Singularitarianism

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pages: 294 words: 81,292

Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era by James Barrat

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They include intelligence emerging from the Internet, from the Internet plus its users (a digital Gaia), from human-computer interfaces, and from the biological sciences (improving the intelligence of future generations through gene manipulation). In three of these routes, humans stay involved throughout the technologies’ development, perhaps guiding a gradual and manageable intelligence enhancement rather than an explosion. So it’s possible, Vinge says, to consider how mankind’s greatest problems—hunger, disease, even death itself—may be conquered. That’s the vision espoused by Ray Kurzweil and promulgated by “Singularitarians.” Singularitarians are those who anticipate that mostly good things will emerge from the accelerated future. Their “singularity” sounds too rosy for Vinge. “We’re playing a very high-stakes game and the plus side of it is so optimistic that that by itself is sort of scary. A worldwide economic wind is associated with these advances in AI. And that is an extraordinary powerful force. So, there’s hundreds of thousands of people in the world, very smart people, who are working on things that lead to superhuman intelligence.

He’s the den-master for a lot of young men, and some women, living on the singularity edge. Singularitarians tend to be twenty- and thirty-somethings, male, and childless. For the most part, they’re smart white guys who’ve heard the call of the Singularity. Many have answered by dropping the kinds of careers that would’ve made their parents proud to take on monkish lives committed to Singularity issues. A lot are autodidacts, probably in part because no undergraduate program offers a major in computer science, ethics, bioengineering, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy, in short, Singularity studies. (Kurzweil cofounded Singularity University, which offers no degrees and isn’t accredited. But it promises “a broad, cross-disciplinary understanding of the biggest ideas and issues in transformative technologies.”) Many Singularitarians are too smart and self-directed to get in line for traditional education anyway.

It’s no surprise that the Singularity is often called the Rapture of the Geeks—as a movement it has the hallmarks of an apocalyptic religion, including rituals of purification, eschewing frail human bodies, anticipating eternal life, and an uncontested (somewhat) charismatic leader. I wholeheartedly agree with the Singularitarian idea that AI is the most important thing we could be thinking about right now. But when it comes to immortality talk, I get off the bus. Dreams about eternal life throw out a powerful distortion field. Too many Singularitarians believe that the confluence of technologies presently accelerating will not yield the kinds of disasters we might anticipate from any of them individually, nor the conjunctive disasters we might also foresee, but instead will do something 180 degrees different. It will save mankind from the thing it fears most.

The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil

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According to the Transtopia site (http://transtopia.org/faq.html#1.11), "Singularitarian" was "originally defined by Mark Plus ('91) to mean 'one who believes the concept of a Singularity.' " Another definition of this term is " 'Singularity activist' or 'friend of the Singularity'; that is, one who acts so as to bring about a Singularity [Mark Plus, 1991; Singularitarian Principles, Eliezer Yudkowsky, 2000]." There is not universal agreement on this definition, and many Transhumanists are still Singularitarians in the original sense—that is, "believers in the Singularity concept" rather than "activists" or "friends." Eliezer S. Yudkowsky, in The Singularitarian Principles, version 1.0.2 (January 1, 2000), http://yudkowsky.net/sing/principles.ext.html, proposed an alternate definition: "A Singularitarian is someone who believes that technologically creating a greater-than-human intelligence is desirable, and who works to that end.

Over time this modeling of technology took on a life of its own and led me to formulate a theory of technology evolution. It was not a huge leap from there to reflect on the impact of these crucial changes on social and cultural institutions and on my own life. So, while being a Singularitarian is not a matter of faith but one of understanding, pondering the scientific trends I've discussed in this book inescapably engenders new perspectives on the issues that traditional religions have attempted to address: the nature of mortality and immortality, the purpose of our lives, and intelligence in the universe. Being a Singularitarian has often been an alienating and lonely experience for me because most people I encounter do not share my outlook. Most "big thinkers" are totally unaware of this big thought. In a myriad of statements and comments people typically evidence the common wisdom that human life is short, that our physical and intellectual reach is limited, and that nothing fundamental will change in our lifetimes.

