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

Sunday, April 06, 2008

If Everything Is Faith Then Nothing Is

Some highlights, if that's the word, from my latest exchange in the Moot with Mormon Transhumanist Lincoln Cannon:

Dale, you continue to misconstrue (purposefully?) my arguments. I've not claimed sufficent evidence of resurrection, in a corpse or anywhere else, yet you pretend repeatedly (repeatedly... repeatedly) that I have.

You tell me it is a faithful utterance for me to claim that everybody dies, and then whine that I purposely misconstrue your respect for evidence and so on. I honestly can't tell what you even mean by evidence or faith half the time.

However, in contrast, you continue to claim sufficient evidence against resurrection.

Sigh...

Is your hard core scientist at work behind that claim? When you speak of scrambled eggs, you speak of eggs that will remain scrambled, and you see no fanciful magical notion in that? I've never experienced any egg that remains scrambled in perpetuity.

You think it's magical thinking for me to expect my scrambled eggs not to spontaneously unscramble on the plate?

No one else, other than you, that I know has ever made such a claim. The point is that the scrambled egg almost certainly will not remain scrambled. Most likely, at least in the short term, its component parts will become part of other systems. However, given sufficient interest and power, I imagine something sufficiently like the original egg could be restored. That, however, demonstrates a problem with your analogy. Eggs do not have and appear quite unlikely ever to have sufficient interest or power in restoring themselves. Perhaps non-eggs with sufficient interest and power will restore eggs in the future. However, those non-eggs, assuming they are more closely related to us, may be more interested in restoring us -- not in any absolute way, but in a sufficient way, as waking up in the morning is a sufficient restoration of the person you were when you went to bed in the evening.

You got me, Lincoln. In a magical future we may invent scrambled egg reassembly technology. This is what it is like, ladies and gentlemen, to argue with transhumanists. By the way, every single one of you is going to die.

In response to my request for extraordinary evidence for your extraordinary claim that resurrection is impossible, you asked what counts for me as evidence for empirical claims. My answer is: experience.

The experience of hairs springing up on the nape of your neck upon reading what is for you a good poem is not evidence in the scientific sense, and this is part of what I am trying to get at when I insist that we walk and chew gum at the same time, recognizing at one and the same time that science actually is an actual thing providing actual benefits unique to it, while also recognizing that not only science is such a thing providing actual benefits...

However, your claim that resurrection is impossible does not remotely merit the esteem of objectivity, as none of us appear to have shared such experience. You appear to be claiming that you have experienced the impossibility of resurrection, but I don't believe you.

What shall we talk about next, leprechauns? The defeasibility in principle of all warranted scientific consensus fails absolutely to rule them out too. You have never given me any reason to entertain the possibility of resurrection scientifically, so why should I?

I get it, you're scared of dying, or whatever. Fine, go to church or to a brothel or to a therapist or to a drug dealer or to an art gallery or to the movies and deal with it as you see fit. Who cares? Just don't pretend this is a scientific response or that scientific responses aren't scientific when they are.

These fun and games with defeasibility are neither here nor there.

Do I have to pretend "climate skeptics" or studies of "faith healing" or champions of "safe cigarettes" are as scientifically warranted as the contrary scientific consensus on these questions just because as good pragmatists we know that no warranted belief is certain however rightly confident we are in it, that no description is indefeasible in principle by better candidate descriptions that may arrive along the road of inquiry, and that word-world correspondence is a naive and incoherent model of truth?

The answer, for those keeping score at home, is: No.

Rather, I think you are exagerating [sic] as an expression of incredulity, which incredulity is certainly not unusual, but is equally certainly not empirical, objective or scientific.

Declaring things possible without reason and then pointing out nobody is in a position absolutely to disprove them actually isn't science, properly speaking, Lincoln. It can make for interesting poetry, however, or philosophical theory (I have always thought of philosophy as a literary genre rather than a science in any case). It really pays to grasp the difference between these sorts of things...

Science does not somehow compel your faith in this thing. ["This thing" is my belief that everybody dies and that I see no actual cause to seriously entertain the alternate prospect. Lincoln calls this my "faith in superlative death" for some reason.]

We are not only compelled to belief by scientific warrant, it is true. Scientific (or more generally, efficacious), moral, aesthetic, ethical, and political beliefs are all warrantable according to their proper criteria.

If you say it is "faithful" to describe people as always mortal this is just plain wrong. If you point out that your desire to live forever in a robot body is not perfectly disqualified by science then that is strictly speaking right, although not particularly worthy of attention, and certainly you are not being exemplarily scientific in the moments when you claim to believe that you will live forever in a robot body because you want to and it's not logically impossible. If you point out that not only scientific beliefs are valuable, I agree of course and I never said otherwise.

While I agree that science and religion are distinguishable, I disagree with your implication that science does not rely on faith.

Here we go.

