Re: Hawking misquoted on computers taking over

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Fri Sep 14 2001 - 14:27:14 MDT

J.R. Molloy wrote:

> Adding to "human" intelligence will further enable the kind of
> intelligence which resulted in the religious fanatic attack on the WTC
> and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Extropy needs a new kind of
> intelligence, a pure intelligence with transhuman rather than human values.
> The intelligence that computers develop opposes human intelligence for
> good reason, viz., human intelligence is infected with memes of religiosity.
> Intelligent life will either take the quantum leap to a higher form of
> intelligence, moving from biology to vitology, or intelligent life
> (on this planet) will end.

Lets try to stop the handwaving here. I tried to do this to some
extent with my "EXTROPIAN MORALITY" thread but am not sure that it
went anywhere (perhaps in part because we are dealing with very
complex issues).

I pointed out to Helen in the paper that she sent me asking for
a review of my comments, that there are problems with suggesting
"relgion" as something that extropians are in some way against.
Extropians are not against religions. Extropians are against
irrationality that results in a loss of information. Extropians
are against blind beliefs that are unwilling to subject themselves
to rational examination and analysis. Though those perspectives
may correlate with religions they should not be confused with them.
There may be religions that provide very useful (extropic) moral
frameworks that do not resort to hand waving and mumbo jumbo
(it would be useful for list members to research this I think).

I view "intelligence" (in terms of ability to hold, manipulate
and make creative discoveries with large quantities of information)
as something in a distinct realm separate from religions or moral
prioritization systems. I know of an individual who went through
MIT as a physics major with a 4.0 GPA -- a person much smarter
than myself -- who maintained a very deep Christian perspective
of life. Intelligence and religion are two very very different realms.
Intelligence is about how much information one can manipulate.
Religion is, to some extent, about the value you place on the
information being manipulated.

The perspective that we need to develop, that I think may be lacking,
is "What is *really* valuable?". Increasing the number of raw
bits is of course wonderful -- but how do we evaluatate the value
of those bits? Sooner or later we are going to hit the limits of
computational and data storage resources. When that happens what
do you save and what do you erase?

What we are observing with the Moslem Jihads is a perspective that
"your bits are worthless". And from within the perspective of that
system, that may be an entirely valid belief. However it is not
clear to me that the Western perspective of democracies or societies
"free to believe in a variety of moral systems" can claim the high
ground. In watching the ceremonies at Washington National Cathedral
today, I was struck by the fact that all of the speakers were
calling on God in one way or another. While I had tears in my eyes
with regard to the losses being discussed, I could not help but observe
the degree to which even a free, rational society is invoking icons
and histories which are as dubious as those on which Moslem perspectives
are based.

My perspective is this -- Can we construct a society and moral
value system based on "reality"? I think it is essential that
we really, seriously begin to ask ourselves *and others* the question:
  "How do you *know* what you know?"
Every morning when I get out of bed I extend my feet over the
edge and I observe whether or not they are accelerated towards the
floor of my bedroom. So far, they always have been and thus I am
confident that the physical law of gravity is still working. However
I am keenly aware that many of the things that I believe depend on
the trust relationships that I have with researchers and scientists
that I may only know on the basis of reputation. In reality, I must
admit only a "hope" that the supersymmetry theory of physical particles is
valid. This is not so much different from the faith that the terrorists
who got on the planes Tuesday have in their perspectives.

How do we know what we know?
How do we value one collection of bits above another?

Those are questions that Extropians must engage and wrestle with.


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