Re: Socialism, Intelligence, and Posthumanity

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Sat, 09 Jan 1999 22:44:09 -0600

Welcome, Keith M. Elis to the very small group of people whom I guess, from personal observation, to be relatively sane.

"Keith M. Elis" wrote:
> The most intelligent reality occurs where everyone can ignore their
> genetic or memetic script as necessary or desired. In this case we would
> expect a convergence over time toward agreement on what is the case,
> maybe even quickly. The advent of AI/neurohacks will surely speed this
> up as the ratio of augments to gaussians increases. But today, this may
> or may not be happening, so unlike Liebniz I will not suggest this is
> the best of all possible worlds.

Thanks for using the terminology!

> One nice thing about transhumanists is that we (I?) understand
> transhumanism as an evolving world-view, ready to be modified or changed
> as the facts roll in. There is a memetic flexibility to varying degrees
> among transhumanists that I see missing in many of the people around me
> who purport to be intelligent. However, what about (for the sake of
> symmetry) 'genetic flexibility'? I don't mean changing our genes just
> yet, I mean letting memes rule genes as much as possible. Memes are
> arguably much easier to acquire and get rid of than are genes. We have
> these genes that tell us to want happiness and pleasure, to avoid
> sadness and frustration, and to compete with each other. We don't have
> to use these genetic imperatives as the starting point for our
> philosophies. In fact, I would argue, if we do it without thought, we
> are just being unintelligent. We are hindering our actual or potential
> ability to know what is the case.

A point that far too few appreciate. Happiness is a state that theoretically occurs when all problems are solved; happiness is not necessarily the best way to solve problems. From my personal experience I can only say that there is intelligence in sorrow, frustration, and despair; but presumably other "negative" emotions have their uses as well.

I have a story on the boiler where a bunch of immortal uploaded (but not mentally upgraded) humans burn out their minds like twigs in a flame over the course of a mere thousand years of happiness, for the very simple reason that human minds are no more designed to be immortal and happy than human bodies are designed to live to age three hundred and withstand nuclear weapons.

> One thing that does seem apparent to me is that a lot of people do use
> genetic imperatives as the starting point for philosophies, and I'm only
> speaking of people who have something that can be called a 'philosophy.'
> The rest just live. A good-sized chunk of Western philosophy, from
> Epicurus and Lucretius, to Hutcheson, Bentham and Mill, assumes
> happiness as part or parcel of the 'good.' I see this need for happiness
> as a biological limit that needs to be overcome in order to know what is
> the case. Of course, it may be that happiness is indeed the good, but it
> must be rational to think so. If it is rational then it can be
> demonstrated logically. Otherwise, one is merely thinking what cannot be
> otherwise thought.

Another point, grasped so easily by this one, impossibly elusive to almost everyone else. Yes, the qualia of pleasure are the most plausible candidate for the ultimate good that I know of - but you have to assign a rational probability to that, not assume it because it feels good. Happiness may be good, or it may be irrelevant; and the possibility that it is good does not mean it is the only possible good.

> And this has at least one implication for views of posthumanity. Given
> no genetic pressures, and near-perfect memes, what will a posthuman do?
> We have no idea what it is like to exist without genetic pressures, and
> we have no idea what perfect memes are. In fact, logic itself may not be
> sufficient to know what is the case. Anything not logical is illogical
> so would the posthumans, in order to know what is the case, think
> illogically?
> It makes my head spin.

Cease thy disorientation and consider this: That the logic we know is only an approximation to the truth, as the hard rationality of Euclidean space was only a superb but untrue physical theory. I think that our evolved logic holds only as a high-level description of most of our own space, but not for anything deeper, such as the laws of physics or consciousness or the meaning of life. That's what I mean when I talk about non-Turing-computability, and I believe it because logic disintegrates into self-referential observer-dependent definitions when you try to reduce it to basic units. In other words, I wound up with basic elements of cognition rather than mathematics.

There are certain circumstances under which SIs might be illogical, and it is enough to make my head spin, and these are they: If the logical thing for SIs to do is wipe out the mortal race that gave them birth, and the mortals can perceive that logic, they will not give birth to the SI. It would therefore be to the SI's advantage not to be visibly bound by that logic, to be illogical. However, once the SI is created, it can do whatever it wants; it cannot influence the mortal reasoning used, so how can it be bound by it? However, the mortals know that, so whatever illogic the mortals think the SI can use would have to transcend it.

Ah, Singularity analysis, where Occam's Razor doesn't work, logic is mutable, and bargains run backwards in time.

--         Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.