Re: Extropian Form Letter (was: an exhortation to action)

Kennita Watson (
Sun, 1 Dec 1996 09:51:46 -0800

>> >> 2. Recursive intelligence amplification.
>> How can this be easy when
>> >> 11. Intelligence amplification.
>> these are hard? I find 11 pretty easy -- starting with chips that
>> connect to your brain and help you calculate or just give you more
>> memory, etc.
>To explain IA you need to dip into cognitive science. To convey IA you
>need more text and attention than we're likely to have plus it's
>impossible anyway.

Insulting the intelligence of your audience is not the way to put them
in a receptive state. And I think you're trying to explain driving by
starting with internal combustion. KISS! "In the future, humans will
use computers to make themselves smarter." should do fine. Leave
scientific rigor for the people who want to bother. Damned if I'm going
to study the schematics for the next airplane I fly in. This is an
_introductory_ letter!

>To explain that IA is recursive, you just need to point out that IAs are
>better at coming up with new IAs. This only takes a paragraph.

But save it for after the first one. Induction needs a base case!

>> Nope, sorry. I'm an extropian and immortalist already, and _I'm_ not
>> convinced that uploading is all that attractive -- I _like_ having
>> a body. Nanotech on the other hand I like.
> You'll know better as a Power, so I won't bother persuading you.

So don't bother persuading them, either! At most, present uploading as
something that people who want to can do; if you know people will want
to, keep it to yourself -- don't try to force them to change their
self-conceptions to that extent. But, it's your foot to shoot off...

>> The people you're talking to are humans. Most of them won't like the sound
>> of that one bit, not to mention that it will sound millenial/apocalylptic,
>> or like just another woo-woo "Strange Universe" segment.
>Yes, we need to avoid this as much as possible. But the truth is that
>the Universe is strange, and the materialistic Utopias of nanotech
>invoke childish fantasies of omnipotence. Do you have a practical
>suggestion for conveying the flavor of Beyond without running into those

No, so leave the Beyond out of it, except perhaps for a vague reference
to being "smarter and more powerful than we can imagine with the brain
power we have now".
>> >> 10. Gray goo problem.
>> ...
>> I'd leave this out of an introductory letter. Alarmism is for missionaries.
>Amplify, please. I'm not challenging you - I just don't understand.
>How does alarmism reduce the survival potential of a meme?

Maybe it doesn't per se, but you want people to be alarmed about the
results of _not_ embracing your meme, not of embracing it! "Here's a
great new car, for a great price, but it has a bomb under the hood
that could go off anytime -- want one?"
>> >> 13. Replacement of human society: End of History.
>> > The Singularity is not one of your petty memes.
>> Thrillsville. The end of history; just what I wanted. Foo. Show me
>> how it will be the beginning of a new, better history, and I might
>> want some.
>Translating to memetic terms, I think you're saying that this isn't as
>gripping as a bright new future that they can comprehend.

Eliezer, wake up! I'm not saying it's not gripping -- I'm saying it's
repulsive! If you take no other piece of advice I offer, take this one:
toss the "end" idea altogether, and replace it completely with the idea
of "new beginnings". To most people, endings mean grief (basic psychology)
-- you don't want people associating Singularity with loss, but with gain.

>Good point. Add this to subject matter:
>"13.5: Singularity is a good thing."
>I tried to convey this with nanotech etc., but it may deserve its own
>paragraph before 14-Interim.

"Singularity is a good thing" won't cut it as an explanation for why
it should be the Interim Meaning of Life. There are lots of Good
Things. Anyhow, why are you concerned? It seems to me that the
Singularity will happen at about the same time whether the masses
are trying to rush it or not.

> So what's with all the constructive criticism? Seriously, this is
>getting into a debate, but since you've challenged the project rather
>than the content, that's okay. It's more a "technological progress is
>about to go over the deep end" thing. Although the outline may read as
>apocalyptic, what we are attempting to convey is the "WHAM WHAM WHAM
>WHAM" flavor of the Singularity, in association with nanotech.

People want to be at the helm, not overrun by a juggernaut.

> Bear in mind that memes have to spread. The "End of History" meme has
>been around for awhile.

And people have been afraid of it, or expecting the reign of <choose a
deity> to come after it, for all that time. Stay _far_ _away_ from that
idea (see above).

>> Incidentally, the Singularity page reads like a religious tract and a
>> math thesis mixed freely. If that's what you want, great, but realize
>> that most people won't have the capacity, much less the attention span,
>> to read and understand it.
>All my favorite works read like that. "Shadows of the Mind" and "Godel,
>Escher, Bach" come to mind. Win or lose, you've still learned the math,

Most people will not bother trying to read any math more complicated than
percents. If you want to have a hope in hell of being a successful
memetic engineer, come off your intellectual high horse and watch some
TV commercials -- take your anti-credulity shots, stop fast-forwarding
for a while, and see what memes people are being infected with today.
Pay attention to the ad campaigns that stay around for a month or more
-- Coca-Cola has lots of money, but not to waste.

I, for one, hope that whoever came up with the Energizer Bunny is rich
today -- "It keeps going and going..." is a masterpiece.

>And I appreciate that. But I do wish you would be a bit more specific.

Sorry. You get what I've got. Maybe I'm a memetic artist as opposed to
a memetic engineer. Do what you can with it.


Kennita Watson | The bond that links your true family is not one of blood,| but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do
| members of the same family grow up under the same roof.
| -- Richard Bach, _Illusions_