Posts Tagged ‘evolution’


What do you see?

by adminadam in art



The Singularity: When Computers Overtake Humans

by adminadam in articles

What would it mean for Computers to overtake Humans?

How do we define Humans?

And how do we define Computers as different from Humans?

And are Humans in fact Computers as well?

One might argue that humans, being biological, and computers, being mechanical and electrical, are different. Likewise, one might describe the human brain as a machine, in addition to calling computers ‘machines’.

The question, if each type of brain is trying to understand the other, is who is going to understand who first?

Will computers outsmart us? Will they outfeel us? Will they outdo us in every area of life? Can they be creative? Etc.

Or will humans understand and enhance their own minds through a process of self-learning boosted by machines? Will we end up optimizing our brains? Will we decide to (or act in ways that bring about) a Human Intelligence Explosion? This is the alternative to the idea that we will soon see a Computer Intelligence Explosion, and that by 2029 or so we’ll be in Artificial Brain territory, complete with feelings and creativity and ability and knowledge. Wow! And then others think that maybe the Singularity, the point of no return, will be a culmination of both human and machine intelligence, a merging of the two life forms, where now instead of animals and automatons we’ll have auto-animals and animatrons, humans on cruise control and robots high on weed. And maybe at that point we just won’t really care anymore what happens. It’s all good, man. Pass the spliff.

No, really. The idea is that technology is accelerating, and that that acceleration is accelerating, and that that acceleration is… Well you get the idea. We are innovating up to the point where the innovator will no longer be us — or so it’s thought — because all of our technology is converging on this point — and once that point is passed, the reins will no longer be in our hands; the living, breathing technology itself will be in control, and the computers will quickly orient themselves to do whatever they want.

It’s a scary and disturbing thought that we wouldn’t know (or even be able to know) what such a self-emergent superintelligence would want, what it would be motivated by, or what it would try to do, once it realized it was in control (or at least became aware of itself). And it’s also fascinating, the concept that we will reach a point where history itself will shoot light years out in front of us all of a sudden, where spacetime will be stretched and pulled away at nearly infinite speed. We will essentially be stuck in a black hole without any window into the future as it is being created by the machine. And could we predict what that machine would want? No. That is the terrifying and, for some people, exciting essence of the “A.I. Singularity”.

But what if it doesn’t happen that way?

One alternative, as I’ve mentioned, is that humans incorporate computers completely — will we just overtake ourselves is the question. Perhaps we will become seemlessly integrated with our technology. I could see this happening in a number of ways:

We have already figured out that we can perform basic chemical ‘calculations’ in our bodies, that we can set up chemical triggers. I wrote about this here. Basically we can become DNA-based bio-computers, human, but with added defenses and mechanisms, such as the ability to release aspirin into our own bloodstreams if we have a heart attack. We already have pacemakers that can perform such regulatory functions, and we are moving from mechanical/electrical, to chemical, and eventually to biological (read: stem cell) solutions to wear-and-tear and failure of various parts of ourselves. The next step is actually just a subtle shift toward having machines do more and more of our thinking for us. Where before we had physical encyclopedias now we have google and wikipedia; where now we have instant smartphone messaging, tomorrow we may have digital telepathy. Of course here it’s important to point out that this goes beyond offloading or accelerating current functions of our brains and bodies — it’s a phase change to a new level of human effectiveness, insight, and ability — we are now doing more and more that would have been impossible before. And to draw out this human intelligence trend, future versions of ourselves will do equally impossible things in our current conception! That’s the idea behind a fused Human/Computer Singularity.

I implore you to read Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants if this whets your appetite for the study of technology and where it’s going.


Awesome Saturn Commercial

by adminadam in videos

I am told the German translates like this:

Die Auslese war hart.
Doch jetzt ist sie da.
Die stärkste Technik aller Zeiten.
Gnadenlos günstig.
Wir hassen teuer.

Selection was tough.
But now it’s here.
The most powerful tech of all time.
Mercilessly low-priced.
We hate pricey. (We don’t do expensive.)


Let’s help germinate this seed

by adminadam in fiction, prose

An epic story about meeting god on a train.
Written by Harry Stottle @

Talking to God

I met god the other day.

I know what you’re thinking. How the hell did you know it was god?

Well, I’ll explain as we go along, but basically he convinced me by having all, and I do mean ALL, the answers. Every question I flung at him he batted back with a plausible and satisfactory answer. In the end, it was easier to accept that he was god than otherwise.

