Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Okay, I'll Bite

Charlie Stross is milking his audience for ideas, again. Some people object to this. I, for one, do not. He has made it clear that anyone can steal from him, provided there is either modification or attribution. I think the term is open source, crowd sourcing,  etc. and I say more power to him.

So the set-up is: they come up with magic pill that makes you are youthful and immortal...

...(and clearly you also live in a post-scarcity society where things are cool and you don't have to live in squalor and fear forever and ever, so that your youthful immortality is not a curse. You are not an immortal slave. You are not forced to kowtow to assholes. The asshole niche of the .01% has been eliminated somehow, and society is a fun place to live and we have also managed to quit shitting where we eat as well. I guess everything is run by robots or something so that the one constant trend in all civilizations - ALL civilizations going back before the written word - is that there isn't a permanent underclass that is forced to work for the benefit of a parasitic overlord class. In short, we finally got rid of the vampires)...

... but you've got this brain that is clearly not designed for immortality. So how are you going to cope with the clutter of extended memories and challenges to how you think and live, adaptive behaviors for same seem to become more brittle over time? 

Actually, Charlie puts it like this:
"But your cognitive functioning is burdened by decades of memories to integrate, canalized by prior experiences, dominated by the complexity of long-term planning at the expense of real-time responsiveness. Every time you look around you are struck by intricate, esoteric cross-references to that which has gone before. Every politician, celebrity, actor, blogger, pop star, author ... you've seen someone like them previously, you know what they're going to say before they open their mouth. Every new policy or strategy has failure modes you recognize: "that won't work" is your usual response to change, not because you're a curmudgeonly pessimist but because you've been there before. Maybe you're going to make extensive use of lifeloggers or external prosthetic memory assistance devices—think of your own personal google, refreshing your memory whenever you ask the right question—or maybe you're going to float forward in time through a haze of forgetting, deliberately shedding old context to make room for fresh. Some folks try for rolling amnesia with a 40-70 year horizon behind them. You gradually lose contact with such people because they just don't want to know you any more. Others try to hang on to every experience, wallowing in the lush, intricate texture of an extended lifespan until their ability to respond is so impaired that they appear catatonic. 
Which are you going to be? And how will you cope with a century of memories contained in the undecaying flesh of indefinitely protracted adulthood?"
Okay, I'll bite. And I'll just tell you straight off what I will be. I will be what I already am now: a member of a tribal AI*. 

Only, because this is Charlie's utopian WEIRD future, I'll be electronically mediated and distributed. This is not to say I'm a Borg or anything, just that I'll be a electronically and computationally enhanced version of a member of the strange loosely-connected hive mind that humanity already is. In short, humanity is already a collective AI, and computers are just another part of it. This is my answer to Hawkings' fearful vision of AI. We are already AI. 

(If you want a more specific future example, trends in computation and engineering suggest both electronically enhanced brains, and brain to brain communication is inevitable. The expanded mental capacities combined with tighter coupling of communication should - should - produce even more innovation and socially cohesive good works, leading to even more progress. Not an exponential Singularity, mind you, but a really grand S curve up to the carrying capacity of humankind).

(Oh, and also, those wearable electronic devices that will hook all our brains up? You end looking like you are wearing a bonnet and an apron, because they find out the second brain of the gut needs consulting as well).

So, I will continue to be a part of my tribal AI, but I'll be more choosy. You will note that tribal AIs, in the form of organizations, have pushed that portion of culture known as technology to lots of different places, with no end of innovations in sight. These tribal AIs have allowed humanity to live in every single Earthly environment, and even go to the Moon, and live in orbit.

One salient attribute of these tribal AIs is a purposeful collecting of various skills, talents, and intentions, in the various forms of meritocratic/familial collectives, to best choose and pursue these group goals and/or products/activities/artifice/manifested dreams.

More importantly, I would suggest that the most effective groups are the ones that get along well.

(What's that you say? Fitness selection at a group level? Blasphemy!)

