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Open Thread, November 16–30, 2012

I think what Viliam_Bur is trying to say in a rather complicated fashion is simply this: humans are tribal animals. Tribalism is perhaps the single biggest mind-killer, as you have just illustrated.

Am I correct in assuming that you identify yourself with the tribe called "Jews"? For me, who has no tribal dog in this particular fight, I can't get too worked up about it, though if the conflict involved, say, Irish people, I'm sure I would feel rather differently. This is just a reality that we should all acknowledge: Our attempts to "overcome bias" with respect to tribalism are largely self-delusion, and perhaps even irrational.

What does the world look like, the day before FAI efforts succeed?

Just a gut reaction, but this whole scenario sounds preposterous. Do you guys seriously believe that you can create something as complex as a superhuman AI, and prove that it is completely safe before turning it on? Isn't that as unbelievable as the idea that you can prove that a particular zygote will never grow up to be an evil dictator? Surely this violates some principles of complexity, chaos, quantum mechanics, etc.? And I would also like to know who these "good guys" are, and what will prevent them from becoming "bad guys" when they wield this much power. This all sounds incredibly naive and lacking in common sense!

FAI, FIA, and singularity politics

I can conceive of a social and technological order where transhuman power exists, but you may or may not want to live in it. This is a world where there are god-like entities doing wondrous things, and humanity lives in a state of awe and worship at what they have created. To like living in this world would require that you adopt a spirit of religious submission, perhaps not so different from modern-day monotheists who bow five times a day to their god. This may be the best post-Singularity order we can hope for.

against "AI risk"

I am going to assert that the fear of unfriendly AI over the threats you mention is a product of the same cognitive bias which makes us more fascinated by evil dictators and fictional dark lords than more mundane villains. The quality of "evil mind" is what really frightens us, not the impersonal swarm of "mindless" nanobots, viruses or locusts. However, since this quality of "mind," which encapsulates such qualities as "consciousness" and "volition," is so poorly understood by science and so totally undemonstrated by our technology, I would further assert that unfriendly AI is pure science fiction which should be far down the list of our concerns compared to more clear and present dangers.

Robots ate my job [links]

OK, but if we are positing the creation of artificial superintelligences, why wouldn't they also be morally superior to us? I find this fear of a superintelligence wanting to tile the universe with paperclips absurd; why is that likely to be the summum bonum to a being vastly smarter than us? Aren't smarter humans generally more benevolent toward animals than stupider humans and animals? Why shouldn't this hold for AI's? And if you say that the AI might be so much smarter than us that we will be like ants to it, then why would you care if such a species decides that the world would be better off without us? From a larger cosmic perspective, at that point we will have given birth to gods, and can happily meet our evolutionary fate knowing that our mind children will have vastly more interesting lives than we ever could have. So I don't really understand the problem here. I guess you could say that I have faith in the universe's capacity to evolve life toward more intelligent and interesting configurations, because for the last several billion years this has been the case, and I don't see any reason to think that this process will suddenly reverse itself.

Robots ate my job [links]

It seems to me that humanity is faced with an epochal choice in this century, whether to:

a) Obsolete ourselves by submitting fully to the machine superorganism/superintelligence and embracing our posthuman destiny, or

b) Reject the radical implications of technological progress and return to various theocratic and traditionalist forms of civilization which place strict limits on technology and consider all forms of change undesirable (see the 3000-year reign of the Pharaohs, or the million-year reign of the hunter-gatherers)

Is there a plausible third option? Can we really muddle along for much longer with this strange mix of religious “man is created in the image of God”, secular humanist “man is the measure of all things” and transhumanist “man is a bridge between animal and Superman” ideologies? And why do even Singularitarians insist that there must be a happy ending for homo sapiens, when all the scientific evidence suggests otherwise? I see nothing wrong with obsoleting humanity and replacing them with vastly superior “mind children.” As far as I’m concerned this should be our civilization’s summum bonum, a rational and worthy replacement for bankrupt religious and secular humanist ideals. Robots taking human jobs is another step toward bringing the curtain down permanently on the dead-end primate dramas, so it’s good news that should be celebrated!

Q&A with Jürgen Schmidhuber on risks from AI

How useful are these surveys of "experts", given how wrong they've been over the years? If you conducted a survey of experts in 1960 asking questions like this, you probably would've gotten a peak probability for human level AI around 1980 and all kinds of scary scenarios happening long before now. Experts seem to be some of the most biased and overly optimistic people around with respect to AI (and many other technologies). You'd probably get more accurate predictions by taking a survey of taxi drivers!

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