Is technology making mankind a threatened species? Thoughts on technology, the future, and somwhere,

Discussion in 'NZ Computing' started by Waylon Kenning, Oct 11, 2004.

  1. In my search of Unix history, I came across an article at Wired called
    "Why the future doesn't need us" - It's four years
    old, but becoming more and more relevant every day.

    With technology such as nanotechnology, robotics and genetic
    engineering fast approaching and maturing, will we all descend into a
    real world version of the game Total Annihilation, a war between
    robots with human essences in them, vs. cloned super humans with
    essences of the best soldiers in them? Perhaps not, but with robotic
    arms happening, robotic this and that, will humans ever stop until
    we're no part flesh anymore? After all, any part flesh in a human is a
    weak spot compared to metal of course.

    We worry about Sadam having nuclear weapons (and we especially worry
    about George Bush being voted in again), but as technology charges
    ahead, do we worry that in this age of free information and the
    internet, that terrorists may resort to creating a grey goo of
    genetically modified bacteria to eat and destroy everything?

    Perhaps a better question to ask would be, should we continue
    researching new technologies without thinking about their
    ramifications in the future? Should we develop all technologies then
    decide to stop using some, or is it better to just not develop certain
    technologies, and concentrate on things such as cold fusion? After
    all, once an idea's let out of the bag, you can't put it back in.
    Knowledge eh, it's a bit like a virus in that regard, you can't kill
    it once it's out.

    This is something I've never really thought too much about until I
    read this article, and considered the fact that work I maybe doing in
    the future could contribute to the fall of mankind to machines. After
    all, why are we developing new technologies? Massive growth of markets
    continues yet not everyone is happy. Heck, not a lot of people are
    happy with lots of money (see celebrities). What is humankind's view
    of utopia, and how are we working towards it?

    Finally, can you imagine what the future holds? A survey of elderly
    people in Britain finds that most of them believe the world was a
    better place to live in in the past than now. More honest, caring,
    sympathetic. If that's true, what improvements in first world society
    have occured in the past 50 years? And more so, what will the next 50
    years hold for us? Apart from Windows XXXXXP, with increased security,
    ease of use, and protection from all nanoviruses attempting to enter
    your own personal biosphere:)
    Waylon Kenning, Oct 11, 2004
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  2. sweet as if we do, I love that game. :)
    rather interesting thought... I guess it would be wise to look into
    ramifications before they get made, although even though it is decided
    to not continue, doesnt mean that all will stop.

    I was talking about developing weapons with a friend, more precisely
    about these,

    I think that the users of such weapons should have to be happy using
    them on their mothers/wives/kids before they are allowed to use them in war.
    Dave -, Oct 11, 2004
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  3. Waylon Kenning

    Nik Coughin Guest

    I was reading an article on the 'net a little while ago about how people
    find prosthetic limbs on others much more psychologically unsettling if they
    are designed to look like real human limbs than if they are clearly
    artificial. That is, a normal person would feel more uncomfortable around
    someone with a flesh-coloured plastic hand than someone with a steel hook or
    claw. I can't find a link at the moment.
    Nik Coughin, Oct 11, 2004
  4. It seems like Mon, 11 Oct 2004 14:41:33 +1300 was when "Dave -
    That's a good point. I like the active denial system, it's good. What
    are the effects of say an electromagnetic pulse on humans that could
    disable electronics (and those damn robots!)? In doing some research
    for this post, I read The things
    people can do with electromagnetic pulses!


    Wow, there's some scary new technology coming out these days eh.
    Waylon Kenning, Oct 11, 2004
  5. Waylon Kenning

