Gothic Planchette Lligor
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I hate the "robots are immortal" meme.

You ever seen an 80 year old computer? No? That's because an 80 year old computer is a
whole lot harder to keep running than an 80 year old human.

There are plenty of thirty year old computers around, but, you know what? I'll bet their survival rate is lower than 30 year old people, even when those people in question subsist on gas station hot dogs and coca cola.

@enkiv2 That's an interesting and correct insight about computing hardware and the analogous human body, strictly speaking of the body as a processing unit.

However, the problem we have with humans as information storage units is that we're terrible at backing up information in a reusable form. We had oral tradition, and things improved greatly with books, and in this century with blogs. But we still have a read/write ratio problem.

@enkiv2 Which is why things like Otlet's Mundaneum, Vannevar Bush's Memex, Ted Nelson's Xanadu, and Page & Brin's Google have been envisioned, and still are largely elusive even today.

@h
Yeah. "Books are immortal" makes a great deal of sense: in part because of mass production but in part because physical writing technologies are actually pretty good, we basically have a better idea of what books were published (even in small runs) 100 years ago than we do films, and we have original documentation for computers of which no working version still exists.

That just makes me think "I wanna be a bittorrent" makes more sense than "I wanna be a robot".

@h
And, this is how some transhumanists think about it (ex., Hans Moravec).

I suspect that the capitalist streak in modern american transhumanism prevents people from being quite so comfortable with endless mirror versions of themselves not under any form of control, slowly evolving and diverging as they fork, and making pull requests for memories from each other and from more distinct uploaded minds.

Instead, the backup-service model (flashbake) prevails, because a lot aren't imaginative.

@enkiv2 Transhumanism may be a continuation of dominant hyperindividualism more than it is a thing about capitalism itself. Hyperindividualism is a condition generated by capitalism for capitalism to thrive, but they're not one and the same thing. You can have other forms of individualism competing for resources when they are actually scarce in some instances of socialism for example.

@enkiv2 And preserving the *I* is also a thing that long predates actual forms of technological backup.

Think Egyptian mummification, beliefs of an afterlife in almost every religion, etc.

That may be just an amplified of a very human trait. How much you amplify it can certainly make it look like a flaw, but I wouldn't be ready to judge in that sense, without removing something that may be just a sign of human-ness.

@h
I guess an unwillingness to recognize the distributed & multiple nature of identity isn't *necessarily* the product of capitalism, but capitalism doesn't help. (Which "you" gets the fruits of "your" labor, or "owns" "your" ideas?)

@h
I feel like a lot of people involved in transhumanism make the same basic mistake I think underlies the "robots are immortal" thing: specifically, a tendency to apply system II thinking to very narrow and specific problems and leave anything abstract (like "are these metaphors accurate" or "are these different threads compatible") to a cliche-slinging system I, to be seriously considered never.

This is a dangerous tendency.

@h
The attempt to square western capitalism, the california ideology, worse-is-better, and russian cosmism while simultaneously attempting to deny the influence of russian cosmism is basically a larger form of the same issue, when done unconsciously.

(Like, it's OK to be syncretic. But, a syncretism needs to make some attempt to smooth over the seams and make the borrowed pieces fit together. Even otherwise intelligent transhumanists repeat contradictory memes from divergent sources.)

@h
Why do we need to turn the solar system into computronium?

For Federov, it was because we have a moral imperative, provided by an explicitly-real eastern orthodox catholic God to force-reincarnate everybody who ever lived and keep them alive forever.

For de Chardin, it was a less specific but still-explicitly-catholic immenatization of the eschaton.

For Dyson, it's -- what -- industrial efficiency? For whom?

Stross characterized it right in Accelerando.

@h
(In Accelerando, the inner solar system becomes a single superintelligent sentient scam, build out of autonomous smart-contracts. It is defeated when the protagonist, a flock of birds, and his cat reintroduce it to space lobsters. Accelerando is a very good book.)

@feoh @h
Adam Curtis is great. (As the GIU podcast has pointed out, he's got some weird conservativisms, which are good to keep an eye on.)

@enkiv2 @h I've not heard of that podcast. Could you please expand that acronym?

@feoh @h
General Intellect Unit

It's a book club featuring (scottish? irish?) cyber-marxists with graduate school under their belts.

@feoh @h
They did three episodes on All Watched Over that are longer than the original film series & quite possibly more information-dense.

@enkiv2 @h Fascinating! I'm there! Thanks for the pointer! I live how the podcast medium has made it possible for alternative voices and ideas to be heard

@enkiv2 @h Hey I actually got a chance to listen to that episode and I have to tell you I am hooked! These guys are fantastic! I don’t always agree with everything they’re saying but that’s the point of engaging in the world of ideas right?