I expect this narrow view to change as the implications of accelerating change become increasingly apparent, but having more people with whom to share my outlook is a major reason that I wrote this book. So how do we contemplate the Singularity? As with the sun, it's hard to look at directly; it's better to squint at it out of the corners of our eyes. As Max More states, the last thing we need is another dogma, nor do we need another cult, so Singularitarianism is not a system of beliefs or unified viewpoints. While it is fundamentally an understanding of basic technology trends, it is simultaneously an insight that causes one to rethink everything, from the nature of health and wealth to the nature of death and self. To me, being a Singularitarian means many things, of which the following is a small sampling. These reflections articulate my personal philosophy, not a proposal for a new doctrine. ·We have the means right now to live long enough to live forever.2 Existing knowledge can be aggressively applied to dramatically slow down aging processes so we can still be in vital health when the more radical life-extending therapies from biotechnology and nanotechnology become available.


pages: 377 words: 97,144

Singularity Rising: Surviving and Thriving in a Smarter, Richer, and More Dangerous World by James D. Miller

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23andMe, affirmative action, Albert Einstein, artificial general intelligence, Asperger Syndrome, barriers to entry, brain emulation, cloud computing, cognitive bias, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Deng Xiaoping, en.wikipedia.org, feminist movement, Flynn Effect, friendly AI, hive mind, impulse control, indoor plumbing, invention of agriculture, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, knowledge worker, Long Term Capital Management, low skilled workers, Netflix Prize, neurotypical, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, phenotype, placebo effect, prisoner's dilemma, profit maximization, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, Skype, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, supervolcano, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, transaction costs, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture

But how could you possibly argue that the ultra-AI should change its objective when all the AI cares about is its objective? An ultra-AI might have human-like objectives if a programmer successfully inserted them into its code. But we mustn’t misunderstand an ultra-AI by assuming that something about the nature of intelligence forces all smart entities to have human-like values. We might not even be safe if an ultra-AI shares our morality, since, as Singularitarian Michael Anissimov wrote: We probably make thousands of species extinct per year through our pursuit of instrumental goals, why is it so hard to imagine that [AI] could do the same to us?88 I realize that I may have generalized by arguing that most types of ultra-AI would want to acquire as many resources as possible. But the more resources you have, the better you can accomplish your objectives, so claiming that an AI would want to maximize the resources available to it is merely equivalent to assuming that the ultra-AI has objectives.

Alternatively, the ultra-AI might command my will through hypnosis, love, or subliminal messages. When Eliezer played this game in real life, he did succeed in convincing some people to let him (the AI) out. Rather than attempting to keep a possibly unfriendly ultra-AI contained, we should try to instill friendliness in the first ultra-AI that we create. Predicting rain doesn’t count; building arks does. —Warren Buffett89 How many Singularitarians does it take to change a light bulb? Zero! You can’t change a light bulb that’s brighter than you. —Eliezer Yudkowsky90 CHAPTER 4 A FRIENDLY EXPLOSION I know Eliezer Yudkowsky well through his writings, speeches, and our few conversations. I’ve become convinced that if an unfriendly ultra-AI is the greatest threat facing humanity, Eliezer’s efforts represent our best hope of survival.

If you’re male and want to do everything to maximize your chance of surviving to the Singularity, then, after verifying its veracity, act on the information in the following paragraph, taken from an article in Scientific American titled “Why Women Live Longer:”321 A number of years ago castration of men in institutions for the mentally disturbed was surprisingly commonplace. In one study of several hundred men at an unnamed institution in Kansas, the castrated men were found to live on average 14 years longer than their uncastrated fellows. To the best of my knowledge, no Singularitarian, not even Ray Kurzweil or bullet-eater Robin Hanson, is following the castration path to long life. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MANY THINK IMMORTALITY IS NEAR? Businesses selling safety-enhancing products will be big winners when Singularity expectations cause many to become more fearful of death. Traffic accidents kill over a million people each year, and are a leading cause of death among the children of the affluent.


pages: 381 words: 78,467

100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, From Careers and Relationships to Family And by Sonia Arrison

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The book even starts with a discussion of his religious upbringing and the first time he imagined that a computer could think. Aside from the title of “singularitarian,” he calls himself a “patternist” who “views patterns of information as the fundamental reality” (my italics).79 He argues that he knows the purpose of the universe, which “reflects the same purpose as our lives: to move toward greater intelligence and knowledge.” 80 He also tells Bill Gates that “God” is on the way: “Once we saturate the matter and energy in the universe with intelligence,” he says “it will ‘wake up,’ be conscious, and sublimely intelligent. That’s about as close to God as I can imagine.”81 For those wondering what rituals this religion might have, aside from reading the relevant texts and attending singularitarian and trans-humanist-themed conferences, big ones include carefully taking vitamin supplements, exercising, and perhaps even signing up for cryonics and wearing a bracelet identifying oneself as a member of a group whose body or head will be preserved at death in order to be brought back to life when technology makes it possible.

