Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sooper Intelligent Sooper Powers for Sooper Good!

Techno-transcendentalists really bring the idiocy to theodicy.

More Futurological Brickbats here.


jimf said...

> Sooper Intelligent Sooper Powers for Sooper Good!

Or something.

From a comment thread on Robin Hanson's "Overcoming Bias"
blog (from a year ago):
Stephen Diamond (reply to dmytryl)

> ...instead informing us of Hanson's political views and such.

Less politely, EMs [Robin Hanson's "human brain emulations"]
are for Robin Hanson a sophisticated signaling device concerning
his political alignment. (Signals gain effectiveness when they look
unwitting or unintentional.)

It would perhaps be more interesting to analyze what Robin is
signaling than to discuss EMs (although Robin's technical audience
might disagree). He's not signaling pure libertarianism; some erroneously
think this means he isn't engaging in political-team signaling at all.
What he is signaling is quasi-libertarian economics combined with
political authoritarianism. (Recall that Milton Friedman supported Pinochet.
[Edit 9:30 p.m.] A recent example: Libertarian intellectual icon
Judge Richard Posner recently held in dissent that videotaping cops
arresting people could be criminalized to protect the cops' privacy rights.)
Robin has stated that he's more worried about society erring toward
permissiveness than toward excessive authority.

This isn't unusual: "libertarianism" usually means liberty for the
upper-middle class and above; oppression for everyone else—not only by
"market forces."

[Added.] It would probably be still more interesting to analyze what
Yudkowsky is signaling with Singularitanism (besides the obvious: that
he's a very important person, dedicated to saving the world despite the
world's rejection of him). It signals an extreme elitism: the AI
will rule, just as Yudkowsky also signals his ultra-elitism by unabashedly
governing the "community forum" L[ess]W[rong] like a personal dictatorship. The
semi-ban on politics isn't apolitical or antipolitical: it's a signal
that only Yudkowsky's ultra-elitist politics matter. (It isn't really
harder to teach rationality about politics than other biasing far-mode
questions [ ]; Yudkowsky just happens to benefit
from political irrationality.) My guess: Peter Thiel shares Yudkowsky's
ultra-elitist politics, and there lies the true purpose of LW and "MIRI":
signaling (and materially supporting) an ultra-elitist world view.

I gather that "signalling theory" is a thing known to evo psych
types and economists:

And the Stephen Diamond to be found on Overcoming Bias is,
I'm guessing, the same guy I mentioned in the comment threads of

Small world, ain't it? ;->

jimf said...

> Techno-transcendentalists. . .

From a comment thread on the blog of one Nick Szabo
( ),
remarks from an old-time (1990s) denizen of the Extropians'
mailing list (and an erstwhile Intel employee, and, yes,
a cypherpunk and Ayn Rand fan [weren't they all, in those
days? -- see ]).
Another result of what I once dubbed "Rapture of the Future"
is that makes it hard to work on all that boring, short-term,
intense debugging a chip, or installing a new
ion implant machine, that sort of boring grunge.

I'm being facetious. But I saw it a bunch of times back 20 years
ago when a lot of the cool new stuff was first getting wide
exposure on the then-emerging mailing lists. (Extropians,
Cryonics-l, Cyberia-l, Cypherpunks...).

A bunch of folks were doing menial work at bookstores (one worked
at the libertarian bookstore in SF, another was an unemployed
philosopher). It was a lot easier to think about what "rules for
Jupiter-sized brains" should be than to learn, as one of your blog
commenters put it, [. . .] what a partial derivative is and how to use it.)

I can recall one of the leader philosophers of nanotechnology --
no, neither Drexler nor Merkle -- saying at a nanotech discussion in
1992-3 that "This entire valley (Silicon) will be gone in 20 years!"


But the effect of the intoxication of the Rapture of the Future,
either the positive or the negate sides of what Nick is calling
Pascal's scams, can be debilitating.

Frankly, I'm pretty glad that I "came up" during an era where so
much tweeting and blogging and e-mailing and "bottle rockets being fired off"
were not distracting me. To learn what I needed to learn to later
do something useful (and financially rewarding) I had to buckle down
and work. And at my job, the focus was on fairly short-term milestones,
not grand visions of the future.

Believe me, one of my boss's boss's bosses was Gordon Moore. And
I can say he was no blue sky dreamer. And his observation had a
lot more to do with saying "This is what we've seen in the last 5-6 years,"
along with some solid comments on the obvious "t-shirt printing"
side of things. By this I mean that photolithography is a lot like
silk-screening a t-shirt, and a lot of the jump from 100 transistors
per die (chip) to 10,000 to a million, etc. had to do with precision
optics, precision stepper motors....essentially printing images at
higher and higher resolutions. Some things came from device physics
(I worked on some of this), some things came from better CAD tools,
but most of "Moore's Law" comes from photolithography. Even today,
with the newest "step and repeat" systems costing $25 million EACH.
Those are some expensive cameras!

Not much room for Rapture-a-tarians in this environment.

And a problem with a lot of these "planning" groups (the Usual Suspects)
is that too many of the members want to be the Big Thinkers and authors
of the policy papers.

--Tim May, Corralitos, CA