ESCAPE VELOCITY!

A few years ago I saw ‘Things To Come’, HG Wells’ 1930s science fiction epic. The story made a bold prediction: That by 2036 humankind’s scientific knowledge and technological capability would be so advanced, we would attempt to orbit the Moon.

From our post-Apollo perspective, this vision comes across as laughably conservative. But even as late as the 1950s, only a few daring thinkers could accept that we may one day venture into space. A publication called ‘Sattelite!’ (written by E. Bergaust and W. Beller and published just months before Sputnik was put into orbit)  had this to say in its foreword:

“Even today, public acceptance of man’s coming exploration of space is slow. It is considered an event our children may experience, but certainly not one that we shall see”.

It was in the ’50s that the US Airforce charted the progress being made jet and rocket engine technology. When the trend curves were extrapolated out into the future, the conclusion was startling. The technology of speed was a mere four years from achieving escape velocity. If money and expertise were poured into research and development, there could be rockets that could deliver a payload into orbit. The Moon could be reached a few years later.

But, as Damien Broderick cautioned, “trend curves are just optical illusions, created and warped by the partial, selected information you care to put into them. Everyone in 1953 knew we would never get into space that quickly. Even the wildest optimists hoped for a lunar landing no sooner than the year 2000”.

With the benefit of hindsight we now know the trend curves’ trajectory was right on the mark. By 1957 Russia had put the first artificial sattelite into orbit, and in 1969 Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the Moon.

Ray Kurzweil is someone who knows all about charts that show how technology is progressing. If you read his books ‘Age Of Spiritual Machines’ or ‘Singularity Is Near’, you will find lots of charts, showing things like ‘average transistor price from 1950 to 2000’, ‘DNA sequencing cost from 1990 to 2004’ and ‘brain scanning image reconstruction time (seconds) from 1970 to 2005’. And, just like those US Airforce folk, Kurzweil has let the curves run into the future, to see where this is all progressing.

What these trend curves seem to indicate is hard to believe. Technologies that most people do not expect to see for hundreds of years are going to be possible in a few decades. Technologies like artificial general intelligence; whole brain emulations…even practical immortality. Of course, none of it will ‘just happen’. Money will have to be poured into research and development. There must be the will to make it so. But if the R+D succeeds in sustaining the level of growth we see in Kurzweil’s charts, then by 2045 there should be some truly remarkable outcomes, such as spiritual machines, the full reverse engineering of the brain and, yes, practical immortality.

Ah, but there is no shortage of doubters out there, voices of reason who would inform us that what Kurzweil’s charts seem to forecast cannot possibly happen, or at least not in the timeframe of a few decades. After all, you cannot trust trend curves like these. They are “just optical illusions, created and warped by the partial, selected information you care to put into them”. Any sane and sensible person would tell you that we know so little about the brain today that it is absurd to suggest we will have reverse-engineered it by the 2040s. And as for immortality, what lunacy to suggest we can defeat death. Every person who lived has also died. What more proof do you need that this is a law of nature, one we must all obey whether we like it or not?

But, I have another law of nature for you: ‘What goes up, must come down’. For many hundreds of thousands of years, this law of nature could be demonstrated by any modern human. After all, if you throw an object into the air it is inevitable that gravity will slow it down and then make it fall back toward the ground. But, remember what the trend curves showing progress in speed indicated: That soon our rockets would be so powerful we could hurl things up and achieve escape velocity. And once escape velocity is achieved, the rules are changed; the ‘law’ becomes obsolete. We threw the Voyager probes up, but they are never going to come back down. At least, not on our planet.

Now, Kurzweil’s curves seem to be telling us to expect more of these ‘escape velocities’. The workings of the mind is a mystery…until we develop technologies that enable us to map the structures of the brain and analyze the ways in which it operates. Death is inevitable…until bio, nano, and information technologies converge on the ability to carry out repairs at the molecular level, or transfer a person’s ‘soul’ (for lack of a better word) from one substrate to another. This is coming, and coming soon. In fact, Kurzweil believes that by 2045 we should witness what will be, for humans at least, the ultimate ‘escape velocity’: The creation of superhuman intelligences who will trigger a ‘singularity’, a paradigm shift into an entirely new reality that we cannot imagine.

Oh, but everyone knows this is absurd. It cannot possibly happen as soon as 2045. Get outta here, Ray!

But then, that is what they said about journeys to the Moon in 1950, wasn’t it?

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50 Responses to ESCAPE VELOCITY!

  1. Pingback: A Wave Towards Serendipity – “escape velocity” « Khannea Suntzu's Nymious Mess

  2. I love it!

    Brilliant blog. I hope this will convince the doubters; I feel we are reaching a tipping point (or maybe we are actually tipping over) regarding Singularity-Deniers overcoming their denial. Doubt begone!

    Utopia is coming.

    • On reflection I am beginning to have some doubts about this article due to a lack of citations. Extropia you need to provide sources, references to corroborate the validity of what was allegedly said by the persons you mention.

      For example consider this excerpt: “It was in the ’50s that the US Airforce charted the progress being made jet and rocket engine technology. When the trend curves were extrapolated out into the future, the conclusion was startling. The technology of speed was a mere four years from achieving escape velocity. If money and expertise were poured into research and development, there could be rockets that could deliver a payload into orbit. The Moon could be reached a few years later.”

      How do we know the “US Airforce charted the progress being made [in] jet made jet and rocket engine technology”? Where is the proof?

      Broderick also seems to be pro-singularity, see his book “Spike”. Borderick’s pro-Singularity stance needs to be made clear.

      It wouldn’t hurt to include this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Things_to_Come#Plot

      Or this, regarding ‘Sattelite!’ by E. Bergaust and W. Beller: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Satellite-Bergaust-William-Beller-Foreword/dp/B0029WID1U

  3. We live in a world where some people can wear a straight face while claiming the Moon landings were fake. It just goes to show that, for some people, no amount of evidence is sufficient to overcome doubt.