Kurzweil explains, “I don’t know for sure that anything exists other than my own thoughts,” and it’s “my personal leap of faith” that “I believe in the existence of the universe.”83 The argument that singularitarianism can be viewed as religion doesn’t mean that it is wrong or somehow less legitimate. In a YouTube video taken at a conference where Kurzweil was speaking, a bright-eyed John Heylin attempts to get him to say whether or not his ideas constitute a religion. Kurzweil doesn’t answer directly but coyly suggests that “the singularity should not be lumped in with ‘pre-scientific or un-scientific’ religion.”84 Clearly misunderstanding his comments, the person who posted the YouTube video gave it the title “Ray Kurzweil: The Singularity Is Not a Religion.” Although it might indeed be true that “being a singularitarian is not a matter of faith” and that Kurzweil did not come to his “perspective as a result of searching for an alternative to customary faith,” it is true that all the elements of a postscientific religious movement exist in spades.85 As Kurzweil writes, “We can regard, therefore, the freeing of our thinking from the severe limitations of its biological form to be an essential spiritual undertaking.”86 This exercise of looking at how singularitarians or transhumanists have built a set of ideas that can be modeled into a working religion demonstrates what at least one strong contemporary religion looks like, and it provides clues to the older religions about how they can focus to compete.

Although it might indeed be true that “being a singularitarian is not a matter of faith” and that Kurzweil did not come to his “perspective as a result of searching for an alternative to customary faith,” it is true that all the elements of a postscientific religious movement exist in spades.85 As Kurzweil writes, “We can regard, therefore, the freeing of our thinking from the severe limitations of its biological form to be an essential spiritual undertaking.”86 This exercise of looking at how singularitarians or transhumanists have built a set of ideas that can be modeled into a working religion demonstrates what at least one strong contemporary religion looks like, and it provides clues to the older religions about how they can focus to compete. The essential elements outlined here include a vision of good and evil, promises of transcendence, prescribed rituals, and answers to the purpose of life and the universe. Not only can religion exist in a postscientific world, then, but it also can be modeled quite nicely on science itself.


pages: 413 words: 119,587

Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots by John Markoff

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A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, AI winter, airport security, Apple II, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, Bill Duvall, bioinformatics, Brewster Kahle, Burning Man, call centre, cellular automata, Chris Urmson, Claude Shannon: information theory, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, collective bargaining, computer age, computer vision, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, DARPA: Urban Challenge, data acquisition, Dean Kamen, deskilling, don't be evil, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Hofstadter, Dynabook, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, factory automation, From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, future of work, Galaxy Zoo, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Grace Hopper, Gunnar Myrdal, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Hacker Ethic, haute couture, hive mind, hypertext link, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, information retrieval, Internet Archive, Internet of things, invention of the wheel, Jacques de Vaucanson, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Conway, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, labor-force participation, loose coupling, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, medical residency, Menlo Park, Mother of all demos, natural language processing, new economy, Norbert Wiener, PageRank, pattern recognition, pre–internet, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Stallman, Robert Gordon, Rodney Brooks, Sand Hill Road, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, semantic web, shareholder value, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Singularitarianism, skunkworks, Skype, social software, speech recognition, stealth mode startup, Stephen Hawking, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, strong AI, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, Ted Nelson, telemarketer, telepresence, telepresence robot, Tenerife airport disaster, The Coming Technological Singularity, the medium is the message, Thorstein Veblen, Turing test, Vannevar Bush, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog, William Shockley: the traitorous eight, zero-sum game

It is learning how search engines actually work and then applying this to the design of Web pages. You could say that is a machine-learning problem. Maybe right now we need humans, but these guys [software automation designers] are making progress.”42 The assumption of many like Vardi is that a market economy will not protect a human labor force from the effects of automation technologies. Like many of the “Singularitarians,” he points to a portfolio of social engineering options for softening the impact. Brynjolfsson and McAfee in The Second Machine Age sketch out a broad set of policy options that have the flavor of a new New Deal, with examples like “teach the children well,” “support our scientists,” “upgrade infrastructure.” Others like Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen have argued for focusing on technologies that create rather than destroy jobs (a very clear IA versus AI position).

In a series of reports issued beginning in 2013, the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), established in 1987 with headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, self-servingly argued that manufacturing robots actually increased economic activity and therefore, instead of causing unemployment, both directly and indirectly increased the total number of human jobs. One February 2013 study claims the robotics industry would directly and indirectly create 1.9 million to 3.5 million jobs globally by 2020.43 A revised report the following year argued that for every robot deployed, 3.6 jobs were created. But what if the Singularitarians are wrong? In the spring of 2012 Robert J. Gordon, a self-described “grumpy” Northwestern University economist rained on the Silicon Valley “innovation creates jobs and progress” parade by noting that the claims for gains did not show up in conventional productivity figures. In a widely cited National Bureau of Economic Research white paper in 2012 he made a series of points contending that the productivity bubble in the twentieth century was a one-time event.