The contextual assumptions and methods of science certainly are matters of faith, and will be so always unless we manage somehow to attain to omniscience -- which, in actual manifestation, neither you nor I anticipate. Moreover, religious knowledge should be leveraging the improved epistemic processes of science to the extent they are applicable to its domain, yet this will not somehow drive faith out of religion. There is nothing necessarily irrational, anti-scientific, or willfully-ignorant in the definition of "faith".

Yeah, your Mormon faith is just as scientific as a good engineer's trust in long-warranted claims in physics, and your belief that you might live forever is just as factual as my belief that everybody dies. All very exciting.

Pretending that somehow faith is an altogether separate and unrelated idea from science (holding two ideas in your head at the same time) is not an intellectual strength. Reconciliation, syncretization, even atonement, are intellectual strengths. The former is lazy, whereas the latter is empowering.

How could I have been so lazy to distinguish science from morals, from aesthetics, from ethics, from politics? Everything is so much clearer to me now. I could have been a Mormon Robot Cultist like you all along and just as reasonable as can be! It's a bracing feeling, like a cold shower with a strong rough pungent bar of soap!

Thank you for acknowledging that my faith need not be scientific to deserve affirmation.

Well, I've never said otherwise, and I've written about this repeatedly and at length. But I must say I didn't quite realize that for you "affirmation" would require complete conversion to Mormon Robot Cultism... but I'm ever so much happier now that you've shown me the light of your faith that it's all good.

Please know that I fully agree that we should not pretend to scientific theory where there is none (yet), which is precisely why I've attacked your claim that resurrection is impossible.

You are going to die.

While I fully agree that there generally is no value, and indeed immorality, in attempts to force my will or desires or the law of my community on others, as it turns out, the law of my community, as well as my wills and desires are directed at atonement, or fulfillment of and reconiliation with others' wills, desires and laws. Basic to my faith is interest in the discovery and creation of worlds without end, each consistent with the desires, wills and laws of its inhabitants. So, in spirit, I do agree with your statement, although my faith is abstracted enough that it would almost be accurate to claim that I also disagree with your statement. In a sense, I do intend a universalizable faith, but only in a pluralistic sense, which is a very loose universalization at most, to be sure. This perspective is among the reasons pragmatism is so popular among Mormon philosophers.

I wanna be a transhumanist Mormom, ma!

You claim that I'm using superlativity differently than you. However, I don't think that's the case.

Oh, believe me, it is.

I do think you've not yet recognized that you are treating death in a manner analogous to that in which some Transhumanists treat immortality.

This is a palpably, indeed, flabbergastingly false assertion.

Your explicit claim that resurrection will be impossible corresponds to their implied claim that dying will be impossible.

Genius!

[Y]ou pretend that the observations of most or all humans on Earth is somehow evidence that resurrection is impossible.

How desperately you cling to the fact that defeasible science cannot rule out anything absolutely! Of course I grant all that, that's philosophy 101. My point is that neither is there any scientific reason to entertain some possibilities seriously, without cause.

That's poor reasoning, Dale. Your claim that resurrection is impossible is indeed faithful and unscientific, and will remain so unless you actually attain to omniscience, which in itself would produce the resurrection along with all sorts of nonsense.

You're going to die, Lincoln. I have no cause to seriously entertain alternate claims on this matter -- at least not from a scientific point of view -- even though you are quite right to point out that it is not the power nor frankly the job of science to provide indefeasible descriptions as candidates for our warranted belief, and so your pining for immortality is not strictly speaking ruled out logically as impossible, for whatever that's worth.

In response to my description of the limits of knowledge (that it is always ultimately faith-based), you respond that my description implies that nobody knows anything in any meaningful sense. I disagree, of course, and am somewhat surprised by your response, given your pragmatism. To acknowledge the limits of knowledge is not to become nihilistic.

You are not acknowledging the limits of knowledge as far as I can see but treating factual accounts and faithful aspirations as indistinguishable. I don't know that I think that this is nihilistic of you, but more to the point it sure seems to me relentlessly cynical and deceptive....

Meaning, in the only way "meaning" has any meaning, remains quite accessible without any appeals to actual absolutes, in knowledge or otherwise. Thus, I care about this argument because it is meaningful within the context of meaning as we actually experience it.

Not only science produces meaning, but the meanings produced by science provide benefits unique to science and it pays to understand the differences that make a difference here....

You know, of course, that I am far from alone in my faith.

That's why I am a strong defender of secular multiculture and the separation of church and state.

Indeed, I share substantial portions of my faith with the majority of humans on Earth. The peculiarly Mormon portions of my faith are likewise shared with millions of persons, many of whom are among my closest family and friends. And the peculiarly Transhumist portions of my faith, although far less wide spread, are yet shared to extents I value. Given this, I'm not sure what you intended me to understand by your claim that you somehow better represent planet Earth.

You're right, Lincoln, everybody is a Mormon Techno-Immortalist Robot Cultist like you. You are Everyman....

