Re: Paths to Uploading

Bryan Moss (
Thu, 7 Jan 1999 18:18:57 -0000

Anders Sandberg wrote:

> Note that your complexity parameter is system dependent: some systems
> (like gases) have low complexity, you can't build anything interesting
> from them, others are too complex (turbulent plasmas?). And
> metasystems formed from other systems (like molecules of atoms or
> clumps of matter from molecules) can have quite different
> complexity. The *BIG* questions are if there is some kind of "master
> complexity parameter" that affects all or most levels of the universe,
> or if it is just physics that allows different systems and their
> complexity parameters could be calculated (somehow) from the
> interactions.

Well, for now it's just a hack so I don't get overwhelmed by the complexity of complexity.

> > Now - and this is where it gets really sketchy - I'm imagine something
> > similar for 'intelligence' but I have absolutely no idea how to explain
> > it at the moment. Fundamentally I don't think it's wrong to suggest that
> > there might be an upper limit to intelligence, the way I imagine it is a
> > graph with 'generalisation' and 'specialisation' plotted against each
> > other and diagonal line travelling between them.
> >
> >
> > Generalisation
> > |\
> > | \
> > | o We are close to here
> > | \
> > | \
> > ------------ Specialisation
> >
> >
> > And this all corresponds to the limited complexity of the system.


> Suppose you have a limited amount of mental resources to put into
> learning and applying your knowledge. Should you specialize or
> generalize? The answer depends on your environment and goals - on a
> primordial African savannah being a generalist when it comes to
> survival is essential, in a pampered western world you get richly
> rewarded for specializing narrowly (at least I, as a graduate student,
> gets rewarded for it). We might have biases left by evolution, which
> has of course set some basic level of ability and interest suitable
> for our evolutionary past.

Of course, our ability to choose whether to specialise or generalise comes from the fact that nature came up with an excellent general solution to the problems of the savannah. Looking at my graph again I think it's important to say that peak generalisation would correspond to low complexity and peak specialisation would correspond to high complexity. This I think seems a little counterintuitive due to the ambiguity of terms. The idea that complex meta-systems can't form in high 'generality' or high 'speciality' is the key. (I'm not sure if it was obvious that we couldn't be intelligent while way up there on the 'generalisation' scale - the most general solution is no solution at all.)

> > I'd be interested to hear what you thought of Dyson's 'radiotelepathy'
> > in _Imagined Worlds_.


> Yes, he has an interesting point and I think something like that may
> become very useful if it can be built. We are already getting there
> with mobile phones. At the same time, when I read it I felt that good old
> Dyson is getting old - he never even mentioned nanotechnology, and seemed
> somehow stuck in a Stapledon world. Very odd.

Quote from "Freeman Dyson's Brain", Wired 6.02:

"Biotechnology has moved ahead so fast that it makes nanotechnology old hat. If we get to the point of building micromachines, it will probably be done by biotech."

The full interview can be found at: