The reason so many rational people put forward hypotheses that are more hype than high tech, Shermer says, is that being smart and educated doesn’t protect anyone from believing in “weird things.” In fact, sometimes smart and educated people are better at rationalizing beliefs that they hold for not-so-rational reasons. The smarter and more educated you are, the better able you are to find evidence to support what you want to be true, suggests Shermer.
“This explains why Nobel Prize winners speak about areas they know nothing about with great confidence and are sure that they’re right. Just because they have this great confidence of being able to do that (is) a reminder that they’re more like lawyers than scientists in trying to marshal a case for their client,” Shermer said. “(Lawyers) just put together the evidence, as much as you can, in support of your client and get rid of the negative evidence. In science you’re not allowed to do that, you’re supposed to look at all the evidence, including the counter evidence to your theory.”
The root of many of these false hypotheses, Shermer believes, is based in religion. Using immortality as an example, Shermer said the desire to live forever has strong parallels to religious beliefs; however, while there are many making prophecies that technology will insure we’ll live forever, too many people in groups throughout history have made similar yet unfulfilled promises.
“What we’d like to be true is not necessarily what is true, so the burden of proof is on them to go ahead and make the case. Like the cryonics people…they make certain claims that this or that technology is going to revive people that are frozen later…I hope they do it, but you’ve got to prove otherwise. You have to show that you can actually do that.”
Even if we do find a way to live forever, Shermer notes the negatives may outweigh the positives. It’s not just living longer that we want to achieve, but living longer at a high quality of life. There’s not much benefit in living to age 150, he adds, if one is bedridden for 20 or 30 years.
Instead, Shermer compares the process to the evolution of the automobile. While the flying cars promised by 1950’s-era futurists haven’t come to pass, today’s automobile is exponentially smarter and safer than those made 50 or 60 years ago. While forward thinkers have had moments of lucid foresight, humans also have a history of making technology predictions that often don’t turn out to be realized. Often, as is the case with the automobile, we don’t notice differences in technological changes because the changes happen incrementally each year.
“That’s what’s really happening with health and longevity. We’re just creeping up the ladder slowly but surely. We’ve seen hip replacements, organ transplants, better nutrition, exercise, and getting a better feel for what it takes to be healthy,” Shermer says. “The idea that we’re gonna’ have one big giant discovery made that’s going to change everything? I think that’s less likely than just small incremental things. A Utopian (society) where everybody gets to live forever and they’re infinitely happy and prosperous and so on? I think it’s unrealistic to think along those lines.”
Looking at the future of technology, Shermer is equally reticent to buy in to the predictions of artificial intelligence taking over the world. “I think the concern about AI turning evil (and) this dystopian, science fiction perspective is again, not really grounded in reality. I’m an AI optimist, but I don’t think the AI pessimists have any good arguments,” Shermer said
While we know, for the most part, which types of governments work well, we don’t have any similar precedent for complex AI systems. Humans will remain in control and, before we start passing laws and restrictions to curb AI out of fear, Shermer believes we should keep improving our computers and artificial intelligence to make life better, evaluating and taking action as these systems continue to evolve.
This archive file was compiled from an interview conducted at the Googleplex in Mountain View, California, 2013. In the discussion, Amit Singhal, a key figure in the evolution of Google’s search engine, broadly outlined the significant hurdles that stood in the way of achieving one of his long-held dreams — creating a true ‘conversational’ search engine. He also sketched out a vision of how the initial versions of such a system would, and also importantly, would not attempt to assist the individuals that it interacted with.
Though the vision was by design more limited and focused than a system capable of passing the famous Turing test, it nonetheless raised stimulating questions about the future relationships of humans and their ‘artificial’ assistants.
More about Amit Singhal:
Google Search: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Search
This archive file was compiled from an interview conducted at the Googleplex in Mountain View, California, 2013.
As late as the 1980s and the 1990s, the common person seeking stored knowledge would likely be faced with using an 18th century technology — the library index card catalogue — in order to find something on the topic he or she was looking for. Fifteen years later, most people would be able to search, at any time and any place, a collection of information that dwarfed that of any library. And unlike the experience with a library card catalogue, this new technology rarely left the user empty-handed.
Information retrieval had been a core technology of humanity since written language — but as an actual area of research it was so niche that before the 1950s, nobody had bothered to give the field a name. From a superficial perspective, the pioneering work in the area during the 1940s and 50s seemed to suggest it would be monumentally important to the future — but only behind the scenes. Information retrieval was to be the secret tool of the nation at war, or of the elite scientist compiling massive amounts of data. Increasingly however, a visionary group of thinkers dreamed of combining information retrieval and the ‘thinking machine’ to create something which would be far more revolutionary for society.
In the case of Google’s Amit Singhal, it was a childhood encounter with a visionary work that gave him his initial fascination with the dream of the thinking machine — a fascination that would result in his evolution to be one of the individuals who began to transform the dream into a reality. The work that he encountered was not that of a scientific pioneer such as Alan Turing or Marvin Minsky — it was a visionary work of pop culture.
More about Amit Singhal: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amit_Singhal Google Search: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Search
How has your work, your life, your humanity, been improved by the promise of Big Data?
What apps and online media do you use to upload personal and other info?
Singularity has flopped – that is to say, this week Johnny Depp’s new film Transcendence did not bring in as much as Pirates of the Caribbean. Though there may not have been big box office heat, there is heat behind the film’s subject: Big Data! Sure we miss seeing our affable pirate chasing treasure, but hats off to Mr. Depp who removed his Keith Richards make-up to risk chasing what might be the mightiest challenge of our century.
Singularity, coined by mathematician John von Neumann, is a heady mathematical concept tested by biotech predictions. Made popular by math and music wunderkindt turned gray hair guru of an AI movement Ray Kurzweil, Singularity is said to signify the increasing rate at which artificial intelligence will supersede human intelligence like a jealous sibling. Followers of the Singularity movement (yes, with guru comes followers) envision the time of override in the not to distant future with projections set early as 2017 and 2030. At these times, the dynamics of technology are said to set about a change in our biology, our civilization and “perhaps” nature itself. Within our current reach, we see signs of empowered tech acting out in the current human brain mapping quest and brain-computer interface systems. More to the point, there is an ever increasing onslaught of Google Alerts annoucing biotech enhancements with wearable tech. Yes indeed, here comes the age of smart prosthetics and our own AI upload of medical and personal data to the internet. Suddenly all those Selfies seem more than mere narcissistic postings against the imposing backdrop of Big Data.
Johnny Depp’s face says it all in Transcendence where Big Data determines our AI future wherein life as we know it, can and will exist online. Think beyond a 24/7 teenage plug into a smart phone or flash- driving Facebook entries. Think Neuromancer, VALIS, and Star Trek’s Borg — sci fi predecessors predicting memory transformations amounting to an existential reboot. Translated into the everyday, we’re talking more than just uploading your genetic code to 23andme. This is an imagined future where what we call “Me” will be psychologically and legally recognized as living online.
As a contemporary sci fi, Transcendence is filled with pentimento film tributes to Zombie and X-Men TakeOvers, Westerns and Romantic Tragedies. Pitting AI critics against AI visionaries, the film is a bioethics drama, where the prospect of creating online Selves will constitute a direct social threat with thoroughgoing eco consequences. At the center of the bioethics contest, we encounter the marriage and business partnership of Will and Eleanor Castor — the heroic scientist and the eco-activist whose death do us part vows are broken to unleash a future so thoroughly transformed by AI as to render biological existence “hacked” by internet code.
The romantic hubris of Transcendence is jolting with a Shakespearean twist: Dare to Upload yourself to the internet and threaten genealogy, global power. Wait, this is no Romeo and Juliet. Love and Death, Eros and Thanatos, as Herr Freud called it, stands at the center of this science fiction pivoting on Will Castor’s heroic martyrdom (played astutely by Johnny Depp). By the end of the film, we are forced to face the movie’s existential questions as moral and medical ones. With new sentient life living online, collective imagination for our biohumanity and ecosystem is left unhinged.
While the film lifts common AI themes of transformed “self-awareness” and “identity,” the real AI deal breaker in Transcendence, and in our own lives, is Time – biological, ecological and geologic. Described as a sequential and cyclical process, Time frames our present experience, shaping both memory and imagination of that present experience. As my Buddhist philosophy professor use to say: “When you are waiting for your lover, 10 minutes feels like 1 hour; but when your lover arrives, 1 hour feels like 10 minutes.” Cognitive neuroscientists tell us that episodic memory is at once measurable and elusive of metrics — researchers can study the sequence of what we remember (like learning our ABC’s) but they struggle to discover howit feelsto remember the alphabet.
Time after Will Castor’s AI is not waiting for cognitive neuroscience to catch up with a hacker’s race to design new codes, new systems, and new products for regenerating uberhuman biosystems. After all, AI Time presumes the speed of downloads to the Internet and programming APPs as if to emulate the speed of light.
Before Einstein, Neuroscience, the Internet and Apps, Time was once thought of in mythic, primal terms of genesis. In Indian cosmology, Siva, the God of Time, dances on the back of mother earth, moving us through karmic cycles of birth, life, death and rebirth. In the ancient Greco-Roman cosmos, Time is born from Chronos the three headed serpent that gives us earth, sky and the underworld. Through the ages, Time / Chronos became associated with the cycle of seasons, assigning to the process of change in light and life, the name Father Time in contrast to quiet, deep Mother Earth, which seems to absorb the underworld into her womb.
Conceived as such, Father Time has given way to our current understanding of RAM and neural memory codes leaving Mother Earth to stand in for blood, bones and stem cells. Today as we couple with technology and look to Big Data for knowledge and insight, we lose sight of when, and how, we capitulate to a fundamental misperception: That we are one and the same with the technology we create. Blinded by the light and speed of computer gazing, we mistake ourselves for our creations. We forget difference and our humanity — even if coupled with technology. For the sake of a popular drama, Transcendence pushes on the consequences of this misperception by entertaining a bioethics war over regenerating biological tissue. Like I said, this is a flick with a nod to X-Men.
With computational neuroscience sitting at the center of this passion play, it is neurobiologist and bioethicist Max, the Castor’s closest friend and film’s narrator who reminds us that we are Time emergent and memories alone are not us. Memory may be coded for upload but it cannot fully account for the what and who we are as neuroplastic creatures with uncertain futures. Yes, we are more than just code. As the father of American psychology William James once wrote, we draw from a world of “blooming buzzing confusion,” perceptions enriched with a variety of associated thoughts, sensations and reactions. That piece of wisdom may be more than a century old, but even if our behaviors might fit a statistical profile for behavioral economics, we are reminded: statistical profiles are not Us.
Looking back to the late 1990’s, the call for the human-machine interface was met by both excitement and trepidation by frontier technologists and skeptical intellectuals. In my own backyard, I curated a 2003 symposium at Art Center College of Design with NASA scientists and a world famous cyborg, STELARC to discuss: What kind of science and technologies would push the design futures forward and would our imagined futures require the inevitable coupling of human and technology? Now more than 10 years later with advances in the Cloud, wearable tech and neuro-marketing, students have no greater skills for managing their union with the Borg. To paraphrase the thinking of my business partner, Gaynor Strachan Chun, ‘the problem is not with technology, but the way people behave with technology.’
Future Forward? Let’s skill up with the brain in mind to face the behavioral challenges with Big Data.
M. A. Greenstein, Ph.D., Lifeboat Advisor — Neuroscience / Diplomacy / Futures; Founder / Chairman, The George Greenstein Institute (GGI); Founder / Chief Innovation Officer, SM+ART
“I zoomed in as she approached the steps of the bridge, taking voyeuristic pleasure in seeing her pixelated cleavage fill the screen.
What was it about those electronic dots that had the power to turn people on? There was nothing real in them, but that never stopped millions of people every day, male and female, from deriving sexual gratification by interacting with those points of light.
Transhumanism is about using technology to improve the human condition. Perhaps a nascent stigma attached to the transhumanist movement in some circles comes from the ethical implications and usage of high technology — bio-tech and nano-tech to name a few, on people. Yet, being transhuman does not necessarily have to be associated with bio-hacking the human body, or entail the donning of cyborg-like prosthetics. Although it is hard not to plainly see and recognize the benefits such human augmentation technology has, for persons in need.
Orgasms and Longevity:
Today, how many normal people, even staunch theists, can claim not to use sexual aids and visual stimulation in the form of video or interaction via video, to achieve sexual satisfaction? It’s hard to deny the therapeutic effect an orgasm has in improving the human condition. In brief, some benefits to health and longevity associated with regular sex and orgasms:
When we orgasm we release hormones, including oxytocin and vasopressin. Oxytocin equals relaxation, and when released it can help us calm down and feel euphoric.
People having more sex add years to their lifespan. Dr. Oz touts a 200 orgasms a year guideline. 
While orgasms usually occur as a result of physical sexual activity, there is no conclusive study that proves beneficial orgasms are only produced when sexual activity involves two humans. Erotica in the form of literature and later, moving images, have been used to stimulate the mind into inducing an orgasm for a good many centuries in the absence of a human partner. As technology is the key enabler in stimulating the mind, what might the sexual choices (preferences?) of the human race — the Transhuman be, going forward?
(Gray Scott speaking on Sexbots at 1:19 minutes into the video)
SexBots and Digital Surrogates [Dirrogates]
Sexbots, or sex robots can come in two forms. Fully digital incarnations with AI, viewed through Augmented Reality visors, or as physical robots — advanced enough to pass off as human surrogates. The porn industry has always been at the fore-front of video and interactive innovation, experimenting with means of immersing the audience into the “action”. Gonzo Porn  is one such technique that started off as a passive linear viewing experience, then progressed to multi-angle DVD interactivity and now to Virtual Reality first person point-of-view interactivity.
Augmented Reality and Digital Surrogates of porn stars performing with AI built in, will be the next logical step. How could this be accomplished?
Somewhere on hard-drives in Hollywood studios, there are full body digital models and “performance capture” files of actors and actresses. When these perf-cap files are assigned to any suitable 3D CGI model, an animator can bring to life the Digital Surrogate [Dirrogate] of the original actor. Coupled with realistic skin rendering using Separable Subsurface Scattering (SSSS) rendering techniques  for instance, and with AI “behaviour” libraries, these Dirrogates can populate the real world, enter living-rooms and change or uplift the mood of person — for the better.
(The above video is for illustration purposes of 3D model data-sets and perf-capture)
With 3D printing of human body parts now possible and blue prints coming online  with full mechanical assembly instructions, the other kind of sexbot is possible. It won’t be long before the 3D laser-scanned blueprint of a porn star sexbot will be available for licensing and home printing, at which point, the average person will willingly transition to transhuman status once the ‘buy now’ button has been clicked.
Programmable matter — Claytronics  will take this technology to even more sophisticated levels.
Sexbots and Ethics:
If we look at Digital Surrogate Sexbot technology, which is a progression of interactive porn, we can see the technology to create such Dirrogate sexbots exists today, and better iterations will come about in the next couple of years. Augmented Reality hardware when married to wearable technology such as ‘fundawear’  and a photo-realistic Dirrogate driven by perf-captured libraries of porn stars under software (AI) control, can bring endless sessions of sexual pleasure to males and females.
Things get complicated as technology evolves, and to borrow a term from Kurzweil, exponentially. Recently the Kinect 2 was announced. This off the shelf hardware ‘game controller’ in the hands of capable hackers has shown what is possible. It can be used as a full body performance capture solution, a 3D laser scanner that can build a replica of a room in realtime and more…
Which means, during a dirrogate sexbot session where a human wears an Augmented Reality visor such as Meta-glass , it would be possible to connect via the internet to your partner, wife or husband and have their live perf-capture session captured by a Kinect 2 controller and drive the photo-realistic Dirrogate of your favorite pornstar.
Would this be the makings of Transhumanist adultry? Some other ethical issues to ponder:
Thou shalt not covet their neighbors wife — But there is no commandant about pirating her perf-capture file.
Will humans, both male or female, prefer sexbots versus human partners for sexual fulfillment? — Will oxytocin release make humans “feel” for their sexbots?
As AI algorithms get better…bordering on artificial sentience, will sexbots start asking for “Dirrogate Rights”?
These are only some of the points worth considering… and if these seem like plausible concerns, imagine what happens in the case of humanoid like physical Sex-bots. As Gray Scott mentions in his video above.
As we evolve into Transhumans, we will find ourselves asking that all important question “What is Real?”
If we approach the subject from a non theist point of view, what we have is a re-boot. A restore of a previously working “system image”. Can we restore a person to the last known working state prior to system failure?
As our Biological (analog) life get’s more entwined with the Digital world we have created, chances are, there might be options worth exploring. It all comes down to “Sampling” — taking snapshots of our analog lives and storing them digitally. Today, with reasonable precision we can sample, store and re-create most of our primary senses, digitally. Sight via cameras, sound via microphones, touch via haptics and even scents can be sampled and/or synthesized with remarkable accuracy.
Life as Routines, Sub-routines and Libraries:
In the story “Memories with Maya”, Krish the AI researcher put forward in simple language, some of his theories to the main character, Dan:
“Humans are creatures of habit,” he said. “We live our lives following the same routine day after day. We do the things we do with one primary motivation–comfort.” “That’s not entirely true,” I said. “What about random acts. Haven’t you done something crazy or on impulse?” “Even randomness is within a set of parameters; thresholds,” he said.
If we look at it, the average person’s week can be broken down to typical activities per day and a branch out for the weekend. The day can be further broken down into time-of-day routines. Essentially, what we have are sub-routines, routines and libraries that are run in an infinite loop, until wear and tear on mechanical parts leads to sector failures. Viruses also thrown into the mix for good measure.
Remember: we are looking at the typical lives of a good section of society — those who have resigned their minds to accepting life as it comes, satisfied in being able to afford creature comforts every once in a while. We aren’t looking at the outliers — the Einsteins, the Jobs the Mozarts. This is ironic, in that, it would be easier to back-up, restore, and resurrect the average person than it would be to do the same for outliers.
Digital Breadcrumbs — The clues we leave behind.
What exactly does social media sites mean by “What’s on your mind?” — Is it an invitation to digitize our Emotions, our thoughts, our experiences via words, pictures, sounds and videos? Every minute, Gigabytes (a conservative estimate) of analog life is being digitized and uploaded to the metaphoric “Cloud” — a rich mineral resource, ripe for data mining by “deeplearning” systems. At some point in the near future, would AI combined with technologies such as Quantum Archeology, Augmented Reality and Nano-tech, allow us to run our brains (minds?) on a substrate independent platform?
If that proposition turns your geek on, here’s some ways that you can live out a modern day version of Hansel and Gretel, insuring you find your way home, by leaving as many digital bread crumbs as you can via:
Mind Files — Terasem and Lifenaut:
What is the LifeNaut Project?
The long-term goal is to test whether given a comprehensive database, saturated with the most relevant aspects of an individual’s personality, future intelligent software will be able to replicate an individual’s consciousness. So, perhaps in the next 20 or 30 years technology will be developed to upload these files, together with futuristic software into a body of some sort – perhaps cellular, perhaps holographic, perhaps robotic. LifeNaut.com is funded by the Terasem Movement Foundation, Inc.
The LifeNaut Project is organized as a research experiment designed to test these hypotheses:
(1) a conscious analog of a person may be created by combining sufficiently detailed data about the person (“mindfile & biofile”) using future consciousness software (“mindware”), and
(2) such a conscious analog may be downloaded into a biological or nanotechnological body to provide life experiences comparable to those of a typically birthed human.
Without us even knowing it, we are Transhumans at heart. Owners of the gaming console Xbox and the Kinect, have at their disposal, hardware that until just a couple of years ago, was only within reach of large corporations and Hollywood studios. Motion Capture, Laser scanning, full body 3D models and performance capture was not accessible to lay-people.
Today, this technology can contribute toward backup and Digital resurrection. A performance capture session can encode digitally, the essence of a persons gait, the way they walk, pout, and express themselves — A person’s unique Digital Signature. The next video shows this.
“It was easy to create a frame for him, Dan,” he said. “In the time that the cancer was eating away at him, the day’s routine became more predictable.
At first he would still go to work, then come home and spend time with us. Then he couldn’t go anymore and he was at home all day.
I knew his routine so well it took me 15 minutes to feed it in. There was no need for any random branches.”
A performance capture file, could also be stored as part of a MindFile. LifeNaut and other cryonic service providers could benefit from such invaluable data when re-booting a person.
“And sometimes when we touch”:
Perhaps one of the most difficult of our senses to recreate, is that of touch. Science is already making giant strides in this area, and looking at it from a more human perspective, touch is one of the more direct and cherished sensations that defines humanity. Touch can convey emotion.
…That’s the point of this kind of technology – giving people their humanity back. You could argue that a person is no less of a human after losing a limb, but those who suffer through it would likely tell you that there is a feeling of loss. Getting that back may be physically gratifying, but it’s probably even more psychologically gratifying… — Nigel Ackland- on his bebionic arm.
If a person’s unique “touch” signature can be digitized, every nuance can be forever preserved…both for the benefit of the owner of the file, and to their loved ones, experiencing and remembering shared intimate moments.
The aim of this short essay is not to delve into philosophy, yet on some level it is un-avoidable when talking about Transhumanism. An important goal of this movement is the use of technology for the enhancement, uplifting and perhaps…the transcendence of the shortcomings of the human condition. Technology in general seems to be keeping pace and is in sync with both Moore’s law and Kurzweil’s law and his predictions.
Yet, there is an emerging strain of Transhumanists — propelled by radical ideology, and if left un-questioned might raise the specter of Eugenics, wreaking havoc and potentially inviting retaliation from the masses. The outcome being, the stymieing human transcendence. One can only hope that along with physical augmentation technology and advances in bio-tech, Eugenics will be a thing of the past.
Soon enough, at least IQ Augmentation technology will be within reach (cost-wise) of the common man — in the form of an on-demand, non-invasive, memory and intelligence augmentation device. So… will Google Glass or similar Intelligence Augmentation device, forever banish the argument for “intellectual” Eugenics? Read an article on 4 ways that Google glass makes us Transhuman.
The following passage from the novel “Memories with Maya” is relevant to that essay.
He took a file out and opened it in front of us. Each paper was watermarked ‘Classified’.
“This is a proposal to regulate and govern the ownership of Dirrogates,” he said.
Krish and I looked at each other, and then we were listening.
“I see it, and I’m sure you both do as well, the immense opportunity there is in licensing Dirrogates to work overseas right at clients’ premises. BPO two point zero like you’ve never seen,” he said. “Our country is a huge business outsourcing destination. Why not have actual Dirrogates working at the client’s facility where they can communicate with other human staff. — Memories with Maya
A little explanation: Dirrogates are Digital Surrogates in the novel. An avatar of a real person, driven by markerless performance capture hardware such as a Kinect-like depth camera. Full skeletal and facial tracking animates a person’s Digital Surrogate and the Dirrogate can be seen by a human wearing Augmented Reality visors. Thus a human (the Dirrogate operator) is able to “tele-travel” to any location on Earth, given its exact geo-coordinates.
At the chosen destination, another depth cam streams a live, real-time 3D model of the room/location so the Dirrogate (operator) can “see” live humans overlaid with a 3D mesh of themselves and a fitted video draped texture map. In essence — a live person cloaked in a Computer generated mesh created in real-time by the depth camera… idea-seeding for Kinect 2 hackers.
What would a Dirrogate look like in the real-world? The video below, is a crude (non photo-realistic) Dirrogate entering the real world.
Dirrogates, Immigration and Pseudo Minduploads:
This brings up the question: If we can have Digital Surrogates, or indeed, pseudo mind-uploads taking on 3D printed mechanical-surrogate bodies, what is the future for physical borders and Immigration policies?
Which brings us to a related point: Does one need a visa to visit the United States of America to “work”?
As an analogy, consider the pseudo mind-upload in the video below.
Does it matter if the boy is in the same town that the school is in or if he were in another country? Now consider the case of a customer service executive, or an immigrant from a third world country using a pseudo mind-upload to Tele-Travel to his work place in down-town New York — to “drive” a Google Taxi Cab until such a time that driverless car AI is perfected.
