Extending Life is Not Enough

Dr Randal Koene covers the motivation for human technological augmentation and reasons to go beyond biological life extension.

randal_koene_squareCompetition is an inescapable occurrence in the animate and even in the inanimate universe. To give our minds the flexibility to transfer and to operate in different substrates bestows upon our species the most important competitive advantage.” I am a neuroscientist and neuroengineer who is currently the Science Director at Foundation 2045, and the Lead Scientist at Kernel, and I head the organization carboncopies.org, which is the outreach and roadmapping organization for the development of substrate-independent minds (SIM) and also previously participated in the ambitious and fascinating efforts of the nanotechnology startup Halcyon Molecular in Silicon Valley.

Slides of talk online here
Video of Talk:

Points discussed in the talk:
1. Biological Life-Extension is Not Enough Randal A. Koene Carboncopies.org
2. PERSONAL
3. No one wants to live longer just to live longer. Motivation informs Method.
4. Having an Objective, a Goal, requires that you have some notion of success.
5. Creating (intelligent) machines that have the capabilities we do not — is not as good as being able to experience them ourselves… Imagine… creating/playing music. Imagine… being the kayak.Imagine… perceiving the background radiation of the universe.
6. Is being out of the loop really your goal?
7. Near-term goals: Extended lives without expanded minds are in conflict with creative development.
8. Social
9. Gene survival is extremely dependent on an environment — it is unlikely to survive many changes.Worse… gene replication does not sustain that which we care most about!
10. Is CTGGAGTAC better than GTTGACTGAC? We are vessels for that game — but for the last10,000 years something has been happening!
11. Certain future experiences are desirable, others are not — these are your perspectives, the memes you champion…Death keeps stealing our champions, our experts.
12. Too early to do uploading? – No! The big perspective is relevant now. We don’t like myopic thinking in our politicians, lets not be myopic about world issues ourselves.
13. SPECIES
14. Life-extension in biology may increase the fragility of our species & civilization… More people? – Resources. Less births? – Fewer novel perspectives. Expansion? – Environmental limitation.
15. Biological life-extension within the same evolutionary niche = further specialization to the same performance “over-training” in conflict with generalization
16. Aubrey de Grey: Ultimately, desires “uploading”
17. TECHNICAL
18. Significant biological life-extension is incredibly difficult and beset by threats. Reality vs. popular perception.
19. Life-extension and Substrate-Independence are two different objectives
20. Developing out of a “catchment area” (S. Gildert) may demand iterations of exploration — and exploration involves risk.Hard-wired delusions and drives. What would an AGI do? Which types of AGI would exist in the long run?
21. “Uploading” is just one step of many — but a necessary step — for a truly advanced species
22. Thank You carboncopies.orgrandal.a.koene@carboncopies.org

http://www.carboncopies.org/singularity-summit-australia-2012
http://2012.singularitysummit.com.au/2012/11/randal-koene-extending-life-is-not-enough/

There is a short promo-interview for the Singularity Summit AU 2012 conference that Adam Ford did with Dr. Koene, though unfortunately the connection was a bit unreliable, which is noticeable in the video:

Most of those videos are available through the SciFuture YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheRationalFuture

randal-koene-extending-life-is-not-enough

Sam Harris on AI Implications -The Ruben Report

A transcription of Sam Harris’ discussion on the Implications of Strong AI during recent appearance on the Ruben Report. Sam contrasts narrow AI with strong AI, AI Safety, the possibility of rapid AI self-improvement, the idea of AI superintelligence may seem alien to us, and he also brings up the idea that it is important to solve consciousness before superintelligence (especially if superintelligence wipes us out) in hope for a future inclusive of the value that consciousness experience entails – instead of a mechanized future with no consciousness to experience it.
I explored the idea of a consciousness in artificial intelligence in ‘The Knowledge Argument Applied to Ethics‘ – which deals with whether an AI will act differently if it can experience ‘raw feels’ – and this seems to me to be of importance to AI Safety and (if we are ethically serious, and also assume value in ‘raw feels’ or) about preserving the future of value.

