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Peering into Our Future’s Black Hole: AI, Transhumanism and the End of Humanity

These are the videos of my presentation at the 2014 Podcamp Toronto.

This year I decided that it is best not to speak about podcasting but rather focus on issues familiar to readers of Singularity Weblog – artificial intelligence, transhumanism and the technological singularity.

The session was intended to provide a brief introduction of the issues and to engage a broader audience of people who are generally not familiar with the topic.

Nikola Danaylov

You can listen to and/or download the complete audio file above, or see my 33 min presentation, followed by a 50min Question and Answer session. (If you want to help me produce more high-quality episodes like this one please make a donation!)

As always, feel free to provide your comments and constructive criticism.

Thanks again to everyone who used social media to vote for, support and spread the word for it!

 

Peering into Our Future’s Black Hole: AI, Transhumanism and the End of Humanity:

Q&A Session:

 

Peering into Our Future’s Black Hole: AI, Transhumanism and the End of Humanity (full text)

One of my favorite proverbs is a Chinese one, and it goes like this: “Seek not to know the answers but to understand the questions!”

And so, when we are confronted with an issue, one of the best things that we can start with is ask ourselves: “What is the question I should be asking?!”

Because the type and quality of the question we begin with, will ultimately determine the type and quality of the answer we are going to get.

And so today I will speak to you about the importance of asking questions.

There are many questions that I will bring to your attention today but perhaps the most important one that we will have to face both as a civilization and as individuals is one of the oldest questions that has been around for thousands of years and we have still failed to find an answer that satisfies the majority of us.

The question is this – “What is human?”

And so, this presentation will not be about podcasting.

Last year my presentation was about the 15 most fundamental tips that I could give you for starting and eventually becoming a successful podcaster. I shared how I passed over 500k views and got to live for 10 weeks in NASA’s Ames Campus in Mountain View, California.

How I got to meet many amazing people such as Ray Kurzweil, Peter Diamandis, astronaut Dan Barry, and visit cutting edge companies such as Google, Facebook and Tesla.

This year I could have told you how my Singularity 1 on 1 podcast passed 1 million downloads. But the principles that I used and continue to use to this day are the same. So going from half a million in 3 or 4 years and then doubling to over 1 million in 12 months required nothing more than some momentum, that I have gathered the years before, and the application of the very same fundamentals.

So, let me say this again, this presentation will not be about podcasting.

If you do want to find my tips and hear my personal podcasting story you can go to SingularityWeblog.com and search for Podcamp Toronto. Then you will find the video, the audio and the text of last year’s presentation.

As you can see – my friend Josh from JoshGloverPhotography.com, is recording today’s session so you don’t need to take notes but just sit down, relax and enjoy. Give me a week or so and I will publish both the full text and the video on SingularityWeblog.com.

Finally, feel free to also come up with questions because I will leave time for a brief Q&A at the end.

You see, I believe that asking good questions is one of the most important and most fundamental skills that any intelligent being can acquire. And so, while I did say that this will not be about podcasting, let me give you a couple of tips on the questions you should be asking when reading session descriptions at Podcamp Toronto.

Q1: How qualified is the person holding the session?

You see, Podcamp Toronto is a fantastic open unconference. This is both a good and a bad thing. It is good because, given its low barrier to entry, anyone can take the stand and hold a session. So, I don’t care who you are, what you do, or what your topic is, you are given an amazing opportunity to contribute to the public discourse on a topic of your choice.

The bad thing is that, again – given its low barrier to entry, anyone can hold a session. And thus in past years the quality of those sessions has varied widely: from mind-blowing professional to dismal.

This year, we had a new social media voting system implemented. And while it was not perfect it was a great step forward. And so I expect that this will be the very best Podcamp Toronto as of yet.

Still, it helps to ask yourself: How qualified is the person holding the session?

So, my tip is this: if you have someone who will be talking about blogging – go and check out their blog. So, from the getgo, unless your name is Seth Godin, if you see a blog hosted on a wholesale domain platform such as Blogger, Typepad or WordPress.com, then that person likely has no clue about blogging. Other signs confirming that conclusion include, but are not limited to, low or no social sharing, low or no comments, lack of unique branding and design…

Q2: What is the metrics and how accurate is it in measuring their expertise?

