Monday, November 24, 2008

Some Options

After making two posts about my version of an Ideal Society, I suppose that the few people who actually read this deserve to know about a few of the alternatives.

The Collective ("We are the Borg"): A society consisting of a single entity that possesses multiple bodies, anywhere from a couple to several billion. This would probably be accomplished through the use of brain implants networked wirelessly so that they function as one. Alternatively the participants could be uploaded into cyberspace (see August 17th entry) and merge into one super-entity, with individuals serving as subroutines within the entity. The individuals within the collective may have varying degrees of individuality, from none to people that communicate telepathically. Does not particularly appeal to me.

Cyber-democracy: Back to the original democracy, aided by the Internet. Instead of electing representatives people who want to participate in government simply log in to a vast online forum and post their opinions. But seriously, who would have the time to read a thread millions of posts long, you'd need to have someone to manage the forum, or more likely a different person for each region, which would kind of reduce the forum to a massive electronic voting machine.

AIcracy: Artificial Intelligences will be superior to humans in every way, so why not let them rule over us and guide us to a Utopia. But why would they want to keep us alive, they could replace us with robots who could fill our functions in every way without complaining. Not to mention that even a self-evolving AI would be no better than its programmers or teachers. Regardless, this is the government typically used in Transhumanist sci-fi such as Iain Banks' Culture series and the Orion's Arm online worldbuilding project (even the Libertarian NoCoZo is subtly guided by The Invisible Hand of the Market).

Megacorp: The traditional government is weak or non-existent, instead immense, monopolistic, corporations control everything. These Megacorps might not be immensely corrupt and overall inhumane, but that works out so well now doesn't it. One should note that this sort of society is the setting for pretty much THE ENTIRE CYBERPUNK GENRE.

Techno-feudalism: Instead of advanced technology becoming available to everyone, only an elite class has access to it, either the scientists and engineers rule, or they serve the aristocracy as advisers or valued servants. In extreme cases the common folk might live in a pre-industrial state and be controlled through a state-sponsored religion that claims that technology is magic or divine. Alternatively the underclasses may be robots or genetically engineered to be of lower intelligence, while the elite are genetically enhanced or "pure" humans with no enhancements. Vaguely similar to the Galactic Empires featured in Isaac Asimov's Foundation, Frank Herbert's Dune, and the miniatures war game Warhammer 40,000, but of a much smaller size as FTL travel is physically impossible of course.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Role of Technology in my Ideal Society

Some people may have read my other posts and been confused about the lack of advanced technologies described in my last one. So allow me to explain the roles that technology would play in my idea of an ideal society. First off there would of course, be the internet or something similar, likely incorporating virtual reality and Second Life-esque virtual environments. There might even be some people who end up spending almost their entire life in Virch, either having their physical bodies hooked up to feeding tubes or eventually uploading their consciousnesses into their computers. For those who prefer to spend much of their time in rl, they could use wearable computers with VR goggles or cybernetic implants to check their e-mail anywhere.

In relation to the real world, technology would be used to improve the quality of life of most of the population. Thanks to genetic engineering, hydroponics, and vat-grown meat, food would be cheap and plentiful. Robotics and nanotechnology would cheapen manufacturing, but might put a large portion of the working class out of a job, though that would probably be less of a problem after a few generations. Of course, with advances in medical biotechnology people might be living considerably longer and hopefully working longer before retiring (if they ever retire).

Finally, enhancements, what I have been focusing on for most of my blog since I started. I stated that in my Ideal Society status would be determined solely by merit, how they acquired the skills or talents that allowed them to reach their status doesn't matter. However, due to the expenses of acquiring enhancements, they would be most common among the higher ranking members of society. Also keep in mind the risks involved with modifying any biological organism, especially the brain. For example, there could be complications with a neurological implantation and someone who could have become a superbright cyborg could instead end up in a coma or with limited mental faculties. Or a gene therapy regimen could result in a potentially fatal immune response or cancer. Even germ-line genetic engineering has risks, mostly for the embryo being modified. Basically most people who would undergo enhancements would be taking a serious risk and deserve whatever new abilities they acquired as a result. If you think that this system is unfair, it could be worse, for example genetic engineering could be used to create a hereditary caste system based on what genetic modifications one's ancestors received.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Ideal society

With the election coming up I thought it might be appropriate to talk about what I think would make a better society. Keep in mind that my idea is not perfect by any means, perfection seems to violate the laws of nature as everyone has a different idea of what is perfect.

