demonstrates this nicely:

> I presume we are talking about uploads, which has excellent chances to be
> the only life in existance. Having physical bodies appears to me as an
> anachronism, a waste of resource. You are sure you are able to protect
> your physical system if the ground you tread on will be disassembled to
> become a part of the Dysonian orbiting computer cluster?

Really, how can we expect our bellies not to do flip flops when faced with
this. This is what turns off many people to extropian ideas, they're not
just deathists as many would make them out to be, they're scared to death
of both:

a. This technology coming home to roost in their bodies.
b. The human form becoming an evolutionary backwater.

BTW: Having physical bodies may no be so much of an anachronism after all
if the microtubules of our cells turn out to have signifificant computational
power. If this is the case not only may human intelligence just in the brain
be several orders of magnitude higher than what orthodox AI theory believes,
but so too would there be additional (albeit hidden) intelligence throughout
one's entire body.

I have no problem with your assessments of the relevant technology for
created trans-human intelligences, but in the end, it's not how many
tFlops we have in our computers, it's how many tFlops we have in bellies
as we ponder this stuff.

> > All in all, it seems like the greatest problems are not knowledge, but
> > those amorphous things we call politics, wisdom, morality, motivation,
> > and human behavior in general (not to mention trans-human behavior).
> Exactly. Labs, lots of bright researchers, cash, time. A coordinated
> world-wide programme to dwarf HUGO & Co. Do we have the resources? Do we
> have the motivation? Even more importantly, do we have the time? There
> are also a number of different, less pleasant developmental
> discontinuities predicted for 2030, or so. Considering, how monumentally
> stupid or species behaves on the large scale, I do not think them that
> unlikely. We only move our ass when we feel the heat. This time, we
> shouldn't make a mistake. We won't get a second chance.

Consider that if there really is a cellular level intelligence in the
cytoskeletons of our cells, then not only are we possibly faced with a
communication gap within ourselves beyond what we have yet imagined,
but also the possibility exists that the monumental stupidity of our
species that you talk about may well be addressable through new commun-
ication modalities.

I feel that your offhand comment the other day about what your belly is
telling you, is really just the tip of the iceberg, and in my mind what
I believe to be the most likely factor when considering if the Titanic
we call human civilization goes down or not.

In the Ecstatic Service of Life -- Omega