[ExI] Total Surveillance may be necessary to save humanity

Dan TheBookMan danust2012 at gmail.com
Tue Apr 23 19:58:13 UTC 2019

On Apr 23, 2019, at 12:37 PM, BillK <pharos at gmail.com> wrote:
>> On Tue, 23 Apr 2019 at 07:43, Stuart LaForge <avant at sollegro.com> wrote:
>> Mankind has hundreds of millennia of practice destroying things. All
>> the easy ways to kill and destroy have largely been mastered already.
>> I am not going to lose sleep worrying that some budding young genius
>> somewhere is going to figure out a way to uncouple matfrom the Higg's
>> field by using only his cell phone, a pocket-knife, and bubblegum.
>> Furthermore, While it is the nature of civilizations to rise and fall
>> in their own time, relative to previous eras, modern civilization is
>> unusually robust. This is because it is so wide-spread and
>> diversified. Embodied as multiple self-organized nation-states, all
>> using different governance strategies, it is nearly inconceivable that
>> all of modern civilization could be destroyed by any easily-accessible
>> technology.
> Nick Bostrom and his staff at University of Oxford’s Future of
> Humanity Institute specialise in thinking about existential threats to
> humanity. He is 'future-thinking' about possible threats and possible
> solutions. (So no need to panic just yet).  :)
> Current terrorist / deranged human weapons so far are conventional but
> can still cause much death and destruction. All governments are
> increasing population surveillance in an attempt to detect these
> groups / individuals before they cause harm.
> Bostrom is quite reasonably extrapolating present activities into the future.

I still have yet to read the paper, but my initial fear would be that this would be a quick fix that might be far worse than thing it’s trying to fix in the long run. It could easily result in a surveillance regime that simply quashes all non-conformity — even stopping research because it might end up being dual use.

> It does seem likely that weapons (of all types) will become more
> powerful and more widely available. Also that surveillance will
> increase.
> Both developments are too attractive to those involved.

I agree about the attractiveness, but one thing that’s interesting, perhaps, is the level of (non-state*) terrorism appears to be low. Still one can imagine a lone person getting a hold of some biological or nanotechnological agent then releasing it. Perhaps another reason to be careful with assigning likelihoods to such threats is that despite having NBC weapons now and despite much of them being decades behind the cutting edge, there haven’t been any non-state N attacks and very few B or C ones.


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* I do count things like the war in Yemen as state terrorism. Ergo the qualifier.

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