First the government, democracy sounds good, but humanity's social tendencies mean that it easy for large groups to be swayed into making decisions that prove detrimental to them. Not to mention that statistically speaking, at least half of a population has a lower than average IQ. Seriously, do you really think that the majority is always right? In my ideal society, leaders would be selected by small groups of highly educated people based solely on their merits. There is some possibility for corruption in a Meritocracy like this, but having multiple people reduces the chances of cronyism or nepotism influencing decisions. The only problem is the possibility of some crazy low-ranking administrator secretly using unethical tactics to achieve his goals and advance in rank to the top. But that could be easily solved by keeping all administrators/bureacrats/politicians below a certain rank under close observation, in an extreme case implants could be used for this purpose.

Secondly, economy, lassez-faire capitalism, the government would only interfere in times of crisis such as a recession or potential depression. In exchange for the limited involvement from the government, the corporations would not be allowed to influence politics at all. Taxes would primarily be on a personal level based on a set percentage of one's income. The internal structure of most companies would be based on the same model as the government, but it would be harder to regulate and inevitably there would be some highly corrupt megacorps similarly to how there is now, maybe worse.

Thirdly, culture, I would prefer a completely secular society with no religion or superstition, but I doubt that will happen. Instead all faiths and beliefs would be respected, as long as they don't try to force their beliefs on others. Viral memes that are potentially dangerous (for example, a religious sect that encourages members to kill themselves) would be suppressed if deemed necessary, but generally people's personal lives would not be any of the government's business. In other words, it doesn't really matter what people do as long as they don't harm anyone (themselves or others).

Friday, September 19, 2008

Natural Selection and Humanity

Yes, you two people who read my blog, I'm back after a month of not posting. Here I'll talk about how what made us into the dominant species on Earth cannot help us anymore and could actually make things worse.

It's thanks to natural selection that we have the most complex brains of any species on the planet, but thanks to civilization survival of the fittest has little meaning and people who would normally be "weeded out" become vital to society and the species. Natural selection tends to favor the physically strongest, most aggressive, or most promiscuous members of the species and their genes. Do those traits sound familiar, you're right, jocks tend to be the ones whose genes are most likely to be propagated. However, in a highly organized society the physical strength of an individual matters less, and those who are intelligent become more important. Unfortunately there are always societies that value strength rather than intelligence, such as Sparta as opposed to Athens. A more modern example would be the "jock culture" of the 20th and 21st century America that denigrades smart people as "nerds" and publicly accuses them of being "elitist".

As for how this relates to natural selection specifically, people who benefit society the most don't necessarily reproduce the most, in fact many smart people consciously choose not to have many kids or (19th century or earlier) live ascetic lives and avoid the opposite sex (Greek philosophers, monks, some other intellectuals). While less intelligent or simply ignorant people will be less likely to use birth control and have several children with their less desireable genes. I know this sounds like eugenics, but I don't support mass sterilization or genocide, but rather I'm advocating the use of birth control and genetic engineering which would be much more humane.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The necessity and inevitability of technological advancement

As our technology has advanced and our population has increased we have placed more and more of a strain on our environment. Since the Industrial Revolution the generation of energy has pumped CO2 into the atmosphere causing global warming. Also the population has more than doubled resulting in more resources being consumed. Because of this some people have come to believe that humanity has advanced too quickly and that we're killing the planet prematurely, a few even think that we should go back to pre-industrial technology. However, these people should realize that what humanity has done isn't completely our fault, it's just our most basic instinct that is common to all life.

All life, from viruses to humans seek on a subconscious level to exploit all available resources to the fullest and procreate until they have completely dominated their environment and cannot go any further. This is what the 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche referred to as the "Will to Power" in its most basic form. The problem is, once the population exceeds gets too large for the environment to support individuals start to die off until the population becomes manageable again. When humanity evolved sapience it became better able to exploit its environment and with the development of agriculture was able to reshape said environment in order to extend the population limit. For over 12,000 years now, humanity has been using technology to continue growing without limits until 250 years ago when technology began to threaten the entire planet with drastic changes to the ecosystem.

Most current technologies that are used to generate energy alter the environment in some way, fossil fuels release CO2 and other pollutants, hydroelectric blocks rivers and floods large plains, nuclear fission produces radioactive waste. However there are technologies in development that could produce energy with hardly any environmental impact. Satellites could gather solar energy and beam it down to earth while only requiring materials to build them and space to put receiving dishes. Nuclear fusion could generate immense amounts of power using very small amounts of fuel and only produces helium. Biotechnology has the potential to create organisms that could remove pollutants from the atmosphere. As for material resources there is always recycling and we could potentially use asteroids and other extraterrestrial objects to extract additional elements. Though eventually our population will grow so large that we will either need to colonize other solar systems or disassemble every large object in the solar system and construct a Dyson sphere that will capture all of the sun's energy.