Dave Rubin asks the question: “If we get to a certain point with Artificial Intelligence and robots become aware and all that stuff… this can only end horribly right? …it will be pretty good for a while, but then at some point, by their own self-preservation basically, they will have to turn on their masters… I want the answer right now…”

Sam Harris responds: “..I worry about it [AI] to that degree but not quite in those terms. The concern for me is not that we will build superintelligent AI or superintelligent robots which initially seem to work really well and then by some process we don’t understand will become malevolent; and kill us – you know – the terminator movies. That’s not the concern…. Most people who are really worried about this – that’s not really what they are worried about. Although that’s not inconceivable – it’s almost worse than that. What’s more reasonable is that will.. As we’re building right now… we’re building machines that embody intelligence to increasing degree.. But it’s narrow AI.. so the best chess player on earth is a computer but it can’t play tic-tac-toe – it’s narrowly focused on a specific kind of goal – and that’s broadening more and more as we get machines that can play many different kinds of games for instance well. So we’re creeping up on what is now called ‘general intelligence’ – the ability to think flexibly in multiple domains – and we’re you’re learning in one domain doesn’t cancel you’re learning in another – and so it’s something more like how human beings can acquire many different skills and engage in many different modes of cognition and not have everything fall apart – that’s the Holy Grail of artificial intelligence – we want ‘general intelligence’ and something that’s robust – it’s not brittle…it’s something that if parts of it fail it’s not catastrophic to the whole enterprise… and I think there is no question that we will get there, but there are many false assumptions about the path ahead. One is that what we have now is not nearly as powerful as the human mind – and we’re just going to incrementally get to something that is essentially a human equivalent. Now I don’t see that as the path forward at all… all of our narrow intelligence … much of our narrow intelligence insomuch as we find it interesting is already superhuman, right, so like we have your calculator on your phone and it’s superhuman for arithmetic – and the chess playing program is superhuman – it’s not almost as good as a human – it’s better than any human on earth and will always be better than any human on earth right? Um, and more and more we will get that piecemeal effort of superhuman narrow AIs and when this is ever brought together in a general intelligence what you’re going to have is not just another ordinary human level intelligence – you’re going to have something that is in some ways may be radically foreign – in some ways it’s not going to be everything about us emulated in the system – but whatever is intelligent there is not going to be superhuman almost by definition and if it isn’t t=0 it’s going to be the next day – it’s just going to improve so quickly and when you talk about a system that can improve itself – if we ever build intelligent AI that then becomes the best source of it’s own improvement – so something that can improve it’s source code better than any human could improve it’s source code – once we start that process running, and the temptation to do that will be huge, then we have – what has been worried about now for 75 years – the prospect of an intelligence explosion – where the birth of this intelligence could get away from us – it’s now improving itself in a way that is unconstrained.  So people talk about ‘the Singularity’ now which is what happens when that takes off – it’s a horizon line in technological innovation that we can’t see beyond – and we can’t predict beyond because it’s now just escaping – you’re getting 1000’s of years of progress in minutes – right if in fact this process gets initiated – and so it’s not that we have superhuman robots that are just well behaved and it goes on for decades and then all of the sudden they get quirky and they take their interests to heart more than they take ours to heart and … you know the game is over. I think what is more likely is we’ll build intelligent systems that are so much more competent than we are – that even the tiniest misalignment between their goals and our own – will ultimately become completely hostile to our well being and our survival.”

The video of the conversation is here, more of the transcription below the video

Dave Rubin: “That’s scarier, pretty much, than what I laid out right? I laid out sort of a futuristic .. ahh there going to turn on us and start shooting us one day maybe because of an error or something – but you’re laying out really that they would… almost at some point that they would, if they could become aware enough, that they simply wouldn’t need us – because they would become ‘super-humans’ in effect – and what use would we serve for them at some point right? (maybe not because of consciousness…)”

Sam Harris: “I would put consciousness and awareness aside because – I mean it might be that consciousness comes along for the ride – it may be the case that you can’t be as intelligent as a human and not be conscious – but I don’t know if that’s right…”

Dave Rubin: “That’s horizon mind stuff right?”

Sam Harris: “Well I just don’t know if that’s actually true – it’s quite possible that we could build something as intelligent as we are – in a sense that it can meet any kind of cognitive or perceptual challenge or logical challenge we would pose it better than we can – but there is nothing that is like to be that thing – if the lights aren’t on it doesn’t experience happiness, though it might say it experiences happiness right? I think what will happen is that we will definitely – you know the notion of a Turing test?”

Dave Rubin: “This is like, if you type – it seems like it’s responding to you but it’s not actually really…”

Sam Harris: “Well, Allan Turing, the person who is more responsible than anyone else for giving us computers once thought about what it would mean to have intelligent machines – and he proposed what has been come to be known as the ‘Turing Test’.”

Dave Rubin: “It’s like the chat right?”