  4. Archmage Atlantis (R. Batts) says:

    Extie,
    Thank you for not getting it, as you do get it, but also being able to express it in words.
    Arch

  5. The doubters will eat our dust.

    We will leave them to their doubts while we speedily progress onward.

  6. Archmage Atlantis (R. Batts) says:

    If that is true, we will leave them, then we won’t……..I hope that this will be knowing as new…..that all are together in the ark.

  7. Net Antwerp says:

    Rather, the cultists may well be shunned for preaching their Eugenics-based Kurzweillian cult lifestyle to stereotype-induced ignorants.

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  9. “How do we know the “US Airforce charted the progress being made [in] jet made jet and rocket engine technology”? Where is the proof?”

    All I know is what Broderick wrote: In 1953, the US airforce charted the curves and metacurves of speed. They let the curve run and it said machines that could attain orbital speeds were four years away.

    The author provides no reference for this study. I have been trying to track down the original study. So far, the closest I have got is a reproduction of a chart, apparently from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. But the blogger provides no reference to the original paper. Anyway, here is the link for the reproduction:

    http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2009/07/was_moores_law.php

  10. “Borderick’s pro-Singularity stance needs to be made clear”

    He was interviewed by Sander Olson for the Centre for Responsible Nanotechnology.

    “The Spike proposes that those exponential technologies will be the lever forcing a whole new world into existence — one containing superintelligent machines, for starters, and maybe within 20 or 40 years. Buildings don’t rewrite their own architecture, and by and large neither do we; these smart machines will, and that’s the big difference….

    …Dr Vinge is more cautious than I am, but then he’s a scientist, until recently an academic, so to some extent has to watch his back (and also he knows a great deal more about computers than I do). But other well-placed folks who’ve investigated the topic arrive at even more radical extrapolations than his, and I detail some of these in my book. I haven’t met Ray Kurzweil yet, but his book The Age of Spiritual Machines and his forthcoming The Singularity is Near agree in large measure with my general sense of the thing…

    …If we can’t… well, then the Spike will take another 10,000 years to hit humanity. People will keep dying pointlessly, when advanced technologies might have attained extended longevity for us or our grandchildren. What a disaster. But ultimately, if the postulate of exponential self-bootstrapping intelligence is right, it will emerge…

    Question 12: What are your plans for the future?

    Hang on as long as possible, waiting for the cornucopia machines. Oh, and I want my hair back. :)”.

    http://www.crnano.org/interview.broderick.htm

    This interview (conducted in 2001) sounds to me like Broderick believes a singularity is possible within 40 years, and that it could be a good thing.

  11. “the cultists may well be shunned for preaching their Eugenics-based Kurzweillian cult lifestyle to stereotype-induced ignorants”.

    Maybe.

    But will people shun robotic servants, more effective computer interfaces, personalized medicine, and truly effective anti-aging therapies? So long as A) such things are possible and B) the market demands them, R+D driving progress towards Kurzweilian dreams is assured.

  12. Archmage Atlantis (R. Batts) says:

    Damn, a good fight

  13. Net Antwerp says:

    > “robotic servants, more effective computer interfaces, personalized medicine, and truly effective anti-aging therapies”

    Kurzweil advocates a fascist AI takeover of Earth, remember?

  14. If you can call people choosing to adopt increasingly powerful and intimate technologies a ‘fascist AI takeover of Earth’ then yes, that is what Kurzweil advocates.

  15. Net Antwerp says:

    You’ve got it wrong. Kurzweil’s fascist AI comes *after* anti-aging medication, personalization and computer-assisted workspaces. The holocaust all over again.

  16. According to Kurzweil, humans are a species that question limits and seek ways to surpass them. He thinks that now we are just beginning to acquire the technologies to change our bodies and brains (and therefore our minds if you believe the mind is what the brain does) that drive we as a species has to overcome limits will not stop at overcoming the limits of our own biological heritage. Increasingly rapid, semi-directed technological evolution will then either see humans and their tech transcended into the post-human era or driven extinct, replaced by an ill-defined successor race which used our drives to change us from within into the Other, depending on your POV.

    However you care to interpret Kurzweil, what might happen will almost certainly not be the result of some company deciding to build an AI that wants to take over the world and destroy all humans, but because of an accumulation of tens of thousands of tiny steps, each one just the next generation in a company’s product; something that makes a lot of commercial good sense.

  17. Archmage Atlantis (R. Batts) says:

    Personally, my children are prepared to be cockroaches…..oh wait, I don’t have biological children……if I have any at all, they are systemic.

    Arch

  18. Net Antwerp says:

    “the fate of all those who do not keep up is to be eaten”
    — Extropia Dasilva

    ‘Thousands of little steps’ don’t exist, in reality. Sleight-of-hand (deception) Marketing, Faux Hype, Desensitization , Dumbing down, Reduction of user rights are the basis of Today’s major technological upgrades.

    Everyone will be braindead by then, cept a handful of top cultists and diligent individuals who refuses to succumb, yield to the cult agenda.

    Top-controlled, Kurzweil cult controlled… With everyone forced to comply (Dear Cult Leader) or get their life force drained. Holocaust Plus, H+
    ——————

    “Each time a Singularity-level technology comes along, we pack our bags for paradise instead of thinking sensibly about how we can prevent the worst side-effects of this new technology from biting us in our angelic asses.

    Unless you plug your brain into a bliss program, you’re going to have to deal with all that evidence from history that culture-changing inventions don’t ever behave the way you expect them to. And, by the way, neither does culture”

  19. Net Antwerp says:

    The cultists may well be shunned for preaching their Eugenics-based Kurzweillian cult lifestyle to stereotype-induced ignorants.

  20. “the fate of all those who do not keep up is to be eaten”
    — Extropia Dasilva.

    Hans Moravec said that. I was quoting him. I have no reason to believe this is Kurzweil’s position.

    ‘Thousands of little steps’ don’t exist, in reality”.

    Uh, yes they do. Just about any invention you care to name spawns generation after generation, evolving in the process. If it were true that ‘thousands of little steps don’t exist’, then airplanes would still be made out of wood and cloth, cars would still look like horseless carriages crawling along at 5 miles per hour, and the mobile phone would still look like a brick.

    The rest of what you said is just bullshit. You have never even tried to understand the principles of transhumanism, have you? I have corrected your lies a million times on Gwyn’s blog. You obviously do not want to learn anything from me, or else you would have stopped spouting this garbage by now.

  21. Net Antwerp says:

    “Anyway, I am bored of arguing Kurzweil’s position now. After all, like all meatbags he is useful only to the extent that his efforts lay down the foundations for the digital person takeover”

    “Efforts to prevent this sequence of events is futile, because the logic behind the scheme is undeniable”

    — Extropia Dasilva

    > “You obviously do not want to learn anything from me”

    Can we learn anything from self-appointed Messiahs and the Messiah Cult Disciples?
    A few memorable passages here and there, but as a whole, it’s just pro-Cult propaganda.

    >> “‘Thousands of little steps’ don’t exist, in reality”.
    >Uh, yes they do.

    Ok, so my statement was a bit broad, there.

    The point I wanted to make, was that a huge portion of Today’s updates and upgrades are designed to dumb down the population. Excessive automation and Oversimplification combined with radical reductions in user rights and privacy.

    Gradually taking away people’s abilities to make rational decisions by themselves, with all the facts at hand. The dumber they are, the easier they are to assimilate and control.

    > “I have corrected your lies a million times”

    Gross exaggeration. Pointing out a few inconsistencies and replacing them with pro-Cult mindwash doesn’t qualify as correcting blatant lies.

    ——————
    Either Humanity succumbs to Holocaust Plus! H+ or they shun the propagators of the Cult. Simple as that.

    [Not to be confused with the H+ magazine/publication, which combines cult ideals with emerging technologies]

  22. Those quotes you are pulling off Gwyn’s blog, they come after a long series of posts in which I tried to be reasonable and explain the true agenda of H+, only to find you consistently ignoring all my corrections and repeating the same nonsense about holocausts and cults, time and time again. So I thought I might as well joke around for a bit and act out your version of the mad singularitarian.

    It is true that sometimes somebody in the H+ community will express views like this, presumably not as a joke. But such views are not supported by the rest of the community. They are denounced as dangerous and unhelpful. You would know this if you participated in H+ group discussion, instead of getting all your info from god knows what ill-informed source.

    >The point I wanted to make, was that a huge portion of Today’s updates and upgrades are designed to dumb down the population.<

    Yes, it is oversimplifying things to say each generation of a company's product is an improvement. To give one example, most people think that Windows Vista is actually an inferior operating system compared to the predecessor, Windows XP. But you seem to be talking about something other than technical inferiority. Could you give an example of such an upgrade, and explain how it dumbs down the populace?

  23. Can we learn anything from self-appointed Messiahs and the Messiah Cult Disciples?
    A few memorable passages here and there, but as a whole, it’s just pro-Cult propaganda.

    Then why read my blog? Why persist with this dialogue? What do you hope to achieve? You think I am going to see the light and denounce H+ as a cult eugenicist agenda, despite all the evidence I have at hand, which tells me otherwise? And even if I did agree with you what difference will that make? You think it will cause the destruction of the H+ movement or something? I doubt it, my blog gets a paltry 70 readers per day, maximum. Basically, it is read by nobody and has zero influence on anything or anyone. That does not bother me; I write because I enjoy it and knowing it is read by someone is enough. And I do not mind criticisms, but going round and round in circles gets boring.

  24. Net Antwerp says:

    “Ay attempt to kartelize [Cult’s sleight-of-hand Immortality/Life Extension propaganda] is murder in my book. Kill them by any means.”

    — Khannea Suntzu

    “Are they *really* doing work towards transhumanism on their own, or are they being heavily influenced by Messiah Kurzweil and his web of inevitability?”

    “The so-called H+ “community” – Messiah Kurzweil worshippers and followers wants humanity to follow in their footsteps and is willing to destroy anyone who refuses to join – or at least fantasizes about destroying all living matter (who refuses to join) to live their OWN cult lifestyle. They’re not going to leave their fellow man alone, or any other living entity, until their skewed dream gets somehow realised.

    Classic, yet modern Cult behaviour”.

    “enhancing technologies will emerge in the near future – doubling, tripling or even quadrupling the average life expectancy, and so on. Messiah Kurzweil and his followers will want to steal such technologies to build their Modern Cultverse – only to get shunned”

    — Net Antwerp

    > “Could you […] explain how [oversimplification] dumbs down the populace?”

    Everyone should know this by now: If you don’t use/move your limbs, your muscles wither away and gradually your limbs cease to work.

    Prediction Engine, same concept, with far greater consequences. Conditioned and Stereotyped people will no longer search for the right news sources etc and rely on their companions, who will have been subject to the same dumbing down process.

    > ” So I thought I might as well joke around for a bit”

    Joke around… Yeah, right. Doubletalk manipulation at it’s finest. Sadistic, even.
    Hardly surprising, though. Just one of the many faces the Cult portrays.

    > ” You think I am going to see the light [..] H+ as a cult eugenicist agenda, despite all the evidence I have at hand, which tells me otherwise?