Which is odd, because I’m still an atheist and we even agree on that!

It all started on the 8.20 back from Paddington. Got myself a nice window seat, no screaming brats or drunken hooligans within earshot. Not even a mobile phone in sight. Sat down, reading the paper and in he walks.

What did he look like?

Well not what you might have expected that’s for sure. He was about 30, wearing a pair of jeans and a “hobgoblin” tee shirt. Definitely casual. Looked like he could have been a social worker or perhaps a programmer like myself.

Anyone sitting here?’ he said.

‘Help yourself’ I replied.

Sits down, relaxes, I ignore and back to the correspondence on genetic foods entering the food chain…

Train pulls out and a few minutes later he speaks.

Can I ask you a question?

Fighting to restrain my left eyebrow I replied ‘Yes’ in a tone which was intended to convey that I might not mind one question, and possibly a supplementary, but I really wasn’t in the mood for a conversation. ..

Why don’t you believe in god?

The Bastard!

I love this kind of conversation and can rabbit on for hours about the nonsense of theist beliefs. But I have to be in the mood! It’s like when a jehova’s witness knocks on your door 20 minutes before you’re due to have a wisdom tooth pulled. Much as you’d really love to stay… You can’t even begin the fun. And I knew, if I gave my standard reply we’d still be arguing when we got to Cardiff. I just wasn’t in the mood. I needed to fend him off.

But then I thought ‘Odd! How is this perfect stranger so obviously confident – and correct – about my atheism?’ If I’d been driving my car, it wouldn’t have been such a mystery. I’ve got the Darwin fish on the back of mine – the antidote to that twee christian fish you see all over. So anyone spotting that and understanding it would have been in a position to guess my beliefs. But I was on a train and not even wearing my Darwin “Evolve” tshirt that day. And ‘The Independent’ isn’t a registered flag for card carrying atheists, so what, I wondered, had given the game away.

‘What makes you so certain that I don’t?’

Because’, he said, ‘ I am god – and you are not afraid of me

You’ll have to take my word for it of course, but there are ways you can deliver a line like that – most of which would render the speaker a candidate for an institution, or at least prozac. Some of which could be construed as mildly amusing.

Conveying it as “indifferent fact” is a difficult task but that’s exactly how it came across. Nothing in his tone or attitude struck me as even mildly out of place with that statement. He said it because he believed it and his rationality did not appear to be drug induced or the result of a mental breakdown.

‘And why should I believe that?’

Well’ he said, ‘why don’t you ask me a few questions. Anything you like, and see if the answers satisfy your sceptical mind?

This is going to be a short conversation after all, I thought.

‘Who am I?’

Stottle. Harry Stottle, born August 10 1947, Bristol, England. Father Paul, Mother Mary. Educated Duke of Yorks Royal Military School 1960 67, Sandhurst and Oxford, PhD in Exobiology, failed rock singer, full time trade union activist for 10 years, latterly self employed computer programmer, web author and aspiring philosopher. Married to Michelle, American citizen, two children by a previous marriage. You’re returning home after what seems to have been a successful meeting with an investor interested in your proposed product tracking anti-forgery software and protocol and you ate a full english breakfast at the hotel this morning except that, as usual, you asked them to hold the revolting english sausages and give you some extra bacon.

He paused

You’re not convinced. Hmmm… what would it take to convince you?

‘oh right! Your most secret password and its association’

A serious hacker might be able to obtain the password, but no one else and I mean


knows its association.

He did.

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Wu-Wei @ 9%

by adminadam in articles, education, home

“Am I part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?”

Don’t Fear the Singularity

By Ran Prieur, 2005

“The Singularity” is the biggest idea in techno-utopianism. The word is derived from black hole science — it’s the point at the core where matter has contracted to zero volume and infinite density, beyond the laws of time and space, with gravity so strong that not even light can escape. They apply the word to the future to suggest that “progress” will take us to a place we can neither predict, nor understand, nor return from.

At least they have their metaphors right: that our recent direction of change is about contraction, not expansion, and leads inescapably to collapse and a new world. Their fatal pride is in thinking they’ll like it. Basically, they think computers are going to keep getting better faster, until they surpass biological life, and we’ll be able to “upload” our consciousness into immortal robots or virtual reality heaven. The engine of this fantasy is the “acceleration,” which supposedly includes and transcends biological evolution, and is built into reality itself, destined to go forward forever.