And just in case you're wondering about what would happen if we went back to pre-industrial technology, civilization wouldn't be able to support more than a couple billion people and we would have the biggest genocide in human history. Also if we continue using fossil fuels and cause the global warming disaster prophesized by environmentalists, humanity will survive and continue to thrive (unless the heat causes a super-plaque) but many if not most of the planet's species will become extinct. So as you can see, our only real option is to work through this environmentally traumatic phase in our evolution and develop better technologies.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Just Checking

If anyone actually reads this blog please leave comments.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

On Uploading one's Consciousness

Considering this week's episode of Stargate Atlantis I thought it would be appropriate to talk about one of the... strangest ideas of Transhumanism, Mind Uploading. Mind Uploading is the transference or copying of one's consciousness into a body other than that of the original, usually a computer or clone.

One might wonder why someone would give up their original body and become a machine, there are several reasons why. The most obvious of those is the near immortality allowed by having a body made of metal instead of flesh and bone plus being able to easily copy oneself in order to make backups or a distributed network brain, in addition the human brain only has enough available memory for maybe four centuries, while a computer can always have more memory added as needed. Also a computer program doesn't need any physical resources other than space to house the machine and electricity, anything else would be provided by a virtual reality. Finally an uploaded personality would be able to travel at the speed of light through data transmissions and experience life thousands of times faster than a humans.

There are several possible ways of Uploading memories, all of which are highly theoretical, and most of which involve copying the brain's structure and data (just to be clear, when information is uploaded or downloaded it's being copied, not really transferred). One such method would be to freeze the brain and cut it into "serial sections" to be scanned by an electron microscope so that the neural net may be recreated. Fortunately it may also be possible to use a highly advanced MRI or nanomachines to just read the information in a living brain without destroying it, of course this means that if the original was still alive then he/she would have a digital clone with the exact same memories and personality up to a certain point. These methods rely on pattern identity theory which assumes that if one has the same memories as a previously existing entity, then he/she is the same person.

Personally I think that if my brain was scanned and my neural network and memories recreated in a computer it would just be an AI that thought it was me and if my brain was taken apart and destroyed all at once then my personal perspective would end and I would die. However, there are two other hypothesized methods that would enable one to become a machine while retaining personal perspective. The first, and perhaps the most technologically feasible method of Uploading is cyborging, as parts of the brain are mapped and analyzed they are replaced with implants that mimic the functions of the replace parts, this method would take months or years to complete but the individual would retain their perspective during the process. The other method involves the use of nanomachines to replace the individual neurons in the brain one by one with artificial substitutes. If the technology becomes available in my lifetime I will probably have cybernetic enhancements done to my body if not my brain, but I would prefer to retain as many biological parts as possible for as long as possible. Maybe in a thousand years I will be distributed across several computer nodes and biological bodies scattered throughout the solar system.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

My review of the Culture

I just finished reading Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks; it is part of a series about the Culture, a space-faring, post-scarcity, socio-anarchistic utopia watched over by immensely powerful AIs known as Minds that keep the biological inhabitants of their Orbitals or Ships safe and happy. Thanks to nanotechnology almost anything is available to anyone if they want it, most of the Culture's population lives in gigantic Orbitals that can house 50 billion people with room to spare, both of which make it so that no one has to compete with one another for living space or consumables, in fact most citizens simply spend their time playing extreme sports or some other activity they find entertaining instead of working. People don't even have to worry about dying as they can have backups of their consciousnesses made in case they die in a lava-rafting accident (though some choose to be "disposable" as a lifestyle choice).

Despite all of that the Culture isn't a perfect society by any means, for one thing they have an annoying tendency to interfere in the cultures of other societies that occasionally results in war. A major part of the plot of Look to Windward is a civil war that the Culture unintentionally started by attempting to dissolve the caste system on the planet Chel and the Chelgrian's attempt at reprisal by blowing up the Hub Mind of the Masaq Orbital and killing at least 5 billion of it's inhabitants. And after the attempt fails Special Circumstances sends a Terror Weapon (a shape-shifting nanoswarm with a sadistic personality) to gruesomely and publicly assassinate the Chelgrian leaders responsible. The Minds might not all be the benevolent overseers they seem to be, the Masaq Hub speculates that the Chelgrians may have been helped by a renegade group of Minds who believed the Culture had grown too complacent and decadent. In addition multiple alien races considered the Culture to be immature and impulsive, I personally think that the biological citizens are like spoiled children, they don't have to do anything and most contribute nothing to the Culture at all. Plus I doubt that there could truly be a post-scarcity society, even if one is able to transmute one element into another through nanotechnology there is a limited amount of matter and energy in the universe, I wouldn't be surprised if the Minds are secretly scheming to overthrow other cultures or to claim one another's resources (which for all we know could include citizens).