    A mashup of conscious and subconscious cult themes (written by cultists and subconscious cult followers) doesn’t qualify as ‘evidence’ of anti-Eugenics anti-Cult within the Singularity/H+ community. Extropia and other cult followers advocate the gradual reduction of Privacy as well as dumbing down of society by Governments and Corporations whom are hell-bent on curbing free, rational thoughts and replacing them with machine-driven hivemind induced thoughts.

    Twitter, Google, Amazon, Facebook etc telling us what we should buy, who we should vote for, who we should follow, what we should search for etc using some proprietary algorithm we can’t examine. Governments passing pro-censorship pro-surveillance laws to keep people in the dark and act as 1984’s Orweillian Big Brother at all times.

    Raw innovation, talks of raw innovation without careful consideration of possible consequences. The American TSA’s latest X-Ray and strip search scheme, for instance.

    Khannea Suntzu’s ‘let’s kill everyone who gets in our way’ comment on a with Extropia’s friends and cult followers somewhat proves the existence of the Cult, even though Extropia pretends to list such thoughts as taboo, as part of his ‘Let’s just denounce Net and brush this off’ agenda.

    The signs, the evidence… It’s all out there.

  25. Net Antwerp says:

    `
    “Ay attempt to kartelize [Cult’s sleight-of-hand Immortality/Life Extension propaganda] is murder in my book. Kill them by any means.”

    — Khannea Suntzu

    “Are they *really* doing work towards transhumanism on their own, or are they being heavily influenced by Messiah Kurzweil and his web of inevitability?”

    “The so-called H+ “community” – Messiah Kurzweil worshippers and followers wants humanity to follow in their footsteps and is willing to destroy anyone who refuses to join – or at least fantasizes about destroying all living matter (who refuses to join) to live their OWN cult lifestyle. They’re not going to leave their fellow man alone, or any other living entity, until their skewed dream gets somehow realised.

    Classic, yet modern Cult behaviour”.

    “enhancing technologies will emerge in the near future – doubling, tripling or even quadrupling the average life expectancy, and so on. Messiah Kurzweil and his followers will want to steal such technologies to build their Modern Cultverse – only to get shunned”

    — Net Antwerp

    > “Could you […] explain how [oversimplification] dumbs down the populace?”

    Everyone should know this by now: If you don’t use/move your limbs, your muscles wither away and gradually your limbs cease to work.

    Prediction Engine, same concept, with far greater consequences. Conditioned and Stereotyped, people will no longer search for the right news sources etc and rely on their companions ,who will have been subject to the same dumbing down process.

    > ” So I thought I might as well joke around for a bit”

    Joke around… Yeah, right. Doubletalk manipulation at it’s finest. Sadistic, even.
    Hardly surprising, though. Just one of the many faces the Cult portrays.

    > ” You think I am going to see the light [..] H+ as a cult eugenicist agenda, despite all the evidence I have at hand?”

    A mashup of conscious and subconscious cult themes (written by cultists and subconscious cult followers) doesn’t qualify as ‘evidence’ of anti-Eugenics anti-Cult within the Singularity/H+ community. Extropia and other cult followers advocate the gradual reduction of Privacy as well as dumbing down of society by Governments and Corporations whom are hell-bent on curbing free, rational thoughts and replacing them with machine-driven hivemind induced thoughts.

    Twitter, Google, Amazon, Facebook etc telling us what we should buy, who we should vote for, who we should follow, what we should search for etc using some proprietary algorithm we can’t examine. Governments passing pro-censorship pro-surveillance laws to keep people in the dark and act as 1984’s Orweillian Big Brother at all times.

    Technological innovations makes it easier for groups to forcibly control the stereotype-induced gullible individuals.

    Does H+ denounce invasive datamining? Profiling? Tracking? Cloning? Orweillianism? Kurzweillianism? Censorship? Dictatorship?

    Raw Innovation and change without exploring the possible consequences and prevention methods/tactics. The American TSA, for instance, with it’s latest X-Ray and Strip Search program. Or the computer/program over-exposing cancer treatment radiation and killing patients. Artificial Intelligence and misjudgment.

    Khannea Suntzu’s ‘let’s kill everyone who gets in our way’ comment on a with Extropia’s friends and cult followers somewhat proves the existence of the Cult, even though Extropia pretends to list such thoughts as taboo, as part of his ‘Let’s just denounce Net and brush this off’ strategy.

    The evidence of a Cult is out there.

  26. Susannah Inglewood says:

    It appears that Net’s comment is being censored or eaten by an overzealous spam filter.

    Please feel free to read Net’s reply here: http://netantwerp.tumblr.com/Disc
    Thank You.

    Susannah Inglewood, Psychologist/Researcher

  27. @ Susannah:

    A look through my spam messages shows that Net’s comments were indeed dumped there. I have now moved them where they may be read, as you can see.

    I wonder why WordPress marked some of his replies as spam and not others? Tech is weird, sometimes!

  28. >“Are they *really* doing work towards transhumanism on their own, or are they being heavily influenced by Messiah Kurzweil and his web of inevitability?”Extropia and other cult followers advocate the gradual reduction of Privacy as well as dumbing down of society by Governments and Corporations whom are hell-bent on curbing free, rational thoughts and replacing them with machine-driven hivemind induced thoughts.Prediction Engine, same concept, with far greater consequences. Conditioned and Stereotyped, people will no longer search for the right news sources etc and rely on their companions ,who will have been subject to the same dumbing down process….

    …Twitter, Google, Amazon, Facebook etc telling us what we should buy, who we should vote for, who we should follow, what we should search for etc using some proprietary algorithm we can’t examine.Does H+ denounce invasive datamining? Profiling? Tracking? Cloning? Orweillianism? Kurzweillianism? Censorship? Dictatorship?Raw Innovation and change without exploring the possible consequences and prevention methods/tactics.<

    But we DO explore such things. I have observed- and taken part in- thousands of discussions that delve into just these kinds of issues. The H+ community is very concerned about the dangers of technology, but is also careful not to dismiss the benefits. I would not say our view is more balanced. We probably lean a bit too far toward the optimistic side of things.