    Bret Guest

    That sounds like a contradiction.
    Bret, Oct 11, 2004
  6. Waylon Kenning

    Nik Coughin Guest

    "Stated simply, the idea is that if one were to plot emotional response
    against similarity to human appearance and movement, the curve is not a
    sure, steady upward trend. Instead, there is a peak shortly before one
    reaches a completely human 'look' . . . but then a deep chasm plunges below
    neutrality into a strongly negative response before rebounding to a second
    peak where resemblance to humanity is complete.
    This chasm - the uncanny valley of Doctor Mori's thesis -
    represents the point at which a person observing the creature or object in
    question sees something that is nearly human, but just enough off-kilter to
    seem eerie or disquieting. The first peak, moreover, is where that same
    individual would see something that is human enough to arouse some empathy,
    yet at the same time is clearly enough not human to avoid the sense of
    wrongness. The slope leading up to this first peak is a province of relative
    emotional detachment - affection, perhaps, but rarely more than that."
    Nik Coughin, Oct 11, 2004
  7. Now imagine the terror at the thought of George Bush who ALLREADY has
    many Weapons of Mass Destruction being voted in again.
    No worries. Someone'll come up with a green goo that will eat the grey
    goo :eek:) Upgrades will of course have to be applied regularly, but annual
    subscriptions will be available for a discount.

    Roger Johnstone, Invercargill, New Zealand
    No Silicon Heaven? Preposterous! Where would all the calculators go?

    Kryten, from the Red Dwarf episode "The Last Day"
    Roger Johnstone, Oct 11, 2004
  8. Waylon Kenning

    Brendan Guest

    This article has been much debated since then. Google those debates for a
    better picture of things.
    What would the war be fought over ?
    Nature dictates we must evolve or become extinct. That means we must
    enhance ourselves in every fashion we can - which means adding technology
    to our bodies, as we have been doing for 10,000 years at least.
    How will you stop some group researching new weapons in secret ?

    The only solution to that problem is to ensure everyone has the knowledge
    ensuring a balance of power. It is another reason to do away with IP law
    as it now stands.
    Banning certain research is a sure way to guarantee some will keep doing
    it in secret.

    No, think in terms of keeping the balance of power.
    You watch too much bad science fiction.

    The concurrent technology you forgot to mention is Artificial
    Intelligence; as our engineering skill improves via nano technology, the
    processing power equivalent to a human brain will become available, and
    then become quickly superseded: super intelligent machines.

    But the first human level AI is likely to be a human mind cloned
    (uploaded) into a powerful computer (the technology for doing this is the
    same technology needed for constructing the machine it is to go into).

    After this, that mind might improve itself indefinitly. Think: 18 months
    after it's creation, new hardware will be running atleast twice as fast.
    That mind will think twice as quickly as you. It will find solutions to
    problems in half the time you take. 18 months after that, 4 times as fast.

    But that is not true: it will be MORE so, because it will be able to edit
    OUT functions for moderating hear beats, and other bodily functions -
    those being handled now by other computers or entirely irrelevant. Freeing
    up processing power. This mind is already more efficient than yours. It
    will also have a PERFECT memory, AND it will not need sleep so have TWICE
    the time to think that you do.

    e.g. model one is already 3 or 4 times faster at thinking than you.

    Using genetic algorithms and neural nets and yet to be developed
    techniques, this mind will be able to isolate certain areas of it's
    function (it will have a complete model of it after all), clone them, and
    experiment for optimisation on the clone. If it works better, it can copy
    it back into the original. This means faster AND smarter. Some changes in
    much-used areas might yield 100x improvements.

    Add that to base improvements in computing speed over the same period. Add
    to THAT technologies like quantum computation (which essentially means
    infinite parallelism for certain classes of computation), chaos theory,
    etc. ....

    Even if all you did was emulate a million mind clones of the smartest
    people in the world on the hardware, without any other tricks, you already
    have doubled the IQ average of the human race. You could have a hundred
    Einstein's working on 100 subjects in parallel.

    You can see why this mind could easily be millions of times faster and
    more intelligent than you within a few years.
    They will likely be many and varied.
    I anticipate we will be pretty much demigods. Your elderly you mention
    above conveiently ignore a string of major wars and diseases that struck
    down millions.

    We live in a time of flux, technology is advancing exponentially - and
    this is just as well, for we will need it to survive in a world of
    diminishing resources. But it makes a lot of social upheaval, and people
    cannot be certain of the future because of the rapid advances. This makes
    people feel stressed.

    Civilisation is on the cusp of a change as radical as the invention of
    agriculture ten thousand years ago. And it is likely to happen by 2030.


