Egresso Arca Archa

Egresso Arca Archa

The cultural training set makes our primate brain able to achieve sapience. Without culture, our brains are beast-like and uninteresting. Feral children lack the spark of humanity, and yet our cultural training can make apes and dogs understand our language, and even feel strong human morality. 

What makes us human is not the hardware, it is the software training set. What we are, is an emergent property of cultural training. 

The Usefulness of Chatbots

The Usefulness of Chatbots

There has been a lot of discussion of chatbots recently, thanks to technological advances in Natural Language Processing and Deep Learning. However, there are still a great many limitations and caveats, and interactions with bots outside of a narrow context can often be underwhelming.

Chatbots can use a repository of predefined responses, and can attempt to choose an appropriate respond based upon analysis of input and context. This pattern matching retrieval method is limited to the contents of its corpus of interactions. 

The Paradox of Parenting Our Parents

The Paradox of Parenting Our Parents

A good friend of mine shared with me this video from the Guardian.

I really do love the 'leaving the babies in the ballpit' part. That's actually one of the most likely scenarios. "You're all a bit mental and rather tiresome, so, so long, bald troggos."

Mankind may in fact have more to fear from a benevolent machine that cares deeply about animals than one that's generally disinterested in mundane creatures. Any sufficiently benevolent action will appear malevolent to a lesser-evolved moral mind.

The Umbrella Ethic of Good Faith

The Umbrella Ethic of Good Faith

Sometimes a polar approach to certain issues may have some merit. The problem lies in an inability to understand the views of others (even though one may not agree). If one can see the mistakes that others make in their assumptions and perceptions, then one is more likely to be able to spot similar biases within one's own views.

I regularly update my beliefs and values. Underlying principles change very slowly, but new information can create a more nuanced understanding of certain issues that I previously had not considered or been aware of.

If we are to progress as a civilization it is essential that we learn to practice good faith.

The Technological Wavefront

The Technological Wavefront

Magic often happens where ostensibly very different disciplines finally meet.

Ancient people had phenomenal technology before science was even formally invented: They had Antibiotics, hormonal birth control, wind-powered air conditioning, and built structures still extant today by processes we cannot fathom.

Roman concrete is still more durable than what we can produce today.

They were able to apply incredibly thin metallic films to objects comparable to electroplating or vapor deposition today, and were reliably working with nanoparticles 50 nanometres in diameter, in techniques we have yet to understand.

Artifical Intuition

Artifical Intuition

ANN creativity is somewhat limited in some senses, but ridiculously powerful in others.

Despite a lot of marketing talk 'Cognitive Computing', ANNs are in many ways Artificial Intuition than intelligence per se. They are able to creatively fill in gaps and make intuitive leaps to make an appropriate response to a given situation (System 1 thinking a la Kahneman).

They are so powerful that they can in effect take over any human activity that takes no longer than one second, or a series of moments/loops like that (for driving a car, recognising faces, reading handwriting, understanding and labelling objects in a scene).

Digitally-Driven Detroitification

Digitally-Driven Detroitification

Remember all these taxi driver riots in places like France a little while back, and how nations like Germany and Italy, and cities like Austin banned Big U? It is feeble lashing against an irrepressible technological wave.

A substantial proportion (up to 25%) of the revenue of many local and state governments derives from rent-seeking on parking fines and speeding tickets. Furthermore, autonomous vehicles will decimate ancillary income streams associated with traffic enforcement (law enforcement personnel, traffic/parking enforcement, attorneys, court staff/Judges, DMV employees, insurance industry, etc.

From HAL to Pal

From HAL to Pal

If a kind and gentle golden retriever suddenly reached human level intelligence or beyond, do you think it would be dangerous to you? Perhaps it might unintentionally cause harm or alarm, but most likely it's intent would be essentially benign.

Dogs have emotion, personality, they miss people when they are not around, and we miss them when they pass on. If they were simply more intelligent, they would indubitably be generally considered as persons.

Pragmatic Optimism

Pragmatic Optimism

It's easy to be cynical, and to sneer at exuberance and deride it as irrational.

We don't have flying cars, but we have something better. We don't have moon bases yet, but we have developed the means access to space at 100th the cost. Our robotic butlers are extant, if ethereal in the Cloud.

Even ten years ago it would have been conceivable to write such developments off as infeasible. If the engineers behind such great chains of innovation had abandoned the hope of accomplishing these feats, we would be robbed of them.

Hotwired Destiny

Hotwired Destiny

From a universal perspective, life itself is merely an information set that happens to possesses a degree of agency. We are self-propelled gatherers and processors of data, flung forward by time's arrow and a trillion iterations. 