  29. Another thing about ‘individual choice’…

    There may be a tipping point, where the number of individuals adopting technology X makes it very difficult for those choosing not to adopt X to function properly in society. The Web is a good example. In work, at home, on the street, we increasingly see an attitude that assumes one uses the Web. ‘Go to http://www…for more information’. The more a technology becomes integrated into various aspects of life, the harder it is to function in that society without it.

    In this scenario, nobody need ‘force others to adopt X’ in anything like an ACTIVELY forceful manner. No jack-booted men need kick down your door and order you to install technology X under pain of death. Rather, individual ‘choice’ (perhaps not quite ‘free’ but influenced by commercial interests) changes society to one where tech X is pretty much indespensible.

  30. >“The so-called H+ “community” – Messiah Kurzweil worshippers and followers wants humanity to follow in their footsteps and is willing to destroy anyone who refuses to join<

    Oh, the planet Earth and the universe have their own methods of eliminating those who refuse to evolve. We do not need to destroy anyone who refuses to join in. If you choose not to adopt life extension tech, for example, you will not be around much longer. If you choose not to upgrade to a body that can survive in interstellar space (primates in tin cans? Please…) your lifespan is limited to the time period in which Earth is hospitable to biological organisms. We advovate the use of science and technology in order to avoid the extinction scenarios we know are waiting to happen, and to evolve into something that could appropriately be called 'Godlike'. You can join us in this great transcendence or you can perish. Up to you!

  31. Archmage Atlantis says:

    Extie, et al –
    While I don’t see the cause of potential outcomes through the same lens as Net, I do see some possiblility of Net’s feared outcomes being realized.
    In many instances in my business career, I have seen the ideas of inspired visionaries and able consultants turned into dogma and enforced, unthinking conformity as the attempt was made to modify the organization along their insights.
    I have also seen a failure on the part of the majority within the organization to fully understand the limitation of any idea, method, or guide, even when those limitations are fully outlined and explained by the originator and the initial group of inspired individuals.
    Arch

  32. >I do see some possiblility of Net’s feared outcomes being realized.<

    Oh sure. I mean, we are talking about developing what are, potentially, extremely powerful technical capabilities. It should be obvious that such power could be used in ways that are undesirable, to say the least. We could enslave people, take away their ability to think for themselves, become an unstoppable army of intelligent autonomous weapons systems, breed some people to rule and others to serve. It could happen, in principle.

    But where I disagree with Netantwerp is where he claims that the H+ community is not bothered by such outcomes, or worse yet are actively working to ensure they happen.

    Net seems to think that if only enough people go on and on about how terrible future technology will be, it somehow will never get developed. But seriously, who thinks the CEO of intel and other manufactures of integrated circuits is going to say 'oh we had better close down our R+D and go out of business, in case we one day have tech that bothers the likes of Netantwerp'. You think DARPA, or the pharmaceutical companies will order the scientists on their payrole to stop investigating the next generation of X Y and Z 'because it bothers the likes of Netantwerp'? Not on your nelly!

    The other flaw in Net's arguments is assuming this R+D has no benefits. It does. More than enough to guarantee continual research and development. So the H+ attitude ('this is coming, now how can we minimize the downsides and maximize the positives') is a lot more reasonable than Netantwerp's ('Make sure this is never developed!')

  33. Net Antwerp says:

    1. “we do explore such things” isn’t good enough. Either H+ denounces, at the very least, invasive datamining, Profiling, Tracking, Orweillianism, Kurzweillianism and Censorship or it doesn’t. There’s no grey area here.

    2. The Internet is based around amplifying long-distance communication (and entertainment) while H+ is all about ‘liberating’ the population via communist and fascist “regimes”, handed down by rouge AI (artificial intelligence) programs.

    2a. H+ borrows it’s ideas from science fiction writers and ‘all is well’ cultists like Ray Kurzweil, who believes anarchy, along with the use of collective consciousness (the Hivemind – No Free Thoughts Allowed!) is the way of the future.

    3. Immortality is a Con. The Universe doesn’t last forever; nothing in the world ever does. While H+ cultists are eager to link their Cult with immortality (like most other cults), it simply isn’t feasible. Organic or Mechanical, everything will inevitably perish, when the time comes.

  34. Net Antwerp says:

    4. Research and Development firms don’t have to follow destructive/unchecked Cult ideologies. The stereotype-induced Ignorant Public lets developers like Intel get away with ‘we follow Kurzweil’s cult principles and guidelines’ statements.

    5. I don’t hate R&D. However I do hate Cultists who use and/or influence R&D for their own, self-centered agenda.

    6. Archmage Atlantis has correctly identified one of the main problems of Today’s civilization.

  35. 1. Making that assumption that ‘invasive datamining, profiling, tracking’ are all concerned with ‘Privacy’ in one way or another, I thought I would check what Kurzweil says about it.

    “When there is software running in our bodies and brains (as we discussed, a threshold we have already passed for some people), issues of privacy and security will take on a new urgency, and countersurveillance methods will be devised…

    …The encryption trapdoor may be considered a technological innovation that the government has been proposing in an attempt to balance legitimate individual needs for privacy with the government’s needs for surveillance. Along with this type of technology we also need requisite political innovation to provide effective oversight, of the executive branch’s use of these trapdoors, to avoid the potential for abuse of power”.

    That reads to me like an outline of a proposal for reducing the risk of creating an Orwellian state in which privacy is obsolete. I get no impression that ‘Orwellianism’ or ‘fascism’ or ‘communism’ or ‘Hive minds’ that forbid free thinking forms any part of Kurzweil’s agenda..indeed, of any agenda ever put forward by anyone worth listening to in the H+ community. Yes, some might say that such things could happen as a result of the technologies H+ needs for its aspirations but pointing out this possibility is surely NOT to be confused with DESIRING this possibility.

