Humanity+ and the Upcoming Battle between Good and Evil by Jeanne Dietsch

This article from the humanity+ website (Humanity+ and the Upcoming Battle between Good and Evil) evaluates political stresses in light of transhumanism and the ever-nearing technological singularity.


 

Humanity+ and the Upcoming Battle between Good and Evil

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Many transhumanists seek a better world, made possible through massively improved intellectual capacity, aka Humanity+.

Yet, though we have more power to achieve Good, we have no better understanding of Good than philosophers of millennia ago. If groups continue to gain power exponentially yet disagree on goals, the result might not be tranquility. So far, our super powers have heightened the potential for global destruction. The means to avoid war lies not in increasing the intelligence of our weaponry, but in taming the emotional, political and economic systems that feed its use. Will H+ really alter such psychological and social networks?

Will we finally be able to unite and collaborate toward a consensus goal?

Increased speed and capacity have demonstrably improved our ability to predict outcomes. Solving Texas Hold ‘em Poker is an impressive accomplishment. It suggests that once we decide on a goal, we will now be much more likely to discover the best way to achieve it, even if the path contains psychological bluffs and probability pitfalls.[i] With better speed, capacity and algorithms, our predictive and implementation powers grow.
Our goals, however, remain contentious. Each religious and philosophical in-group defines its own path to Good, Enlightenment or Heaven. To compress such variation into a single metric, some transhumanists propose sampling world populations or collecting a particularly enlightened group of religious and philanthropic leaders to create humanitarian norms that will be used to guide AGI behavior.

The latter was actually already accomplished on December 10, 1948, in response to the second World War. The drafters included Dr. Charles Malik (Lebanon), Alexandre Bogomolov (USSR), Dr. Peng-chun Chang (former Republic of China), René Cassin (France), Eleanor Roosevelt (US, Chair), Charles Dukes (United Kingdom), William Hodgson (Australia), Hernan Santa Cruz (Chile) and John P. Humphrey (Canada), with input from dozens of other representatives of nations as diverse as India and Iran.[ii]

The document is the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights[iii]. Forty-eight nations with widely varying cultures signed this Declaration. However, even in the case of something so broadly accepted, even within the consensus-seeking environment following WWII, eight nations abstained from support: the Soviet Union and five affiliated nations, plus Saudi Arabia and apartheid South Africa. And, although the new People’s Republic of China joined the UN in 1971, it publicly and pointedly values economic progress over human rights, at least until it catches up to developed countries.[iv] Moreover, a number of its 1.3 billion citizens agree.

The point is that there is no coalescing consensus of what goals for humankind should be, even on something as basic as fundamental human rights. Conflict has been our past and will be our future. Some transhumanists talk about upcoming battles.

Hugo deGaris[v] expects conflict between “Terrans” who want to remain homo sapiens and “Cosmists” who expect AGI to replace humans, but how long will struggles last between those who welcome super powers and those who fight them? More likely, the long-term wars of the future will resemble those that ravage us now. Although many young educated adults believe their generation is more cosmopolitan, less nationalistic and more humanitarian, their counterparts are joining conservative, anti-immigration political movements, or even the murderous Islamic State! Do we really believe that only those with progressive Western values will control all H+’s underlying drives? And, if not, are we not arming the enemy at the same time we arm ourselves with greater intelligence?

But fear of misuse is almost never a reason not to pursue knowledge. Perhaps H+, with superior intelligence, will be able to decode the patterns of the Universe and finally explain to us why we are here. Perhaps these super beings will finally reach consensus on our goals?

The aspiration for such a superhuman race is not a recent dream. In fact, over a century ago, Nietzsche wrote, in Also Sprach Zarathustra, that the ultimate purpose of humankind was to create a being transcending human abilities, an ubermensch. While ubermensch is often translated into English as “super man”, it is actually much closer to the concept of H+. The ubermensch was a person above all weaker beings, an empiricist who gained knowledge from his senses just as H+ will gain knowledge from trillions of sensors. The ubermensch would not be constrained by religious truisms but understand Nature directly.