If the person is talking about YouTube and/or video-production – go check out their channel and look at their videos. If you you see only low quality videos with no or low traffic, without any comments and so on, you may be better off going to another session.

If the person claims to be a social media guru go look at their social media count of their Podcamp Toronto session. If there is no or only one tweet – most likely their own, don’t bother wasting your time.

Last year someone was giving tips on blogging. And they said that they had 30k hits for the past 5 years.

My tip here is to be skeptical, ask questions and dig deeper!

So, let’s take this example. First of all, what is a hit? In most cases a hit is either a page view or a visit. So, if I go load up my own blog on my own computer this will give me one hit. If I click the refresh button this will give me usually two hits. And so on. Thus, just one among several better ways to estimate traffic will be for example – unique visitors per month, rather than hits. This way, you get a more accurate estimate of the audience size and the blogger’s authority.

So, let’s do the math with the example I just gave: 30k divided by 5 years of blogging will give you roughly 17 hits per day. Since, this is not unique visitors but hits, one can get 17 of those per day very easily just with the help of a couple of friends.

Therefore, I dare claim that you are wasting your time “learning” from such a popular blogger.

And so, to recap: today’s tip for podcasting as well as most other things in life is:

“Be skeptical, ask questions, measure and dig deeper!”

OK, let’s move to the main reason we are here today.

Peering into Our Future’s Black Hole: Artificial Intelligence, Transhumanism and the End of Humanity

In my session description I promised to share my answers to 5 questions:

1. What are the most important technological trends shaping our civilization?
2. What is the technological singularity?
3. What is transhumanism?
4. Can science really make us immortal?
5. Why humanity is doomed to go the way of the dinosaurs?

Let’s not waste any time but jump into tackling the questions in order:

1. What are the most important technological trends?

Since we can spend a whole day discussing those trends here but only have 45 minutes to so and I am planning to cover the other 4 questions too, I would focus on giving you what I believe is by far the most important one:

Exponential growth!

This is also the easiest and the hardest trend to grasp.

It is easy, because unless you have been living in a cave somewhere for the past 50 years, you already know that the world is changing faster than ever before. Not only that but the change that we can clearly see is speeding up and accelerating in its own right. I believe that this is more or less obvious and easy to see for everyone here.

But exponential growth is very hard to grasp because our brains have evolved to make linear rather than exponential projections.

And so to help us grasp it better let me use an ancient Indian chess legend as an example.

The legend goes that the tradition of serving Paal Paysam – or what I understand is rice pudding, to visiting pilgrims started after a game of chess between the local king and the lord Krishna himself.

The king was a big chess enthusiast and had the habit of challenging wise visitors to a game of chess. One day a traveling guru was challenged by the king. To motivate his opponent the king offered any reward that the sage could name. The sage modestly asked just for a few grains of rice in the following manner: the king was to put a single grain of rice on the first chess square and double it on every consequent one.

Having lost the game and being a man of his word the king ordered a bag of rice to be brought to the chess board. Then he started placing rice grains according to the arrangement: 1 grain on the first square, 2 on the second, 4 on the third, 8 on the fourth and so on:

Following the exponential growth of the rice payment the king quickly realized that he was unable to fulfill his promise because on the twentieth square the king would have had to put 1,000,000 grains of rice. On the fortieth square the king would have had to put 1,000,000,000 grains of rice. And, finally on the sixty fourth square the king would have had to put more than 18,000,000,000,000,000,000 grains of rice which is equal to about 210 billion tons and is allegedly sufficient to cover the whole territory of India with a meter thick layer of rice. At ten grains of rice per square inch, the above amount requires rice fields covering twice the surface area of the Earth, oceans included.

It was at that point that the lord Krishna revealed his true identity to the king and told him that he doesn’t have to pay the debt immediately but can do so over time. That is why to this day visiting pilgrims are still feasting on Paal Paysam and the king’s debt to lord Krishna is still being repaid.

Now, I hope you agree with me that this is an interesting and powerful story that helps us understand exponentials. But some of you may point out that it is a myth; a legend; it’s not real.

Well, let us look at the best known example of exponential growth from the world of technology – Moore’s Law:

Moore’s law is named after Gordon Moore – co-founder of Intel Corporation.

It was published in 1965 and simply put it states that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit for the same price will double every 18 to 24 months.