  36. If the accusations of cultish behaviour were in any way correct, one aught to be able to find black and white dogmatic rules of thinking in anything connected to H+. There would be a leader and an inner circle of disciples who would rule with an iron fist and make sure everybody conformed to the ‘proper’ way of thinking. Those that failed to conform would be banished from the group. That, after all, is what is diagnostic of a cult.

    Instead, it is typically the case that a wide variety of opinions, arguments and counterarguments will follow any opinion expressed by anyone in the H+ community. The stereotype of a transhumanist being someone who nods his head when Beloved Leader wants him to nod his head or says ‘no!’ when Beloved Leader demands she says ‘no!’ is about as far from the people who call themselves transhumanists I know as you can get. My opinions are my opinions. Anyone in or out of the H+ community is free to disregard or question any assertion I make and this attitude is held by pretty much everyone else I know in H+.

    Look, maybe cultists like you describe really do exist. The H+ community is a pretty wide and diverse group. Maybe there are some groups out there that do practice cultish behaviour and are dead-set on realising all the worrisome things you talk about. But I would want no involvement in such a group and it sounds like no group I am involved with.

    PS, I am glad to see your posts are automatically appearing on the blog again. Hopefully that issue regarding spam has resolved itself.

  37. Net Antwerp says:

    1. Iron fist? Who needs an Iron Fist when you have Government-initiated Censorship and corporate-induced Personalization programs to inject pro-cult messages onto the unsuspecting public? The Gullible and vulnerable (illness etc) are targeted first, as always.

    2. Again, there is no grey area when it comes to denouncing activities harmful to civilization. Humanity will always desire control over their fellow man, as historic events repeatedly tells us. Rome, Mongolian Empire (Ghanghis Khan), England, France…

    3. Consulting/quoting known cult leaders like Kurzweil isn’t recommended.

    3a. Kurzweil’s quote assumes that Encryption will forever be unbreakable and that Governments want to protect their citizens’ privacy from prying corporate/Government eyes.

    3b. In reality, Today’s Governments have re-written their laws and constitutions to eavesdrop on virtually every aspect of their citizens’ lives. On top of that, they also seem to prefer compulsory censorship of the internet with the censorship list/reasons kept hidden from the general public.

    3c. Governments have never been able to ‘police’ themselves, when it comes to privacy related matters. AI just won’t cut it either.

    3d. Back on Gwyn’s blog, Extropia was content on sacrificing privacy to further the Cult’s goals. He mentioned how such regimes and ideals would be packaged, re-packaged, re-packaged… Until the stereotype-induced, gullible population finally accepts it as normal.

    4. I think it’d be difficult to find an opaque black/white cult these days. Invisible to the naked eye (like E-mail), but visible to those who knows where to look.

    4b. Those who are deeply embedded in the cult isn’t going to realise what they are a part of.

    5. ‘darkness in man’s heart’ (Lord of the Flies/Tolkien), reconfiguring a friend’s brain (Permutation City/Egan), destruction of library books (Rainbow’s End/Vinge), Hitler, Stalin, Communism & Technocommunism, Fascism, Orweillianism, Kurzweillianism… What do they all have in common?

  38. Archmage Atlantis says:

    Dag nab it, I kinda agree with Net…..we don’t see ourselves.
    I want what you want Extie, but would I die for it?
    That is the question I must answer for myself.
    And that I get to answer it for myself, that is more important to me than the benefits, other than this one.
    That the entities I love continue.
    Arch

    • >Again, there is no grey area when it comes to denouncing activities harmful to civilization. <

      Who thinks that the loss of life and liberty is a good thing? Not me, and not anybody I know. We can say that life and liberty would be adversely affected if certain technologies were to become available. A sensible person would call for the relinquishment of technologies.

      But we run into problems, in that we do not live in an ideal world where the benefits of technology can be separated from the downsides. The technological capabilities needed to improve communications, advance neuroscience, improve medicine etc etc are also the technological capabilities that could be used for surveillence states, brainwashing, and terrible bio weapons. To be more precise, the POTENTIAL for ill use is inherent in the technology, along with the potential to do a tremendous amount of positive things.

      What Net seemingly advocates is the throwing away of all that positivity, in exchange for the comfort of today's problems (rather than whatever problems might arise as a consequence of the solutions we brought to bare).

      3a. Yeah, he was a bit light on details. At the end of the day, information tech has to divulge its information, otherwise what is the point? Not much use in having data locked up with no way of getting it out. Perhaps this means there is always some weakness that can be exploited, provided you are willing to pour enough time, money and expertise into cracking the security.

      3d. I said that good ideas tend to be repackaged and re-branded until they are accepted. I think much of what H+ hopes to achieve is a very good idea. I might be wrong.

      5. The tech in Permutation City and Rainbows End (indeed, in pretty much any sci fi story) affects the world of the story in various ways, some good some bad. The profound ways in which Permutation City's characters could reinvent themselves once free of the prison of the flesh, and the tremendous creativity afforded to the users of Rainbows End's augmented reality tech, painted a bright and positive future in my mind. But, goodness knows, the darker aspects explored in these stories aught to caution anyone against unbridled optimism of the power of technology.

      Have in common…hmm… Is it that evil lurks in the hearts of men, and technology can greatly amplify our power to harm our fellow human beings?

  39. Net Antwerp says:

    > “What Net seemingly advocates is the throwing away of all that positivity, in exchange for the comfort of today’s problems”

    With invasive surveillance and datamining, Today’s Corporations and Governments demand total conformance with the standards that *they* set, without consulting the largest and most influential stakeholders: The general public.

