EXTRO-3: more from a former layabout

Darren Reynolds (extro@blue.demon.co.uk)
Mon, 11 Aug 1997 05:08:18 +0100

"Remote Licking Fyborgs"
- Today, we heard Sasha Chislenko elegantly abstract the functional
system from its physical substrate. True freedom requires a life without
boundaries, and Sasha played dextrously with those boundaries as freely as
his charming 20Hz voice drifted through one's ears. If you haven't already
read his masterly publications, read them now. Sasha went on to discuss the
concept of remote licking, an extension of the virtual reality theme, to
roars of enthusiasm, which mostly, I noted, came from females. He further
demonstrated how we ourselves have become "fyborgs", most of our function
residing outside our biological bodies.

Sasha warned the wary to be on the look-out for flying assassin
automatons. The encryption of cellular telephone calls in the US was
delayed by the legal system's attempt to prevent snooping. As Mark Miller
reminded us, technology is so often superior to the law. Then Sasha
announced that flying, navigating robots are easier to build than mobile
ground-based ones. With the anonymity and strong security promised by Mark
Miller, malicious agents might release automatons in the near future which
could whizz around and shoot anyone they don't like. I always wanted to
build a model aircraft, and now I have an incentive.

"Anders' Mind Gets Bigger"
- Yesterday, we had seen evidence that Anders Sandberg uses his computer
to help him think. He showed us that, whilst he was writing his notes for
his presentation, his word processor was delivering up suggestions on what
to write based upon a database of previous correspondence both to and from
others. He feels that his material is improved by this process, and
suddenly I wonder how I can ever compete with such a powerful recall system.

If Sasha can abstract the human thinking system from its physical
substrate (and we hope that he can, for that is what mind uploading is all
about), and if Anders uses his computer to help him think, does that not
mean that Anders' thinking system extends beyond his physical being? Sasha
might draw the boundary around Anders' thinking system to include his head,
arms and computer. Has Anders' artificial computer contributed to his
apparent intelligence, and thus become in a way, a part of that
intelligence? And would Anders pass the Turing test? (Perhaps we should
make him take it?)

"AI Researchers Make No Progress (again)"
- The AI Panel was chaired by (we're not worthy) Prof. Marvin Minsky. I
felt a sharp contrast between his vast experience on the one hand and the
quick wits of Anders and Sasha on the other. The main thrust of the panel
seemed to be: "We're not getting anywhere", so that contrast is perhaps
encouraging. Prof. Minsky argued that the technological singularity will
happen once a machine can design (and presumably build) a better machine
with similar properties to itself faster than humans could do it, and
although Dr. Robin Hanson disagreed, such a time can hardly be far off
considering the power of modern CAE tools. Computers are already designed
and built largely by computers faster than humans could do it on their own.
Dr. Ralph Merkle proposed that we solve the problem with ...
nanotechnology. I wasn't sure if it was serious or a joke, but Robert
Bradbury informed us later that work was in progress to deliver a newspaper
headline-class supercomputer around 2007 designed specifically to help
Drexler and Merkle with their research.

"On Your Bike"
- The "Investing in the Future" planel was, er, varied. I felt that
Peter Voss had the best angle on it. If you're going to invest in the
future, it might as well be your own, so start your own company. This suits
me, more the entrepreneur than team player, but other more co-operatist
Extropians might disagree.

Chris Peterson and her forsighted colleagues made an entertaining and
lively presentation, widely enjoyed, covering environmental issues.

It was good that Robert Bradbury named names on who is actually doing
the medical research now, and he made sure that we all know about life
extension, the limits imposed by accidents, Jupiter Brains and the Fermi
Paradox. His delivery was fast and effective.

"Cryopreservation in 20 Years"
- The Prometheus Project is attempting to raise the necessary funds to
conduct the proper research to perfect the techniques for placing a human
in suspended animation AND bringing them out again. Once the project kicks
off, founders hope that after twenty years, suspension will be an option
available to all whose animation unexepectedly deserts them due to accident
or disease. Paramedics, doctors and hospitals around the globe will all
have the facility as standard. Somehow, I doubt that this can be achieved
in a 20-year timetable, but the goal is surely honourable, and deserves our
best wishes, not mention our money.

An entertaining weekend. But now I really must go back to sleep. Time
Zones. Who'd have them?