Faith in theological ideas like transfiguration and resurrection to immortality are more representative of planet Earth than most of the ideas expressed on Amor Mundi.

But I for one salute our coming Mormon Robot Overlords!

Yes. They did laugh at the Wright Brothers. No. They were not vindicated. Moreover, to the extent their laughter was not compassionate, they were never and will never be vindicated, regardless of the success or failure of the targetted [sic] engineer. Vindication has no meaning without ultimate appeal to compassion.

What a way to ignore the point. It isn't only the Wright Brothers -- so beloved by techno-utopian crackpots looking to fund their Robot God pet projects -- who got ridiculed for their far-out plans back in the day. Would-be inventors of fountain of youth elixirs, perpetual motion machines, and circle squaring maths were also ridiculed and it is their plans not their detractors who were vindicated. That's not something Robot Cultists like to remember from history for obvious reasons. But, yes, Lincoln, you're quite right, it's nice to be nice.

You tell me I'm going to die. I agree that to some extent at some time and place, I'll almost certainly die, and my faith is that subsequently, to some extent at some time and place, I'll live again. You tell me that my consciousness will never be uploaded into a computer. I tell you that you have no sufficient evidence against uploading, and that if uploading is possible then you and I are almost certainly already uploaded.

Whatever gets you through the night.

You tell me that resurrection is impossible. I tell you that you have no sufficient evidence against resurrection, and that you do have, instead, a faith in superlative death.

It's a mighty thin thread you're hanging on, and I think you would be better served getting some therapy and coming to terms with your mortality and moving on. But that's not my business and I don't really care so long as you don't evangelize me, or try to undermine the status of science, or get in the way of my own consensual practices of private perfection and public expression to the extent that they do no harm to the general welfare.

Vulnerable processes in demanding environments [like life -- ed.] are not nothing, impotence or perpetual death.

Well, they have always eventuated in death and there never has been a resurrection and there is no cause to seriously entertain the likelihood of one, but, whatever floats your boat.

Clearly, you make a logical mistake in supposing, as you have, that any actual resurrection would imply that resurrection must be pervasive in time and space.

In magical leprechaunland resurrections happen every day, so I too may be immortal and I am edified to think so. Disprove it! You can't? And you claim to be more reasonable than me when you doubt magical leprechaunland resurrection? You call yourself a pragmatist. The very idea.

If resurrection is possible, only something akin to a perpetual motion machine could ensure that you are never resurrected. And again, you have no sufficient evidence that resurrection is impossible.

It's so consoling to believe in magic.

You tell me that you think I'm deluded for wondering whether humans can be transfigured or resurrected. I may indeed be deluded, but I'll add some observations.

First, although you may protest, your faith in prosthetic freedom corresponds to my faith in transfiguration.


Language, spectacles, vaccinations, and transsexual surgeries actually exist. They testify to our humanity, to ongoing technodevelopmental social struggle in historical human multiculture, and they most emphatically don't make of some of us or all of us into exemplars of some "post-human" species. Robot bodies and digital uploaded consciousnesses don't exist. All of this actually matters.

Second, given your limitations (which I presume are similar to mine), your claim that resurrection is impossible is a better candidate for delusion than my recognition that there is no sufficient evidence for or against resurrection.

Wow, not only does our inability to conclusively logically disprove resurrection make it equivalently scientific as the claim that everybody dies, but you believe that the resurrection claim is scientifically stronger than the contrary claim.

Up is down. Check!

If faith is delusion, you and I are both deluded.

No difference between science and religion. Check!

If unwarrented scientific claims are delusion, perhaps only you have the honor.

Only the person concerned to preserve the criteria on the basis of which factual statements are warranted as such is deluded, while the person who demands we entertain non factual but logically "possible" descriptions, however implausible or unmotivated, as warranted is not deluded. Reasonable is delusion, faith is fact. Check!

I agree with your observation that some who fail to come to terms with mortality substitute a life lived with fearfulness that is a death in life. I, too, work against such perspectives, although not at the extreme you do, which extreme introduces other detriments.

Don't be "extreme" in recommending people come to terms with mortality. Mainstream belief is extreme, extreme Robot Cult beliefs are reasonable. Check!

Your faith in superlative death would substitute a living life with a life lived.

No matter how many times you say it this phrase is not one whit more meaningful. And given the fact that I introduced the term Superlative in the critique to which you claim to be responding and gave it a meaning in that critique that you are repeatedly refusing to apply while still reiterating the term itself, I will assume that part of what you are up to is to steal the term the better to domesticate the threat it represents to the dissemination of your worldview. Transhumanists stole technoprogressive, why not try to steal superlative too?

You marginalize possibilities when you posit only finite demanders. Anything short of eternity (in quality and quantity) is unworthy of your unprovisional consent. In that, you damn yourself.

Yes... to reality.