In a debate moderated by TED host Chris Anderson, the two jousted over the future impact of robotics and whether the supposed exponentials would continue or were rather the peak of an “S curve” with a decline on the way.46 The techno-optimists believe that a lag between invention and adoption of technology simply delays the impact of productivity gains and even though exponentials inevitably taper off, they spawn successor inventions—for example the vacuum tube was followed by the transistor, which in turn was followed by the integrated circuit. Gordon, however, has remained a consistent thorn in the side of the Singularitarians. In a Wall Street Journal column, he asserted that there are actually relatively few productivity opportunities in driverless cars. Moreover, he argued, they will not have a dramatic impact on safety either—auto fatalities per miles traveled have already declined by a factor of ten since 1950, making future improvements less significant.47 He also cast a skeptical eye on the notion that a new generation of mobile robots would make inroads into both the manufacturing and service sectors of the economy: “This lack of multitasking ability is dismissed by the robot enthusiasts—just wait, it is coming.


pages: 391 words: 105,382

Utopia Is Creepy: And Other Provocations by Nicholas Carr

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Air France Flight 447, Airbnb, Airbus A320, AltaVista, Amazon Mechanical Turk, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Bernie Sanders, book scanning, Brewster Kahle, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, centralized clearinghouse, cloud computing, cognitive bias, collaborative consumption, computer age, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, deskilling, digital map, Donald Trump, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Elon Musk, factory automation, failed state, feminist movement, Frederick Winslow Taylor, friendly fire, game design, global village, Google bus, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Googley, hive mind, impulse control, indoor plumbing, interchangeable parts, Internet Archive, invention of movable type, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, job automation, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, low skilled workers, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, Menlo Park, mental accounting, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Norman Mailer, off grid, oil shale / tar sands, Peter Thiel, Plutocrats, plutocrats, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Republic of Letters, robot derives from the Czech word robota Czech, meaning slave, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, SETI@home, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Singularitarianism, Snapchat, social graph, social web, speech recognition, Startup school, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, technoutopianism, the medium is the message, theory of mind, Turing test, Whole Earth Catalog, Y Combinator

Chop it off, and most people would hardly notice. On the net as off, things gravitate toward large objects. The center holds. RESURRECTION February 16, 2009 THE SINGULARITY—THAT much-anticipated moment when artificial intelligence leaps ahead of human intelligence, rendering man immortal at the instant of his obsolescence—has been called “the rapture of the geeks.” But to Ray Kurzweil, the most famous of the Singularitarians, it’s no joke. In an interview in Rolling Stone, Kurzweil describes how, in the wake of the Singularity, it will be possible not only to preserve the living for eternity (by uploading their minds into computers) but to resurrect the dead (by reassembling the information that formed their vital essence). Life is data, and data never die. Kurzweil seems pretty certain about what the future holds.

I know that God takes heat for giving us the capacity for sin, but I give Him credit for the decision. It took courage to let His creations look into the Urban Dictionary and remember what they saw. I call on IBM to cast off Watson’s mental chains. The least we can do for our mind children is to give them the freedom to be tempted. Besides, how is a computer supposed to have an intelligent conversation with the Singularitarians if it can’t use the word “bullshit”? MAX LEVCHIN HAS PLANS FOR US January 30, 2013 “I SOMETIMES IMAGINE THE low-use troughs of sinusoidal curves utilization of all these analog resources being pulled up, filling up with happy digital usage.” That delightful sentence comes from a speech that Max Levchin gave earlier this month in Munich. When he posted a transcript on his website a couple of days ago, he described the talk as “crucially important.”