Sam Harris: “Yeah but .. when you can’t tell whether you’re interacting with a person or a computer – that computer in that case is passing the Turing Test – and as a measure of intelligence – that’s certainly a good proxy for a more detailed analysis of what it would mean to have machine intelligence… if I’m talking to something at length about anything that I want – and I can’t tell it’s not a person, and it turns out it’s somebody’s laptop – that laptop is passing the Turing Test. It may be that you can pass the Turing Test without even the subtlest glimmer of consciousness arising. Right, so that laptop is no more conscious than that glass of water is – right? That may in fact be the case, it may not be though – so I just don’t know there. If that’s the case, for me that’s just the scariest possibility – because what’s happening is .. I even heard at least one computer scientist and it was kind of alarming but I don’t have a deep argument against it – if you assume that consciousness comes along for the ride, if you assume that anything more intelligent than us gives rise to – either intentionally for by happenstance – is more conscious than we are, experiences a greater range of creative states – in well-being and can suffer more – by definition, in my view ethically, it becomes more important… if we’re more important than Cocker Spaniels or ants or anything below us – then if we create something that’s obviously above us in every conceivable way – and it’s conscious – right?”

Dave Ruben: “It would view us in the same way any we view anything that [???] us”

Sam Harris: “It’s more important than us right? And I’d have to grant that even though I’d not be happy about it deciding to annihilate us… I don’t have a deep ethical argument against why… I can’t say from a god’s eye view that it’s bad that we gave birth to super beings that then trampled on us – but then went on to become super in any ways we can’t possibly imagine – just as, you know, bacteria can’t imagine what we’re up to – right. So there are some computer scientists who kind of solve the fears, or silence the fears with this idea – that say just listen, if we build something that’s god like in that respect – we will have given birth to – our descendants will not be apes, they will be gods, and that’s a good thing – it’s the most beautiful thing – I mean what could be more beautiful than us creating the next generation of intelligent systems – that are infinitely profound and wise and knowledgeable from our point of view and are just improving themselves endlessly up to the limit of the resources available in the galaxy – what could be more rewarding than that?”

Dave Ruben: “Sounds pretty good”

Sam Harris: “And the fact that we all destroyed ourselves in the process because we were the bugs that hit their windshield when they were driving off – that’s just the price you pay. Well ok that’s possible but it’s also conceivable that all that could happen without consciousness right? That we could build mere mechanism that is competent in all the ways so as to plow us under – but that there is no huge benefit on the side of deep experience and well being and beauty and all that – it’s all just blind mechanism, which is intelligent mechanism .. in the same way as the best chess playing program – which is highly intelligent with respect to chess but nobody thinks as conscious. So that’s the theory … but on the way there – there is many weird moments where I think we will build machines that will pass the Turing Test – which is to say that they will seem conscious to us, they will seem to be able to detect our emotions and respond to our emotions, you know will say ‘you know what – you look tired, and maybe you should take a nap’ – and it will be right you know, it will be a better judge of your emotions than your friends are – right? And yet at a certain point certainly if you emulate this in a system whether it’s an avatar online or an actual robot that has a face right? That can display it’s own emotion and we get out of the uncanny valley where it just looks creepy and begins to look actually beautiful and rewarding and natural – then our intuitions that we are in dialog with a conscious other will be played upon perfectly right? .. and I think we will lose sight of it being an interesting problem – it will no longer be interesting to wonder whether our computers are conscious because they will be demonstrating as much as any person has ever demonstrated it – and in fact even more right? And unless we understand exactly how consciousness emerges in physical systems, at some point along the way of developing that technology – I don’t think we will actually know that they’re conscious – and that will be interesting – because we will successfully fool ourselves into just assuming – it will seem totally unethical to kill your robot off – it will be a murder worse than you killing a person because at a certain point it will be the most competent person – you know, the wisest person.”

Dave Ruben: “Sam, I don’t know if you’re writing a book about this – but you clearly should write a book about this – I’ll write one of the intros or something – there you go. Well listen we did two hours here – so I’m not going to give you the full Rogen treatment ”

Sam Harris: “We did a half Rogen”

Dave Ruben: “We did a half Rogen – but you know you helped me launch the first season – you’re launching second season – legally you have to now launch every season..”

* Some breaks in conversation (sentences, words, ums and ahs) have been omitted to make it easier to read

Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence with Aubrey de Grey

Projects at SENS Foundation

aubrey-de-grey-stragegies-for-engineered-negligable-senescenceSens Foundation has a lot of projects that were working on all at the same time.  There are 3 projects that we are working on at our research center in California and then there are a whole bunch of others that we support at university laboratories around the world – mostly in the USA.
In the research center in Mountain View California there are 3 projects that we are working on:

  1. 1st of all, mitochondrial mutation – we’re interested in combating the accumulation of mitochondrial mutations, not actually via repairing them, but by making them harmless; by putting modified copies of the mitochondrial genes into the nuclear dna, modified in such a way that the proteins go back to the right place – even though the dna is in the wrong place. This is an idea that was actually pioneered in Australia by a group in Monash University – about 25 or 27 years ago even.  But has actually been very challenging to make work in general.  Over the last few years a number of breakthroughs have been made to make the whole thing much more realistic, and we’re perusing that with a lot of energy now.
  2. The 2nd thing we’re working on at the research center is to identify enzymes from the environment (especially from bacteria) that can break down substances whose accumulation in the body over life causes diseases like cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration. We’ve become quite good at finding enzymes that break down these substances, and now were developing ways to put them into mammalian cells in manners that actually allow the cells to survive longer.  We’ve just published in the April of 2012 the first demonstration of rescue of cells from toxic substances that accumulate in the body using a system of this nature.
  3. The 3rd thing we are doing at the research center is part of our cancer project – we’re interested in combating cancer by controlling the elongation of ends of chromosomes – these things called ‘telomeres‘ and were working specifically on a rather neglected area in that field called ALT (Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres) which is a method that about 10% of cancers use that is still very characterized genetically and we’re working on that.

Video interview here:

Medical Bioremediation

The elimination of this junk which accumulates inside cells using enzymes from bacteria is what we call medical bioremediation. We call it that because bioremediation is the use of very much the same method to eliminate pollutants from the environment as a method of environmental decontamination.
Bioremediation works extremely well; it’s not just an academic idea; it’s a thriving commercial discipline. And it certainly shows us that it’s pretty straight forward to find enzymes to break down more-or-less whateever you want so long as the thing you want to break down is organic, and rich in energy – so that the microbe can break it down and it can live off it.

The Divide & Conquer Approach to Solving Aging

Most of the work going on that is related to SENS is not directly related to longevity. And that’s because the SENS approach to combating aging is a ‘divide and conquer’ approach; an approach in which we split the problem of aging into a number of sub-problems and we address each of those individually.
In any divide an conquer approach to a complex technological problem you don’t expect to see any actual results in terms of the overall goal of the technology until all of the components are at least working reasonably well. And we’re certainly not at that stage yet. So yes, there’s masses of progress at SENS in various of the strands that we’ve been perusing – but that has not yet translated into a longevity benefit yet in any species. However there is plenty of work going on in simpler strategies to combat aging; strategies that we don’t pursue because they won’t scale – they will only give you a modest benefit postponing the diseases and disabilities of old age.
But which we’re very much happy for other people to pursue in because they may be easier to implement in human beings than the SENS approach. So, for example a few years ago it was discovered that the drug named Rapamycin was able to significantly extend the life-span of rodents – which is quite a surprise because the drug had been around a long time. But you know there have been a lot of studies of how that happens ever since that time – and we may be able to turn that into a useful therapy for human beings.
There is still a lot of excitement around drugs that emulate calorie restriction that extends lifespan of rodents especially, by tricking them (essentially) into thinking they are in a famine when they’re not. And of course there’s a lot of work going on still in trying to evaluate other approaches to combating aging by simple methods – there is always constantly new news in this area.

Will Any of the SENS Approaches Work in Isolation?

More videos about SENS can be browsed through in this playlist:

Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) is the term coined by British biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey for the diverse range of regenerative medical therapies, either planned or currently in development,[1] for the periodical repair of all age-related damage to human tissue with the ultimate purpose of maintaining a state of negligible senescence in the patient, thereby postponing age-associated disease for as long as the therapies are reapplied.[2]

The term “negligible senescence” was first used in the early 1990s by professor Caleb Finch to describe organisms such as lobsters and hydras, which do not show symptoms of aging. The term “engineered negligible senescence” first appeared in print in Aubrey de Grey’s 1999 book The Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging,[3] and was later prefaced with the term “strategies” in the article Time to Talk SENS: Critiquing the Immutability of Human Aging[4] De Grey called SENS a “goal-directed rather than curiosity-driven”[5] approach to the science of aging, and “an effort to expand regenerative medicine into the territory of aging”.[6] To this end, SENS identifies seven categories of aging “damage” and a specific regenerative medical proposal for treating each.

[1]Research Themes (February 4, 2013) http://www.sens.org/research/introduction-to-sens-research

[2] de Grey, Aubrey; Rae, Michael (September 2007). Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs that Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 416 pp. https://www.amazon.com/Ending-Aging-Rejuvenation-Breakthroughs-Lifetime/dp/0312367074

[3] de Grey, Aubrey (November 2003). The Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging. Austin, Texas: Landes Bioscience. ISBN 1-58706-155-4. http://www.sens.org/files/pdf/MiFRA-06.pdf

[4] de Grey AD, Ames BN, Andersen JK, Bartke A, Campisi J, Heward CB, McCarter RJ, Stock G (April 2002). “Time to Talk SENS: Critiquing the Immutability of Human Aging”. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 959: 452–62. http://www.sens.org/files/pdf/manu12.pdf