@enkiv2 @feoh

It's the second time today that I've been referred to Adam Curtis. Earlier it was in an entirely unrelated topic of discussion about war and spectacle. It seems I may have to pay attention to his work.

@h @feoh
He, at least, talks about interesting things and brings in the deep cuts.

Basically, if you have an interest in transhumanism, global politics, sociology, or the evolution of right-libertarian ideologies, Curtis will have incorporated something about the subject into one of his documentaries that you haven't already heard of.

@enkiv2 @feoh Not subjects I'm dedicated to full time, but anything that helps to make more sense of seemingly irrational things will be welcome 😃

@enkiv2 @h I've noticed the conservatisms. I didn't see them very clearly in "All Watched Over..." but when I got kind of obsessed with his work and bought a bunch of his other documentaries they REALLY stood out.

@enkiv2 @h The thing that blew me away about All Watch Over was that it pointed out the link between Ayn Rand, Tansley, and the embryonic tech industry of Silicon Valley.

@natecull @enkiv2 @h I don't agree with every bit of it, but it's super thought provoking, and definitely led me to do some really enlightening research into areas of our recent history I'd never have known about otherwise.

@feoh @enkiv2 Rand's link strikes me as completely unsurprising, but Tansley as in Sir Arthur the botanist and ecologist? That's surprising indeed.

@enkiv2 The way I see it, that negation of the body as an integral part of what it means to be human is a continuation of the religious mindset and dogmas that reject the human body in a number of ways, aspiring to keep the "soul" without its "container" (a subject for a whole series of books that I will surely leave unwritten :-)

@enkiv2 Marry a technologically advanced culture, an hyperindividualistic society instigated by capitalism, and primitive dogmatic thinking at the heart of the fabric of the national character, and US transhumanism is only the next logical step.

@enkiv2 @h That is very accurate. It's been difficult to get other memes onto their ontological radar in the past couple of years (one of the reasons why I no longer participate in the society out here).

@enkiv2 @h A singular notion of identity is also baked into western thought. The western world doesn't do pluralism and options well.

@enkiv2 @h That's pretty accurate. The original incarnation of the Extropians in the late 80's and early 90's were hardcore libertarians, with a couple of Objectivists and ancaps thrown in (the "Best Do It So" gather). Some of them have calmed down in later years (/*More/ come immediately to mind) but a lot haven't; they're some of the richest CEOs out here these days.

@enkiv2 We can surely forgive non-technical people for the imprecise analogy 😃

The gist is that human-made artifacts are better at preserving whatever is worth preserving.

Hardly a discovery anyway, since books have been around for millenia already.

@enkiv2 The silicon circuitry is definitely not immortal. The typical projected useful life is 10-20 years, after that devices increasingly start to fail, mainly due to electromigration and time-dependent dielectric breakdown.

@enkiv2 Come to think of it, we probably have William Gibson to blame for this notion: "Silicon doesn't wear out; microchips were effectively immortal." (Count Zero)

@wim_v12e
I'm not so sure about that. I love Count Zero, but even most fans of Neuromancer haven't read it. It came out a bit to late to influence these discussions too, I think.

The idea of the immortal computer was omnipresent in golden age SF (written at a time when computers would need tubes replaced like once a week). Consider that Bradbury story where a consumer home automation system survives a nuclear winter & the following thousand years, for an extreme example.

@enkiv2 It's my favourite in that trilogy. But I think you're right, the idea was already there before that.

@enkiv2 I have seen and used a 50yo computer. 80 years ago computers weren't a thing.

Btw, have you heard about our lord and savior, The Almighty Upgrade?

@newt
> 80 years ago computers weren't a thing

This is completely untrue.

80 years ago, mass-produced electronic digital computers weren't a thing. Remove any one of those qualifiers, and yes, they were a thing.

(The Bush Differential Analyzer, the Zeuse Z-1, the Anastoff-Berry Computer, and the CTR electrostatic differential tabulator were all around in the 30s.)

@newt
Anyhow, my point is:
A 50 year old computer is a museum piece, while a 50 year old person is just beginning to hit their stride.

@enkiv2 your point is in comparing the two totally different concepts. A computer doesn't have self-awareness, a will to survive and preserve itself, and other things that make a 50yo person alive.

@newt
50 year old computer has a community of experts painstakingly restoring and maintaining it, while a 50 year old person has infomercials for colloidal silver and no health insurance.

@enkiv2 and 4 billion years old rock is... well... a rock. It has existed long before computers and will exist after we are all dead. It just doesn't give a fuck. See? It's so much superior!

Again, a sentient computer will probably find means to upgrade itself in order to survive and stay relevant. I hope humans could do the same.

@newt
The thing keeping humans alive isn't a will to live. It's the fact that we're a loose colony of cells, most of which individually want to live, whether or not the overgrown nerve-bulb up top agrees -- including but not limited to the immune system.