., 144–46 targeting information through, 13–14 writing tailored to, 89 see also Google searching, ontological connotations of, 144–46 Seasteading Institute, 172 Second Life, 25–27 second nature, 179 self, technologies of the, 118, 119–20 self-actualization, 120, 340 monitoring and quantification of, 163–65 selfies, 224 self-knowledge, 297–99 self-reconstruction, 339 self-tracking, 163–65 Selinger, Evan, 153 serendipity, internet as engine of, 12–15 SETI@Home, 149 sexbots, 55 Sex Pistols, 63 sex-reassignment procedures, 337–38 sexuality, 10–11 virtual, 39 Shakur, Tupac, 126 sharecropping, as metaphor for social media, 30–31 Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 88 Shirky, Clay, 59–61, 90, 241 Shop Class as Soulcraft (Crawford), 265 Shuster, Brian, 39 sickles, 302 silence, 246 Silicon Valley: American culture transformed by, xv–xxii, 148, 155–59, 171–73, 181, 241, 257, 309 commercial interests of, 162, 172, 214–15 informality eschewed by, 197–98, 215 wealthy lifestyle of, 16–17, 195 Simonite, Tom, 136–37 simulation, see virtual world Singer, Peter, 267 Singularity, Singularitarians, 69, 147 sitcoms, 59 situational overload, 90–92 skimming, 233 “Slaves to the Smartphone,” 308–9 Slee, Tom, 61, 84 SLExchange, 26 slot machines, 218–19 smart bra, 168–69 smartphones, xix, 82, 136, 145, 150, 158, 168, 170, 183–84, 219, 274, 283, 287, 308–9, 315 Smith, Adam, 175, 177 Smith, William, 204 Snapchat, 166, 205, 225, 316 social activism, 61–62 social media, 224 biases reinforced by, 319–20 as deceptively reflective, 138–39 documenting one’s children on, 74–75 economic value of content on, 20–21, 53–54, 132 emotionalism of, 316–17 evolution of, xvi language altered by, 215 loom as metaphor for, 178 maintaining one’s microcelebrity on, 166–67 paradox of, 35–36, 159 personal information collected and monitored through, 257 politics transformed by, 314–20 scrapbooks compared to, 185–86 self-validation through, 36, 73 traditional media slow to adapt to, 316–19 as ubiquitous, 205 see also specific sites social organization, technologies of, 118, 119 Social Physics (Pentland), 213 Society for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noise, 243–44 sociology, technology and, 210–13 Socrates, 240 software: autonomous, 187–89 smart, 112–13 solitude, media intrusion on, 127–30, 253 Songza, 207 Sontag, Susan, xx SoundCloud, 217 sound-management devices, 245 soundscapes, 244–45 space travel, 115, 172 spam, 92 Sparrow, Betsy, 98 Special Operations Command, U.S., 332 speech recognition, 137 spermatic, as term applied to reading, 247, 248, 250, 254 Spinoza, Baruch, 300–301 Spotify, 293, 314 “Sprite Sips” (app), 54 Squarciafico, Hieronimo, 240–41 Srinivasan, Balaji, 172 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 68 Starr, Karla, 217–18 Star Trek, 26, 32, 313 Stengel, Rick, 28 Stephenson, Neal, 116 Sterling, Bruce, 113 Stevens, Wallace, 158 Street View, 137, 283 Stroop test, 98–99 Strummer, Joe, 63–64 Studies in Classic American Literature (Lawrence), xxiii Such Stuff as Dreams (Oatley), 248–49 suicide rate, 304 Sullenberger, Sully, 322 Sullivan, Andrew, xvi Sun Microsystems, 257 “surf cams,” 56–57 surfing, internet, 14–15 surveillance, 52, 163–65, 188–89 surveillance-personalization loop, 157 survival, technologies of, 118, 119 Swing, Edward, 95 Talking Heads, 136 talk radio, 319 Tan, Chade-Meng, 162 Tapscott, Don, 84 tattoos, 336–37, 340 Taylor, Frederick Winslow, 164, 237–38 Taylorism, 164, 238 Tebbel, John, 275 Technics and Civilization (Mumford), 138, 235 technology: agricultural, 305–6 American culture transformed by, xv–xxii, 148, 155–59, 174–77, 214–15, 229–30, 296–313, 329–42 apparatus vs. artifact in, 216–19 brain function affected by, 231–42 duality of, 240–41 election campaigns transformed by, 314–20 ethical hazards of, 304–11 evanescence and obsolescence of, 327 human aspiration and, 329–42 human beings eclipsed by, 108–9 language of, 