[5] Bulkes, Nyssa (March 6, 2006). “Anti-aging research breakthroughs may add up to 25 years to life”. The Northern Star. Northern Illinois University (DeKalb, USA). http://northernstar.info/city/anti-aging-research-breakthroughs-may-add-up-to-years-to/article_a4d2acd9-475d-5e12-a81c-77011f9c65ad.html http://www.worldhealth.net/news/anti-aging_research_breakthroughs_may_ad/

[6] “Age-Related Diseases: Medicine’s Final Adversary?”. Huffington Post Healthy Living. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/aubrey-de-grey-phd/age-related-diseases_b_985019.html

The Quantified Self with Anders Sandberg (in under 2 mins)

Quantified_self_logoThe Quantified Self movement is usefully encouraging loads of people to record metrics about their personal health – the resulting big data will be useful to mine in doing research on how food and lifestyle impact health.
There are also some ethical issues around privacy if personal metrics are used inappropriately.

Here is an interview with Anders Sandberg on QS:

Quantified Self.00_00_03_21.Still034

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Kind regards,
Adam Ford
– Science, Technology & the Future: http://scifuture.org

Suffering, and Progress in Ethics – Peter Singer

Peter Singer_profileSuffering is generally bad – Peter Singer (who is a Hedonistic Utilitarian), and most Effective Altruists would agree with this. Though in addressing the need for suffering today Peter acknowledges that, as we are presently constituted, suffering is useful as a warning sign (e.g. against further injury). But what about the future?
What if we could eliminate suffering?
Perhaps in the future we will have advanced technological interventions to warn us of danger that will be functionally similar to suffering, but without the nasty raw feels.
Peter Singer, like David Pearce, suggests that if we could eliminate suffering of non-human animals that are capable of suffering, perhaps in some way that is difficult to imagine now – that this would be a good thing.

Video Interview:

I would see no reason to regret the absence of sufferingPeter Singer
Peter can’t see any regret to lament the disappearance of suffering, though perhaps people may say it would be useful to help understand literature of the past. Perhaps there are some indirect uses for suffering – but on balance Peter thinks that the elimination of suffering would be an amazingly good thing to do.

Singer thinks it is interesting to speculate what might be possible for the future of human beings, if we do survive over the longer term. To what extent are we going to be able to enhance ourselves? In particular to what extent are we going to be more ethical human beings – which brings to question ‘Moral Enhancement’.

The Expanding Circle - Peter SingerHave we made Progress in Ethics? Peter argues for the case that our species has expanded the circle of our ethical concern we have in his book ‘The Expanding Circle‘, and more recently Steven Pinker took up this idea in ‘Better Angels Of Our Nature’ – and this has happened over the millennia, beyond initially the tribal group, then to a national level, beyond ethnic groups to all human beings, and now we are starting to expand moral concern to non-human sentient beings as well.

Steven Pinker thinks that increases in our ethical consideration is bound up with increases in our intelligence (as proposed by James Flynn – the Flynn Effect – though this research is controversial (it could be actual increases in intelligence or just the ability to do more abstract reasoning)) and increases in our ability to reason abstractly.

As mentioned earlier there are other ways in which we may increase our ability and tendency to be more moral (see Moral Enhancement), and in the future we may discover genes that may influence us to think more about others, to dwell less on negative emotions like anger or rage. It is hard to say whether people will use these kinds of moral enhancers voluntarily, or whether we need state policies to encourage people to use moral enhances in order to produce better communities – and there are a lot of concerns here that people may legitimately have about how the moral enhancement project takes place. Peter sees this as a fascinating prospect and that it would be great to be around to see how things develop over the next couple of centuries.

Note Steven Pinker said of Peter’s book:

Singer’s theory of the expanding circle remains an enormously insightful concept, which reconciles the existence of human nature with political and moral progress. It was also way ahead of its time. . . . It’s wonderful to see this insightful book made available to a new generation of readers and scholars.Steven Pinker

The Expanding Circle

Abstract: What is ethics? Where do moral standards come from? Are they based on emotions, reason, or some innate sense of right and wrong? For many scientists, the key lies entirely in biology–especially in Darwinian theories of evolution and self-preservation. But if evolution is a struggle for survival, why are we still capable of altruism?

Peter Singer - The Most Good You Should Do - EA Global Melbourne 2015In his classic study The Expanding Circle, Peter Singer argues that altruism began as a genetically based drive to protect one’s kin and community members but has developed into a consciously chosen ethic with an expanding circle of moral concern. Drawing on philosophy and evolutionary psychology, he demonstrates that human ethics cannot be explained by biology alone. Rather, it is our capacity for reasoning that makes moral progress possible. In a new afterword, Singer takes stock of his argument in light of recent research on the evolution of morality.