However, ubermensch and H+ differ in at least two ways. First, Nietzsche’s character denigrated Platonic concepts and other abstractions because he considered them removed from experience, whereas we now view conceptual hierarchies as the brain’s means to find pattern and thinking efficiently. We expect H+ to be able to abstract patterns in ways that will enable it to predict future developments far better than homo sapiens. Secondly, H+ differs from ubermensch in its attitude toward the body. Nietzsche saw the body as the essence of humankind. H+ hopes to escape it. In fact, the H+ holy grail of substrate-independent intelligence – uploading brains — very closely mirrors the Christian concept of a soul, the essence of a person that lives on after the body dies.

This other-worldly aspiration was anathema to Nietzsche at the time because it was not grounded in reality. Would he feel the same way today when physics has transformed much of the invisible to material? Perhaps not.

Regardless, is not the goal of transhumanists the creation of a new, ideal being that will understand its purpose better than we do? Are we not, in our struggle to bring meaning to our lives, setting the creation of H+ as a reason for humankind’s existence, for our own existence? In all honesty, are we really seeking something so different from what humans have sought for millennia: a reason, a cause, a goal for existence?

If so, we might also consider Nietzsche’s conclusion. Such goals are futile. Nietzsche viewed Darwinian evolution not as a march toward the ideal, but as a climb across ever-changing terrain. Nietzsche viewed creations as cyclic, or — as we might say today — fractal. From this perspective, creating an ubermensch will not lead to an idyllic existence; it will not stop our struggle; it will only transfer it to venues of a different scale: enormous gullies or minutest crevices. The only force that will stop us fighting among ourselves is a greater threat from beyond.

In fact, Nietzsche came to believe that it is the balancing of conflict with structure, chaos with art, and entropy with life that is each individual’s goal. When Maxwell’s demon opens the door and differences disappear into unchanging calmness, Life is over. Meanwhile, H+ will supersede homo sapiens, but only as one more level of being. We can evolve into ubermenschen, better suited than our hunter-gatherer-brained predecessors to live in today’s complexity, but H+ will not be perfect and will never be finished.

Our ultimate purpose will forever remain just out of sight, past the misty curve of hyperspace.

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References

[i] Bowling, Michael; Burch, Neil; Johanson, Michael; Tammelin, Oskari. (2015) Science (Washington, DC, United States) 347(6218), 145-149.[ii] The Drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (2015) United Nations, New York, NY, US. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/drafters.shtml[iii] United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), United Nations, New York, NY, US. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml[iv] Moore, Greg. (1999) China’s Cautious Participation in the UN Human Rights Regime, in A review of China, the United Nations, and Human Rights: The Limits of Compliance, editor, Ann Kent. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.[v] De Garis, Hugo. (2013) “Will there be cyborgs?” Between Ape and Artilect: Conversations with Pioneers of Artificial General Intelligence and Other Transformative Technologies, editor, Ben Goertzel, Humanity+ Press, Los Angeles, CA.###

About the author

Jeanne Dietsch is a serial tech entrepreneur, Harvard graduate in sci-tech policy, group-thinking facilitator and founder of Sapiens Plurum, an advocacy organization looking out for the interests of humankind.

Jeanne Dietsch
Sapiens Plurum “The Wisdom of Many”

Blog: Saving Humankind-ness

jdietsch@post.harvard.edu


This article can also be found here.

 

The Transhumanist Bodhisattvas by Butsugen Chigen

This article (The Transhumanist Bodhisattvas from H+ Magazine) is a Buddhist perspective on transhumanism.  While the idea of Buddhism as a religion still makes me a bit skeptical, I think the idea of Buddhism as a philosophy can be a powerful tool.  In fact, it is a tool (particularly the aspect of meditation) that has greatly shaped my life and I think the idea of a Bodhisattva is, hands down, the most beautiful concept of which I have heard.  Tranhumanist Bodhisattvas would throw good parties, indeed!  Definitely my kind of people…


 

The Transhumanist Bodhisattvas

The Transhumanist Bodhisattvas are group of transhumanists who seek to obtain the goals of transhumanism for the benefit of other sentient beings. Rather than solely for themselves, the Transhumanist Bodhisattvas work to benefit everyone and establish a world of universal and beneficial abundance.The Bodhisattvas base their approach  on the notion of bodhicitta or non-dual compassion and recognize that the universe consists of a series of complex interconnected networks that depend on each other in deep ways. Our illusion of separateness divides us, but it remains an illusion. We are connected.

