Re: origin of ideas, civilization, reading list

Date: Mon Aug 06 2001 - 11:02:06 MDT

In a message dated 8/5/01 3:56:32 PM Pacific Daylight Time,

I wrote:
> > Just out of curiosity, I'm wondering how many on this list feel they came
> up
> > with the idea of the singularity on their own. I feel like I did, and was
> > surprised to find an organization based, in large part, on the concept.

Mark wrote:
> There is nothing new under the sun (I may not have been the first to say
> this). Transhumanism is a minor variant on an ancient theme. Plato and
> Aristotle said the (1) telos of humanity's best (i.e., philosophers) is to
> become godlike, (2) that we ought to become godlike, and (3) that
> dialectical reasoning is the means for philosophers to realize their telos.
> Unlike Plato and Aristotle (Hegel, etc.) we do not believe that there is a
> little divine element in us that needs to be nurtured. Darwin killed that
> idea forever. So, transhumanists substitute technology (most notably
> engineering and AI) for (3). What separates us from Plato et al is a minor
> quibble about the means to become what we ought to be.
> >

I wrote:
> > That brings me to a broader issue: I wonder to what extent important
> in
> > humanity's development owe their geneses to individuals versus the
> zeitgeist
> > of the times. Evolution by natural selection would almost surely have
> > discovered without Darwin and Wallace. Discovery of the structure of DNA
> > really didn't need Francis and Crick. General relativity? I dunno.
> >
> > And if we could settle this question, would that have any important
> > consequences for how we should try to acheive an extropian future? For
> > example, if we could convince ourselves that the ideas and technologies
> that
> > will foster the kind of future we want will owe their origins, in large
> part,
> > to the general intellectual climate of the times, then we might see
> > augmenting intelligence as a less important means than influencing
> societal
> > views.
> >

Mark wrote:

> Why? Suppose we find that Chimp views are shaped more by chimp zeitgeist
> than chimp geniuses like Kanzi. If their goal was to improve their wisdom
> wouldn't they still be better off to adopt technology that would allow them
> to augment their intelligence to become human, or more? Perhaps I am
> your point. Mark.

Well, my point isn't particularly important. I was more interested in
people's ideas on the origin of ideas, rather than any practical consequences
of a resolution to that issue. I just felt like I ought to try to make some
connection to the purpose of this list. Anyway, I didn't mean to imply that
augmenting intelligence and changing the cultural climate are mutually
exclusive means. In your example, if a group of chimps wanted to have
human-level intelligence, and realized that many technological breakthroughs
would be required to acheive this, they could either try to spread their
ideas throughout chimp society, or they could seek out whatever minor
intelligence improvements they could in order to be able to themselves come
up with these breakthroughs. More likely, they'd do both. The question is how
much of each energy to devote to each strategy (at the expense of the other).
This is all rather impractical anyway. We won't be able to resolve with any
certainty the "etiology" of innovation.


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