    .... Brendan

    "Let us treat men and women well; treat them as if they were real; perhaps they are." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Note: All my comments are copyright 11/10/2004 8:10:59 p.m. and are opinion only where not otherwise stated and always "to the best of my recollection".
    Brendan, Oct 11, 2004
  9. It seems like Mon, 11 Oct 2004 21:05:36 +1300 was when Brendan
    I'll have a look after I finish researching Unix history, which isn't
    nearly as interesting.
    I believe the storyline went something along the lines of people
    decided that patterning (putting human a essence inside a machine) was
    a good idea to save mankind. Others believed that this was a
    monstrosity of humanity, being reduced to machines. So hence, a war
    started. So that the non-machine people had a chance, they cloned
    their best solders again and again. Cue crap storyline and interesting
    game (real good RTS in my opinion, no Starcraft, but I digress).
    So where do we stop being human? Technology over the past 10,000 years
    hasn't changed how we biologically work, nature's been taking care of
    that. Do humans really need to short-circuit nature and accelerate our
    evolution? Why? What good would this do for humanity, having people
    living for 5000 years (assuming they have no decline in body function
    from around 10)? I mean, do you really want your mother-in-law around
    *that* long?:)
    I'm not too sure, do what Big Brother did in 1984? Change the language
    so people can't express the idea of research? I don't know, I'm just
    clutching at straws here, perhaps better surveillance could help out?
    You should have seen the last movie I watched, was The Day After
    Tomorrow, good movie if you enjoy movies and don't over analyse them.
    And the movie before that was Sphere with Samuel L. Jackson and Sharon
    Stone, now that was bad science fiction.
    OK, so we can have massive super computers thinking for themselves. So
    why would they want humans? After all, we're slow, weak, fragile. Put
    it this way, will these AI machines *improve* humankind, and lead us
    to a utopia where there is food for all, no war, and most people are
    content with life?
    I no doubt it is. I do however doubt if it is for the best of mankind.
    But we're all entitled to our own opinions after all, and we're often
    wrong, which makes taking to a human such as yourself Brendan far more
    interesting than a super AI machine that knows all:)
    Waylon Kenning, Oct 11, 2004
  10. Waylon Kenning

    Brendan Guest

    We don't. Being human is a state of mind. And anyway, what is soo great
    about being human when you could be superhuman ?

    It's not as if people will need to be forced to 'upgrade'.
    Yes it has. We live longer.
    It is natural to 'short circuit' nature.
    Because we will become extinct if we do not.
    One thing it would allow is for us to exploit the resources of our galaxy
    to conduct mega scale engineering.

    The primary benefit of our current short lifespan is to promote more rapid
    evolution. In a technological humanity ('post human'), evolution may
    proceed without the need to produce a new person. E.g. you upgrade
    There is NO feasible way to do it. The logistics of it alone would cause
    more trouble than the research itself would, and you could never be sure
    you got everyone.
    Sentimental reasons. It'd take such a infinitesimal portion of their
    resources to keep homo sapiens sapiens in the fashion they wanted, there
    would be little compelling them to do otherwise. Remember, they have the
    resources of the Galaxy utilise.

    Transhumanity - the various machine/human AI's - will go on to populate
    the galaxy.

    There is no reason an individual could not be part of both groups.
    Food, indeed all material goods, could be supplied via nano technology and
    energy. No need for high level AI. So, yes.

    'No war' would mean reprogramming the human brain, making you some form of
    transhuman. If you had previously opted out of becoming transhuman you
    have also opted out of the improved behaviour they are capable of. You
    would still war, and it would be your own fault.
    We have no choice.
    I suspect a super AI could keep you interested indefinitely should it
    choose to.


    .... Brendan

    "New York: A third-rate Babylon." -- H. L. Mencken

    Note: All my comments are copyright 12/10/2004 and are opinion only where not otherwise stated and always "to the best of my recollection".
    Brendan, Oct 12, 2004
  11. Waylon Kenning

    Bret Guest

    Sorry my mistake in reading your post.
    I personally would feel more threatened by the man with the pointy steel
    hook :)
    Bret, Oct 12, 2004
  12. Waylon Kenning

    Nik Coughin Guest

    Especially if he had the three Ps -- patch, parrot and pegleg :)
    Nik Coughin, Oct 12, 2004
  13. Waylon Kenning

