[ExI] Meat v. Machine

Samantha Atkins sjatkins at mac.com
Thu Dec 30 12:36:46 UTC 2010

On Dec 29, 2010, at 11:23 AM, BillK wrote:

> 2010/12/29 Darren Greer wrote:
> <snip>
>> Surely we'd be able to recognize the technology of a post-singularity
>> civilization before we'd recognize their ethical motivations?
>> I'm pretty new at this, and just trying to understand. So I may be covering
>> very old ground here, but this thought has been troubling me for many years.
> You're correct. If there were gigantic engineering projects out there,
> we would notice the effects.

If they are close enough.  If they are something we would recognize or even begin to believe might be engineered.

> Eugen has said that may be because that they are just too far away for
> us to see (outside our light-cone). That is certainly a possibility.
> I think the more likely possibility is, as Keith points out, that real
> engineering is very hard. Bit-twiddling on computers is much, much
> easier.

I have a more chilling hypothesis that I hinted at earlier.  It is very very difficult for an evolved technological species to survive to and through its singularity period.  Its evolution has not wired it to make the changes necessary fast enough to survive the challenges thereof - as a rule.

> Even Eugene admits that there is a long road ahead, developing robotic
> engineers, cheap entry to space, nano-tech, etc. before large space
> projects become feasible.

Given good enough space robotics you don't need MNT to exploit the inner solar system well and have a good start on the rest. 

> My expectation is that humanity will have so much fun playing with
> electronics, virtual reality, uploading, full-immersion entertainment,
> etc. that the thought of going outside and getting your hands dirty
> will come way down the list.

Wait a second.  Much of the future work will be done in virtual worlds, VR, augmented reality.   It is not all escapism or entertainment.  Many of us hope to live in a virtual world much richer than the physical world.   We "get our hands dirty" , i.e., do very useful real value production, in virtual as well as physical spaces.    

> When people can build stuff in virtual
> reality almost instantaneously, why join a 20 year project of hard
> work?  Half your working life gone and all that fun missed out on.

ROFL.  Have you ever done any 3D building?  Instantaneous really does not describe it.  

> If you can become a god quickly and easily in virtual reality, using
> little more than your own resources, why struggle for years trying to
> drive giant projects involving thousands of people?

Uh, because you can't.  Being a make believe god with no real interesting abilities except as total fantasy is not satisfying.  Now, if I can run a million times faster inside an upload space then I have a crack at being more godlike.  It takes real work, in physical space, design space, virtual spaces, to get the ability to exist in such a state.  I don't see why there is some physical versus virtual (loosely speaking) dichotomy to be worried about.

> You can't do the
> real world space thing on your own. It takes nation-scale efforts to
> build a space-faring civ. And nations won't do that without really,
> really good reasons.

Actually, this is less true than many think.  Not exactly on your own but private enterprises most certainly can get many aspects of space exploitation moving.   They are beginning to do so.  Private enterprise and research will build out robotics.   Private launches may well put up the first packages.  Public/private probe programs pinpoint the best near earth asteroid and/or lunar targets.    There are many enabling technologies that do not take national resources to develop.   How much could you do if you had, say, 10 million people all contributing an average of $100/month to be spread among related projects?     

> This is another way of saying that advanced civilizations lose
> themselves in virtual reality. The attraction is too strong.

I doubt it very much.  But I may be an outlier.   I think such an argument may hinge on a false dichotomy.

- samantha

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