References:
The Expanding Circle book page at Princeton University: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9434.html

The Flynn Effect: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect

Peter Singer – Ethics, Evolution & Moral Progress – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91UQAptxDn8

For more on Moral Enhancement see Julian Savulescu’s and others writings on the subject.

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A Non-trivial Pursuit of Happiness – Paradise Engineering with David Pearce :-)

It is non-trivial for a couple of reasons:
a) the pursuit of this vision of happiness is not trivial – it is likely to be a very challenging endeavor (though totally worthy of the effort)
b) the aim is to achieve non-trivial modes of happiness, kinds of information-sensitive gradients of bliss (as opposed to being stuck in a narrow-local maximum of ecstatic stupor)

Imagine that the best experience possible – and imagine that it would be lower than tomorrows floor.

It may be that our decedents will have the chance to re-engineer themselves to be able to experience well-being far beyond what we can experience and imagine today.

Full blown paradise engineering is likely not something that people alive now should expect, though if we are ethically serious, we should be investigating ways to redesign our default mode of being to flourish in states of bliss.

Transcript

Think of the most wonderful experience of your life – now imagine if life could be as good as that – or rather imagine if life could be better than that all the time. Just imagine if your best
experience ever could be lower than tomorrow’s hedonic flaw. Other things being equal, wouldn’t it be better if we live in paradise?
Now, for much of history this kind of talk would be simply could be dismissed as utopian dreaming; that manipulating the environment in
innumerable different ways has been tried and to be honest we’re not significantly happier now than ancestors on the African savanna – certainly not if suicide,
depression marital breakup statistics et cetera are taken seriously.
However thanks to biotechnology now it will be possible re-engineer ourselves; to edit our own source code; to enjoy life animated by gradients of bliss – other things being equal,
doesn’t it make sense to make that our default option?

What could go wrong? Well lots of things could go wrong – but that’s true of any experiment – and that’s what having kids involves today. When two people decide to bring children into
the world chances are the moment they are going to be bringing in an awful of suffering into the world too.
Whereas in future when one creates new life one will be creating these potentially creating gradients of lifelong well-being. And if we’re ethically serious, that’s the approach I think we ought to be taking.

A lost people will probably think |well that’s all well and good maybe our
children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren will enjoy this kind of fabulous life.”
“What about me now?” – because we’re human, one can listen to these wonderful tales some futurists relate of how good life could be in future – a future of super-intelligence, super-longevity and super-happiness – all these wonderful things – what about now? One still has bills to pay, taxes, relationship problems, just the messy nitty-gritty reality of life – unfortunately I don’t have a panacea now or rather the kinds of interventions one can suggest: good diets, exercise, sleep discipline… unfortunately are on not as exciting as this tantalizing prospect that our children and grandchildren will enjoy.

But after that somber note perhaps its worth suggesting that with to designer drugs and with future autosomal genetic therapy it will be possible for adults my age and older to enjoy the best time of their lives too – perhaps not full blown paradise engineering; the richness that our descendants may enjoy – but there is no reason to be skeptical that the later in years of our life won’t be incomparably richer than anything that’s gone before.

The Hedonistic Imperative

The Hedonistic Imperative outlines how genetic engineering and nanotechnology will abolish suffering in all sentient life.

The abolitionist project is hugely ambitious but technically feasible. It is also instrumentally rational and morally urgent. The metabolic pathways of pain and malaise evolved because they served the fitness of our genes in the ancestral environment. They will be replaced by a different sort of neural architecture – a motivational system based on heritable gradients of bliss. States of sublime well-being are destined to become the genetically pre-programmed norm of mental health. It is predicted that the world’s last unpleasant experience will be a precisely dateable event.

Two hundred years ago, powerful synthetic pain-killers and surgical anesthetics were unknown. The notion that physical pain could be banished from most people’s lives would have seemed absurd. Today most of us in the technically advanced nations take its routine absence for granted. The prospect that what we describe as psychological pain, too, could ever be banished is equally counter-intuitive. The feasibility of its abolition turns its deliberate retention into an issue of social policy and ethical choice.

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‘Wake Enhancement’: Is sleep better than medicine?

‘Wake Enhancement’: Is sleep better than medicine?
Are well rested people happier and more productive people?

We have ways of making people go to sleep, and ways of preventing people going to sleep – but that’s not nessecarily the best solution. The best solution is guaranteed 8 hours of sleep.Anders Sandberg

Generally anecdotal feedback from grinders, transhumanists and futurists that I have met with often get into the habit of loosing sleep, and depending on coffee or other nutropics like modafinil to get through the day – while this can help as a palliative to easing the effects of not getting enough sleep – they shouldn’t be seen as replacements to a full night of sleep.  Perhaps at some stage in the future we will have technology that can effectively replace sleep – though as of 2016, it is not here yet.
According to the National Sleep Foundation in America, the recommended sleep time for adults from 18-65 is 7-9 hours and 7-8 hours for those over 65.