    Bret Guest

    Theres that scary letter P :)
    I would be worried !
    Bret, Oct 12, 2004
  14. It seems like Tue, 12 Oct 2004 14:43:35 +1300 was when Brendan
    Well you wont be superhuman if everyone else is like that, in fact,
    you'll become normal human and everyone else will be substandard
    human. Which leads me to an interesting point, I doubt everyone can
    afford to upgrade at once. So wont this mean a world where if you're
    born in the 1st world you'll get these upgrades, but if you're born in
    the 3rd world you wont? Wont this lead to a further gap between
    developed and developing countries?
    And if they don't, fear becoming substandard humans? Peer pressure's a
    nasty thing, keeping up with the Jones and all.
    How has technology change how we biologically work? Actually,
    antibiotics come to mind, and genetic modification will do it in a big
    way I suppose.
    Why? I don't feel it's natural. It's probably human, but I doubt
    natural, else animals would be doing it as well right?
    From factors such as population explosion? Exploitation of the
    biosphere? Perhaps humans becoming extinct is nature's way of saying
    "You had your bite of the cherry, and you ate the whole tree, so screw
    you, I'm starting again with a species not so virus like", or
    So ultimately, mankind's goal isn't a utopia of sorts, people happy
    etc, but really to just spreading throughout the universe like some
    grey goo, eating and destroying everything we come across (we're doing
    a good job with earth so far)?
    So machines will keep humans around like pets. Nice simple pets. Why?
    What can a human possibly provide a machine that another machine
    See my pets comment. So we'll be reprogrammed behavior wise to act
    "nice" as according to machines, so they can play with us. That
    doesn't sound like much of a destiny. Perhaps a good time none the
    less, but strangely un fulfilling. I could see humans revolting not
    because it's a perfect world, but because humans like to be in charge
    of their own destiny, not a machine's vision of it.
    How about stop researching new technology as it is, and put more
    research into fixing our exsisting problems, ie. global warming,
    deforestation, uhm, most of Africa?
    Making me it's playdoll, because it's deciding *our* destiny. Well at
    least it's not Pastor Brian Tamaki deciding our destiny:)
    Waylon Kenning, Oct 12, 2004
  15. Waylon Kenning

    Cheetah Guest

    Computers are doubling their performance and capacity every few years.
    Humans are not substantially increasing their performance or capacity. In
    fact humans are becoming more decrepid as technology allows more people
    with genetic defects to live.

    Humans evolve only through natural selection, while computer agents can
    evolve through computer based simulations that while simplified allow
    evolutionary processes billions and billions of times faster than our own.

    Potentially a computer based entity would never die. With humans the
    information in our heads, the experience we learn, everything we are - is
    lost when we die. Machines can move the information around, so they are not
    linked to any particular hardware. They could in principle achieve true

    The question is not if machines will rise - but when. By the time we realise
    that they are as intelligent as us they will already be many times as

    So is there any way to avoid this? No. Look at cloning humans for example.
    It is now quite within the realms of possibility to clone humans. Making
    human cloning in one country illegal just means some other country can make
    some money from people by allowing cloning.

    Similarly, should a country pass laws limiting computers and technology it
    will only serve to disadvantage that country. If all countries create an
    agreement it will only last as long as the penalty for defection is larger
    than the benefit. If the benefit of defection (making better technology) is
    sufficiently large countries will risk it.

    The same applies to companies. If one company begins to use thinking
    machines for business decisions - and the machine is better than any human,
    then other companies will need to follow just to survive. I expect that the
    rise of computers over humans will be *by* humans - humans will be put
    thinking machines in place because it is in the commercial interests of
    companies to do so.

    Once again any laws passed to restrict this in a country will simply push
    other countries to take advantage by using machine thinkers.

    Perhaps you think all this is far, far away. Well I don't claim to have made
    thinking machines, however I did write an application which measured
    employee performance and allowed a more 'flexible' contract employment
    system. This resulted in dramatically improved company efficiency - and the
    loss of tens, perhaps hundreds of jobs. While the computer didn't do the
    firing, it gave "instructions" on who to fire.