I like reality, the water's fine.

You say you do not agree that all claims become more factual the more fervently we pine for them to be true. In that, you appear to be acknolwedging that some claims become more factual the more fervently we pine for them to be true.

You have to be pretty desperate to find such an acknowledgment in what I said. But, let me clarify it for you now. Fervency of belief is irrelevant as a criterion for warrantability in the efficacious mode...

You say you do not agree that heavier-than-air flight was invented only when enough people believed in it enough to make it so. I actually do agree that I see heavier-than-air flight occurring in nature, and I actually do believe that it was possible prior to human belief in it.

Wow, what a stunning concession to the obvious.

However, our faith was essential in our engineering efforts, and so will faith remain essential in future engineering efforts. The strategy of clapping louder, understood as a metaphor that in practice should be fully extended to WORK, is indeed working, although not always so fast or so well as we would like. I anticipate there will always remain work to do in pursuit of the better world.

We're talking about the criteria on the basis of which we warrantedly affirm candidate descriptions for instrumental belief as true, we are not talking about how motivation enables projects to find their way to fruition where they already conform to the physical and social strictures at hand. Or if that is what you are talking about, that isn't what I was talking about.

But, no, clapping louder won't make you immortal. However loud you clap.

Finally, I'll respond, in a somewhat tangential way, to your question: "What the hell are you gabbing about then?" I'm gabbing about similarities and differences I perceive between your ideas and my own, and I'm doing that because I value your divergent perspectives, which you have, as yet, continued to gab about.

That's fine. I am enjoying this exchange much less at this point than you appear to be. If there weren't an audience of lurkers here I am presumably instructing on matters of concern to me concerning pragmatism, pluralism, and the critique of superlativity through the publication of this conversation with you I would very likely simply be ignoring you at this point, on this topic at any rate.

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dale: Why won't you respond to "technical" arguments? You are making "technical" claims... You would need to have technical evidence (or reasons why the other side's technical evidence is wrong) to say why a certain parachute/mind uploading wouldn't work if the other side has technical evidence ("most people don't agree with the Parachute Cultists" isn't acceptable).

Dale Carrico said...

I'm not a computer scientist, a molecular chemist, a roboticist, a gerontologist, or what have you. But, of course, very few of the techno-utopians who crow about my refusal to engage with their "technical arguments" about the odds of a Robot God, techno-immortality, or nano-santa are scientists themselves or in line with scientific consensus.

It is intriguing to note that it is their clueless immodesty rather than my own sensible deferral to actual scientific consensus that tends to be considered by them the consummate championing of Science.

Not to put too fine a point on it, engaging in "technical" discussions with crackpots validates them more than they deserve, though I imagine that at least some actual scientists might enjoy the sport of it.

Techno-utopian superlativity is essentially an ideology, and as it happens my own training in rhetoric and ideologiekritik actually provides the perfect background to critique it on terms most relevant to it.

Robin said...

I enjoyed this post so much that I was laughing out loud at least as much as I did at last night's Walken-rich SNL, and I even had to read bits of it out loud to Joshua.

I might make you a t-shirt that says "You are all going to die" on it.

As to anonymous above: remarkably enough, there are no "technical" metaphysicians (if there were, surely I would count as one with my many many years as a professional studying mind and consciousness). Dale's responses are generally spot-on when he refuses to write treatises on what mind and thought ARE, instead sufficing to show what they are almost certainly NOT. And what they almost certainly are NOT is pure computation in the void, abstractable from an incidental body.

There it is. One sentence. Non-technical. Why you won't be uploaded or ressurected or implanted in a robot-become-god.

Dale Carrico said...

I might make you a t-shirt that says "You are all going to die" on it.

Wearing it would really freak out my students.

peco said...

Not to put too fine a point on it, engaging in "technical" discussions with crackpots validates them more than they deserve, though I imagine that at least some actual scientists might enjoy the sport of it.

You need technical arguments (even if they are not your own) to show that they are crackpots, especially if there's nothing obviously wrong with it technically (not a perpetual motion machine, etc.) and some/many relevant scientists (depends on what exactly the technology is) think it is possible..

Anonymous said...

And what they almost certainly are NOT is pure computation in the void, abstractable from an incidental body.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functionalism_(philosophy_of_mind)

If functionalism is right, the most obvious argument against mind uploading doesn't work. There are good arguments against it, but there are good responses to them, so Dale should at least explain why functionalism is wrong.

There are also some things besides mind uploading that Dale criticizes (not as much), and they are completely technical (molecular nanotechnology).

Dale Carrico said...

You need technical arguments (even if they are not your own) to show that they are crackpots.

You just think so because you are a crackpot.

Nick Tarleton said...

There it is. One sentence. Non-technical. Why you won't be uploaded or ressurected or implanted in a robot-become-god.

Since Dale refuses to answer, how do you think uploading would fail if tried?

Dale Carrico said...