And we all know that already, right? We know that computers are obsolete the moment you buy them and that the next computer will be at least twice faster. But today everything is a computer. Your phone, your tablet, your camera, your car, even your toothbrush. And so we all have come to expect that the next generation of almost any product we buy is at least twice better than the previous generation.

And so, in a universe going digital where everything becomes information we are increasingly able to manipulate and mold that information. Thus, as far as the digital universe is concerned we are Gods. We can do whatever we want. But we have to remember that what used to be material is now digital. Take books and music records – they used to be material objects but now they have dematerialized and gone digital. The thing is that this is only the beginning. Everything is becoming information today.

Take biology, biology used to be analog but with the decoding of the human genome it is quickly going digital and now we can decipher and even 3D print biological tissues, even organs by design. And this is only the very beginning. We are well on the way of designing life on the computer screen and then pressing the print button to bring it to live.

And so, as Stuart Brand says we have become Gods and we might as well get used to it.

We humans are biological creatures. We are made of atoms. So more powerful computers allow us to learn and manipulate smaller and smaller particles in ever more precise ways. Thus there will be a day when we can create new bodies and even new brains. But I will talk more about that later.

Other major fields benefiting immensely from exponential growth include, but are not limited to, robotics and artificial intelligence; genetic engineering and synthetic biology; nanotechnology and 3D priting.

And so, all of the above has often been described by futurists such as Ray Kurzweil and Vernor Vinge who believe that exponential growth trends such as Moore’s Law will eventually lead to a Technological Singularity.

2. What is the technological singularity?

The term singularity has many meanings:

In simple language it means the state of being singular, distinct, peculiar, uncommon or unusual.

In mathematics it means a problem with undefined answer – e.g. 5 divided by 0?

In physics a singularity is a black hole – a place where the fabric of time and space is ruptured and the laws of the universe don’t seem to hold true any more.

And so we borrow this metaphor from physics to represent the accelerating changes that we can observe in technology.

And so, if I am to put the technological singularity in just two words I would say that it is “intelligence explosion”.

But there are numerous schools of thought on the definition, with subtle but important differences.

So, now that we heard the short version, let me throw a bunch of quotes at you to make things interesting:

“the ever accelerating progress of technology … gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.” John von Neumann

“Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an “intelligence explosion,” and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.”

I.J. Good

“Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended. […] I think it’s fair to call this event a singularity. It is a point where our models must be discarded and a new reality rules. As we move closer and closer to this point, it will loom vaster and vaster over human affairs till the notion becomes a commonplace. Yet when it finally happens it may still be a great surprise and a greater unknown.” Vernor Vinge in a classic NASA paper from 1993

“… a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed. Although neither utopian nor dystopian, this epoch will transform the concepts that we rely on to give meaning to our lifes, from our business models to the cycle of human life, including death itself.” Ray Kurzweil

Kevin Kelly, senior maverick and co-founder of Wired Magazine

“Singularity is the point at which all the change in the last million years will be superseded by the change in the next five minutes.”

Sean Arnott: “The technological singularity is when our creations surpass us in our understanding of them vs their understanding of us, rendering us obsolete in the process.”

So what happens to us when we stop being the smartest entities on the planet?

What happens when your tootbrush is smarter not only than you and me but smarter than all of us, all of humanity?

While we are pondering this issue let us move on to the next question I promised to address:

3. What is Transhumanism?

Transhumanism is both misunderstood and feared. Francis Fukuyamna famously called it “the most dangerous idea.”

Put simply Transhumanism is the belief that technology can allow us to improve, enhance and overcome the limits of our biology.

More specifically, transhumanists such as Max More, Natasha Vita-More and Ray Kurzweil believe that by merging man and machine via biotechnology, molecular nanotechnologies, and artificial intelligence, one day science will yield humans that have increased cognitive abilities, are physically stronger, emotionally more stable and have indefinite life-spans.

This path, they say, will eventually lead to “posthuman” intelligent (augmented) beings far superior to man – a near embodiment of god.

Some of the main issues here are:

Can humanity continue to survive and prosper by embracing technology or will technology eventually bring forth the end of the human race altogether?

Will humanity get polarized into neo-luddite technophobes and transhumanist technophiles?

Does that mean that wide spread global conflict may be impossible to avoid?

Who will be the dominant species?

What is the essence of being human?

4. Can science make us immortal?

Let me ask another question – What is death?