This video is the product of an unscripted conversation as part of an interview series with Oxford scholar Anders Sandberg – it turned out quite interesting.

* Also see other sections of the interview in this playlist!

The cycle of sleeping during the night and waking up at dawn is a natural part of human life that arguably has been with us and our ancestors for 100’s of thousands of years – yet very recently scientists begun to understand the relationship between daylight/darkness to the alternating cycle of sleep and waking. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the body’s pineal gland which helps regulate sleep patterns – it is also found in some foods – and may be useful as a supplement to help get the body’s circadian rhythm. approval by the FDA).

The NSA has an article on Melatonin which says “For melatonin to be helpful, the correct dosage, method and time of day it is taken must be appropriate to the sleep problem. Taking it at the “wrong” time of day may reset your biological clock in an undesirable direction. How much to take, when to take it, and melatonin’s effectiveness, if any, for particular sleep disorders is only beginning to be understood.”

[Referring to Melatonin pills] Now that’s useful because you can reset your diurnal rhythm. Now typically jet-lag is nasty because your brain is out of synch – it’s sending signals to the rest of the body on what it’s supposed to do that doesn’t fit your activity – so everything goes a bit haywire. Melatonins kind of good because it cuts in a reset signal – right now, it’s just after midnight.” – Anders Sandberg

The judicious use of Melatonin supplements can aid in helping your body adjust back into an effective sleeping pattern – and for most cases, is likely to be a wiser option than taking ‘sleeping pills‘.

Sleeping pills shut you down well enough so that you get unconscious at least, but it’s not necessarily that you get good sleep – because during sleep your doing memory consolidation among a lot of other things. So that’s an interesting issue that during the day we want to learn things quickly – we need to get a lot of information. And then we want to store it permenantly but if you learn quickly into your memory, it can erase it quickly too. So ideally you want to re-write it at a slower rate – you actually want to have a kind of write protection on part of your brain. Now that’s probably what’s going on during sleep. During deep sleep the hyppocampus can replay what you have learned during the day – especially the stuff that turned out to be important – to the rest of the brain to store it more safely. And without sleep of course, you’re not going to do that very well.Anders Sandberg

11 Tips to help you achieve quality sleep

Here are 11 tips from the NSA to help you get some extra sleep:

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
  2. Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.
  3. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
  4. Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
  5. Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner’s sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.
  6. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens that might affect you and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up
  7. During the night Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms. Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check.
  8. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening. Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try a light snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry.
  9. Wind down. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
  10. If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment. Use your bed only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.
  11. If you’re still having trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or to  find a sleep professional. You may also benefit from recording your sleep in a Sleep Diary  to help you better evaluate common patterns or issues you may see with your sleep or sleeping habits.

 

Notes, References & Extra Reading

See Anders’ page on ‘Optimized Sleep

Consider reading Anders’ paper: ‘Sleep better than medicine? Ethical issues related to “wake enhancement”

Abstract: This paper deals with new pharmacological and technological developments in the manipulation and curtailment of our sleep needs. While humans have used various methods throughout history to lengthen diurnal wakefulness, recent advances have been achieved in manipulating the architecture of the brain states involved in sleep. The progress suggests that we will gradually become able to drastically manipulate our natural sleep-wake cycle. Our goal here is to promote discussion on the desirability and acceptability of enhancing our control over biological sleep, by illustrating various potential attendant ethical problems. We draw attention to the risks involved, possible conflicts of interests underlying the development of wake enhancement, and the potential impact on accountability for fatigue related errors.

sleepVideo here

Paper: http://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/sleep-better-than-medicine.pdf

Singularity Skepticism or Advocacy – to what extent is it warranted?

Why are some people so skeptical of the possibility of Super-intelligent Machines, while others take it quite seriously?
Hugo de Garis addresses both ‘Singularity Skepticism’ and advocacy – reasons for believing machine intelligence is not only possible but quite probable!
The Singularity will likely be an unprecedentedly huge issue that we will need to face in the coming decades.

Singularity Skepticism - Hugh de Garis. 2jpg

If you take the average person in the street and you talk to them about a future intelligent machine – there is a lot of skepticism – because today’s machines aren’t intelligent right? I know from my own personal experience that I get incredibly frustrated with computers, they crash all the time, they don’t do what I want… literally I say “I hate computers” but I really love them – so I have an ambivalent relationship with computers..Hugo de Garis
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The exponential growth of technology and resolution of brain-scanning may lead to advanced neuro-engineering. Brain simulation right down to the chemical synapse, or just plain old functional brain representation might be possible within our lifetimes – this would likely lead to a neuromorphic flavour of the singularity.