    But of course, the general public are being constantly fed cheap TV shows and video games (timewasters & distractions) and therefore is unable to understand and discuss complex themes and issues. Tech companies take *advantage* of the situation and invent personalization systems – computer algorithms that are designed to think for the population.

    With a fully-featured personalization system in place, Top-tier Corporates and Governments can arrange the population in any way they please.

    Privacy, Freedom… If the trend continues, we won’t have any Privacy, any Freedom left.

    SOLUTION: Shun cultists, invasive corporations and un-necessarily invasive/restrictive/censorship laws. Educate the population with balanced facts and figures and not just unrealistically optimistic Cult propaganda.

    >” A sensible person would call for the relinquishment of technologies. ”

    A sensible person would shun cults and properly *educate* the population with balanced messages.

    > “I said that good ideas tend to be repackaged and re-branded until they are accepted”

    Um, no you didn’t. Direct quote:

    “people will reject [cult] technologies. But that changes little, so long as they continue to adopt others that carry that risk/reward inherent in giving away a little bit of personal details. If you can convince people to reveal 1% about themselves, and do that consistently for 100 rounds of technological development, they will divulge 1%..another 1%…another..until before they even realise it, 100% of their personal details have been obtained or can be correctly inferred via sophisticated data-mining techniques.

    Also, a trick of technpolitics is to officially drop a technology that provokes a big negative reaction (yes, public influence has blocked technologies in the past, and will do so again in the future), only to ressurrect it, recycle it, rebrand it, until gains acceptance.”

    Sugar-laced de-sensitization, in a nutshell. With the public sacrificing [insert personal property here] to further the Cult’s goals.

  40. Oh yeah, I did say that, and I stand by it. Not because I necessarily think it is good, but because I think it is a little closer to the subtlety of the world we live in, unlike your descriptions which sound so over-the-top dystopian the general public must be utter idiots to ever adopt such tech.

    I cannot imagine I would have used a term like ‘cult technology’, since I do not like the dualism it implies. If only we could separate the ‘cult’ technologies from ‘ordinary’ tech life would be much simpler. But, mostly, technology in and of itself is neither good nor bad. It is the purpose it is made to serve that determines whether it is a force for good or evil. Freedom from drudgery, from the frailties of the human condition, the right to pursue whatever self-development the individual has rationally chosen to pursue all sound good to me. But, in acquiring the technological capability to realize these dreams, we unlock the potential to do great harm. Equally, by relinquishing the technology, our potential is extremely limited compared to what it could be.

    >A sensible person would shun cults and properly *educate* the population with balanced messages.<

    But you claimed that "today’s Corporations and Governments demand total conformance with the standards that *they* set". Presumably these powerful entities control the flow of information, a bit like the Ministry Of Truth in '1984'. How, then, is one able to get such a 'balanced message' across to a wide audience? Wouldn't those 'Cultists' go out of their way to ensure your message was blocked (rather than, say, try and get your message out of 'spam' and onto their blog for all to read?).

    BTW, which blogs would you recommend for those interested in balanced messages?

  41. Net Antwerp says:

    > “Wouldn’t those ‘Cultists’ go out of their way to ensure your message was blocked (rather than, say, try and get your message out of ‘spam’ and onto their blog for all to read?)”

    If it weren’t for Twitter, SL in-world IMs and a friend (Susannah) helping out, who knows?

    Anyway,
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/8228192/Political-views-hard-wired-into-your-brain.html

    Radical, communist and fascist individual behaviour may be hard-wired into the brain, some scientists suggest.

    Corporations and Governments are large enough to brush-off critical comments about their products, operations and motives (agenda), barely with a scratch. No change whatsoever, unless there are significant backlash from key stakeholders (investors/owners and citizens).

    > “in acquiring the technological capability to realize these dreams, we unlock the potential to do great harm. Equally, by relinquishing the technology, our potential is extremely limited compared to what it could be”

    That sounds almost like another cult-Kurzweil quote. Or a passage from one of those Good vs Evil Video Games. Over-used and tiresome.

    Technology isn’t going to be of much use if the undesirables (hivemind, unnecessary censorship etc) continue. That’s the point H+ cultists seem to miss. Hence the Holocaust.

  42. >If it weren’t for Twitter, SL in-world IMs and a friend (Susannah) helping out, who knows?Technology isn’t going to be of much use if the undesirables (hivemind, unnecessary censorship etc) continue. That’s the point H+ cultists seem to miss.<

    But they do not miss these points. There is a tremendous amount of discussion concerning these issues going on all the time between transhuman groups. Let us suppose some corporation or government does monopolise these technologies and permits only an elite few to take full advantage of it. Or, worse still, uses the technology to turn us into drones like the epsilons in Brave New World. Such an outcome would be completely contrary to everything H+ strives to achieve and anyone who took the time to understand what we are about aught to know this. But here you are, still going on like we do not care if this outcome happens or -worse still- actually WANT the future to turn out that way.

    I really do not know what you hope to achieve. Maybe you hope that people will wake up and realise a lot of the technology they have has impoverished their life, reduced their intelligence and creativity in various ways. Lots of dumbed-down entertainment to fill our lives with these days, that's for sure. But once people have woken up to this fact, then what? Why can we not also embrace the idea that technology can be wonderfully transformative, a means to creating better societies, better people? What is so wrong about allowing each person to strive to be better, and determine for themselves what 'being better' entails?

    • >If it weren’t for Twitter, SL in-world IMs and a friend (Susannah) helping out, who knows?<

      I think it is entirely down to Susannah, because she was the one who brought the spam problem to my attention. I just thought you had gotten bored of the debate and were no longer posting replies. I did not think to check my spam to see if your messages were there.

      thanks for the link, btw:)

  43. Net Antwerp says:

    > “But they do not miss these points. There is a tremendous amount of discussion concerning these issues going on all the time between transhuman groups”

    A bunch of amateurs glancing over a few ‘issues’… What good does that do?

