James Hughes on Singularity 1 on 1: Interrogate and Engage the World

Dr. James Hughes is not only the executive director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) but also a well known book author and transhumanist. I enjoyed having him on the show and will probably ask him to come back.

During our conversation with Dr. Hughes we cover a wide variety of topics such as: what is the IEET and what does it do; the story behind James’ interest in technology, policy, philosophy and bio/ethics; why transhumanist atheists are often drawn to Buddhism; his first book Citizen Cyborg and his upcoming Cyborg Buddha; transhumanism and his definition thereof; whether optimism is rational; the impact of artificial intelligence on transhumanism; James’ take on the technological singularity and our chances of surviving it; the benefits of biology; moral enhancement and animal uplift.

As always you can listen to or download the audio file above, or scroll down and watch the video interview in full.

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Who is James Hughes?

James Hughes Ph.D. serves as the Executive Director of the technoprogressive thinktank Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. He is a bioethicist and sociologist at Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut where he teaches health policy and serves as Director of Institutional Research and Planning. He holds a doctorate in sociology from the University of Chicago. Dr. Hughes is author of Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond To The Redesigned Human Of The Future, and is working on a second book tentatively titled Cyborg Buddha.

  • CM Stewart

    Excellent interview, with a wealth of transhumanistic considerations of suggested scenarios! Thank you for this, Dr. Hughes and Nikola.

    So glad to hear Hughes support personhood for (select) non-human animals! The ethical consideration of nonhuman animals is crucial for a well-guided transhumanism movement, and also crucial for a cohesive strong AI movement, in my opinion. Hughes’ non-human animal rights ideas are considered radical today, but will become mainstream in several decades. (Yes, Nikola, you are a speciesist. ;) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speciesism )

    “I think there’s a lot of biases – cultural, political, mythological – biases that get in the way of Singularitarians’ thinking rationally about the challenges and benefits of artificial intelligence.” -Hughes

    I would like to hear Hughes’ suggestion for teaching the USA Republican party that they are indeed not a fact-based party. My right wing Republican in-laws insist they are basing their Republican policies on facts, and outright reject any challenges to this thinking as Democratic / liberal lies. The disconnection from critical thinking is flabbergasting.

    “One of the lost strands of the enlightenment.” -Hughes
    I think I’ll borrow this. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/mnuschke Michael Nuschke

    Great interview! Thanks for very stimulating discussion.
    A few thoughts;
    - enjoyed the parts about ‘enlightened values’ and virtues – crucial to become clearn on IMO re how we want to shape the AI enhanced future
    - Agree that there needs to be much more discussion of these transition years of slow takeoff (15+ years?) re issues like unemployment/guaranteed income, how “abundance” might phase in, etc.
    - as a buddhist, am looking forward to James’ “Cyborg Buddha” book. For a rich body of discussions on buddhism, physics, neurobiology, see Mind & Life Institute past conference videos and website http://www.mindandlife.org/dialogues/past-conferences/

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marco-Santini/100000031689826 Marco Santini

    Plenty of interesting, fascinating topics: human transcendence and happiness, rational
    optimism and Buddhism, rational capitalism, revolutionary reforms and social
    welfare, slow takeoff vs. hard takeoff, existential risk, the unknown power of hybrid
    of biology and nanotechnology, the moral obligation to animal uplift, towards a
    transhuman civilization with updated animals and machine minds. And finally: de-structure the
    notion of human and join a radically not anthropocentric vision, to engage the
    world.

  • Lu Lu

    Giving rights to non-human sentiences (not just animals, but also every
    beings that can be “uplifted” and as well all possible sentiences) is a
    great idea (to me), but a question that should be addressed is that “what
    should we do with those beings that are already killed in the unperfect
    pre-Singularity world?”

    Universal resurrection, as envisoned by Frank J Tipler in his book
    “Physics of Immortality”, comes to mind. I know that it is immature to
    assume a superintelligence will fulfill all your wishes, be like the
    caring, persnal god of the theistic religions, but, if that is possible,
    I believe creating such godlike intelligences is a moral imperative.

    Imagine a superintelligence create simulation of all possible lifeforms
    and life-stories, which would require infinite computing power (see
    Aleph-state computing) and will re-create all beings that had once lived,
    also different (actually all possible) life-stories for all beings (in
    case they had made regrettable mistakes that led to unfavored life-
    stories).

    Somehow like how Deep Blue simulates all possible chess moves, the
    superintelligence (that I imagine) will simulate all possible lives,
    which essentially means giving every sentient being a “second chance” to
    live.