Re: [>Htech] The Age on Cyborgology

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Sun Nov 26 2000 - 12:49:08 MST

"Robert J. Bradbury" wrote:

>However as work by de Garis
> and Doug Lenat (@ Cyccorp) have shown, the problem is *not* hardware equivalence.
> Its figuring out good ways of programming the net. You have to bear in
> mind that it takes 2-6 *years* of full time learning for a human brain
> "net" to program itself so it is interesting to interact with. Even if you
> had lots of human equivalent desktop machines by 2010, it is a very open
> question at this point how long it would take them to "learn" enough to
> be considered "intelligent".

Yes. Finding and duplicating human learning programs, much less
radically improving on them for machine use, is likely to take far
longer than merely matching raw hardware. Arguably, AIs should not
think or learn quite like humans have evolved to. But that does not
make the problem more tractable.

> Now, the interesting thing about resident
> computer intelligence is that you can copy it from machine to machine
> much faster than you can propagate it among humans.

Maybe, maybe not. If the intelligence is actually learning in a similar
way as humans do then the very act of learning consists of integrating
the new information within the net of information already possessed and
binding it up with such already present information and mind-state. It
is quite possible that information so integrated is no more seperable
and easily transmitted to another machine than it is from human to
human. This would be ironic but not unexpected. Since the AI operates
at higher speed it might still learn and teach much faster than we do

> The second thing about quantum computing that people MUST remember is
> that I have seen nothing that says it can be used for "general purpose"
> computing. Charles H. Bennet from IBM Research who is one of the world's
> leading experts on the physics of computation, wrote a paper in 1994
> entitled "Strengths and Weaknesses of Quantum Computing". People should
> listen to the *experts* in a field such as leading physicists, not the
> popularizers such as Kurzweil (a programmer), or worse yet newspaper reporters.

I think it can be proved that a general purpose computer (a Turing
equivalent) can be constructed using quantum computing techniques. But I
don't have the time or expertise to work it out.

Don't put down non-experts. Too many advances have come from them
including deep theoretical advances.

> It requires discipline not to use buzz terms like "quantum computers"
> in an area where they may be inappropriate.

Sure. And it is certainly true that quantum computing is not required
to produce true AIs.
> Love, hate & compassion are hard-wired into humans at the genetic,
> neurological and biochemical levels. I believe the leading candidate
> for the "love" drug currently may be oxytocin but other factors are
> probably involved. If we "program in" or "select for" traits that
> create human or "mind" like characteristics in our computers, cyborgs
> or robots, the answer is *yes* they will have minds.

And that wiring is nothing much more than programs burned into these
levels. There is no reason I see that an Artificial Intelligence could
not run and even auto-generate similar programs. There are also quite
logical components to many of the named "human" qualities above that any
sufficiently intelligent consciousness interacting with others is likely
to come up with in some form or other.

> >Ray Kurzweil, another eminent American technologist, is more gloomy. He
> >predicts that human identity will be called into question by the massive
> >computers of the future.

Ray Kurzweil is not in the least gloomy. Closer to the opposite.

> Human "minds" can evolve and adapt. Human bodies will become irrelevant
> in the long term. Because human bodies cannot avoid local hazards
> (earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, etc.) bodies will eventually be
> irreparably damaged. The interim period, which could well last
> thousands of years depending on how "attached" we remain to our
> bodies, will be one of gradual uploading as human minds expand
> within computer hardware (perhaps not unlike how the developing
> brain of a fetus or young baby expands within its growing head).

Notions about the coming irrelevance of human minds are vastly
premature. What it is to be human will shift and evolve as the machines
shift and evolve.

> >About 2050 or so, says Mr Kurzweil, the computers, by then capable of
> >reasoning for themselves, could decide we humans are too slow, too
> >ignorant, too petty and too argumentative to be tolerated.
> Poppycock again. If you link the humans to the computers using the
> technologies discussed (neural implants and high bandwidth radio
> or fiber connections), then you can't create such a simple dividing
> line between artificial minds and human minds.

I could see that faster intelligences would at least regard unagumented
humans as too slow to be competitive or sufficiently capable in some
areas. It is already obvious to many of us that humans (as currently
existing) are quite inefficient and inadequate at some types of tasks
increasingly required by even current circumstances. I predict that
within 10 years no human not highly wired into the computer nets will be
able to compete in many white collar jobs.

I also predict that within 10 years of getting
human-equivalent-processing-power machines that many white collar jobs
will be off-loaded to specialized machine intelligences. The economic
incentives are high.

> >Why would a computer wish to associate with us?
> Why would a human want a frail human body if it could do away with it?

Because this squishy body also has its exceedingly pleasurable aspects
and because much of our intelligence, our mind-stuff seems strongly
rooted in this particularly type of physical embodiment.

> > Just as we have allowed the information age to create increasingly
> > divided societies of haves and have-nots, so will it be
> >we humans who will create a future of cyborgs and mega-computers.
> Self-replicating systems based on biotechnology will solve much of the
> "have-not" problem. Full blown molecular nanotechnology is not required.

Without a change in human consciousness from scarcity to abundance-based
thinking and acting, I don't beleieve that any amount of technology will
fundamentally change the have/have-not polarity. We do need full
nanotech to fully escape the "limits of the flesh".
> >Mr Kurzweil quotes Daniel Hillis, a noted computer engineer: "I'm as fond
> >of my body as anyone else, but if I can be 200 with a body of silicon, I'll
> >take it."
> If the problem of aging is resolved through the clever application
> of first biotechnology and then nanotechnology, then the average
> lifespan determined by the U.S. present day accident rate would
> be ~2000 years. Who would want to live 2000 years without being
> able to grow and evolve beyond the limitations of a standard-issue
> human brain?

This is a strawman. Let me live 2000 years with at least the mental
capacity I possess now and I will find more than enough to do and enjoy
and plentiful ways to effectively multiply that capacity. There is no
way you could stop me from growing and evolving.

> >Then, are you a human or a computer, and who's side are you on?
> Its always easy to cast as "us" vs. "them". Instead we merge as the
> humans who are not too afraid to evolve, do so, perhaps in the
> end choosing to leave the planet to those who choose not to do so.

Actually, I predict that the only way to eventually keep the peace and
allow everyone maximum freedom is to pop the more coercive (of others)
elements into a VR where they can live out whatever reality they choose
until such time as they choose differently. A sort of high-tech karma
system. Some days I am not convinced we aren't already in such a

- samantha

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