Transcendent Man

Whoever was in charge of the special effects/graphics in that movie needed to be slapped a few times. The movie was way, way too heavy with CG and titles. That person also needs to be taught the difference between “it’s” and “its”. GRAMMAR people. “It’s” not that hard.

I came away from this documentary with the feeling that the director was more interested in lampooning Kurzweil than in talking about him objectively. It wasn’t as if the director was doing voiceovers and driving the film with leading questions or what not, but the way it was edited really seemed a bit “yellow” in the journalistic sense. It leaned towards being sensational and emphasizing Kurzweil’s seeming of crackpottery; I suppose though that it’s extremely difficult to not do that, given the “bigness” of his ideas.

It’s hard to talk about Singularity, I think because it’s hard to divorce from the ego and arrogance we’ve cultivated as a species. It’s basically about coming to grips with species mortality/obsolescence, which is an even greater thing to grapple with than personal mortality. Clearly there will be an end to the species, but what will the ultimate legacy and destiny for it be? Will the information that makes up humanity become a part of the post-human world that will blossom from the advent of advanced technology, or will it just be the forgotten code that is used to bootstrap the superior information processors that will be created? Framing it in terms of technological actives versus passives, I think it’s pretty clear that actives have the best shot at being a part of the post-humanity future.

I’m glad that they gave Kurzweil the chance to frame the future the way it should be framed: that it’s our challenge to guide whatever is created with the values we’ve developed as a species. I think that this is the kind of thing that will happen naturally anyway, because value is the fundamental moral underpinning of the universe (in the sense that it’s moral for two hydrogen atoms to bond to an oxygen atom, and that all morals and values arise inherently from the basic fundamental “rightness” of the universe). But maybe we can help smooth out the process along the way.

I think my favorite line was from Ben Goertzel, where he basically postulated that we’d spark the creation of machine super-intelligences who would then immediately figure out how to communicate with an alien species in another universe and they’d say: “FINALLY! Somebody smart enough for us to talk to!”

One Comment

  1. Trying to give this thoughtful post its due with some careful consideration. It sounds excited and exciting, but breathed out too quickly for me to easily understand the ideas.

    Would be curious to explore your bit about values and morality more. To me these are concepts specific to social behavior in human beings, and you skipped too many steps in your thoughts there for me to follow it when you jumped straight to comparing morality to chemistry. I think I may agree with you if I understand your thought better though, if the thought is that morality and values are driven by biochemical imperative, and further refined by environmental influences–evolutionary psychology’s explanation of behavior.

    But if I read you correctly, you seem to suggest that there is some objective “rightness” that the universe tends towards, and that the values we espouse are somewhat or completely inevitable…which on cross-cultural examination is clearly not the case. Values differ greatly, and at times inexplicably… I wouldn’t make any guess about what values humanity would or would not choose to attempt to imbue into a post-human intelligence, especially from some unknown future culture coming to terms with this theoretical event.

    Also, I know you love swimming in the soup of these future ideas, which may be part of why you’ve taken a defensive stance against the film in this review. (though it also sounds like low quality shock schlock). However your own POV even in this very blurb seems to lack objectivity too–for example, when I read, “will the information that makes up humanity become a part of the post-human world that will blossom from the advent of advanced technology, or will it just be the forgotten code that is used to bootstrap the superior information processors that will be created?” This is a tautology does not include the possibility that human technology perishes alongside humanity.

    Contemplating the singularity is a fascinating exercise, but it’s not an event that orbits certainty. It feels like the same ego of man to yearn for the chance that higher intelligence and human knowledge could persist beyond us, when a simpler possible future looks like the same rise, fall & collapse that has happened to so many species before.

    yours,
    humbug