Most thinkers speculating on the coming of an intelligence explosion (whether via Artificial-General-Intelligence or Whole-Brain-Emulation/uploading), such as Ray Kurzweil  and Hans Moravec, typically use computational price performance as the best measure for an impending intelligence explosion (e.g. Kurzweil’s measure is when enough processing power to satisfy his estimates for basic processing power required to simulate the human brain costs $1,000). However, I think a lurking assumption lies here: that it won’t be much of an explosion unless available to the average person. I present a scenario below that may indicate that the imminence of a coming intelligence-explosion is more impacted by basic processing speed – or instructions per second (ISP), regardless of cost or resource requirements per unit of computation, than it is by computational price performance. This scenario also yields some additional, counter-intuitive conclusions, such as that it may be easier (for a given amount of “effort” or funding) to implement WBE+AGI than it would be to implement AGI alone – or rather that using WBE as a mediator of an increase in the rate of progress in AGI may yield an AGI faster or more efficiently per unit of effort or funding than it would be to implement AGI directly.
Petascale supercomputers in existence today exceed the processing-power requirements estimated by Kurzweil, Moravec, and Storrs-Hall. If a wealthy individual were uploaded onto an petascale supercomputer today, they would have the same computational resources as the average person would eventually have in 2019 according to Kurzweil’s figures, when computational processing power equal to the human brain, which he estimates at 20 quadrillion calculations per second. While we may not yet have the necessary software to emulate a full human nervous system, the bottleneck for being able to do so is progress in the field or neurobiology rather than software performance in general. What is important is that the raw processing power estimated by some has already been surpassed – and the possibility of creating an upload may not have to wait for drastic increases in computational price performance.
The rate of signal transmission in electronic computers has been estimated to be roughly 1 million times as fast as the signal transmission speed between neurons, which is limited to the rate of passive chemical diffusion. Since the rate of signal transmission equates with subjective perception of time, an upload would presumably experience the passing of time one million times faster than biological humans. If Yudkowsky’s observation  that this would be the equivalent to experiencing all of history since Socrates every 18 “real-time” hours is correct then such an emulation would experience 250 subjective years for every hour and 4 years a minute. A day would be equal to 6,000 years, a week would be equal to 1,750 years, and a month would be 75,000 years.
Moreover, these figures use the signal transmission speed of current, electronic paradigms of computation only, and thus the projected increase in signal-transmission speed brought about through the use of alternative computational paradigms, such as 3-dimensional and/or molecular circuitry or Drexler’s nanoscale rod-logic , can only be expected to increase such estimates of “subjective speed-up”.
The claim that the subjective perception of time and the “speed of thought” is a function of the signal-transmission speed of the medium or substrate instantiating such thought or facilitating such perception-of-time follows from the scientific-materialist (a.k.a. metaphysical-naturalist) claim that the mind is instantiated by the physical operations of the brain. Thought and perception of time (or the rate at which anything is perceived really) are experiential modalities that constitute a portion of the brain’s cumulative functional modalities. If the functional modalities of the brain are instantiated by the physical operations of the brain, then it follows that increasing the rate at which such physical operations occur would facilitate a corresponding increase in the rate at which such functional modalities would occur, and thus the rate at which the experiential modalities that form a subset of those functional modalities would likewise occur.
Petascale supercomputers have surpassed the rough estimates made by Kurzweil (20 petaflops, or 20 quadrillion calculations per second), Moravec (100,000 MIPS), and others. Most argue that we still need to wait for software improvements to catch up with hardware improvements. Others argue that even if we don’t understand how the operation of the brain’s individual components (e.g. neurons, neural clusters, etc.) converge to create the emergent phenomenon of mind – or even how such components converge so as to create the basic functional modalities of the brain that have nothing to do with subjective experience – we would still be able to create a viable upload. Nick Bostrom & Anders Sandberg, in their 2008 Whole Brain Emulation Roadmap  for instance, have argued that if we understand the operational dynamics of the brain’s low-level components, we can then computationally emulate such components and the emergent functional modalities of the brain and the experiential modalities of the mind will emerge therefrom.
Mind Uploading is (Largely) Independent of Software Performance:
Why is this important? Because if we don’t have to understand how the separate functions and operations of the brain’s low-level components converge so as to instantiate the higher-level functions and faculties of brain and mind, then we don’t need to wait for software improvements (or progress in methodological implementation) to catch up with hardware improvements. Note that for the purposes of this essay “software performance” will denote the efficacy of the “methodological implementation” of an AGI or Upload (i.e. designing the mind-in-question, regardless of hardware or “technological implementation” concerns) rather than how optimally software achieves its effect(s) for a given amount of available computational resources.
This means that if the estimates for sufficient processing power to emulate the human brain noted above are correct then a wealthy individual could hypothetically have himself destructively uploaded and run on contemporary petascale computers today, provided that we can simulate the operation of the brain at a small-enough scale (which is easier than simulating components at higher scales; simulating the accurate operation of a single neuron is less complex than simulating the accurate operation of higher-level neural networks or regions). While we may not be able to do so today due to lack of sufficient understanding of the operational dynamics of the brain’s low-level components (and whether the models we currently have are sufficient is an open question), we need wait only for insights from neurobiology, and not for drastic improvements in hardware (if the above estimates for required processing-power are correct), or in software/methodological-implementation.
If emulating the low-level components of the brain (e.g. neurons) will give rise to the emergent mind instantiated thereby, then we don’t actually need to know “how to build a mind” – whereas we do in the case of an AGI (which for the purposes of this essay shall denote AGI not based off of the human or mammalian nervous system, even though an upload might qualify as an AGI according to many people’s definitions). This follows naturally from the conjunction of the premises that 1. the system we wish to emulate already exists and 2. we can create (i.e. computationally emulate) the functional modalities of the whole system by only understanding the operation of the low level-level components’ functional modalities.
Thus, I argue that a wealthy upload who did this could conceivably accelerate the coming of an intelligence explosion by such a large degree that it could occur before computational price performance drops to a point where the basic processing power required for such an emulation is available for a widely-affordable price, say for $1,000 as in Kurzweil’s figures.
Such a scenario could make basic processing power, or Instructions-Per-Second, more indicative of an imminent intelligence explosion or hard take-off scenario than computational price performance.
If we can achieve human whole-brain-emulation even one week before we can achieve AGI (the cognitive architecture of which is not based off of the biological human nervous system) and this upload set to work on creating an AGI, then such an upload would have, according to the “subjective-speed-up” factors given above, 1,750 subjective years within which to succeed in designing and implementing an AGI, for every one real-time week normatively-biological AGI workers have to succeed.
The subjective-perception-of-time speed-up alone would be enough to greatly improve his/her ability to accelerate the coming of an intelligence explosion. Other features, like increased ease-of-self-modification and the ability to make as many copies of himself as he has processing power to allocate to, only increase his potential to accelerate the coming of an intelligence explosion.
This is not to say that we can run an emulation without any software at all. Of course we need software – but we may not need drastic improvements in software, or a reinventing of the wheel in software design
So why should we be able to simulate the human brain without understanding its operational dynamics in exhaustive detail? Are there any other processes or systems amenable to this circumstance, or is the brain unique in this regard?
There is a simple reason for why this claim seems intuitively doubtful. One would expect that we must understand the underlying principles of a given technology’s operation in in order to implement and maintain it. This is, after all, the case for all other technologies throughout the history of humanity. But the human brain is categorically different in this regard because it already exists.
If, for instance, we found a technology and wished to recreate it, we could do so by copying the arrangement of components. But in order to make any changes to it, or any variations on its basic structure or principals-of-operation, we would need to know how to build it, maintain it, and predictively model it with a fair amount of accuracy. In order to make any new changes, we need to know how such changes will affect the operation of the other components – and this requires being able to predictively model the system. If we don’t understand how changes will impact the rest of the system, then we have no reliable means of implementing any changes.
Thus, if we seek only to copy the brain, and not to modify or augment it in any substantial way, the it is wholly unique in the fact that we don’t need to reverse engineer it’s higher-level operations in order to instantiate it.