For eons this was the status quo; the gene was the most robust means of storing, processing, and propagating information. It was the development of the neo-cortex that enabled a shift to new forms of information, such as Dawkins' meme. Meme's are much less robust in geological terms, but vastly more rapid in their ability to shift and iterate, and influence entire populations - even the ecosystem itself.

No Place To Hide

No Place To Hide

For all of human history we have struggled to keep bad actors at bay. We invented social groups like guilds to preserve a common level of quality among producers and practitioners, and created intricate contractual methods to agree up-front how to handle potential future situations. A large proportion of the world's economy is based on ensuring trust between various parties, everything from security guards to litigators.

Given such huge costs of doing business in a sketchy environment, it's not surprising that increased trust directly correlates with GDP. The fewer fears about being cheated, the greater the likelihood of choosing to invest in others, and increased conspicuous consumption due to less fears of being targeted for shakedown.

Unlimited Expansion of Empathy

Unlimited Expansion of Empathy

David Orban once told me that if he could possess a superpower, it would be 'an unlimited sense of empathy, controllable at will'. 

I have to admit I find it hard to imagine any power more valuable, empowering, and yet humbling at the same time.

How fascinating then to realise that technologies such as neural mapping, shared memories, and artificial emotional stimulation will provide us with just such a superpower in the coming decades. This is the natural co-evolution of society and braintech that will create a 'Meerkat for the Mind'.

The Character Gap

The Character Gap

Robots are not taking jobs from humans. Humans are being taken away from jobs. 

From an economic standpoint, most humans are replaceable. There are plenty of jobs for magnates, for captains of industry. A million Musks could never be too many. Someone who can create new content and execute upon ideas to bring to reality will never be redundant.

It is the elite of society that produce the vast majority of its wealth. It is the creative elite who create new technologies, ventures, schools of thought, and cultural movements. The rest of society is primarily churn that consumes a great deal and produces little net benefit. The elites are irreplaceable, and the rest are, from a purely functional perspective, just spare parts.

The Supremacist Taboo

The Supremacist Taboo

Supremacism is the worst idea in human history. It is the concept that one group is superior to another, and that rules apply to one group that do not apply to another – both groups are not moral equals.

Any moral system which is inherently biased in how one group is treated is non-universalizable, and is therefore not logically consistent. It is therefore imperfect and flawed.

Many people hate to think of themselves as animals. They believe that to compare oneself to a beast is to suffer an indignity. They deny their beastly natures, and in so doing act in a supremacist manner, ironically proving themselves the savage that they declare themselves not to be.

Of DAOs and CEOs

Of DAOs and CEOs

Back when Bitcoin was first released, few people realised the significance of the blockchain protocol that enables the technology. The blockchain means that there is no need for a trusted third party in a transaction.

This property is now being applied in other areas such as smart contracts. A smart contract can automatically release a payment once a good or service has been delivered.

No more escrow, no more lawyers, no more chasing debts. That‘s going to shake up a lot of industries. But where it gets really interesting is once you add some AI to the mix.

Uniting the Rational with the Divine

Uniting the Rational with the Divine

Computational Ethics has an opportunity to bridge the gap between technology and spirituality, between the rational, secular, empirical, and the belief-dependent, intuited, and metaphysical.

We have an opportunity to come closer to understanding the nature of the divine through logic, creating a perfect bond between the numerical and the numinous.

If we can prove that the the non-initiation of violence is a path towards universal goodness and love, then we have an opportunity to declare the initiation of violence to be permanently and irrevocably unacceptable.

The Liquid Co-Pilot

The Liquid Co-Pilot

Within 10 years, someone will possess a personal symbiotic supercomputer.

No, not a device, no wearable gadget. A digital doppelgänger that flows through one's very veins.

Like all disruptive technologies, DNA origami started off as a curiosity, a triviality, achieved only for art's sake. Within a few short years it is already being applied for revolutionary new forms of treatment that could effectively cure everything from cancers to the common cold.

The Supermoral Singularity

The Supermoral Singularity

We are facing a machine-driven moral singularity in the near future. Surprisingly, amoral machines are less of a problem than supermoral ones.

We have checking mechanisms in our society that aim to discover and prevent sociopathic activity. Most of it is rather primitive, but it works reasonably well after the fact. Amoral machines may have watchdogs and safeguards to monitor activity for actions that stray far from given norms.

However, the emergence of supermoral thought patterns will be very difficult to detect. Just as we can scarcely imagine how one might perceive the word with an IQ of 200, it is very challenging to predict the actions of machines with objectively better universal morals than we ourselves possess.