Re: Failure of AI a prediction of Neal Stephenson's "The Diamond Age"

Anders Sandberg (
22 Dec 1998 11:43:40 +0100

"Christophe Delriviere" <> writes:

> What i was saying is just that i'm not open minded at all in loosing the
> possibility to build an intelligence. (artificial or natural are just the
> same for me, there is no difference, human beings are parts of the nature
> processes). It's like 2+2=4, I'm not open minded in loosing that too.

The possibility of making an AI is not on the same level as 2+2=4; if we all lived on a desert island with only sticks and stones for technology AI would be impossible to build too, it is not a matter of physical law that might hinder us. From an engineering standpoint space colonization is possible right now, but despite being fervently pro-space myself the O'Neill colonies are not up there - politics, economics and other things make it impossible *right now*. That may change of course, or it might turn out to be permanent.

> This is important to remember for us transhumanists, since we put so
> much faith in some technologies that might actually never be done. If
> we stop being openminded about being wrong, even about our most
> cherished beliefs,
> Since we put so much faith and cherish beliefs we can't be really open
> minded. We are not babies naked to the world.

We might not be perfectly openminded, but we should strive to be it (were rational transhumanists after all). If we start to close our minds just because we like certain ideas, we will likely *fail* in our transhuman project.

> There is a difference in the global philosophy and the people following it.
> Of course it is important that our views as emergent properties of our
> interactions are strongly open minded. But look at the science methodology,
> the global process seems to tend to some local optimum in the description
> and understanding of reality and thus to be open minded. But I think a large
> number of people doing sciences are acting also like obsessive compulsive
> fundamentalists in their areas of expertise.

Sure, there are and will be closedminded transhumanists just as there are closedminded scientists. But how many are they? If you really start to look among scientists you will notice that the meme that there are plenty of fundamentalist scientists is wrong, it is another "Hollywood meme" (spread and beloved by everybody who dislikes that science doesn't support their pet theory). In my experience scientists tend to be more openminded than ordinary people (with some exceptions, of course). To get back to transhumanism, our goal should be to create a culture of openminded thinking, and the ability to question our basic belifs and assumptions is essential to avoid getting trapped.

> What is important for transhumanism is that his global belief-system seems
> to be far more scientific, open minded, rational, self critical that the
> others currently available. So what is the most important is that
> publications about transhumanism appears to have such properties.

Yes. We're on the same wavelength here.

> we will become just like any other religion, cult or ideology.
> "
> It's, to some extent, the destiny of all belief-systems... I think.
> Humans are beliefmachines... they tend to think that their arbitrary models
> of reality are true.

Right now at least. Maybe we should change it.

> What is irational is to believe that it is possible fo a human being alone
> to be *strongly* openminded ;)... to be "too much" open minded is also to
> loose time and energy that could probably be better used.

You mean "Be openminded, but not so openminded your brains fall out"?

> I'm not sure, but i think there is a majority of atheists in this list...
> could you call it be open minded?
> What if somebody bring you a good scientific paper wich is a proof of the
> existence of god ? What will you do ? personnally, I will ask for a lot of
> other papers and experiments, and if they are working too, well I will ask
> to do the experiments by myself ;)... quite not open minded isn't?

Actually, that is openminded. Just because you accept the possibility of being wrong doesn't mean you immediately change your mind when somebody presents you with some evidence of another position. There are plenty of creationists books around with evidence for a biblical creation. But openmindedness must be combined with rationality, you must critically examine the evidence to see if it is good enough. Just jumping between beliefs due to the latest piece of "evidence" is inefficient. Most likely it is healthy to have a distribution of "flightiness" in society.

Scientifically speaking there are just preliminary truths, new evidence may foirce a re-evaluation. But don't expect many scientists to seriously abandon the heliocentric theory without some *extremely* good evidence - you have to show your alternative theory to be better at explaining 400 years of data than the current.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y