This approach should be considered a category separate from reverse-engineering. It would indeed involve a form of reverse-engineering on the scale we seek to simulate (e.g. neurons or neural clusters), but it lacks many features of reverse-engineering by virtue of the fact that we don’t need to understand its operation on all scales. For instance, knowing the operational dynamics of the atoms composing a larger system (e.g. any mechanical system) wouldn’t necessarily translate into knowledge of the operational dynamics of its higher-scale components. The approach mind-uploading falls under, where reverse-engineering at a small enough scale is sufficient to recreate it, provided that we don’t seek to modify its internal operation in any significant way, I will call Blind Replication.
Blind replication disallows any sort of significant modifications, because if one doesn’t understand how processes affect other processes within the system then they have no way of knowing how modifications will change other processes and thus the emergent function(s) of the system. We wouldn’t have a way to translate functional/optimization objectives into changes made to the system that would facilitate them. There are also liability issues, in that one wouldn’t know how the system would work in different circumstances, and would have no guarantee of such systems’ safety or their vicarious consequences. So government couldn’t be sure of the reliability of systems made via Blind Replication, and corporations would have no way of optimizing such systems so as to increase a given performance metric in an effort to increase profits, and indeed would be unable to obtain intellectual property rights over a technology that they cannot describe the inner-workings or “operational dynamics” of.
However, government and private industry wouldn’t be motivated by such factors (that is, ability to optimize certain performance measures, or to ascertain liability) in the first place, if they were to attempt something like this – since they wouldn’t be selling it. The only reason I foresee government or industry being interested in attempting this is if a foreign nation or competitor, respectively, initiated such a project, in which case they might attempt it simply to stay competitive in the case of industry and on equal militaristic defensive/offensive footing in the case of government. But the fact that optimization-of-performance-measures and clear liabilities don’t apply to Blind Replication means that a wealthy individual would be more likely to attempt this, because government and industry have much more to lose in terms of liability, were someone to find out.
Could Upload+AGI be easier to implement than AGI alone?
This means that the creation of an intelligence with a subjective perception of time significantly greater than unmodified humans (what might be called Ultra-Fast Intelligence) may be more likely to occur via an upload, rather than an AGI, because the creation of an AGI is largely determined by increases in both computational processing and software performance/capability, whereas the creation of an upload may be determined by-and-large by processing-power and thus remain largely independent of the need for significant improvements in software performance or “methodological implementation”
If the premise that such an upload could significantly accelerate a coming intelligence explosion (whether by using his/her comparative advantages to recursively self-modify his/herself, to accelerate innovation and R&D in computational hardware and/or software, or to create a recursively-self-improving AGI) is taken as true, it follows that even the coming of an AGI-mediated intelligence explosion specifically, despite being impacted by software improvements as well as computational processing power, may be more impacted by basic processing power (e.g. IPS) than by computational price performance — and may be more determined by computational processing power than by processing power + software improvements. This is only because uploading is likely to be largely independent of increases in software (i.e. methodological as opposed to technological) performance. Moreover, development in AGI may proceed faster via the vicarious method outlined here – namely having an upload or team of uploads work on the software and/or hardware improvements that AGI relies on – than by directly working on such improvements in “real-time” physicality.
The increase in subjective perception of time alone (if Yudkowsky’s estimate is correct, a ratio of 250 subjective years for every “real-time” hour) gives him/her a massive advantage. It also would likely allow them to counter-act and negate any attempts made from “real-time” physicality to stop, slow or otherwise deter them.
There is another feature of virtual embodiment that could increase the upload’s ability to accelerate such developments. Neural modification, with which he could optimize his current functional modalities (e.g. what we coarsely call “intelligence”) or increase the metrics underlying them, thus amplifying his existing skills and cognitive faculties (as in Intelligence Amplification or IA), as well as creating categorically new functional modalities, is much easier from within virtual embodiment than it would be in physicality. In virtual embodiment, all such modifications become a methodological, rather than technological, problem. To enact such changes in a physically-embodied nervous system would require designing a system to implement those changes, and actually implementing them according to plan. To enact such changes in a virtually-embodied nervous system requires only a re-organization or re-writing of information. Moreover, in virtual embodiment, any changes could be made, and reversed, whereas in physical embodiment reversing such changes would require, again, designing a method and system of implementing such “reversal-changes” in physicality (thereby necessitating a whole host of other technologies and methodologies) – and if those changes made further unexpected changes, and we can’t easily reverse them, then we may create an infinite regress of changes, wherein changes made to reverse a given modification in turn creates more changes, that in turn need to be reversed, ad infinitum.
Thus self-modification (and especially recursive self-modification), towards the purpose of intelligence amplification into Ultraintelligence  in easier (i.e. necessitating a smaller technological and methodological infrastructure – that is, the required host of methods and technologies needed by something – and thus less cost as well) in virtual embodiment than in physical embodiment.
These recursive modifications not only further maximize the upload’s ability to think of ways to accelerate the coming of an intelligence explosion, but also maximize his ability to further self-modify towards that very objective (thus creating the positive feedback loop critical for I.J Good’s intelligence explosion hypothesis) – or in other words maximize his ability to maximize his general ability in anything.
But to what extent is the ability to self-modify hampered by the critical feature of Blind Replication mentioned above – namely, the inability to modify and optimize various performance measures by virtue of the fact that we can’t predictively model the operational dynamics of the system-in-question? Well, an upload could copy himself, enact any modifications, and see the results – or indeed, make a copy to perform this change-and-check procedure. If the inability to predictively model a system made through the “Blind Replication” method does indeed problematize the upload’s ability to self-modify, it would still be much easier to work towards being able to predictively model it, via this iterative change-and-check method, due to both the subjective-perception-of-time speedup and the ability to make copies of himself.
It is worth noting that it might be possible to predictively model (and thus make reliable or stable changes to) the operation of neurons, without being able to model how this scales up to the operational dynamics of the higher-level neural regions. Thus modifying, increasing or optimizing existing functional modalities (i.e. increasing synaptic density in neurons, or increasing the range of usable neurotransmitters — thus increasing the potential information density in a given signal or synaptic-transmission) may be significantly easier than creating categorically new functional modalities.
Increasing the Imminence of an Intelligent Explosion:
So what ways could the upload use his/her new advantages and abilities to actually accelerate the coming of an intelligence explosion? He could apply his abilities to self-modification, or to the creation of a Seed-AI (or more technically a recursively self-modifying AI).
He could also accelerate its imminence vicariously by working on accelerating the foundational technologies and methodologies (or in other words the technological and methodological infrastructure of an intelligence explosion) that largely determine its imminence. He could apply his new abilities and advantages to designing better computational paradigms, new methodologies within existing paradigms (e.g. non-Von-Neumann architectures still within the paradigm of electrical computation), or to differential technological development in “real-time” physicality towards such aims – e.g. finding an innovative means of allocating assets and resources (i.e. capital) to R&D for new computational paradigms, or optimizing current computational paradigms.
Thus there are numerous methods of indirectly increasing the imminence (or the likelihood of imminence within a certain time-range, which is a measure with less ambiguity) of a coming intelligence explosion – and many new ones no doubt that will be realized only once such an upload acquires such advantages and abilities.
Intimations of Implications:
So… Is this good news or bad news? Like much else in this increasingly future-dominated age, the consequences of this scenario remain morally ambiguous. It could be both bad and good news. But the answer to this question is independent of the premises – that is, two can agree on the viability of the premises and reasoning of the scenario, while drawing opposite conclusions in terms of whether it is good or bad news.
People who subscribe to the “Friendly AI” camp of AI-related existential risk will be at once hopeful and dismayed. While it might increase their ability to create their AGI (or more technically their Coherent-Extrapolated-Volition Engine ), thus decreasing the chances of an “unfriendly” AI being created in the interim, they will also be dismayed by the fact that it may include (but not necessitate) a recursively-modifying intelligence, in this case an upload, to be created prior to the creation of their own AGI – which is the very problem they are trying to mitigate in the first place.
Those who, like me, see a distributed intelligence explosion (in which all intelligences are allowed to recursively self-modify at the same rate – thus preserving “power” equality, or at least mitigating “power” disparity [where power is defined as the capacity to affect change in the world or society] – and in which any intelligence increasing their capably at a faster rate than all others is disallowed) as a better method of mitigating the existential risk entailed by an intelligence explosion will also be dismayed. This scenario would allow one single person to essentially have the power to determine the fate of humanity – due to his massively increased “capability” or “power” – which is the very feature (capability disparity/inequality) that the “distributed intelligence explosion” camp of AI-related existential risk seeks to minimize.
