Sunday, November 28, 2010

Multiworld ethics and infinitarian paralysis

In an interesting 2008 essay (The Infinitarian Challenge to Aggregative Ethics), Oxford futurist scholar Nick Bostrom considers some of the issues that may arise in multiworld ethics. The central focus is on the theme of infinitarian paralysis, that individuals may not act since they think their impact is too small to matter. This is not a new theme; a classic example is not voting thinking that one voice does not matter. However, when considered in an infinite multiworld sense where every permutation of every individual and their actions exists elsewhere, perhaps individual voices really do not matter…and individual agents in any world could experience infinitarian paralysis.

As the essay suggests, humans may be able to qualify and circumscribe the issue of infinitarian paralysis and live and act unconcernedly in the current world. While this may be possible now, as humans become more rational through augmentation, and with the potential advent of artificial intelligence and hybrid beings, the specter of infinitarian paralysis may be harder to ignore. The inherent irrationality of humans together with the skill of ubiquitous rationalization is part of the cohesion of modern society. However, in a post-scarcity economy for material goods where the more immediate exigencies of living in the current world have evaporated, and biologically-derived utility functions have been re-designed, philosophical inconsistencies could well occupy a higher level of concern for thought-driven beings.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Evolutionary adaptations and artificial intelligence

Art and religion are human evolutionary adaptations. Are there similar evolutionary adaptations that human-level and beyond artificial intelligence would be likely to make? Another way to ask this is whether art and religion were predictable? It seems that they were, maybe not the detailed outcomes, but that mechanisms would arise to allow for the achievement of human objectives such as status-garnering and mate selection.

Likewise, it seems quite possible that human-level and beyond artificial intelligence would be likely to make evolutionary adaptations. Utility functions could be edited in many ways. The primary area could be performance optimization, continuously improving cognition and other operations. A second area could be related to societal objectives to the extent that artificial intelligence is present in communities. Artificial intelligence might not have art and religion, but could have related mechanisms for achieving external and internal purposes.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cognitive enhancement through longer Schwann cells

Do faster thinkers have longer Schwann cells? Evolution has optimized human brain signal transmission in the existing machinery. Schwann cells (nerve cells) are punctuated with Nodes of Ranvier, unwrapped spaces that occur regularly on axons between the myelin sheaths that wrap and insulate the axons. The Nodes of Ranvier make signal transmission faster and conserve energy.

While Schwann cells may be the minimal length for the selection processes of evolution, they may not be optimized for modern thought. In many cases, modern thought constitutes more reasoning, imagining, conceptualizing, and contemplation than fight or flight responses. Different brain patterns arise from the different kinds of thought. One path to cognitive enhancement could be lengthening Schwann cells for faster transmission and possibly faster cognition.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Human body 2.0

The human body is a complex intricate composite of millions of years of evolution, but even the most cursory review immediately suggests the potential benefits of redesign. Without considering the deep possibilities and eventual exigencies of augmentation, it might be possible to replicate the full existing functionality of a human in a much smaller energy-conscious form factor, perhaps 1/10 the current size.

Waste: materials generation and energy expenditure
The biggest theme is waste due to untargeted processes. The main forms of waste are excess materials generated and energy used to move them around, all of which require a big overall system. Unlike the latest drugs, most natural molecules are untargeted; they travel around the body until they bump into a place to bind or are expelled unused. It is not just waste running through the blood stream and circulatory system, for example, steroid hormones diffuse into all cells, only binding to a small number.

Optimizing systems without sacrificing functionality
It could be argued that there are benefits to redundancy and waste could be better in some systems than others, for example, the value of having an extensive immune system on patrol 24/7 even though unused cell turnover is high. However, optimization could likely improve all system parameters.

Redesign phases: improved targeting and receptor enhancement
A potential human body redesign would certainly occur in phases, revising a few lower-impact operations first, targeting certain small classes of proteins to existing receptors for example. A second phase could include the generation or specificity-enhancement of receptors for a finer resolution of targeting.

Eventually, with robust targeting, it might be possible for the body to pump around 90% less ‘stuff.’
This would imply tremendous energy savings, and in turn decreased requirements for fluid, nourishment, vitamin, and mineral intake, and could even slow aging as processes do not wear out as fast.

Form factor hybrids
A smaller form factor may be undesirable for many reasons, but presumably it would be possible for streamlined wetware systems to merge into different kinds of hybrid form factors with ultralight ultrastrong hardware.