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A More Detailed Explanation of Transhumanism

I suppose that I should give a better explanation of what Transhumanism is. Transhumanists believe that emerging technologies such as genetic engineering, cybernetics, and nanotechnology should be used to improve humanity, not just our quality of life as technology is typically designed to, but our bodies and minds as well. For example, it could be possible in just a couple decades to genetically engineer our children so that they lack the genes that cause hereditary diseases at the very least, in less than a century there could be new species derived from humanity. Cybernetics could be used to make artificial body parts with greater capabilities than biological ones, allow humans to interface with machines (like in The Matrix), create (hopefully benevolent) artificial intelligences, and possibly allow humans to upload their consciousnesses into machines and become immortal. Nanotechnology has already given us stronger materials with new properties and will likely result in molecular machines that can construct objects cheaply and easily and repair our bodies, potentially forever, not to mention the potential for a post-scarcity "Utopia" where resources are effectively unlimited and anyone can simply enter a command into their nanofabricator and make whatever they want. Though I personally believe that we will never achieve a truly Post-Scarcity Society as there is a limited amount of matter in the universe.

There are several currents within the Transhumanist movement itself with different ideas. Abolitionism believes in an obligation to end all involuntary suffering in all sentient life (for the record humans are unique in being Sapient, most animals are sentient). Democratic transhumanism is pretty self-explanatory. Extropianism is possibly the original form of transhumanism, it basically advocates taking a proactive approach to human evolution. Immortalism is a moral philosophy based on the belief that immortality is not only possible but desirable, of course most transhumanists want to live forever anyway. Libertarian transhumanists argue that the free market system is the best way to guarantee the "right to human enhancement, unfortunately many are anarchists. Postgenderism is a radical form of feminism (among other things) that seeks to eliminate gender distinctions in humanity, presumably by using genetic engineering to turn people into hermaphrodites or relying on cloning to reproduce. Singulatarians believe in an event known as the technological singularity, which involves the creation or evolution of superintelligences that will radically transform society to say the least, and seek to ensure that it happens. Technogaianism is the belief that emerging technologies can help restore Earth's environment, such as bioengineering bacteria to reduce the carbon levels in the atmosphere or using molecular nanotechnology to convert garbage into useful products. Transhumanists are mostly Atheistic or secular, though there are some liberal Buddhists and Christians. Politically transhumanists tend towards democratic socialism, Libertarianism, or Technocracy. Personally I am closest to being Extropian of any of the currents listed, I also hope to be around for several centuries at least, think that emerging technologies are the only way to solve all of our environments problems, and think that The Singularity will happen whether we want to or not.

For more about Transhumanism in general see this link:
For more about Transhumanism and politics see the following link: (Trans)humanism and Biopolitics

Friday, August 1, 2008

Future Problems that the Genetically Enhanced May Face

Unless we experience a Luddite revolution within the next decade or so and civilization collapses, it is inevitable that some parents will choose to have their children genetically engineered, legally or illegally. At first it will just be the removal of genes for diseases, which could possibly include Autism and Aspergers unless I have something to say about it, but at some point there will be experiments to improve physical or mental abilities through genetic manipulation.

The first attempts to improve intelligence will probably have side effects, some of which could be similar to Autism, Schizophrenia, or something completely different than anything known. The point is that they will probably be completely alien to us, especially if the experiments are successful in creating super geniuses. But most people throughout history that have been described as geniuses have been somewhat "strange" to other people, at least some of them have been Autistic like Einstein may have been, or were diagnosed with more serious mental disorders such as John Nash.

Of notable mention are Artificial Intelligences, being completely non-human they would seem even more alien than genetically enhanced humans or mundane Autistics and Aspergarians.

I've presented what will happen in the future, unfortunately I have no idea how people will handle it, but I hope they will learn to accept the odd quirks displayed by those who can greatly benefit society.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

My Introduction

I suppose that I should start by explaining everything, first this is not a diary, an amateur attempt at journalism, or any of that crap, it is a public record of my sociological, technological, and political ideas. Aspergarian means that I have Asperger's Syndrome, a "disability" similar to high-functioning Autism that gives me a slightly different point of view than most humans. Transhumanism is an intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of science and technology to enhance human mental and physical abilities and improve overall quality of life, in my opinion humanity desperately needs to be improved. Finally ZarPaulus is a reference to the online science-fiction worldbuilding project Orion's Arm. Oh, and don't expect this to update on any sort of regular basis, it's not every week that I get new ideas.