On the other hand, those who see great potential in an intelligence explosion to help mitigate existing problems afflicting humanity – e.g. death, disease, societal instability, etc. – will be hopeful because the scenario could decrease the time it takes to implement an intelligence explosion.
I for one think that it is highly likely that the advantages proffered by accelerating the coming of an intelligence explosion fail to supersede the disadvantages incurred by the increase existential risk it would entail. That is, I think that the increase in existential risk brought about by putting so much “power” or “capability-to-affect-change” in the (hands?) one intelligence outweighs the decrease in existential risk brought about by the accelerated creation of an Existential-Risk-Mitigating A(G)I.
Thus, the scenario presented above yields some interesting and counter-intuitive conclusions:
How imminent an intelligence explosion is, or how likely it is to occur within a given time-frame, may be more determined by basic processing power than by computational price performance, which is a measure of basic processing power per unit of cost. This is because as soon as we have enough processing power to emulate a human nervous system, provided we have sufficient software to emulate the lower level neural components giving rise to the higher-level human mind, then the increase in the rate of thought and subjective perception of time made available to that emulation could very well allow it to design and implement an AGI before computational price performance increases by a large enough factor to make the processing power necessary for that AGI’s implementation available for a widely-affordable cost. This conclusion is independent of any specific estimates of how long the successful computational emulation of a human nervous system will take to achieve. It relies solely on the premise that the successful computational emulation of the human mind can be achieved faster than the successful implementation of an AGI whose design is not based upon the cognitive architecture of the human nervous system. I have outlined various reasons why we might expect this to be the case. This would be true even if uploading could only be achieved faster than AGI (given an equal amount of funding or “effort”) by a seemingly-negligible amount of time, like one week, due to the massive increase in speed of thought and the rate of subjective perception of time that would then be available to such an upload.
The creation of an upload may be relatively independent of software performance/capability (which is not to say that we don’t need any software, because we do, but rather that we don’t need significant increases in software performance or improvements in methodological implementation – i.e. how we actually design a mind, rather than the substrate it is instantiated by – which we do need in order to implement an AGI and which we would need for WBE, were the system we seek to emulate not already in existence) and may in fact be largely determined by processing power or computational performance/capability alone, whereas AGI is dependent on increases in both computational performance and software performance or fundamental progress in methodological implementation.
If this second conclusion is true, it means that an upload may be possible quite soon considering the fact that we’ve passed the basic estimates for processing requirements given by Kurzweil, Moravec and Storrs-Hall, provided we can emulate the low-level neural regions of the brain with high predictive accuracy (and provided the claim that instantiating such low-level components will vicariously instantiate the emergent human mind, without out needing to really understand how such components functionally-converge to do so, proves true), whereas AGI may still have to wait for fundamental improvements to methodological implementation or “software performance”
Thus it may be easier to create an AGI by first creating an upload to accelerate the development of that AGI’s creation, than it would be to work on the development of an AGI directly. Upload+AGI may actually be easier to implement than AGI alone is!
 Kurzweil, R, 2005. The Singularity is Near. Penguin Books.
 Adam Ford. (2011). Yudkowsky vs Hanson on the Intelligence Explosion — Jane Street Debate 2011 . [Online Video]. August 10, 2011. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_R5Z4_khNw [Accessed: 01 March 2013].
Transhumanism is all about the creative and ethical use of technology to better the human condition. Futurists, when discussing topics related to transhumanism, tend to look at nano-tech, bio-mechanical augmentation and related technology that, for the most part, is beyond the comprehension of lay-people.
If Transhumanism as a movement is to succeed, we have to explain it’s goals and benefits to humanity by addressing the common-man. After all, transhumanism is not the exclusive domain, nor restricted to the literati, academia or the rich. The more the common man realizes that (s)he is indeed already transhuman in a way — the lesser the taboo associated with the movement and the faster the law of accelerating returns will kick in, leading to eventual Tech Singularity.
Augmented Reality Visors: Enabling Transhumanism.
At the moment, Google Glass is not exactly within reach of the common man, even if he want’s to pay for it. It is “invite only”, which may be counter productive to furthering the Transhumanism cause. Now, to be fair, it may be because the device is still in beta testing, and once any bugs have been ironed out, the general public will benefit from both, a price drop and accessibility, because if Google does not do it, China will.
Google Glass: A Transhumanist’s Swiss Knife
Glass is the very definition of an augmented human, at least until the time hi-tech replaceable eye-balls, or non-obtrusive human augmentation technology becomes common-place. Glass is a good attempt at a wearable computing device that is practical. While it does lend a cyborg look to it’s wearer, future iterations will no doubt, bring the “Matrix” look back into vogue.
Above: Companies such as Vuzix, already have advanced AR capable visors that are aesthetically pleasing to look at and wear. So how is Google Glass (and similar AR visors) the Swiss Army Knife of Transhumanists?
Augmented Human Memory:
Wearing glass, allows a Transhuman to offload his/her memory to glass storage. Everyday examples follow…
- Park your car in a multi-story parking lot, step back a few steps and blink your eyes once. Instant photographic memory of the location via Glass’s wink activated snapshot feature.
- Visited a place once and don’t remember? Call on your “expanded” memory to playback a video recording of the path taken, or display a GPS powered visual overlay in your field of view.
Previously, this was done via a cellphone. In both cases, one is already Transhuman. This is what the common man needs to be made aware of and there will be less of a stigma attached to: The World’s most dangerous idea.
Life Saver — “Glass Angel”
Every one is said to have a “Guardian Angel” watching over them, yet an app named “Glass Angel” would be an apt name for a collection of potentially life saving modules that could run on Google Glass.
- CPR Assist: How many people can honestly say they know CPR? or even the Heimlich maneuver? Crucial moments can be saved when access to such knowledge is available… while freeing up our hands to assist the person in distress. In future iterations of Google glass (glass v2.0?) if true augmented reality capability is provided, a CGI human skeleton can be overlaid on the live patient, giving visual cues to further assist in such kinds of situations.
- Driver Safety: There are some states in the US looking at banning the use of Google Glass while driving. Yet, it is interesting to note that Glass could be that Guardian Angel watching over a driver who might nod off at the wheel after a long day at work. (DUI is not an excuse however to use Glass). The various sensors can monitor for tilt of head and sound an alarm, or even recognize unusual behavior of the wearer by analyzing and tracking the live video feed coming in through the camera…sounding an alarm to warn the wearer.
Augmented Intelligence — or — Amplified Intelligence:
How many times a day do we rely on auto-spell or Google’s auto correct to pop up and say “Did you mean” to warn us of spelling errors or even context errors? How many times have we blindly trusted Google to go ahead and auto-correct for us? While it can be argued that dependence on technology is actually dulling our brains, it is an un-arguable fact that over the coming years, grammar, multi-lingual communication, and more advanced forms of intelligence augmentation will make technology such as Google Glass and it’s successors, indispensable.
Possibly, the Singularity is not all that far away… If the Singularity is the point when Technology overtakes human intelligence… I see it as the point when human intelligence regresses to meet technology, mid-way.
On a more serious note: Should we be alarmed at our increasing dependence on Augmented Intelligence? or should we think of it as simply a storage and retrieval system.
If a lecturer on-stage, addressing a gathering of intellectuals, uses his eyeballs to scroll up a list of synonyms in real time on his Google glass display, to use a more succinct word or phrase when making a point, does that make him sound more intelligent?… how about if he punctuates the point by calling up the german translation of the phrase?
These are questions that I leave open to you…
Digital Bread Crumbs- Quantum Archeology and Immortality.
Every time we share a photo, a thought… an emotion as a status update: we are converting a biological function into a digital one. We are digitizing our analog stream-of-consciousness.
These Digital Breadcrumbs that we leave behind, will be mined by “deep learning” algorithms, feeding necessary data that will drive Quantum Archeology processes… that may one day soon, resurrect us — Digital Resurrection. This might sound like a Transhumanist’s Hansel and Gretel fairy-tale… but not for long.