There have been some enthusiastic and skeptical responses to this video so far on YouTube:

AZR NSMX1 commented that “Computers already have a better memory and a higher speed than human brain, they can learn and recognice the human voice since 1982 with the first software made for Kurzweil Industries, the expert systems are the first steps for thinking, then in 90’s we learned that emotions are more easy for machines than we believed, an emotion is just an uncontrolled reaction an automatic preservation code that may be good or not for a robot to reach its goal. Now in 2010 the Watson supercomputer show us that is able to structure the human language to produce a logic response, if that is not what does the thought, then somebody explain me what means to think. The only thing they still can’t do is the creative thinking and conciousness, but that will be reached between 2030 and 2035. Conciousness is just the amout and quality of the information you can process, IBM Blue Brain team said this, for example we the humans are very stupid when it comes to use and exploit all the possibilities offered by the smell sense compared to dogs or bears, in this dimension a cockroach is smarter than us because they can map the direction of smell to find the food or other members of their group, we can’t do this, we just have no consciusness in that world. Creativity is the most complex thing, if machines reaches creativity then our world will change because we will not only have to work anymore, but what is better we will not have to think anymore haha. Machines gonna do everything.”
 My response: There has certainly been some impressive strides in technological advancement, it might asymptote at some stage – not sure when, but my take is that there won’t likely be many fundamental engineering or scientific bottlenecks that will block or stifle progress – the biggest problems I think will be sociological impediments – human caused. 

Darian Rachel says “Around the 8 minute or so point he makes a statement that a machine will be built that is intelligent and conscious. He seems to pull this idea that it will be conscious “out of the air” somewhere. It seems to be a rather silly idea.”
 My response: while I agree that a conscious machine is likely difficult to build, there doesn’t seem to be much agreement among humans about whether it exists, what consciousness actually is, whether it is a byproduct of (complex?) information processing and whether it is actually computable (using classical computation). Perhaps Hugo de Garis views consciousness as just being self-aware. 

Exile438 responded that the “human brain has 100billion neurons and each connects to 10,000 other neurons, 10^11*10^4=10^15 human brain capacity estimate. Brain scanning resolution and speed of computers doubles every so often so within the next 2 to 3 decades we can simulate a brain on a computer. If we can do that it would run electronically 4million times faster then our chemical brains. This leads to singularity.”
 My response: it’s certainly a strange and exciting time to be alive – the fundamental questions that we have been wrestling with since before recorded history – questions around personal identity and what makes us what we – may be unraveled within the lifetimes of most of us here today. 

Grand Unifying Theories in Physics with Sundance

Sundance describes particle physics and covers two grand unifying theories: super string theory and quantum loop gravity, then discusses the distribution of beliefs among experts on grand unifying theories and concludes by emphasisng the need for a wider research program in physics (and science in general) – as well as the funding to back it up.

Interview Video link: https://youtu.be/g5Wg41iEn5A

Sundance at Ceres (2 of 16) headshotSundance Osland Bilson-Thompson is an Australian theoretical particle physicist. He has developed the idea that certain preon models may be represented topologically, rather than by treating preons as pointlike particles. His ideas have attracted interest in the field of loop quantum gravity, as they may represent a way of incorporating the Standard Model into loop quantum gravity. This would make loop quantum gravity a candidate theory of everything. At the time he was a Visiting Academic at the University of Adelaide. From 2006 to 2009 he was a full-time academic at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. From 2010 he held a Ramsay Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

Photos taken at Interview

Cyclists Party

Sundance is currently running for the Cyclists Party in South Australia.

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundance_Bilson-Thompson
BloSundance at Ceres (2 of 16) smlg: http://meanderingmarsupials.blogspot.com/

Finding Value & Beauty in Fundamental Physics – Interview with Physicist Sundance

In this interview, Sundance covers his background in physics, the value of fundamental research in physics (and science in general), and finding physics aesthetically pleasing.

Sundance at Ceres (2 of 16) headshotSundance Osland Bilson-Thompson is an Australian theoretical particle physicist. He has developed the idea that certain preon models may be represented topologically, rather than by treating preons as pointlike particles. His ideas have attracted interest in the field of loop quantum gravity, as they may represent a way of incorporating the Standard Model into loop quantum gravity. This would make loop quantum gravity a candidate theory of everything. At the time he was a Visiting Academic at the University of Adelaide. From 2006 to 2009 he was a full-time academic at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. From 2010 he held a Ramsay Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

Photos taken at Interview

Cyclists Party

Sundance is currently running for the Cyclists Party in South Australia.

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundance_Bilson-Thompson
BloSundance at Ceres (2 of 16) smlg: http://meanderingmarsupials.blogspot.com/