[ExI] What surveillance solution is best - Orwellian, David Brin's, or ...?

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Mon Jun 25 05:52:43 UTC 2007

On 6/24/07, TheMan <mabranu at yahoo.com> wrote:

> My impression is that there is a far from negligible
> risk that nanofactories (and other extreme technology
> for mass manipulation of matter/minds) will relatively
> soon become effective enough, and cheap enough, for
> plenty of anti-humanity cults and terrorists to do
> things (manufacture armies of nanorobots etc) that can
> terminate mankind before mankind or any human gets a
> chance to become or create something greater that is
> not vulnerable to such threats.
> It looks like it will be a nightmare race. The part of
> society that wants survival will incessantly have to
> be winning the race, and the part of society that
> wants society extinct constantly has to be losing the
> race, if mankind is to survive. What's the odds for
> that, every single second, year after year, until
> singularity is reached?

The cosmic race is simply a fact of nature, as fundamental as the
entropic observation that two can move a large mass that one can move
not at all.  Whether this is considered a nightmare, a dream, or
merely the way things work, is entirely in the mind of the observer
but it's worth recognizing that our very existence -- and our future
-- depends on it being so.

I tend to favor a model of our subjective awareness in the form of a
tree of the probable, exploring the possible.  As subjective agents,
we are each but the tips of the branches.  Looking back, we see
increasingly thick branches -- increasingly probable principles --
describing the "reality" of our subjective branch converging all the
way back to the thickest branches representing our most fundamental,
and therefore most general, principles of physics.  Looking forward,
we see the growth of increasingly diverse branches of the possible,
supported by the probable, to be pruned by natural selection in ways
consistent with what has gone before, but always surprising from our
subjective point of view.

Staying in the Red Queen's race, from any subjective point of view,
involves the discovery and exploitation of increasingly effective
configurations -- configurations representing that with which we
identify: our subjective values -- and increasingly effective not only
within existing degrees of freedom but in terms of synergistic
configurations presenting new dimensions of interaction with the local
environment, the adjacent possible.

In principle, this is a race of information, supported by
configurations of what we currently see as matter.  This reflects on
the question of surveillance and sousveillance -- while the tree can
and will branch unpredictably, a fundamental trend is toward
increasing information (on both sides.)

We can take heart from the observation that increasing convergence on
principles "of what works" supports increasing divergence of
self-expression "of what may work."  If we recognize this and promote
growth in terms of our evolving values via our evolving understanding
of principles of "what works", amplified by our technologies, then we
can hope to stay in the race, even as the race itself evolves.  If we
would attempt in some way to devise a solution preserving our present
values, then the race, speeding up exponentially, would soon pass us

In short, yes, we can hope to stay in the race, but as the race
evolves so must we.

- Jef

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