Enlightenment is intimacy with all things.

While Transhumanist Bodhisattvas may not have literally taken the Bodhisattva Vow, they work towards the benefit of other sentient beings and they base their actions around bodhicitta as well as the proactionary principle. The Transhumanist Bodhisattvas seek to compassionately extend and expand human life, enhance joy, and end suffering. They throw good parties.

Each Transhumanist Bodhisattva performs altruistic activity in the world specifically directed towards the benefit of other sentient beings, but they need not be a scientist or engineer or have any academic training in particular. However, many of the members of this movement have scientific training or other academic credentials and wisdom and knowledge are valued as well as compassion. It is a philosophy born from the dual sources of applied reason and universal compassion.

Life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost. Each of us should strive to awaken. Awaken. Take heed, do not squander your life.

In Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna Buddhism the aspirant’s goal of practice is to be reborn an infinite numbers of times so that the aspirant can work to liberate other beings still trapped in samsāra. Transhumanist technologies hold out the promise of vastly extending life and potentially through cryonics or future developments unknown today of allowing transhumanists to return to life to continue their work. The Transhumanist Bodhisattvas plan to live a long time so they can help others do the same. They plan to return until they get it right.

The Ten Bulls is a buddhist text that presents a Zen Buddhist interpretation of the ten stages on the path of enlightenment experienced by a Bodhisattva as outlined in various Mahāyāna sūtras, most particularly the Avataṃsaka Sūtra. In the final or tenth stage, the student returns to the marketplace and mingles with humanity. The student returns, bearing a full wineskin and a smile.

“The Laughing Buddha” also known as “Hotei” was a wandering Chinese monk of the Tang Dynasty known for carrying a sack on his back, roaming the countryside, spreading joy and goodwill, especially to children. His sack contained endless treasures which he gave freely, characterizing his virtue of selfless giving. Transhumanist Bodhisattvas engage in DIY or other research efforts to extend and enhance human life. They do research or work with others and promote and communicate beneficial ideas widely. Bearing the fruits of their researches and efforts, they return to the marketplace to share the wine with a smile on their face.

Therefore the Bodhisattvas take the wandering monk Hotei as their patron and symbol. Hotei is also a symbol of the universal benign abundance we seek to achieve through transhumanist technologies for the benefit of all beings.

Recognizing the technical and scientific challenges and obstacles we may face in our most ambitious objectives of extending and enhancing life, we also recognize that we as individuals may not be able to personally benefit from all of these developments. Even if we extend life to several hundred years, millions would continue to die from age related diseases. We most certainly may be among them. The Transhumanist Bodhisattvas work diligently anyway, advancing the state of the art in cryonics, nanotechnology, genetics, robotics, and prosthetic design. If they are non-technical, they use their skills in communication to share the ideas of compassion based transhumanism.

The Transhumanist Bodhisattvas can be found around the fringes of the effective altruism movement, and they are as likely to be found reading Dogen as Kurzweil. Their interests include quantifying altruism, life extension and enhancement technologies, creating abundance, and technological systems which enhance well being and eliminate suffering. They seek to harness the singularity for the benefit of everyone and all beings. The two best known bodhisattvas in the Transhumanist Movement today are David Pearce and the IEET’s James Hughes but they are not alone.

Avalokiteśvara the Buddha of compassion is said to have 1000 arms each with which to reach out to help those who are suffering. The Transhumanist Bodhisattvas however still number much less than 1000. They need your help.

Myriad sentient beings remain trapped in samsāra, suffering, destined to die from aging and disease. No task is too small for a Transhumanist Bodhisattva if it is based in compassion. Seemingly small actions can have large effects, benefit others, and outlast their originators. Compassion starts with those closest to you, right where you are, right now. Reach out to help someone that needs you.

If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?

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Quotations from Zenji Dogen. Hotei image artist unknown.