The definition of death may not be so simple and obvious as you may think. In fact, as our knowledge and technology improve, the definition of death shifts.

And so, in a way, death is just another way of somebody – usually a doctor – “I can’t do anything else for her!” But what we can or can’t do has changed over time. And thus the definition of death has changed too.

It used to be the case that death was declared when one stopped breathing on their own. But today we have respirators that can keep us alive even if we are unable to do that on our own.

It used to be the case that death was declared when one stopped having a pulse i.e. perceivable heart rate. But today we routinely stop heart beating during surgery.

And so one of the latest ways to measure and/or define death is measuring brain activity. As our knowledge and technology improve, in time this is also likely to change.

And so can science make us immortal?

Let me start addressing this issue by saying that science has made substantial progress with respect to ageing and life expectancy.

And so a brief historical survey of longevity throughout the ages will read like this:

Cro-Magnon Era: 18 years
Ancient Egypt: 25 years
Ancient Greece: 28 years
1400 Europe: 30 years
1800 Europe and USA: 37 years
1900 USA: 48 years

And so when around 1900 social security was introduced at 65 it was simply because most Americans never actually made it to 65. Thus it didn’t cost that much to introduce the program.

The problem is that today we are victims of our own success because almost everybody makes it over 65 today.

2002 United States: 78 years

A child born today is expected to live over 93 and right now every 1 year our life expectancy improves by 3 months.

There will be a point when every year our life expectancy will improve by another year: this is what Dr. Aubrey de Grey calls Longevity Escape Velocity.

In simple words that means that we will be able to prolong life indefinitely.

5. Why humanity is doomed to go the way of the dinosaurs?

We are often told that humanity is the pinnacle of evolution. But it is not hard to see that we are a beta product. We have numerous problems and we are far from perfect. In fact, what has allowed us to survive and prosper is our intelligence which has given birth to our technology. Strip away all of our technology and the vast majority of us will not survive.

Moreover, evolution never stops. So, there was a time when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. But as it is always bound to happen – things change. And what was previously a niche organism – namely mammals, took over and flourished, while dinosaurs when extinct.

Well, evolution is also accelerating. It took perhaps 10 billion years to form the galaxies and our planet. It took another couple billion years before we had the first simple single cellular life. Then it took hundreds of millions of years to get plants and eventually dinosaurs. Hominoids have been around for perhaps something like 6 millions years and then homo sapiens has been around between 50 and perhaps 200 thousand years.

And so everything is accelerating. But also everything is changing. And today the fastest pace of evolution is the one we can observe in technology. Thus technology is supplanting biological evolution and technological creatures are likely to replace biological ones just like mammals replaced the dinosaurs.

In fact, this has already happened because our civilization is a technological one and it cannot survive without its technology.

And so I hope that by now you would agree that in the long run it is inevitable that humanity as we know it, is doomed to go the way of the dinosaur. As we saw, evolution doesn’t stop and, despite of what we are being told, we are not unique in any way. And just like all species before us Homo Sapiens will eventually go extinct.

However, this does not have to be necessarily bad news. For as long as humanity evolves and there is continuity between what we are today and what we have to become to survive and prosper, there is hope. In fact, this as Ray Kurzweil claims is the very essence of what makes us human – our ability to evolve and transcend.

And so this is the choice: evolve and transcend our biological limitations or go extinct.

This choice is in turn, derived from one of the most fundamental questions we still have to confront – both collectively as a civilization, and personally – as individuals.

“What is human?”

This session was not meant to provide definitive answers, but rather, to set the stage and ask some questions in an attempt to generate discussion, to provoke thought and to stir the imagination. My goal is to spark a conversation about the impact of technology, exponential growth and artificial intelligence.

My name is Nikola, my blog is SingularityWeblog.com and my blogging alias is Socrates.

Today I have tried to share with you my journey to discover who I am as a being, who we are as a species and most of all how does technology change the meaning of both the above questions and answers.

And now I would like to invite you to join me in this journey and start asking your own questions:

So let us open the Q&A session and thank you very much for your time!

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  • Pingback: 15 Steps Towards Your Podcasting Success: Socrates At Podcamp Toronto 2013()

  • Wholewitt

    Wow, Nikola, you said this talk was not going to be about podcasting and 9 minutes in it is all about podcasting. So you think someone who doesn’t have a lot of hit isn’t worth looking at. How would anyone become known if everyone took that advice? Quality of videos is in no way connected to views, just ask kittens.