They are composed of kindred spirits, or more concisely, friends and loved ones. Yes, even guilds and corporations, the effective ones, have a shared love of something, a generosity of spirit, an urge to put the welfare of others in the group above themselves, which in turn, I would suggest, attracts talented people who get along with each other.

So, a trend from my take (that we continue to be members of tribal AIs) is that matchmaking services will be in even more demand for us immortals. Looking for just the right organization to join and get along in, to be cherished in, to be a valued member of, will be of more importance than a strict qualification set of competencies.

*I come to this conclusion based upon some hints Charlie provided which I didn't see any of his audience pick up on:
"Watch a pair of 70-80 year olds who've been together for half a century some time. They often appear to ignore each other, because they have such a strong internal model of the other's mind that they can anticipate their partner's words or actions: it's an ignorance derived from deep insight and familiarity, not obliviousness. There's some evidence from cognitive psychology that we use our partners or children or other relatives as external content-addressable memory storage, relying on their shared experience to fill in our patchy recollections: just like google. (Google isn't making our memory obsolete, rather it's plugging into an existing interpersonal human mechanism at a very low level.)"   


  1. Second try...,

    Aggregate Intelligence - CHECK!
    Intentional Community as physical basis for Aggregate Intelligence - CHECK!
    Google aggregating the interpersonal at a very low level - NYET!

    Googolization is at the level of language.

    Our interpersonal low-level interfaces are rhythmic and musical, not linguistic.

    Conscious access to those lower level realms of cognition is typically only in dreams or on droogs. We know about special cases and we've read about yogis - but given enough time - we might all aspire to a higher degree of acquired "specialness". Or at least, the sublimation of our ordinary waking state awareness into richer spheres of cognitive experience.

    Centuries in the language-based ordinary waking state would suck. Given enough time and cultivation, there's much more there for us, and it exists in everyone.

    Most interesting of all, it's at those "lower" levels that the organism's reality mechanics and engineering is already taking place. Language is a crippling shorthand relative to the objective truth of "what it do".

    1. Well, Charlie is smart, but like everyone else, not as smart as he thinks he is. I've always maintained that language is overrated, and certainly cannot account for the proposed cultural "Great Leap Forward" of 40,000 years ago - if it happened at all. And I really don't want to listen to borg monkey chatter, or worse, some bitch-bastard's ear worm stuck in my head through electronic remediation. But, and here's what I think is more important. Eff immortality. Brain enhancements (say for example, being able to hold more than seven ideas in working memory) in any form is messing with my 2nd favorite organ. Perhaps some non-mutilating/nonintrusive type of wearable electromagnetic mechanism can help out, but it comes down to a trust issue. Brain to brain communication is almost invariably going to involve a computerized facilitator/interpreter. Why should I trust it? I mean, online service already filter results. Why should I expect less from brain enhancing tech or brain to brain tech?

  2. Perhaps some non-mutilating/nonintrusive type of wearable electromagnetic mechanism can help out, but it comes down to a trust issue.

    telepathy..., given upbringing, or sufficient time/practice, telepathy.

    As for trust, you couldn't possibly be more correct. The mere possibility of such a thing presupposes, requires, mandates, a flawless trust subsystem.

    It's always been down to a trust issue.

    This classic gospel aphorism doesn't mean anything like what 99.99999% of buybull buddies think it means. Flip it around. It professes the ease with which you can spot the flaws in your brother's development and help him out.

    The vice is versa.

    Nothing could be withheld from a dozen such intentional souls, working in concert with one another, helping one another as only those with a flawless trust subsystem are able to help one another.

  3. Brain to brain communication is almost invariably going to involve a computerized facilitator/interpreter.

    lol, nah brah...,

    Direct communication requires a trust subsystem and an ethical praxis.

    It requires love.

  4. Why should I trust it? I mean, online service already filter results. Why should I expect less from brain enhancing tech or brain to brain tech?

    In a word, two words, you shouldn't.

    Why I'm so persnikkitty about philosophical/ideological/economical elite point sources.

    gotta go, sorry - more later.