Dale should at least explain why functionalism is wrong.

Dale must argue against us in the terms we prefer rather than his own, otherwise he is being so unreasonable.

Dale Carrico said...

Robin wrote: There it is. One sentence. Non-technical. Why you won't be uploaded or ressurected or implanted in a robot-become-god.

Nick replied: Since Dale refuses to answer, how do you think uploading would fail if tried?

Fairly classic transhumanist. Nick, sweetie, she actually answered your question in the sentence to which the one you yourself quoted refers.

The whole passage:

[What] mind and thought... almost certainly are NOT is pure computation in the void, abstractable from an incidental body. [And that is w]hy you won't be uploaded or resurrected or implanted in a robot-become-god.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

But by all means pretend none of that matters and whine and pout and stamp about how unreasonable we are for refusing to indulge you in your desire to crunch the robot god odds all the livelong day in "technical" masturbatory sessions that don't connect to reality at any level but which edify transhumanists' desires to live forever, have super powers, have super genius brains, and roll around in treasure caves filled with robot slaves catering to their every whim and call this daydreaming "science."

Nick Tarleton said...

Maybe you didn't read closely enough. Robin stated why, certainly, but not how, as in what would happen, as in the prediction that, in your terms, is fundamental to the instrumental mode.

peco said...

Dale must argue against us in the terms we prefer rather than his own, otherwise he is being so unreasonable.

People who think functionalism is right (quite a few people) would think that your arguments are completely wrong.

Anonymous said...

You don't need to know how something doesn't work to know that it doesn't work.

If someone 50 years from now made a plausible mind-uploading claim, how would you tell if the claim was true?

Nick Tarleton said...

You don't need to know how something doesn't work to know that it doesn't work.

Sure helps your argument, though. I hate to use the Wright brothers analogy, but I wouldn't take seriously someone who claims flight is impossible but can't say "it'll never get off the ground" or "it'll immediately come back down" or "it won't be controllable" or something like that. (This is not intended to suggest any parallel between transhumanists and the Wright brothers, it's just the first analogy I thought of.)

If someone 50 years from now made a plausible mind-uploading claim, how would you tell if the claim was true?

Good question! Ensure that there's no human hidden in the loop somewhere, and see that the alleged upload shows intelligent, human behavior, specifically that of the allegedly uploaded human, more capable than any chatbot and displaying more details of human cognitive architecture than any plausible AI. I don't know how to check that it's conscious or if it shares the personal identity of the original person, but if it met those observable criteria I would infer it did, just as I infer that other humans are conscious and are the same person from day to day.

Anonymous said...

You just think so because you are a crackpot.

You still need to show that I am, using technical arguments.

"holds some belief which the vast majority of his contemporaries would consider false" is one of the criteria on Wikipedia, but you haven't shown that the vast majority of people think mind uploading is false.

Nick Tarleton said...

While we're discussing crackpots, from the Crackpot Index:

50 points for claiming you have a revolutionary theory but giving no concrete testable predictions.

Dale doesn't claim to have a revolutionary theory, but...

you haven't shown that the vast majority of people think mind uploading is false.

In fairness, this is probably true among the general public. But I don't know what the opinion is among the relevant expert community, and suspect the pro- and anti-uploaders would disagree as to what that community is.

jfehlinger said...

Dale wrote:

> Robin wrote: There it is. One sentence. Non-technical. Why you won't be uploaded
> or ressurected or implanted in a robot-become-god.
>
> Nick replied: Since Dale refuses to answer, how do you think uploading would fail
> if tried?
>
> Fairly classic transhumanist. Nick, sweetie, she actually answered your
> question in the sentence to which the one you yourself quoted refers.
>
> . . .
>
> But by all means pretend none of that matters and whine and pout and stamp
> about how unreasonable we are for refusing to indulge you in your desire to
> crunch the robot god odds all the livelong day in "technical" masturbatory
> sessions that don't connect to reality at any level but which edify transhumanists'
> desires to live forever, have super powers, have super genius brains, and roll
> around in treasure caves filled with robot slaves catering to their every whim
> and call this daydreaming "science."

You know, Bruce J. Klein who, according to his auto-bio, at
http://www.novamente.net/bruce/?page_id=2
is "an entrepreneur with strong ties to investors, business leaders
and media contacts in Silicon Valley. . . [who] graduated with a
finance degree from the University of Georgia (1996) and has worked
in the banking industry. . . [, who] founded two successful small businesses
and is a private equity investor. . . [, and who currently] is
President of Novamente LLC, a 20+ person company creating software to
power intelligent virtual agents for virtual worlds, computer games,
and simulations", last year posted the results of an informal poll he
conducted asking "When will AI surpass human-level intelligence?"
on his personal blog, "AGI-World".

Among the commenters were a couple of names I actually recognized
from **outside** the circle of the usual >Hist suspects (hey, Dale --
you are still listed as one of the "friends" of Mr. Klein!).