  • I agree that quality of videos is not always connected to views. Not by itself anyway. But if you have many other signs – which I did mention, then you should reconsider investing your time in a better way.

  • Wholewitt

    On the issue of average life span, it has increased as we conquer disease, but maximum life span has not changed. When you talk about why shouldn’t it grow longer, you can’t use the disease analogy, it will require a fundamental understanding of aging which is independent of microbes (at least as far as I know). I think this will be done but unless we get population control firmly nailed down, longevity itself could be a death knell if we survive ASI.

  • Wholewitt

    It seems some people don’t understand what a microphone is so brain enhancement is needed right now.

  • Population is not a problem – you look around you will see that the longest living nations e.g. Japan, have also the lowest growth and quite often they are even shrinking in population rather than growing…

  • Hey friend, can you do me a favor and try this: when making a comment don’t make the comment for yourself but for all other people i.e. try to contribute to and/or further our understanding and discussion; bring something new and unique, be constructive… How about this instead of simple and easy criticism?!

  • connor1231

    I have a question having to do with inequality.

    My main concern with future technology is it’s unequal distribution, where poor don’t get it, and an “underclass” forms of unenhanced humans. Ive seen this question posed on many blogs and websites, and I have only ever found brief and unconvincing answers. So my question is this: let’s assume that future technology is not equally distributed. I know some people will claim that with coming technology, scarcity will disappear and it will be widespread and cheap, blah blah but for a moment let’s assume that doesn’t happen. After all, we can see today what a poor job the government does in equally distributing resources, look at the gap between rich and poor that is only growing. In a future with a wealthy elite upper class who can afford to enhance themselves, and a poor underclass of unenhanced humans, how would a poor person work his way into the enhanced class? Would social mobility even still exist? Menial jobs that may help someone work and save money today probably won’t exist in a century. And education might not be as valuable: what would an educated poor person do to compete with a wealthy individual with brain implants and smart pills and other forms of cognition-boosting tech.

    In this world, how would a member of the underclass possibly work their way up so they could enhance themselves? Or are they doomed to feed on the crumbs of the enhanced humans forever. That is a scary thought to me.

  • connor1231

    I’m posting this question on a few articles because I’m hoping someone will see it and have an answer..

    My main concern with future technology is it’s unequal distribution, where poor don’t get it, and an “underclass” forms of unenhanced humans. Ive seen this question posed on many blogs and websites, and I have only ever found brief and unconvincing answers. So my question is this: let’s assume that future technology is not equally distributed. I know some people will claim that with coming technology, scarcity will disappear and it will be widespread and cheap, blah blah but for a moment let’s assume that doesn’t happen. After all, we can see today what a poor job the government does in equally distributing resources, look at the gap between rich and poor that is only growing. In a future with a wealthy elite upper class who can afford to enhance themselves, and a poor underclass of unenhanced humans, how would a poor person work his way into the enhanced class? Would social mobility even still exist? Menial jobs that may help someone work and save money today probably won’t exist in a century. And education might not be as valuable: what would an educated poor person do to compete with a wealthy individual with brain implants and smart pills and other forms of cognition-boosting tech.

    In this world, how would a member of the underclass possibly work their way up so they could enhance themselves? Or are they doomed to feed on the crumbs of the enhanced humans forever. That is a scary thought to me.

  • Actually this question has been addressed multiple times during my interviews Connor. At any rate, first off – why would we necessarily have to presume that “future technology will not be equally distributed”?!

    As you can see today we live in a globally interconnected world where it is impossible to bottle up a technology in a single geographical located.

    As per class differences, the standard answer is that in time technology does get cheaper, better working, more accessible and more equally distributed. See for example the availability of cell phones in places like Africa and India…

    Another, more serious answer of promoting equality in technological access will consist of two elements: grass roots movements such as open source and hopefully politics. Yeah, I know that the latter option in particular brings a lot of cynicism but I do think it is possible. And going to the former, I am also hopeful that the open source movement will continue to grow, as it has been, and will be providing more and more viable alternative to proprietary technology.