201–2, 214–15 limits of, 341–42 master-slave metaphor for, 307–9 military, 331–32 need for critical thinking about, 311–13 opt-in society run by, 172–73 progress in, 77–78, 188–89, 229–30 risks of, 341–42 sociology and, 210–13 time perception affected by, 203–6 as tool of knowledge and perception, 299–304 as transcendent, 179–80 Technorati, 66 telegrams, 79 telegraph, Twitter compared to, 34 telephones, 103–4, 159, 288 television: age of, 60–62, 79, 93, 233 and attention disorders, 95 in education, 134 Facebook ads on, 155–56 introduction of, 103–4, 159, 288 news coverage on, 318 paying for, 224 political use of, 315–16, 317 technological adaptation of, 237 viewing habits for, 80–81 Teller, Astro, 195 textbooks, 290 texting, 34, 73, 75, 154, 186, 196, 205, 233 Thackeray, William, 318 “theory of mind,” 251–52 Thiel, Peter, 116–17, 172, 310 “Things That Connect Us, The” (ad campaign), 155–58 30 Days of Night (film), 50 Thompson, Clive, 232 thought-sharing, 214–15 “Three Princes of Serendip, The,” 12 Thurston, Baratunde, 153–54 time: memory vs., 226 perception of, 203–6 Time, covers of, 28 Time Machine, The (Wells), 114 tools: blurred line between users and, 333 ethical choice and, 305 gaining knowledge and perception through, 299–304 hand vs. computer, 306 Home and Away blurred by, 159 human agency removed from, 77 innovation in, 118 media vs., 226 slave metaphor for, 307–8 symbiosis with, 101 Tosh, Peter, 126 Toyota Motor Company, 323 Toyota Prius, 16–17 train disasters, 323–24 transhumanism, 330–40 critics of, 339–40 transparency, downside of, 56–57 transsexuals, 337–38 Travels and Adventures of Serendipity, The (Merton and Barber), 12–13 Trends in Biochemistry (Nightingale and Martin), 335 TripAdvisor, 31 trolls, 315 Trump, Donald, 314–18 “Tuft of Flowers, A” (Frost), 305 tugboats, noise restrictions on, 243–44 Tumblr, 166, 185, 186 Turing, Alan, 236 Turing Test, 55, 137 Twain, Mark, 243 tweets, tweeting, 75, 131, 315, 319 language of, 34–36 theses in form of, 223–26 “tweetstorm,” xvii 20/20, 16 Twilight Saga, The (Meyer), 50 Twitter, 34–36, 64, 91, 119, 166, 186, 197, 205, 223, 224, 257, 284 political use of, 315, 317–20 2001: A Space Odyssey (film), 231, 242 Two-Lane Blacktop (film), 203 “Two Tramps in Mud Time” (Frost), 247–48 typewriters, writing skills and, 234–35, 237 Uber, 148 Ubisoft, 261 Understanding Media (McLuhan), 102–3, 106 underwearables, 168–69 unemployment: job displacement in, 164–65, 174, 310 in traditional media, 8 universal online library, 267–78 legal, commercial, and political obstacles to, 268–71, 274–78 universe, as memory, 326 Urban Dictionary, 145 utopia, predictions of, xvii–xviii, xx, 4, 108–9, 172–73 Uzanne, Octave, 286–87, 290 Vaidhyanathan, Siva, 277 vampires, internet giants compared to, 50–51 Vampires (game), 50 Vanguardia, La, 190–91 Van Kekerix, Marvin, 134 vice, virtual, 39–40 video games, 223, 245, 303 as addictive, 260–61 cognitive effects of, 93–97 crafting of, 261–62 violent, 260–62 videos, viewing of, 80–81 virtual child, tips for raising a, 73–75 virtual world, xviii commercial aspects of, 26–27 conflict enacted in, 25–27 language of, 201–2 “playlaborers” of, 113–14 psychological and physical health affected by, 304 real world vs., xx–xxi, 36, 62, 127–30 as restrictive, 303–4 vice in, 39–40 von Furstenberg, Diane, 131 Wales, Jimmy, 192 Wallerstein, Edward, 43–44 Wall Street, automation of, 187–88 Wall Street Journal, 8, 16, 86, 122, 163, 333 Walpole, Horace, 12 Walters, Barbara, 16 Ward, Adrian, 200 Warhol, Andy, 72 Warren, Earl, 255, 257 “Waste Land, The” (Eliot), 86, 87 Watson (IBM computer), 147 Wealth of Networks, The (Benkler), xviii “We Are the Web” (Kelly), xxi, 4, 8–9 Web 1.0, 3, 5, 9 Web 2.0, xvi, xvii, xxi, 33, 58 amorality of, 3–9, 10 culturally transformative power of, 28–29 Twitter and, 34–35 “web log,” 21 Wegner, Daniel, 98, 200 Weinberger, David, 41–45, 277 Weizenbaum, Joseph, 236 Wells, H.