The weakest part of their mythology is the part they take for granted. If civilization is part of evolution, it’s not like birds getting wings — it’s like the extinction of the dinosaurs, a global catastrophe that prunes the biosphere down to the roots so it can try something different. Civilization has been a great evolutionary event for bacteria and rats, who are leaping forward through human attempts to kill them. But it hasn’t been good for humans. We can only guess how people lived in the stone age, but most primitive people observed in historical times enjoy greater health, happiness, political power, and ease of existence than all but the luckiest civilized people. Even medieval serfs worked fewer hours than modern people, at a slower pace, and passed less of their money up the hierarchy. Even our medical system, everyone’s favorite example of beneficial “progress,” has been steadily increasing in cost, while base human health — the ability to live and thrive in the absence of a medical system — has been steadily declining.

Conversely, the strongest part of their mythology is where they focus all their attention, with careful and sophisticated arguments that there are no technical limits to miniaturization or the speed of information transfer. This is a bit like Easter Islanders saying there is no physical limit to how big they can make their statues — and since the statues keep getting bigger, they must be an extension of evolution, and will keep getting bigger forever. Meanwhile the last trees are being cut down…

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Put us in our place

by adminadam in education, home, videos

Thank you Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and of course Alan Watts, for this epic short film.

It is a film that touches on: Evolution, the nature of intelligence and the self, and the hoax of our modern success-centered lives.

It is a video meant to put us in our places, and also ask us to evaluate what we have built for ourselves.

Is this what I wanted to be doing?
Am I missing out?
What is my focus?

And hopefully we can, with honest answers, begin to shift our trajectory or maybe just dance a little more in life; have some fun, eat drink and be merry, that’s where I see the value in this film.


Extropy +4: Simulating Robot Evolution

by adminadam in home, quotes, videos

“The total disorder in the universe, as measured by the quantity that physicists call entropy, increases steadily over time. Also, the total order in the universe, as measured by the complexity and permanence of organized structures, also increases steadily over time.” — Freeman Dyson


Foundation for the Last Question

by adminadam in articles, home



John Stewart (source)
Member of the Evolution, Complexity and Cognition Research Group
The Free University of Brussels

Abstract: The evolution of life on Earth has produced an organism that is beginning to model and understand its own evolution and the possible future evolution of life in the universe. These models and associated evidence show that evolution on Earth has a trajectory. The scale over which living processes are organized cooperatively has increased progressively, as has its evolvability. Recent theoretical advances raise the possibility that this trajectory is itself part of a wider developmental process. According to these theories, the developmental process has been shaped by a yet larger evolutionary dynamic that involves the reproduction of universes. This evolutionary dynamic has tuned the key parameters of the universe to increase the likelihood that life will emerge and produce outcomes that are successful in the larger process (e.g. a key outcome may be to produce life and intelligence that intentionally reproduces the universe and tunes the parameters of ‘offspring’ universes). Theory suggests that when life emerges on a planet, it moves along this trajectory of its own accord. However, at a particular point evolution will continue to advance only if organisms emerge that decide to advance the developmental process intentionally. The organisms must be prepared to make this commitment even though the ultimate nature and destination of the process is uncertain, and may forever remain unknown. Organisms that complete this transition to intentional evolution will drive the further development of life and intelligence in the universe. Humanity’s increasing understanding of the evolution of life in the universe is rapidly bringing it to the threshold of this major evolutionary transition.

1. Introduction

Until recently, a scientific understanding of the natural world has failed to provide humanity with a larger meaning and purpose for its existence. In fact, a scientific worldview has often been taken to imply that the emergence of humanity was an accident in a universe that is completely indifferent to human concerns, goals, and values (e.g. see Weinberg, 1993).

Humanity has had to supplement a naturalistic understanding with beliefs in supernatural beings and processes if it wanted a worldview that includes a meaningful role for humanity in a larger scheme of things. But recent advances in evolutionary science are beginning to change this. In particular, we are rapidly improving our understanding of the evolutionary processes that have produced life on Earth and that will determine the future evolution of life in the universe. While it is far too early to tell with certainty, it is possible that the universe and the evolution of life within it have been shaped by yet larger evolutionary processes to perform particular functions that are relevant to these larger processes.

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