One of these was Terrence Deacon, whose book _The Symbolic Species_
I actually read some years ago. His comment contains an interesting
remark:

http://www.novamente.net/bruce/?p=54#comments
------------------------------------
The real issue: Computing is NOT cognition, it lacks internally
generated representation. In terms of the semiotic (representational)
dimension, computing in all current forms has an intelligence quotient
of 0. Increasing computational power will not make any difference,
because the architecture of computation is radically unlike the
architecture of mental experience and representation-generation.
However, I do not think that it is impossible for us to learn how to
design devices that are capable of the generation of representations.
Basically our brains are “devices” for the generation of virtual
computations; i.e. sloppy statistical approximations to computations,
of the sort we instantiate in modern electronic computing devices.
But the very fact that brain processes are physical processes means
that we can learn to copy their process organization in other substrates.

When will we get to the point of building devices that use this
design logic? Hard to say, because for the most part people in the
field don’t even get the distinction, or imagine that they already
are doing cognition. I am guessing that another decade or two of
hitting a brick wall will help get over this misconception, and
force us to re-examine these basic assumptions. But representation-generation
is an intrinsically highly wasteful process (for the same reason that
natural selection is a highly wasteful process) and this means that
even with much more computing power, we will probably start with only
fly-level capacity and may not reach human level for another couple
of decades. So (assuming constant scientific-technical progress) I
would place the equivalence point at the end of the 21st century, and
should add that hopefully we will recognize that we are creating
“devices” with minds, and therefore with feelings and personal
self-interests and points of view. In other words, “devices” that
are persons, with moral status.
------------------------------------

David Deutsch, the physicist (author of _The Fabric of Reality_)
also chimed in:

------------------------------------
Impossible to estimate because, in my opinion, a fundamental qualitative
breakthrough in understanding is required. This breakthrough will be
primarily philosophical/theoretical, despite its practical applications
(a bit like Darwin’s breakthrough). It could come tomorrow — though
I am not aware of any research program that seems, to me, to have any
promise in this regard. Or it could take centuries.
------------------------------------

Of course, as usual, the True Believers just blithely ignore the
party-poopers from outside their own circle, whatever qualifications
these people may have.

Lincoln Cannon said...

Dale: "I am enjoying this exchange much less at this point than you appear to be. If there weren't an audience of lurkers here I am presumably instructing on matters of concern to me concerning pragmatism, pluralism, and the critique of superlativity through the publication of this conversation with you I would very likely simply be ignoring you at this point, on this topic at any rate."

Okay. Thank you for your time. I've benefitted from the exchange.

Dale Carrico said...

Brave "Anonymous," sputters: you haven't shown that the vast majority of people think mind uploading is false.

Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Dale Carrico said...

Nick soldiers relentlessly on: Maybe you didn't read closely enough. Robin stated why [uploading wouldn't work], certainly, but not how, as in what would happen.

What would happen? The not happening would happen, Nick.

jfehlinger said...

> Nick soldiers relentlessly on: . . . Robin stated why [uploading wouldn't work],
> certainly, but not how, as in what would happen.
>
> What would happen? The not happening would happen, Nick.

To be more specific: first, a substance resembling guacamole would
dribble out of the patient's ears. This would be followed by the
development of a large and painful brain hickey.

giulio said...

I find Lincoln's ideas on resurrection interesting.

What I find even more interesting is comparing Lincoln's calm and reasonable attitude with Dale's clownish histrionics, hysterical witch-hunting, personal attacks and name calling.

Of course personal attitudes do not make a scientific statement more or less plausible, but I tend to take reasonable people more seriously than clowns.

"I would very likely simply be ignoring you at this point, on this topic at any rate"

You know you will never do that - you are too much in love with the sound of your own voice.

De Thezier said...

Giulio said:

What I find even more interesting is comparing Lincoln's calm and reasonable attitude with Dale's clownish histrionics, hysterical witch-hunting, personal attacks and name calling.

Hysterical witch-hunting? The term "witch-hunt" is often used to refer to panic-induced searches for perceived wrong-doers other than witches. The best known example is probably the McCarthyist search for communists during the Cold War. A "witch-hunt" is often characterized by an aggressive investigation which leads victims to suffer damaged reputation, loss of employment, destruction of their careers, and even imprisonment or exile.

To describe as a "witch-hunt" Dale Carrico's critique of people who promote belief in weird things including pseudoscience, superstition and other confusions of our times is intellectually dishonest and awkwardly similar to your old accusation of "thought-policing".

Some people never change. Even people who claim to want to radically improve themselves. ;)

De Thezier said...

In light of the original topic of this blog post, I was wondering what both Dale Carrico and Lincoln Cannon think of the emerging church movement.

Anonymous said...

Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

You still need to show that I am a crackpot.

Anonymous said...

What would happen? The not happening would happen, Nick.