    When you throw in democratizing technologies such as 3D printing, open source, cheap communication, internet access etc you will hopefully agree that now we have better chance than ever to have a faster and better distribution of new technology across the globe. Let’s not forget pirating too – it takes less and less time to rip off bootlegged pirated clones for cheaper and cheaper prices and this puts extra pressure for cheaper prices and global dissemination of new technologies…

    Overall, though, there is, of course, no guaranteed. Thus, like you, I am somewhat concerned about this issue and believe that it is not necessarily going to be resolved by itself. Thus it will require a coordinated and deliberate action to promote and help make it happen. Good news is that, again, we have the best tools we’ve ever had to make this happen. So, overall, while I agree with both your goal and your concern, I think we can be optimistic!

  • connor1231

    @Socrates, thank you for your reply! It was thoughtful and I appreciate it. Hopefully you can respond to this reply as well.

    First of all, I am assuming that technology will not be equally distributed because I think that is a very possible, even a very likely, outcome. That is why I specifically said to assume that: I’ve heard all about how 3D printing and perfect government and all that will make it so that class differences get smaller and we live in utopia without scarcity. If that happens, great! But I don’t think that’s quite as likely.

    Also, the “technology gets cheaper” doesn’t make class differences disappear. By the time any technology gets cheaper, it is only because a new and better technology has come out. By the time people in Africa get cell phones, the elite Americans have technology that blows cell phones out of the water. So while I will agree that the overall standard of living may increase, I don’t think it relates to class differences. In places like the U.S., the middle class is slowly disappearing and wealth is concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer. This is what I mean by class differences…in the future, if only these elite wealthy individuals can afford the new technology, and they use the technology to further increase their intelligence and wealth and success, it is a dangerous road. I don’t see how anybody from the lower class could combat that.

    As far as government goes, I think we have much better reason to remain skeptical than optimistic. As I just said, the gap between the rich and poor in the U.S. is larger than ever today, and growing. Government, try as it might, does not do a good job equally distributing wealth. There is no reason for me to think that it will be any different in terms of technology.

    I think the scariest thing is how much future technology will empower the rich over the poor. Today, if a poor person does not have a cell phone, or doesn’t have a computer, or grows up in poverty, they have a chance to change that. They can go to school and do well (just as well as a rich kid with a cell phone). They can study and outperform other kids with even the newest technology. They can secure a job that pays well, and do the job just as well or better than someone who has the newest technology. You see my point. In the future, this will change and I’m afraid it will destroy social mobility. How will a kid in the “underclass”, unenhanced, compete in school with enhanced individuals? How will an unenhanced person get a job against an enhanced individual? And without these things, how will they ever be able to afford the technology to enhance themselves? It seems that the old American Dream, that you can work your way up, will disappear. Where will the hope be? If you are correct, the poor will have to place all of their hope in the government and underground hackers. And no offense to any of them, but that is not exactly an assuring place to put your hope in my opinion.

  • I’d question that the exponential growth is hard to understand, it’s rather a trivial mathematical concept (geometric progression), that is: a multiplication and sequences of multiplications, rather than additions – both are basic maths. In my opinion the example with the chess is rather an illustration of how far an inconsiderate decision may lead.

    Human sensory system is exponential even at its low level, that’s reflected for example in music and is known for 2500 years – Pythagorean string-length ratios.

    I’d question also the “intuitive” truth that everything is accelerating – one important thing that is not, which is going backwards, is the average/ordinary people’s intelligence, when they are “naked”. (…)

    The technology, namely the dopamine-related short-circuits that are shocking the prefrontal-cortex through the exposure ot television, cheap reinforcement learning reward-cycles on social media, computer games and all sorts of blinking random pieces of images and text online, all these make the majority of people ever more superficial and having shorter attention span. (…)

    Humans are already “augmented”, every technology is extending their capacity, the “physical” merging and when it starts is a matter of a degree, both spatio-temporal and of effectiveness. The boundary is also not that sharp and is artificial – the retina is considered a part of the brain, it’s already somewhat “out”, the lenses of the eye and the pupil – they are also doing “preprocessing” – projecting and focussing, and it would have been impossible if the environment didn’t allow it and didn’t provide the appropriate stimulation through light and reflection.

    The only obvious “selfness” of the receptors on the body is that they have parts that are living cells, or are produced by such (and are not living now) but without stimuli they do nothing. For example, they say that blind-deaf people do not even try to explore the world, if left physically untouched. They just freeze and stay, there’s no external sensory stimulation, and their cognitive capacity is useless.