How does Google Glass fit in? It’s the device that will accelerate the creation of Digital Bread-crumbs. I’d saved this most radical idea for last: Digital Resurrection.
Glass is already generating these BreadCrumbs — transhumanizing the first round of beta testers wearing the device.
The next version of Google Glass, if it features true see-through Augmented Reality support, or indeed a visor from a Google competitor, will allow us to see and interact with these Digital Surrogates of immortal beings. It’s described with plausible hard science to back it up, in Chapter 6 of Memories with Maya — The Dirrogate.
I’d like to end this essay by opening it up to wiki like input from you. What ideas can you come up with to make Google Glass a swiss army knife for Transhumanists?
(This article was originally posted on the Science behind the story section on Dirrogate.com)
A widely accepted definition of Transhumanism is: The ethical use of all kinds of technology for the betterment of the human condition.
This all encompassing summation is a good start as an elevator pitch to laypersons, were they to ask for an explanation. Practitioners and contributors to the movement, of course, know how to branch this out into specific streams: science, philosophy, politics and more.
We are in the midst of a technological revolution, and it is cool to proclaim that one is a Transhumanist. Yet, many intelligent and focused Transhumanists are asking some all important questions: What road-map have we drawn out, and what concrete steps are we taking to bring to fruition, the goals of Transhumanism?
Transhumanism could be looked at as culminating in Technological Singularity. People comprehend the meaning of Singularity differently. One such definition: Singularity marks a moment when technology trumps the human brain, and the limitations of the mind are surpassed by artificial intelligence. Being an Author and not a scientist myself, my definition of the Singularity is colored by creative vision. I call it Dirrogate Singularity.
I see us humans, successfully and practically, harnessing the strides we’ve made in semiconductor tech and neural networks, Artificial intelligence, and digital progress in general over the past century, to create Digital Surrogates of ourselves — our Dirrogates. In doing so, humans will reach pseudo-God status and will be free to merge with these creatures they have made in their own likeness…attaining, Dirrogate Singularity.
So, how far into the future will this happen? Not very far. In fact it can commence as soon as today or as far as, in a couple of years. The conditions and timing are right for us to “trans-form” into Digital Beings; Dirrogates.
I’ll use excerpts from the story ‘Memories with Maya’ to seed ideas for a possible road-map to Dirrogate Singularity, while keeping the tenets of Transhumanism in focus on the dashboard as we steer ahead. As this text will deconstruct many parts of the novel, major spoilers are unavoidable.
Dirrogate Singularity v/s The Singularity:
The main distinction in definition I make is: I don’t believe Singularity is the moment when technology trumps the human brain. I believe Singularity is when the human mind accepts and does not discriminate between an advanced “Transhuman” (effectively, a mind upload living in a bio-mechanical body) and a “Natural” (an un-amped homo sapien)
This could be seen as a different interpretation of the commonly accepted concept of The Singularity. As one of the aims of this essay is to create a possible road-map to seed ideas for the Transhumanism movement, I choose to look at a wholly digital path to Transhumanism, bypassing human augmentation via nanotechnology, prosthetics or cyborg-ism. As we will see further down, Dirrogate Singularity could slowly evolve into the common accepted definitions of Technological Singularity.
What is a Dirrogate:
A portmanteau of Digital + Surrogate. An excerpt from the novel explains in more detail:
“Let’s run the beta of our social interaction module outside.”
Krish asked the prof to follow him to the campus ground in front of the food court. They walked out of the building and approached a shaded area with four benches. As they were about to sit, my voice came through the phone’s speaker. “I’m on your far right.”
Krish and the prof turned, scanning through the live camera view of the phone until they saw me waving. The phone’s compass updated me on their orientation. I asked them to come closer.
“You have my full attention,” the prof said. “Explain…”
“So,” Krish said, in true geek style… “Dan knows where we are, because my phone is logged in and registered into the virtual world we have created. We use a digital globe to fly to any location. We do that by using exact latitude and longitude coordinates.” Krish looked at the prof, who nodded. “So this way we can pick any location on Earth to meet at, provided of course, I’m physically present there.”
“I understand,” said the prof. “Otherwise, it would be just a regular online multi-player game world.”
“Precisely,” Krish said. “What’s unique here is a virtual person interacting with a real human in the real world. We’re now on the campus Wifi.” He circled his hand in front of his face as though pointing out to the invisible radio waves. “But it can also use a high-speed cell data network. The phone’s GPS, gyro, and accelerometer updates as we move.”
Krish explained the different sensor data to Professor Kumar. “We can use the phone as a sophisticated joystick to move our avatar in the virtual world that, for this demo, is a complete and accurate scale model of the real campus.”
The prof was paying rapt attention to everything Krish had to say. “I laser scanned the playground and the food-court. The entire campus is a low rez 3D model,” he said. “Dan can see us move around in the virtual world because my position updates. The front camera’s video stream is also mapped to my avatar’s face, so he can see my expressions.”
“Now all we do is not render the virtual buildings, but instead, keep Daniel’s avatar and replace it with the real-world view coming in through the phone’s camera,” explained Krish.
“Hmm… so you also do away with render overhead and possibly conserve battery life?” the prof asked.
“Correct. Using GPS, camera and marker-less tracking algorithms, we can update our position in the virtual world and sync Dan’s avatar with our world.”
“And we haven’t even talked about how AI can enhance this,” I said.
I walked a few steps away from them, counting as I went.
“We can either follow Dan or a few steps more and contact will be broken. This way in a social scenario, virtual people can interact with humans in the real world,” Krish said. I was nearing the personal space out of range warning.
“Wait up, Dan,” Krish called.
I stopped. He and the prof caught up.
“Here’s how we establish contact,” Krish said. He touched my avatar on the screen. I raised my hand in a high-five gesture.
“So only humans can initiate contact with these virtual people?” asked the prof.
“Humans are always in control,” I said. They laughed.
“Aap Kaise ho?” Krish said.
“Main theek hoo,” I answered a couple of seconds later, much to the surprise of the prof.
“The AI module can analyze voice and cross-reference it with a bank of ten languages.” he said. “Translation is done the moment it detects a pause in a sentence. This way multicultural communication is possible. I’m working on some features for the AI module. It will be based on computer vision libraries to study and recognize eyebrows and facial expressions. This data stream will then be accessible to the avatar’s operator to carry out advanced interaction with people in the real world–”
“So people can have digital versions of themselves and do tasks in locations where they cannot be physically present,” the prof completed Krish’s sentence.
“Cannot or choose not to be present and in several locations if needed,” I said. “There is no reason we can’t own several digital versions of ourselves doing tasks simultaneously.”
“Each one licensed with a unique digital fingerprint registered with the government or institutions offering digital surrogate facilities.” Krish said.
“We call them di-rro-gates.” I said.
One of the characters in the story also says: “Humans are creatures of habit.” and, “We live our lives following the same routine day after day. We do the things we do with one primary motivation–comfort.”
Whether this is entirely true or not, there is something to think about here… What does ‘improving the human condition’ imply? To me Comfort, is high on the list and a major motivation. If people can spawn multiple Dirrogates of themselves that can interact with real people wearing future iterations of Google Glass (for lack of a more popular word for Augmented Reality visors)… then the journey on the road-map to Dirrogate Singularity is to see a few case examples of Dirrogate interaction.
In writing the novel, I took several risks, story length being one. I’ve attempted to keep the philosophy subtle, almost hidden in the story, and judging by reviews on sites such as GoodReads.com, it is plain to see that many of today’s science fiction readers are after cliff hanger style science fiction and gravitate toward or possibly expect a Dystopian future. This root craving must be addressed in lay people if we are to make Transhumanism as a movement, succeed.
I’d noticed comments made that the sex did not add much to the story. No one (yet) has delved deeper to see if there was a reason for the sex scenes and if there was an underlying message. The success of Transhumanism is going to be in large scale understanding and mass adoption of the values of the movement by laypeople. Google Glass will make a good case study in this regard. If they get it wrong, Glass will quickly share the same fate and ridicule as wearing blue-tooth headsets.
One of the first things, in my view, to improving the human condition, is experiencing pleasure… of every kind, especially carnal.
