Comment on Changing our minds

starwalker Thu, Dec 3, 2009
Hello Spaceweaver, thank you for the very elaborate response, it definitely brings some very important points into focus. I shall try and bring few degrees of resolution into my argument, which I think are not yet dismissed.

I do see the line in between hard won predictive capabilities - using both our empirical and scientific observation capabilities, and our rational/mathematical conceptual tools of thinking – and envisioning. Though I believe that if envisioning is clearly separated from fantasy, by that which envisioning does carry and deal with the space of possible actuations, the line is more a broad coast than a sharp cut. And am going to elaborate what I mean, beginning by saying that it is mostly correlated to the amazingly diverse set of meaning relations that we code in our current language.
I will take an example from the talk of J. Suvalescu – ‘unfit for life; genetically enhance humanity or face extinction’ – namely the fact that one of the strong arguments used in presenting the proposition of ‘unfit to life’ is what is being called in the talk ‘unfit for love’. The statistical data presented in this point are about rate of divorces in our current society and study of individuals having a personal history of non-successful couple relations. The concept of Love, in my understanding, does belong to the envisioning repository of humanity, while the statistical data refers to our current reproductive habits and social model. I, for one, may not find myself agreeing to this correlation in between love and reproductive social model.

I do see definitely a lot of possible advantages in consciously modulating the chemical balance in our brains, as mentioned in the talk, yet not within this frame of description love = reproductive model, given that this frame will determine what is considered a benefit in the process. I actually find it a dangerously reductive (though very impacting) correlation.

So again though the statistical data are valid, the implications and direction of application of incoming technologies, as genetic engineering, do take place in a much wider frame of description, which is where I believe the ethical discussion becomes both critical and complex. What is that we regard as a relevant and positively impacting direction for conscious evolution, considering that the frame of description affects the space of possible actuations in regard to humanity.

Continuing this line into clarifying our relation with experts and expertise in our society. I perfectly agree with the fact that the transition to delivering ourselves in all practical aspects to the work of experts happened long time ago (and a blissful moment indeed:). Yet first of all this does not mean that we may not have to question it again and again each time a new threshold of ‘delivering ourselves’ personally and collectively is taking place.
Second and most important, though I will not necessarily put my self into personally building my bionic enhancements (unless immortality will first be ‘delivered’:), I do wish to sustain at least in part the freedom and influence, both personally and collectively, to describe the frame in which such enhancements are thought, designed and put to use, which if I understand your initial proposition and question is at least in part what this provocative discussion is about.

Though mathematics is non ambiguous, interpretation of data and consequent direction of implementation are. And this is exactly the territory in which we, personally and collectively, in my eyes should not ‘deliver ourselves’ automatically to the ‘one version’ of factual reality presented by each expert among us, in the name of statistical validity. Though I have in me a sense of blessing each morning when i throw my laundry in a machine instead of going to the river, this does not imply implicit acquiescence (and non-responsibility) to all that may further come from this robotic front of human progress. Actually the only way I can call it ‘human’ progress and not ‘experts’ progress is this aspect of collective continuous endeavor in the frame of description.

The above argument is relevant as well in your carefully constructed gedanken experiment.
Allow me first of all to say that I do not think anything would nullify the value of such experiment, for it clearly unveils the maize of values laying in the territory of causes and responsibilities and allows both further penetration and interaction with it.

Back to the point, in the experiment benefits are expressed in terms of IQ as measurable ‘quantity’ of intelligence. Though I realize it is a matter of commodity of language, this point alone IQ = Intelligence is quite an ongoing multiple discussion. And whether as a discussion it will provide a better tool to influence our intelligence or not, I find it a relevant point in the overall map of definitions. Through it the question I am basically pointing at, is if there is a univocal way to measure benefit, or in other words a greater good for all? (rhetoric I know). And if not what is the next best set of approximations to it? And what are the corridors at our disposal, if at all, to implement it?

Seeing our genetic outcomes as ‘natural’ procedures I do not see as belief in chance, nature, or a master plan of any kind, I do see it though as resulting till here from the emergence properties of an ungraspably complex computation system, namely ‘life on planet earth’. A system which is indeed completely blind to ‘us’ and our system of values and has indeed achieved at least some very ‘poor’ results in this respect.
I agree that all what mentioned in the 11 points of your foresight presentation is an essential component of any viable strategy towards future guided evolution. The question I am facing in it is what does it mean in our current terms to ‘replace/approximate’ and ‘direct’ the computation procedure performed till here by life?
Indeed inaction or impulse is not what I have in mind minding this question.

Which brings me to the more proper question of the experiment

This is not said with carelessness but with the firm belief that if one hand can devastate all humanity, we must allow the possibility that one hand can initiate a transformative beneficial process at the scale of all humanity.

First of all point taken, indeed an important one.

My proposition though was the fact that both are not possible. And I would not put it on the regulating processes of our social organism (though indeed a very interesting point for numerous further speculations) as much as to the resiliency of the overall physical and cultural system we are part of.

What I mean is that when coming to the frames of description we select, I do not think that in the description of ourselves as humans entering the territories of guided evolution, i can uphold the solution of one hand taking the decision for an all-encompassing act of interference, neither as realistic (we are, even in our actions, a sum of interactions) nor as a good enough approximation to the complex computation needed to enter guided evolution (applying the same everywhere at once without being able to fully predict neither positive nor negative implications, and without the ability to realistically hold the whole picture) neither to consider the independence of any such act from some consensus processing ethically viable.
In that I still think that open information about consciously initiated processes of modulation does bring, together with the gossip scoop:), some substantial difference.
This as a proposition to your why not? question.

Though I fully agree, the ethically viability of the experiment as you presented it in your comment, is intact.