    There are also philosophical views, such as externalisms, and the “extended mind” which point out the obvious fact, that humans are tightly bonded with the “tools” in the external world. We’ve been using the environment to do cognitive jobs in all times – I’d say that sensing itself is a form of basic preprocessing, in philosophical terms it’s converting the “thing in itself” in Kantian sense into phenomenons. The degree and the way of doing it is changing, and making people say “wow” that something is “new, revolutionary, ground-breaking” – it’s a trick from marketing and propaganda, a boring way to grab attention of people who don’t really care about the essence, but just about anything shocking, “new”, “extraordinary”, provided by some high-status “prophets”. I assume talks about aliens, UFO or some religious mysteries may provoke similar interest…

    (…) – I have said more, but it’s already too long a comment, so the missing parts go elsewhere to my archives…

  • connor1231

    Another question for you Socrates, or anyone else who would care to answer.

    What do you think you can do to thrive in the future? I’m taking some programming classes now…how much will “programming” as we know it today change by then? Do you think online classes and free resources will enable somebody to stay up to date?

    I think you’re a great person to ask because you’re affiliated with Singularity University…what can somebody do to make sure they can take full advantage of upcoming technology and not be “left behind”? I don’t want to be left behind by AI or other more technology-saavy people, I want to be able to excel in the future world and take full advantage of the coming technologies. Is this possible, and if so what would you suggest doing to help set up for that?

  • Great question Connor! In fact this is THE question when it comes to us personally speaking, isn’t it? 😉

    In short, my answer is this: Educate yourself, never stop learning and improving yourself while seeking a niche to make your own, a niche that will not be easily automated and/or replaced by a machine… It could be art, philosophy, pattern recognition, entrepreneurship or anything else like that.

  • connor1231

    Indeed it is! So do you think education will remain a tool to better yourself and thrive in the future…perhaps in the “enhanced class”? It is just that I personally am not wealthy at all, but I want to be able to take advantage of all of the new technologies and improve myself. Is education enough to do this, or will unenhanced people have trouble competing in education and work with enhanced people (I kind of asked that below as well). This also applies to a niche…no matter the niche we choose, will it be futile if we remain unenhanced? After all an enhanced mind can probably do philosophy, pattern recognition, or any cognitive activity better than an unenhanced mind.

  • Today education has been decoupled from wealth. You can learn anything you want for free. You can watch the best courses from the best universities for free on line. You can get the books from a library and read them for free. You can learn a ton from people on YouTube. So, unless by “not wealthy” you mean – stuck in the middle of the Sahara without running water and internet, then you have no excuse. The best enhancement you can get right now is to self-educate and self-improve your own self!

  • connor1231

    That is true. But do you see what I’m asking for the future? I know you can’t see the future so you don’t have a concrete answer for me, but what solutions do you see to the problem? Education is free now so this is kind of a “golden age” where pretty much anyone can learn anything for free. So it’s easier than ever to self-educate and improve your skills and knowledge, and education is a sort of equalizer between rich and poor. But once enhancements come along, this will create a major advantage for those who can afford them. At this point, simply self-educating won’t be enough anymore because enhanced individuals can also self-educate themselves, and do it much better and faster. So education won’t really be an equalizer anymore. See what I’m saying? What solutions would you propose for this, or if you’re not concerned about this, why aren’t you?

  • connor1231

    That is true. But do you see what I’m asking for the future? I know you can’t see the future so you don’t have a concrete answer for me, but what solutions do you see to the problem? Education is free now so this is kind of a “golden age” where pretty much anyone can learn anything for free. So it’s easier than ever to self-educate and improve your skills and knowledge, and education is a sort of equalizer between rich and poor. But once enhancements come along, this will create a major advantage for those who can afford them. At this point, simply self-educating won’t be enough anymore because enhanced individuals can also self-educate themselves, and do it much better and faster. So education won’t really be an equalizer anymore. See what I’m saying? What solutions would you propose for this, or if you’re not concerned about this, why aren’t you?

  • TruthToThat .

    your thoughts will always be stuck on the same path…you can only change your traits through epigenetics not your actually genes. it would take generations for your family to theoretically increase their intelligence. i believe we are getting quite close to the end of generations. so this probably will not be possible.

  • TruthToThat .

    really? just let the comment flow with the site. it’s not that intelligent i realize, but it’ll add too the conversation and switch up the context.

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