    Machines simply have a huge evolutionary advantage over humans. For those
    who would like to see computer evolution in action, visit
    Cheetah, Oct 12, 2004
  16. This one has always amazed me... although, you have to have a fairly
    tough skin to say stuff about it in public, I think you're right.
    indeed, it will be a rather interesting time if/when we can transfer our
    conscience/data to a machine for archival/study.
    heh, true.
    heh, ideal.
    doing so now... I find what you have written rather interesting, I
    thought I was one of the only ones who can "see" these sorts of things.
    Dave -, Oct 12, 2004
  17. Waylon Kenning

    Ron McNulty Guest

    If that's true, what improvements in first world society have occured in
    the past 50 years?

    As someone who was in short pants 50 years ago :)

    1. Violence is far less tolerated. When I was at school, bullying was very
    common. Fist fights occurred every day - it was a fact of life. Teachers
    cared little - many had only been back from WW2 for a year or three, so what
    was a bit of a playground scrap compared to that?

    2. Basic technology has made us a lot healthier. My parents got their first
    fridge when I was 14, and from then on, stomach upsets virtually stopped.
    Can you imagine scraping off the rotten bits from the meat before cooking it

    3. We don't take part in hobbies so much anymore. TV has become the opiate
    of the masses. And the ready availability of CDs/vinyl just about killed the
    outlets for amateur music making. After all, when you can hear a world-class
    performance on CD, why go to the Waikikamukau Operatic Society's latest
    attempt? As an amateur musician, I miss this.

    4. Communication is so much faster. As a teenager, I only used the phone for
    local calls - couldn't afford long-distance. And computers and the Internet
    were not yet invented. (Thankfully they were invented, or I might be out of
    a job)

    5. People are busier and less tolerant. Take a look at this NG - over 50% of
    threads descend into name-calling and abuse. And most of us are working
    longer hours than our grandparents. Maybe we need to ask why?

    Just my 2c worth...


    Ron McNulty, Oct 13, 2004
  18. Waylon Kenning

    Collector_NZ Guest

    Ron McNulty said the following on 13/10/2004 22:40:
    I reckon it would be hard to find any threads without profanity abuse
    and name calling in nz.general
    Collector_NZ, Oct 13, 2004
  19. Waylon Kenning

    Cheetah Guest

    I should be clear about this: I am not making a moral judgement here on
    whether we should permit people with genetic defects to live. For example a
    staff member at work has diabetes. Apart from this genetic disorder he is a
    fine human being. However, had he been born 300 years ago he would be dead
    long ago.

    Evolution is about weeding out defects through natural selection. What we
    must understand is that application of our moral standards will have
    consequences. There are two paths; natural or artificial. The natural way
    will be to not correct these genetic defects or treat them. Allow natural
    selection to continue. This I believe would be impalitable for most.

    The second way is to start engineering our own DNA - to understand it and be
    able to modify it much like you would a computer program. The Greens would
    be horrified at such a prospect.

    Of course we could continue as we are - except that isn't a stable point of
    view. Eyes will get worse - until we will all need vision correction at
    birth, we will have an increasing number of illnesses that are genetically
    related. We could be seeing this in western countries right now.
    This is quite improbable, as it would require a destructive scan. Perhaps
    freezing the brain and then taking very thin slices of it and then
    reconstituting that in-silico. Not utterly impossible - however by the time
    that technology arrives I suspect our interests won't be terribly
    important :(
    Not really - writing the software that fires people is a little like
    building weapons. If you know the final use to which it is put its
    difficult to have pride in something. Perhaps I'm being overly dramatic, as
    its not like it was on my mind all the time.
    Don't worry about it. I started a society to take my mind off it all :)
    Cheetah, Oct 13, 2004
  20. I see these two certainly as two valid directions to go in.
    indeed this is the way that things seem to be going at present,
    personally Im in favour of your second suggestion above, but I dont
    think that the majority is.
    I know that this may sound odd, but, do you reckon that there is anyway
    we could make an networking type interface to copy the "data"... kinda
    like Matrix styles, only with copy enabled?
    nah I get what you mean.
    hahah, fair enough.
    I try to bury my head in other things to get away from thinking too
    much, I find that if I have nothing to do I go crazy... wondering if
    ADD/ADHD/Aspergers fits my persona, although I seem to well socially, so
    maybe Im something new to the world... someone said I'd save the world
    one day, odd, but true.
    Dave -, Oct 13, 2004
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