Questions on the human path and transhumanism.

I had a wak­ing night­mare: I know some of you read­ing this just went “Oh great, here we go...” but bear with me. I am a man who loves to cre­ate and build, it is what I have ded­i­cated my life to. One day be­cause of the Less Wrong com­mu­nity I was prompted to ask “What if they are suc­cess­ful in cre­at­ing an ar­tifi­cial gen­eral in­tel­li­gence whose in­tel­lect dwarfs our own?”

My mind raced and imag­ined the cre­ation of an ar­tifi­cial mind de­signed to be cre­ative, sub­servient to man but also an­ti­ci­pate our needs and de­sires. In other words I imag­ined if cur­rent AGI en­g­ineers ac­com­plished the cre­ation of the great­est thing ever. Of course this ma­chine would see how we loathe tire­some repet­i­tive work and de­sign and build for us a host of ma­chines to do it for us. How­ever then the hor­ror at the im­pli­ca­tion of this all set in. The AGI will be­come smarter and smarter through its own en­g­ineer­ing and soon it will an­ti­ci­pate hu­man needs and pro­duce things no hu­man be­ing could dream of. Sud­denly man has no work to do, there is no back break­ing la­bor to be done nor even the cre­ative glo­ri­ous work of en­g­ineer­ing, ex­plor­ing and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. In­stead our army of AGI has robbed us of that.

At this mo­ment I cer­tainly must ex­press that this is not a state­ment amount­ing to “Lets not make AGI” for we all know AGI are com­ing. Then what is my point in ex­press­ing this? To ex­press a train of thought that re­sults in ques­tions that have yet to be an­swered in the hopes that in depth dis­cus­sion may shed some light.

I re­al­ized that the only mean­ing for man in a world run by AGI would ac­tu­ally be to or­der the AGI to make man him­self bet­ter. In­stead of fo­cus­ing on hav­ing the AGI de­sign a world for us, use that in­tel­lect that we could not be­fore mod­ifi­ca­tion com­pare with to de­sign a means to put us on its own level. In other words, the goal of cre­at­ing an AGI should not to be to cre­ate an AGI but to make a tool so pow­er­ful we can use it to com­mand man to be bet­ter. Now, I’m quite cer­tain the au­di­ence pre­sent here is well aware of tran­shu­man­ism. How­ever, there are some im­por­tant ques­tions to be an­swered on the sub­ject:

Me­chan­i­cal or Biolog­i­cal mod­ifi­ca­tion? I know many would think “Are you stupid?! Of course cy­ber­net­ics would be bet­ter than ge­netic al­ter­a­tion!” Yet the bal­ance of ad­van­tages is not as clear as one would think. Lets con­sider cy­ber­net­ics for a mo­ment: Many would re­quire main­te­nance, they would need to be de­signed and man­u­fac­tured and there­fore quite ex­pen­sive. They also would need to be in­stalled. Ini­tially, pos­si­bly for decades only the rich could af­ford such a thing cre­at­ing a titanic rift in power. This power gap of course will widen the already sub­stan­tial re­sent­ment be­tween the reg­u­lar folk and the rich thereby cre­at­ing poli­ti­cal and so­cial un­cer­tainty which we can ill af­ford in a world with the kind of de­struc­tive power nu­clear arms pre­sent.

Ge­netic al­ter­a­tion comes with a whole new set of prob­lems. A titanic realm of ge­netic vari­ables in which tweak­ing one thing may un­ex­pect­edly al­ter and dam­age an­other thing. Re­search in this area could po­ten­tially take much longer due to ex­per­i­men­ta­tion re­quire­ments. How­ever the ad­van­tage is that ge­netic al­ter­a­tion can be ac­com­plished with the help of virus in con­trol­led en­vi­ron­ments. There would be no me­chanic re­quired to main­tain the new be­ing we have cre­ated and if de­signed prop­erly the mod­ifi­ca­tions can be passed down to the next gen­er­a­tion. So in­stead of hav­ing to pay to up­grade each suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tion we in­stead only have to pay to up­grade one sin­gle gen­er­a­tion. The rich ob­vi­ously would still be the first ones to af­ford this pro­ce­dure, how­ever it could quickly spread across the globe due its po­ten­tially lower cost na­ture once de­vel­op­ment costs have been seen to. How­ever, the prob­lem is that we would be fun­da­men­tally and pos­si­bly ir­re­versibly be al­ter­ing our ge­netic code. Its pos­si­ble to keep a gene bank so we have a mem­ory of what we were in the hopes we could undo the changes and re­vert if the worst hap­pened yet that is not the great­est prob­lem with this path. We can­not even get the pub­lic to ac­cept the con­cept of ge­net­i­cally al­tered crops, how can we get a world to ac­cept its genes be­ing al­tered? The sort of in­sta­bil­ity cre­ated by try­ing to push such a thing too hard, or the power gap cre­ated by those who have up­graded and who have not can again cause sub­stan­tial in­sta­bil­ity that is globally dan­ger­ous.

So now I ask you, the au­di­ence. Ge­netic or cy­ber­netic? How would we solve the poli­ti­cal prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with both? What are the prob­lems with both?