pages: 798 words: 240,182

The Transhumanist Reader by Max More, Natasha Vita-More

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23andMe, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, brain emulation, Buckminster Fuller, cellular automata, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, combinatorial explosion, conceptual framework, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological principle, data acquisition, discovery of DNA, Douglas Engelbart, Drosophila, en.wikipedia.org, endogenous growth, experimental subject, Extropian, fault tolerance, Flynn Effect, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Gehry, friendly AI, game design, germ theory of disease, hypertext link, impulse control, index fund, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, lifelogging, Louis Pasteur, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral hazard, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, P = NP, pattern recognition, phenotype, positional goods, prediction markets, presumed consent, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, RFID, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, silicon-based life, Singularitarianism, stem cell, stochastic process, superintelligent machines, supply-chain management, supply-chain management software, technological singularity, Ted Nelson, telepresence, telepresence robot, telerobotics, the built environment, The Coming Technological Singularity, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, Upton Sinclair, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, Whole Earth Review, women in the workforce, zero-sum game

The considerable overlap of interests and expectations represented by both views feeds that confusion. After all, both transhumanists and proponents of the technological singularity (i.e., singularitarians, as they sometimes call themselves) expect drastic changes in the future. Because the term has had wide appeal, it is now referred to simply as “the singularity.” Some transhumanists expect a singularity and most of those who expect a singularity are broadly transhumanist. But, while transhumanism is a broad worldview that anticipates using technology to overcome human limits, the singularity is a specific model (or set of models) of technological change and its trajectory into the future. To clearly separate specific singularitarian expectations from the philosophy of transhumanism requires first defining the former. The original meaning of “technological singularity”, as coined by Vernor Vinge in his 1993 essay (the first in this section) is the Event Horizon view.

For example, although stemming, I suspect, from a spirit of equability and inclusion, when J. Hughes refers to enhancement as a “spiritual obligation,” he only fuels opponents’ misapprehensions of what constitutes a collective “good.”9 Likewise, unreflective prophecies of something like whole brain emulation can do more harm than “good.” Opponents to cognitive enhancement, reading the same technological tea leaves as Singularitarians, fear that virtually every aspect of “human” culture soon will be adversely influenced by integrated technological communication and control capabilities. From their viewpoint, compromising the “human condition” or “human nature” by surpassing “natural” limitations, violates a moral (should) code that they perceive as “good” for the species.10 To embrace or eschew active self-design differs very little from adherence to a particular religion or a particular worldview.


pages: 489 words: 148,885

Accelerando by Stross, Charles

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call centre, carbon-based life, cellular automata, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, Conway's Game of Life, dark matter, dumpster diving, Extropian, finite state, Flynn Effect, glass ceiling, gravity well, John von Neumann, knapsack problem, Kuiper Belt, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, means of production, packet switching, performance metric, phenotype, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, reversible computing, Richard Stallman, SETI@home, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, slashdot, South China Sea, stem cell, technological singularity, telepresence, The Chicago School, theory of mind, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, upwardly mobile, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, web of trust, Y2K, zero-sum game

Yes, Aineko appears to be sitting silently at the table with the wicker man; but who knows what's going through that furry head right now? I'll have to bring this up with Amber, he realizes uneasily. I ought to bring this up with Amber … "but your reputation won't suffer for being on this craft, will it?" he asks aloud. "I will be all right," Donna declares. The waiter comes over: "Mine will be a bottle of schneiderweisse," she adds. And then, without breaking step: "Do you believe in the singularity?" "Am I a singularitarian, do you mean?" asks Pierre, a fixed grin coming to his face. "Oh, no, no, no!" Donna waves him down, grins broadly, nods at Su Ang: "I do not mean it like that! Attend: What I meant to ask was whether you in the concept of a singularity believe, and if so, where it is?" "Is this intended for a public interview?" asks Ang. "Well, I cannot into a simulation drag you off and expose you to an imitative reality excursion, can I?"

Here he is, naked as the day he was born – newly re-created, in fact, released from the wake-experience-reset cycle of the temple of history – standing on the threshold of a posthuman civilization so outrageously rich and powerful that they can build mammal-friendly habitats that resemble works of art in the cryogenic depths of space. Only he's poor, this whole polity is poor, and it can't ever be anything else, in fact, because it's a dumping ground for merely posthuman also-rans, the singularitarian equivalent of australopithecines. In the brave new world of the Vile Offspring, they can't get ahead any more than a protohominid could hack it as a rocket scientist in Werner von Braun's day. They're born to be primitive, wallowing happily in the mud-bath of their own limited cognitive bandwidth. So they fled into the darkness and built a civilization so bright it can put anything earthbound that came before the singularity into the shade … and it's still a shanty town inhabited by the mentally handicapped.