Well, it was tried, so how would it fail? Would it fail, or would the computer behave like the original person (but still be a different person)? You don't really need to explain how something fails, but I think he wants to know what you think is specifically wrong about mind uploading (will the new "mind" be a different person, or will there not be a new "mind" at all)?

Dale Carrico said...

You still need to show that I am a crackpot.

You keep telling yourself that, baby.

jfehlinger said...

Anonymous wrote:

> [H]e wants to know what you think is specifically wrong
> about mind uploading. . .

Well, I can't speak for Dale here, but here's my answer.

Yes, the Moravec Transfer is a compelling thought experiment.
Yes, if we had (fantasy) nanobots that could snuggle up to
brain cells and act as radio transmitters to each other
and to a (fantasy) supercomputer that could learn to simulate each cell in
sufficient (N.B. -- it's unknown as yet how "sufficient"
would be "sufficient") detail before the cell was excised and
flushed down the sink, then yes -- maybe a person's consciousness
could be transferred seamlessly into a computer, with a (mobile) human
body and spinal cord still attached by radio to a supercomputer
in Geneva, or wherever. Sort of like P. Burke in the James Tiptree
story "The Girl Who Was Plugged In". (The idea of a mobile body
attached to a sessile brain by radio is nothing new -- Arthur C.
Clarke talks about it in _Profiles of the Future_).

Makes for entertaining SF in the hands of a good author -- this
sort of thing is old hat in the Culture, after all.

This is all a red herring, though. None of the required
technologies are **remotely** close to realization. It's not
even known whether the required technologies are **realizable**.

Performing philosophical thought experiments about personal
identity using this platform is fine, as long as you realize that
the "maguffin" involved is only slightly more plausible than
a Star Trek "transporter".

And please don't explain to me how mehums don't have to be
able to figure out how to do it, because we're going to have
Minsky-esque GOFAIs doing the heavy lifting.

Dale Carrico said...

Well, it was tried, so how would it fail? Would it fail, or would the computer behave like the original person (but still be a different person)? You don't really need to explain how something fails, but I think he wants to know what you think is specifically wrong about mind uploading (will the new "mind" be a different person, or will there not be a new "mind" at all)?

I think the "specifics" you guys are looking for are to found on the science fiction aisle of your local bookseller.

Anonymous said...

I think the "specifics" you guys are looking for are to found on the science fiction aisle of your local bookseller.

I agree.

How do you think it would fail? I don't know why exactly you think mind uploading is impossible. If you explained how you think it would fail, I would know why. ("The mind is embodied"--would uploading not appear to work, or would the "uploaded" mind not be the same person anymore?)

Anonymous said...

You keep telling yourself that, baby.

You still need to show that I am a crackpot.

I could call you a crackpot (permaculture), but I would need to explain (especially since you aren't).

Nick Tarleton said...

Thank you, James, for expressing a reasoned position.

Anonymous said...


We're talking about the criteria on the basis of which we warrantedly affirm candidate descriptions for instrumental belief as true, we are not talking about how motivation enables projects to find their way to fruition where they already conform to the physical and social strictures at hand. Or if that is what you are talking about, that isn't what I was talking about.

But, no, clapping louder won't make you immortal. However loud you clap.


"Warrantedly affirming candidate descriptions for instrumental belief as true" motivates people.

Dale Carrico said...

Giulio: I tend to take reasonable people more seriously than clowns. By "reasonable people" who are not "clown" Giulio means trasnhumanist-identified people like himself who plan to "upload" their consciousness into a computer network and live forever thereafter lolling about in Second Life or in shiny robot bodies living in treasure caves created for free by nanoscale robots while superintelligent Robot Gods look after them. Just a helpful reminder for the studio audience.

you are too much in love with the sound of your own voice, says Giulio, tossing his dull-point darts yet again in the comments section of somebody else's blog.

Anonymous said...

Or here.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the Moravec Transfer is a compelling thought experiment.
Yes, if we had (fantasy) nanobots that could snuggle up to
brain cells and act as radio transmitters to each other
and to a (fantasy) supercomputer that could learn to simulate each cell in
sufficient (N.B. -- it's unknown as yet how "sufficient"
would be "sufficient") detail before the cell was excised and
flushed down the sink, then yes -- maybe a person's consciousness
could be transferred seamlessly into a computer, with a (mobile) human
body and spinal cord still attached by radio to a supercomputer
in Geneva, or wherever. Sort of like P. Burke in the James Tiptree
story "The Girl Who Was Plugged In". (The idea of a mobile body
attached to a sessile brain by radio is nothing new -- Arthur C.
Clarke talks about it in _Profiles of the Future_).


That's basically what I think. I don't think mind uploading will be practical even in 50 years, but I do think mind uploading is possible (plausible).

Dale Carrico said...

