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August 15, 2010

Liveblogging the Singularity summit - Eliezer Yudkowsky on Simplified Humanism and Positive Futurism

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Eliezer Yudkowsky on Simplified Humanism and Positive Futurism

I will discuss a complex of related ideas that together form a more powerful whole: The idea of an upward-sloping future, as opposed to a worldview that locates utopia in the past and sees an inevitable downward slope going forward; humanism that focuses on personhood theory, rather than matters of outward form; the rejection of previously accepted ills, such as smallpox, or now aging, as unjustifiable; commitments to reason and rationality, the substitution of goals for prophecies, and the acceptance that each additional detail of a prediction is burdensome and must be separately justified. These ideas combine to form the natural continuation of the Enlightenment project, in which hope for a dramatically better future continues.



* Smallpox vaccines were controversial initially because it was felt that it was interfering with the judgement of god
* Life extension opposed by humanists and the religious

Cognitive Dissonance
* if people were hit on the heads with baseball bats once per month
* some philosophers would discover all sorts of amazing benefits to being hit on the head with a baseball bat
* it toughens us makes us less afraid of lesser pains, makes bat free days all the sweeter
* but if you take someone who's not being hit with a baseball bat and ask them if they'd like to start doing for all those amazing benefits
* they'll say no.
* likewise smallpox, aging and death

Psychnoanalysts has it over Darwinian theory because it has unusual answers. Simple but true answers can get discounted.

Simplified Humanism

Typical                                   Simplified

Curing disease is good unless             curing disease is good
genes are involved

Life and health are better                Life and health are better
then death and sickness                   then death and sickness
until you reach the age of 80+


Shape matters not. It is the mind and not the body. Example of Yoda. If real would Yoda be a person ? Would it be ok to eat Yoda ?

Good                                   Bad
Life                                      Death
Health                                    Sickness
Happiness                                 Pain
Knowledge                                 Ignorance


The past was not better. 15-65% of Hunter gatherers died by violence. The 20th century had 200 million deaths by violence. If it was as violent as the past hunter fatherers there would have been 2 billion deaths by violence.

Rationality constraints on futurism

First you figure out your values, then your facts and then you implement
* what you want does not control how the world is
* there is no destiny that helps you
* magic does not work (what makes it magical is not the goal itself it is the means)
* every extra detail you add onto your story is an added burden requiring separate justification.
More detail that is a requirement reduces the probability. Probability of earthquake of 8.0+ in san francisco over the next ten years is less than the probability of earthquake of 8.0+ anywhere over the next ten years.

Steve Kaas four technology attitudes: Techophile - technology is our friend and future is good
Technophobe - does not like tech
Technonormal - all this talk of goldens ages is childish, life will go on
Technovolatile - future might be extremely good or extremely bad but is not not likely to end up anywhre in between

Although the Singularity institute is very concerned about very bad outcomes, they are still working for a very big positive future (picture of a galaxy) that the Singularity Institute is still heirs to the Enlightenment.

The McKibben view of enough is the pre-enlightenment view.

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