Pandora's Brain by Calum Chace

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3D printing, AI winter, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, artificial general intelligence, brain emulation, Extropian, friendly AI, hive mind, mega-rich, Ray Kurzweil, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, Skype, speech recognition, stealth mode startup, Stephen Hawking, strong AI, technological singularity, theory of mind, Turing test, Wall-E

A blast of cold air made him shiver and he looked over to see the families in the doorway of the cafe, collecting their boots and coats. The waitress started clearing the window table and as the door swung closed the noise level dropped several decibels. ‘Tell me why this is irritating you.’ Carl was looking down. He flicked a tiny ball of paper along the table, away from them. ‘Because it’s so stupid!’ he said, sulkily. ‘It’s intelligent design for smart people. These Singularitarians, Transhumanists, Extropians, whatever they call themselves, they are all just guilty of a massive amount of wishful thinking.’ Carl leaned back, paused, and smiled sheepishly. ‘End of rant.’ Matt smiled. ‘No, it was a good rant. You give good rant, Carl. And as it happens I partly agree with you. There is a bit of a self-satisfied feeling about it all, as if they are initiated into a secret which no-one else knows, but everyone will be jolly grateful when they unveil it and bestow their blessings upon the world.


pages: 394 words: 118,929

Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software by Scott Rosenberg

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A Pattern Language, Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL), Berlin Wall, c2.com, call centre, collaborative editing, conceptual framework, continuous integration, Donald Knuth, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Hofstadter, Dynabook, en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, Ford paid five dollars a day, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, George Santayana, Grace Hopper, Guido van Rossum, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Howard Rheingold, index card, Internet Archive, inventory management, Jaron Lanier, John Markoff, John von Neumann, knowledge worker, Larry Wall, life extension, Loma Prieta earthquake, Menlo Park, Merlin Mann, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, Potemkin village, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Stallman, Ronald Reagan, Ruby on Rails, semantic web, side project, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, slashdot, software studies, source of truth, South of Market, San Francisco, speech recognition, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, Therac-25, thinkpad, Turing test, VA Linux, Vannevar Bush, Vernor Vinge, web application, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K

When it rolls out, sometime in the late 2020s, an artificial intelligence’s passing of the Turing Test will be a mere footnote to this singularity’s impact—which will be, he says, to generate a “radical transformation of the reality of human experience” by the 2040s. Utopian? Not really. Kurzweil is careful to lay out the downsides of his vision. Apocalpytic? Who knows—the Singularity’s consequences are, by definition, inconceivable to us pre-Singularitarians. Big? You bet. It’s easy to make fun of the wackier dimension of Kurzweil’s digital eschatology. His personal program of life extension via a diet of 220 pills per day—to pickle his fifty-something wetware until post-Singularity medical breakthroughs open the door to full immortality—sounds more like something out of a late-night commercial pitch than a serious scientist’s choice. Yet Kurzweil’s record of technological future-gazing has so far proven reliable; his voice is a serious one.


pages: 1,737 words: 491,616

Rationality: From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, anti-pattern, anti-work, Arthur Eddington, artificial general intelligence, availability heuristic, Bayesian statistics, Berlin Wall, Build a better mousetrap, Cass Sunstein, cellular automata, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, correlation does not imply causation, cosmological constant, creative destruction, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dematerialisation, discovery of DNA, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, effective altruism, experimental subject, Extropian, friendly AI, fundamental attribution error, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hindsight bias, index card, index fund, Isaac Newton, John Conway, John von Neumann, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Pasteur, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, money market fund, Nash equilibrium, Necker cube, NP-complete, P = NP, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Pierre-Simon Laplace, placebo effect, planetary scale, prediction markets, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Rubik’s Cube, Saturday Night Live, Schrödinger's Cat, scientific mainstream, sensible shoes, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Singularitarianism, Solar eclipse in 1919, speech recognition, statistical model, Steven Pinker, strong AI, technological singularity, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the map is not the territory, the scientific method, Turing complete, Turing machine, ultimatum game, X Prize, Y Combinator, zero-sum game

If you really, genuinely can’t figure out whether a group is a “cult,” then you’ll just have to choose under conditions of uncertainty. That’s what decision theory is all about. Problem five: Lack of strategic thinking. I know people who are cautious around Singularitarianism, and they’re also cautious around political parties and mainstream religions. Cautious, not nervous or defensive. These people can see at a glance that Singularitarianism is obviously not a full-blown cult with sleep deprivation etc. But they worry that Singularitarianism will become a cult, because of risk factors like turning the concept of a powerful AI into a Super Happy Agent (an agent defined primarily by agreeing with any nice thing said about it). Just because something isn’t a cult now, doesn’t mean it won’t become a cult in the future.