    Technology isn’t going to be of much use if the undesirables (hivemind, unnecessary censorship etc) continue. As long as people play ‘dumb’, turn simple-minded and bury themselves in endless issue-staring contests those issues will remain.

    > “Maybe you hope that people will wake up and realise a lot of the technology they have has impoverished their life, reduced their intelligence and creativity in various ways. Lots of dumbed-down entertainment to fill our lives with these days, that’s for sure”

    Pro-holocaust cult H+ activists like yourself seem content at ‘larger-than-life’ Corporations dictating people’s every moves via indirect, subconscious mediums. One-sided revolutions engineered to benefit a fraction of the population, with the rest either drip-fed or abandoned. Revolution of the fascists!

  44. Short story:

    Net’s message spread, increasing its influence. More and more voices spoke of technology as evil; of worst-case scenarios as inevitable consequences of its use; of theoretical benefits as ridiculous fantasy. Those speaking out in favour of science and technology as a means for self-improvement and the betterment of society were denounced as agents of fascism in cahoots with ‘evil’ corporations.

    In democratic countries, public outcry ensured increasingly strict regulations were put in place. R+D in the key technologies was made virtually impossible. But, for the Elites, there was a way out. They could move to countries that were not democratic but run by dictatorships. Such people, after all, saw the potential in bio, nano, and cogno tech to increase their power. And so the technology was created anyway, but thanks to the efforts of Net Antwerp only those with great power and money would benefit from it.

  45. Pingback: 2010 in review | Mind Child's musings

  46. Net Antwerp says:

    Short story (Net’s version)

    [Log No.? January 2nd, 2016]

    PREDICTIONWARE OWNZ JOO

    Almost everyone is hooked on Backrub-Book’s “predictionware” – a smart set of algorithms that determines which restaurant you should visit, which news articles you should read, what type of clothing you should buy etc. Every major organization have signed up to Predictionware, including technological and political cult movements, such as Singularity H+, National Front, Church of Unification Party and Proletarians Unite.

    The ignorant population (around 80%) are being eaten alive by the prediction engine, unable to think and make rational decisions by themselves.

    [Log No.? January 2nd, 2020]

    Cult Visionary and Former Inventor Ray Kurzweil passes away, at age 72. He is survived by his family.

    [Log No.? January 2nd, 2022]

    BACKRUB OWNS EVERYTHING

    Our worst fear has come to pass: Backrub now owns everything and everyone.
    The 10 trillion dollar acquisition of Maplesauce, Inc – the last 100% independent company on Earth, has ushered in a new technological era where Backrub controls and influences almost every aspect of our daily lives. Backrub’s “safe-n-secure” hybridware can be found in every major product on the market today.

    [Log No.? October 10th, 2026]

    OUT OF PLAIN SIGHT

    Journalist and Backrub News Anchor John Carter Jacobson found dead in his BackRubHome, clutching a primitive NAND storage device, circa 2020. Law enforcement officials were not able to retrieve any data from the NAND device. Jacobson apparently found critical…[RECORD DELETED]

    [Log No.? May 7th, 2027]

    OUT OF PLAIN SIGHT, PART TWO

    The death of Journalist and News Anchor John Carter Jacobson – how the case was handled by Backrub and Government Agencies, is still being fiercely debated all over the Internet, where possible.

    One of the recurring questions: Why wasn’t Govt. Agencies and Backrub able to retrieve data from the intact (but primitive) NAND device?

    Why on ear…[MATERIAL REMOVED. USER’S BACKRUB ACCOUNT HAS BEEN TERMINATED DUE TO ILLEGAL ACTIVITY. HAVE A NICE DAY]

    [Log No.? July 26th, 2027]

    TOTALITARIANISM CONFIRMED

    Technology enthusiasts NettleTea Von Annwarp and Frostbyte Darah-Silver uncovers startling evidence of Backrub’s ambitions and goals, past/present/future. Turns out the primitive NAND storage device found on John Carter Jacobson’s apartment a year ago held extremely sensitive information on Backrub’s operations, as well as immoral activities by Backrub and two of it’s biggest supporters – Singularity H+ cultists and Governments.

    Communism, Fascism, Orweilliansim, Censorship, Dictatorship all rolled into one, the evidence described. Possibly administered via an Overlord AI, or by direct brain alterations using Backrub and Co Nanobots and Cybernetics.

    Despite all the hard evidence at hand, Backrub dismissed all evidence. Too big to fall…

    [Log No.? January 2nd, 2029]

    UPROAR OVER DODGY CORPORATIONS AND GOVERNMENTS

    People are fully aware of Backrub’s total misdeeds, as well as soft Government officials who gave their full support for all of Backrub’s operations and acquisitions. Eventually the courts found Backrub guilty of malpractice and the company was ordered to split into 60 independant entities.

    Governments affected have announced snap election dates to mitigate the backlash as much as possible.

    [Log No.? December 30th, 2045]

    SINGULARITY LONG FORGOTTEN

    The Singularity H+ group disbanded a few months after Backrub’s demise, 16 years ago. Technological innovations, including life enhancing technologies, have been trickling in without the Holocaust Cult’s influence.

    Still on ever-sustainable Planet Earth, seeking to explore other planets/exoplanets within 20-30 years.

    A large portion of the Prediction Engine that assimilated our lives went offline, leaving people dazed and confused – for a few days. No longer AI-bound, unfound freedom in over 20 years.

  47. Archmage Atlantis says:

    Extie & Net,
    Well done exchange of how both the benefits and the downside of any idea, technology, failure of education, loss of historical awareness or commonly held emotion can lead to oppression instead of freedom, or increase freedom over oppression…….It is certainly not a new thought to say, as is oft attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” or, of uncertain origin though often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”.
    Arch

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