This article can also be found at http://hplusmagazine.com/2014/08/20/transhumanist-bodhisattvas/

 

A New Generation of Transhumanists Is Emerging by Zoltan Istvan

This Huffington Post article (A New Generation of Transhumanists Is Emerging by Zoltan Istvan) talks about transhumanism moving into the mainstream.  I have just one question; with so many reputable news agencies – and even governmental agencies (the NIC and the NCBI, to name just a couple) – reporting on transhumanism and the technological singularity, why is it that no one I talk to has heard about this movement?  This should be dinner conversation at every household table, but I’ve found that most people will dismiss the it out of hand rather than even try to learn more!  I’m not a big fan of the bible (because I’ve actually read the whole thing), but the phrase “pearls before swine” just leaps into my thoughts when I consider this.  I mean, how otherwise intelligent people can choose to remain ignorant and in the dark on such important topics just boggles my mind.  Wake up, people!  (Not you, of course!  You’re good, I’m sure…)

A New Generation of Transhumanists Is Emerging

Posted: 03/10/2014 2:43 pm EDT Updated: 05/10/2014 5:59 am EDT

A new generation of transhumanists is emerging. You can feel it in handshakes at transhumanist meet-ups. You can see it when checking in to transhumanist groups in social media. You can read it in the hundreds of transhumanist-themed blogs. This is not the same bunch of older, mostly male academics that have slowly moved the movement forward during the last few decades. This is a dynamic group of younger people from varying backgrounds: Asians, Blacks, Middle Easterners, Caucasians, and Latinos. Many are females, some are LGBT, and others have disabilities. Many are atheist, while others are spiritual or even formally religious. Their politics run the gamut, from liberals to conservatives to anarchists. Their professions vary widely, from artists to physical laborers to programmers. Whatever their background, preferences, or professions, they have recently tripled the population of transhumanists in just the last 12 months.

“Three years ago, we had only around 400 members, but today we have over 10,000 members,” says Amanda Stoel, co-founder and chief administrator of Facebook groupSingularity Network, one of the largest of hundreds of transhumanist-themed groups on the web.

Transhumanism is becoming so popular that even the comic strip Dilbert, which appears online and in 2000 newspapers, recently made jokes about it.

Despite its growing popularity, many people around the world still don’t know what “transhuman” means. Transhuman literally means beyond human. Transhumanists consist of life extensionists, techno-optimists, Singularitarians, biohackers, roboticists, AI proponents, and futurists who embrace radical science and technology to improve the human condition. The most important aim for many transhumanists is to overcome human mortality, a goal some believe is achievable by 2045.

Transhumanism has been around for nearly 30 years and was first heavily influenced by science fiction. Today, transhumanism is increasingly being influenced by actual science and technological innovation, much of it being created by people under the age of 40. It’s also become a very international movement, with many formal groups in dozens of countries.

Despite the movement’s growth, its potential is being challenged by some older transhumanists who snub the younger generation and their ideas. These old-school futurists dismiss activist philosophies and radicalism, and even prefer some younger writers and speakers not have their voices heard. Additionally, transhumanism’s Wikipedia page — the most viewed online document of the movement — is protected by a vigilant posse, deleting additions or changes that don’t support a bland academic view of transhumanism.

Inevitably, this Wikipedia page misses the vibrancy and happenings of the burgeoning movement. The real status and information of transhumanism and its philosophies can be found in public transhumanist gatherings and festivities, in popular student groups like the Stanford University Transhumanist Association, and in social media where tens of thousands of scientists and technologists hang out and discuss the transhuman future.

Jet-setting personality Maria Konovalenko, a 29-year-old Russian molecular biophysicist whose public demonstrations supporting radical life extension have made international news, is a prime example.

“We must do more for transhumanism and life extension,” says Konovalenko, who serves as vice president of Moscow-based Science for Life Extension Foundation. “This is our lives and our futures we’re talking about. To sit back and and just watch the 21st Century roll by will not accomplish our goals. We must take our message to the people in the streets and strive to make real change.”

Transhumanist celebrities like Konovalenko are changing the way the movement gets its message across to the public. Gauging by the rapidly increasing number of transhumanists, it’s working.

A primary goal of many transhumanists is to convince the public that embracing radical technology and science is in the species’ best interest. In a mostly religious world where much of society still believes in heavenly afterlives, some people are skeptical about whether significantly extending human lifespans is philosophically and morally correct. Transhumanists believe the more people that support transhumanism, the more private and government resources will end up in the hands of organizations and companies that aim to improve human lives and bring mortality to an end.

 

This article can also be found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zoltan-istvan/a-new-generation-of-trans_b_4921319.html