In that sense, we already are Digital Transhumans. Long distance video calls, teledildonics and recent mainstream offerings such as Durex’s “Fundawear” can bring physical, emotional and psychological comfort to humans, without the traditional need for physical proximity or human touch.
(Durex’s Fundawear – Image Courtesy Snapo.com)
These physical stimulation and pleasure giving devices add a whole new meaning to ‘wearable computing’. Yet, behind every online Avatar, every Dirrogate, is a human operator. Now consider: What if one of these “Fundawear” sessions were recorded?
The data stream for each actuator in the garment, stored in a file – a feel-stream, unique to the person who created it? We could then replay this and experience or reminisce the signature touch of a loved one at any time…even long after they are gone; are no more. Would such as situation qualify as a partial or crude “Mind upload”?
Mind Uploading – A practical approach.
Using Augmented Reality hardware, a person can see and experience interaction with a Dirrogate, irrespective if the Dirrogate is remotely operated by a human, or driven by prerecorded subroutines under playback control of an AI. Mind uploading [at this stage of our technological evolution] does not have to be a full blown simulation of the mind.
Consider the case of a Google Car. Could it be feasible that a human operator remotely ‘drive’ the car with visual feedback from the car’s on-board environment analysis cameras? Any AI in the car could be used on an as-needed basis. Now this might not be the aim of a driver-less car, and why would you need your Dirrogate to physically drive when in essence you could tele-travel to any location?
Human Shape Shifters:
Reasons could be as simple as needing to transport physical cargo to places where home delivery is not offered. Your Dirrogate could drive the car. Once at the location [hardware depot], your Dirrogate could merge with the on-board computer of an articulated motorized shopping cart. Check out counter staff sees your Dirrogate augmented in the real world via their visor. You then steer the cart to the parking lot, load in cargo [via the cart’s articulated arm or a helper] and drive home. In such a scenario, a mind upload has swapped physical “bodies” as needed, to complete a task.
If that use made your eyes roll…here’s a real life example:
Devon Carrow, a 2nd grader has a life threatening illness that keeps him away from school. He sends his “avatar” a robot called Vigo.
In the case of a Dirrogate, if the classroom teacher wore an AR visor, she could “see” Devon’s Dirrogate sitting at his desk. A mechanical robot body would be optional. An overhead camera could project the entire Augmented classroom so all children could be aware of his presence. As AR eye-wear becomes more affordable, individual students could interact with Dirrogates. Such use of Dirrogates do fit in completely with the betterment-of-the-human-condition argument, especially if the Dirrogate operator is a human who could come into harm’s way in the real world.
While we simultaneously work on longevity and eliminating deadly diseases, both noble causes, we have to come to terms with the fact that biology has one up on us in the virus department as of today. Epidemic outbreaks such as SARS can keep schools closed. Would it not make sense to maintain the communal ethos of school attendance and classroom interaction by transhumanizing ourselves…digitally?
Does the above example qualify as Mind Uploading? Not in the traditional definition of the term. But looking at it from a different perspective, the 2nd grader has uploaded his mind to a robot.
Dirrogate Immortality via Quantum Archeology:
Below is a passage from the story. The literal significance of which, casual readers of science fiction miss out on:
“Look at her,” I said. “I don’t want her to be a just a memory. I want to keep her memory alive. That day, the Wizer was part of the reason for three deaths. Today, it’s keeping me from dying inside.”
“Help me, Krish,” I said. “Help me keep her memory alive.” He was listening. He wiped his eyes with his hands. I took the Wizer off. “Put it back on,” he said.
A closer look at the Wizer – [visor with Augmented Intelligence built in.]
The preceding excerpt from the story talks about resurrecting her; digital-cryonics.
So, how would Quantum Archeology techniques be applied to resurrect a dead person? Every day we spend hours uploading our stream-of-consciousness to the “cloud”. Photos, videos, Instagrams, Facebook status updates, tweets. All of this is data that can be and is being mined by Deep Learning systems. There’s no prize for guessing who the biggest investor and investigator of Deep Learning is.
Quantum Archeology gets a helping hand with all the digital breadcrumbs we’re leaving around us in this century. The question is: Is that enough information for us to Create a Mind?
Mind Uploading – Libraries and Subroutines:
A more relevant question to ask is, should we attempt to build a mind from the ground up, or start by collecting subroutines and libraries unique to a particular person? Earlier on in the article, it was suggested that by recording a ‘Fundawear’ session, we could re-experience someone’s signature intimate touch. Using Deep Learning, can personality libraries be built?
A related question to answer is: Wouldn’t it make everything ‘artificial’ and be a degraded version of the original? To attempt to answer such a question, let’s look around us today. Aren’t we already degrading our sense of hearing for instance, when we listen to hour after hour of MP3 music sampled at 128kHz or less? How about every time we’ve come to rely on Google’s “did you mean” or Microsoft’s red squiggly line to correct even our simple spellings?
Now, it gets interesting… since we have mind upload “libraries”, we are at liberty to borrow subroutines from more accomplished humans, to augment our own intelligence.
Will the near future allow us to choose a Dirrogate partner with the creative thinking of one person’s personality upload, the intimate skill-set of another and… you get the picture. Most people lead routine 9 to 5 lives. That does not mean that they are not missed by loved ones after they have completed their biological life-cycle. Resurrecting or simulating such minds is much easier than say re-animating Einstein.
In the story, Krish, on digitally resurrecting his father recounts:
“After I saw Maya, I had to,” he said. “I’ve used her same frame structure for the newspaper reading. Last night I went through old photos, his things, his books,” his voice was low. “I’m feeding them into the frame. This was his life for the past two years before the cancer claimed him. Every evening he would sit in this chair in the old house and read his paper.”
I listened in silence as he spoke. Tactile receptors weren’t needed to experience pain. Tone of voice transported those spores just as easily.
“It was easy to create a frame for him, Dan,” he said. “In the time that the cancer was eating away at him, the day’s routine became more predictable. At first he would still go to work, then come home and spend time with us. Then he couldn’t go anymore and he was at home all day. I knew his routine so well it took me 15 minutes to feed it in. There was no need for any random branches.”
I turned to look at him. The Wizer hid his eyes well. “Krish,” I said. “You know what the best part about having him back is? It does not have to be the way it was. You can re-define his routine. Ask your mom what made your dad happy and feed that in. Build on old memories, build new ones and feed those in. You’re the AI designer… bend the rules.”
“I dare not show her anything like this,” he said. “She would never understand. There’s something not right about resurrecting the dead. There’s a reason why people say rest in peace.”
Who is the real Transhuman?
Is it a person who has augmented their physical self or augmented one of their five primary senses? Or is it a human who has successfully re-wired their brain and their mind to accept another augmented human and the tenets of Transhumanism?
“He said perception is in the eye of the beholder… or something to that effect.”
“Maybe he said realism?” I offered.
“Yeah. Maybe. Turns out he is a believer and subscribes to the concept of transhumanism,” Krish said, adjusting the Wizer on the bridge of his nose. “He believes the catalyst for widespread acceptance of transhumanism has to be based on visual fidelity or the entire construct will be stymied by the human brain and mind.”
“Hmm… the uncanny valley effect? It has to be love at first sight, if we are to accept an augmented person huh.”
“Didn’t know you followed the movement,” he said.
“Look around us. Am I really here in person?”
“Point taken,” he said.
While taking the noble cause of Transhumanism forward, we have to address one truism that was put forward in the movie, The Terminator: “It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves.”
When we eventually reach a full mind-upload stage and have the ability to swap or borrow libraries from other ‘minds’, will personality traits of greed still be floating around as rogue libraries? Perhaps the common man is right – A Dystopian future is on the cards, that’s why science fiction writers gravitate toward dystopia worlds.
Could this change as we progress from transhuman to post-human?
In building a road-map for Transhumanism, we need to present and evangelize more to the common man in language and scenarios they can identify with. That is one of the main reasons Memories with Maya features settings and language that at times, borders on juvenile fiction. Concepts such as life extension, reversal of aging and immortality can be made to resound better with laypeople when presented in the right context. There is a reason that Vampire stories are on the nation’s best seller lists.
People are intrigued and interested in immortality.