I'm criticizing the idea that computing hardware is inherently more resilient than meat, because we all know from personal experience that it's not.

It could be made to be, as books have been, if we optimized for it.

@enkiv2 sure, try not feeding that colony of cells for a month or two and see how that goes. Or stop the oxygen supply for a few minutes.

Living things are resilient to the damage they have evolved to be resilient to. Yes, it's kind of circular. Nonetheless, this doesn't prove anything, because I might argue that computers can survive radiation and other nasty stuff humans can't.

So, again, you're trying to compare two totally different concepts here.

@newt
I am not making the comparison. I am complaining about people who make the comparison. You seem not to have understood that.

@enkiv2 30-year-old software often runs just fine, sometimes just needs a recompile or runs in an emulator on modern hardware, still at thousands of times original speed.

Your bank likely runs 60-year-old software, and will never stop running such. In 10,000 years, COBOL and FORTRAN programs may still be running.

Hardware's a lot easier to replace as it wears out than biology.

Old AIs or Uploads will continually keep backups, upgrade their hardware, and copy their software over.

@mdhughes
Some 30 year old software runs fine. The vast majority of 30 year old software has been lost forever because nobody bothered to back it up.

My bank runs 60 year old software because every six months they pay a consultant hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix a critical emergency bug. (Source: I know people who do this for a living.)

Anyway, if you're making the software/hardware distinction here, you're already out of the category of pop-culture transhumanists I'm criticizing.

@mdhughes
Like I said, Hans Moravec had the right idea when he suggested distributed redundant consciousness (though he was cribbing from de Chardin on that).

I'm criticizing the sentiment that robots are immortal because metal is hard -- something I see a lot from people who really should know better.

Done properly, immortal wouldn't mean anything because the distinction between the memories of formerly-different people would be a matter of historical trivia. No preservation -- just growth.

@enkiv2 "Properly" meaning a hivemind? Most transhumanists don't want the Borg, we want our share of infinite time, energy, and matter for ourselves, e.g. Greg Egan's Diaspora.

de Chardin was a loonie. The Omega Point and Roko's Basilisk people are not sane and don't understand information loss. A massive end-Universe computational grid is a good idea for MIPS/watt efficiency, but it won't be a god no matter how much a Catholic wants it to be so.

@mdhughes
The Borg isn't particularly representative of a hive mind. They're literally distinct consciousnesses voting via direct democracy on what thoughts to think next, over slow links, with paxos-style strong consensus.

de Chardin introduced transhumanism to the west. His influence should be understood, particularly if you would like to dismiss it, because most of modern transhumanism is de Chardin taken out of context.

@enkiv2 One loonie in the vast set of influences on transhumanism doesn't mean you have to chain yourself to him. I have read his book, it was absolute fantasy, utterly ignorant of physics and information theory (which isn't shocking, since he died before modern versions of those).

Von Neumann and Turing were far more influential.

@mdhughes
One loonie who is the sole figure who introduced 90% of the core transhumanist ideas to a non-russian-speaking audience. He is influential enough that he must be understood, even if he is rejected.

(Likewise, Tipler, Federov, etc.)

To the extent that you disagree with his axioms, you should investigate the degree to which your non-axiomatic beliefs support his axioms and conflict with yours. You will probably find that it's a lot.

@enkiv2 You are incorrect about his influence. Probably you've just been around the idiots on lesswrong and such? They believe anything.

Claiming my rational conclusions are unexamined and I'd believe a loonie if only I could think is rude and you have failed utterly to convince me. Your debate skills are lacking. You have lost. 0 points.

@enkiv2 Software that can't back itself up doesn't want to survive.

And I'm certain that anyone who says "robots are immortal" does understand hardware/software duality, and doesn't think a single piece of hardware is going to last forever; but the machine's "soul" can go on forever.

@mdhughes
Someone who says that hasn't taken a few minutes to consider it, though.

There's no sense in which we have continuity of identity anyhow, aside from hints provided by the body & private memories. Even that is pretty tenuous. We wouldn't be us, but we were never us to begin with.

The alternative is to simulate the human body closely and prevent personality development, perhaps by periodically wiping new memories.

@mdhughes
Nevertheless, that's a single point of failure. Why have a body? Why remain distinct from somebody else? Why try to be the only entity running that shares the same original upload?

If your memories have any value, you can maximize it by making a billion copies and getting them to diverge as much as possible.

@enkiv2 You can still have backups, or spawn copies, but each would be an individual.

If you don't have a consciousness driving and protecting your memories, you're just a book. An object. Some "people" will die that way, I suppose, but it's not a good way to preserve yourself. Remember the software that doesn't back itself up? That's what you'd become.

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