Brave "Anonymous" insists "Warrantedly affirming candidate descriptions for instrumental belief as true" motivates people." However motivated they are, I'm afraid, those who seek to accomplish idiotic and impossible tasks are out of luck. It's nice to find partisans of the reactionary Noble Lie surface among the Robot Cultists, though... one more data point for dot-connection between Neoconservative types and Superlative Technocentric types. Boy, the Transhumanist Brain Trust is out in force this morning.

Dale Carrico said...

I could call you a crackpot (permaculture)

People who call permaculture practices "crackpot" idea are crackpots who expose themselves as such in making the charge. Permaculture design principles and practices constitute an appropriate and appropriable technoscientific discourse, consisting of many well-tested techniques (some likely older than recorded history, some arising out of extremely recent experimental science), but also constituting in my view progressive strategies of technodevelopmental social struggle for a safer and more sustainable world, techniques that actually are employed and experimented with in an ongoing way by countless thousands of people more than belong to the foolhardy transhumanist Robot Cult sub(cult)ure, with actual organic crop yields, actual solutions to problems of topsoil erosion, actual alternatives to the catastrophically energy intensive petro-chemical industrial-model agriculture that amounts to an epic-scaled permanent pointless crisis, and one, incidentally, that has racism, imperialism, corporate-greed at its heart, peddled for parochial profit-taking in techno-utopian rhetoric as usual.

Just like their reactionary climate-change denialist friends, those who denigrate permaculture practices while the world is in the balance are indulging in a self-marginalizing gesture. So, call my environmentalism crackpot all you want. I think it's good for all the parties to a dispute like this one to make it very clear where their loyalties are.

but I would need to explain (especially since you aren't).

Yes, showing why you would call me something I am not and which by your own parenthetic admission even you believe I am not would indeed require an interesting "explanation." If you are a techno-immortalist, daydreaming about nano-Santa, or confuse calculating the Robot God odds with "science" then you should expect to be called a crackpot by those who aren't.

Dale Carrico said...

I don't think mind uploading will be practical even in 50 years, but I do think mind uploading is possible

One hopes you will be around in 50 years' time to hear techno-utopians repeating this claim word for word, exactly equally earnestly, 50 year horizon and all. Perhaps it will even be you yourself making it again, without irony.

Anonymous said...

those who seek to accomplish idiotic and impossible tasks are out of luck

You need technical arguments against them (especially molecular nanotechnology, since it isn't immortality or mind-uploading). There are really good technical arguments against them, so you could link to them.

Perhaps it will even be you yourself making it again, without irony.

I meant: "I have no idea when mind uploading will be practical (50 years, 5000 years, etc.) except that it won't happen in ten years."

Anonymous said...

It's nice to find partisans of the reactionary Noble Lie

If it was a lie, it wouldn't work, so nobody who wants to do this is trying to lie.

Anonymous said...

One hopes you will be around in 50 years' time

I probably will.

to hear techno-utopians repeating this claim word for word, exactly equally earnestly, 50 year horizon and all.

Will it be the same people?

giulio said...

"Giulio: I tend to take reasonable people more seriously than clowns. By "reasonable people" who are not "clown" Giulio means trasnhumanist-identified people like himself".

Not necessarily. By reasonable people I mean persons able to earnestly discuss with others without insults and clownish MMM rethorics. I understand that you believe harassing those who disagree with you is a clever debating technique, but believe me, it does not work with 21st century adults.

"Giulio, tossing his dull-point darts yet again in the comments section of somebody else's blog"

I told you that I will stop posting comments here as soon as you will ask me to do so. Not before.

Dale Carrico said...

If it was a lie, it wouldn't work, so nobody who wants to do this is trying to lie.

Unless you are also lying to yourselves (because, for example, you're so terrified of dying, of the exactions of social life, of the contingency of actual experience, and so on).

Dale Carrico said...

By reasonable people I mean persons able to earnestly discuss with others without insults and clownish MMM rethorics. I understand that you believe harassing those who disagree with you is a clever debating technique, but believe me, it does not work with 21st century adults.

People in clown wigs crawling out of clown cars should pout less about the clownishness of those who react to them accordingly. As for my clever techniques "not working" for "21st century adults" (who now live, presumably, in The Future?), you would be enormously displeased to know the extent to which my critique is working fine as is by my lights.

I told you that I will stop posting comments here as soon as you will ask me to do so. Not before.

By all means, bloviate and bark away. I love the dot-eyed Robot Cult data-points.

My point, though, was that those who pull up their soapbox in the Comments section of blogs that are not their own are probably not best positioned to make credible charges about their opponents loving too much the sound of their own voices (the actual charge by you to which I was responding, in case that soopergenius futurological brain of yours fails to recall the context since a whole twenty-four hours has elapsed since then).

Anonymous said...

Unless you are also lying to yourselves (because, for example, you're so terrified of dying, of the exactions of social life, of the contingency of actual experience, and so on).

Trying to lie.