Sunday, February 20, 2011

How to Contribute

So what if someone had the wish to help shape the future that is our fate? How can one partake in the many processes that lead to the singularity? These questions are of high importance to me, for I wish not to stand by idly and watch, I want to guard and nourish this process and protect it from bad influences.

This wish quickly led me to the natural sciences, most of all physics, and philosophy. But soon only thinking about the wonderful transformations of the future was not enough anymore and I turned outwards to spread this idea among my friends and family. This blog is just another way of doing my best to get the idea out and make people understand the mind-boggling implications of the future. I also hope to find like-minded people who have given the issues I address here some thought and want to get more specific in fleshing out a possible way to a secure and equal singularity.

At first, becoming a scientist seemed the only possible way to contribute anything helpful. But now I'm not so sure of that anymore. In the past months, the idea of supporting progress indirectly became increasingly appealing to me. In the society of today, where everything revolves around the golden calf of short-term profits, it is of enormous importance to direct a reasonible amount of resources to long-term research and development of alternative concepts of organizing human life. The scientists on the 'front line', AI-researchers, nano-engineers and such, desperately lack the funds they need for their very important tasks. Technological progress is delayed by narrow-minded fundamentalists, corporate interests and political hindrances every day and I think it is very important to have a counterweight of serene scientific reason that supports important processes even if the ever-changing public opinion is temporarily against them.

So in general I am talking about an institution, even better a whole network of institutions that dedicate their attention to the scientific exploration of the future and the careful preparation of it's arrival. There are already a few of these, such as the Singularity Institute, the Singularity University and the Foresight Institute. I highly appreciate these organizations and think they are very important. But I would also like to see a kind of 'grass-roots' movement, though that seems pretty unlikely given the very scientific nature of the goals and ideas of the Singularitarian mind-set. Nevertheless it seems important to me to try and raise awareness of the scientific conclusions about the future.

The point of this whole summation of thoughts is to maybe light a spark of interest for the future in some of you. If I achieve this goal, I hope these ideas will be multiplied by the need to tell other people around you of the importance of these ideas, to pass on the spark and help the future happen.

All hail Intelligence!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Artificial Intelligence

Many people think of AI as 'failed' or being science-fiction. The thruth is, AI is everywhere now. Narrow machine-intelligences have become ubquitous in every part of life, ranging from medical diagnosis-systems over rocket-designing to jeopardy-winning supercomputers. All those technologies are the work of AI-research. Constructing a system that can make informed decisions based on an input is a task we humans have mastered over the last 20 years. The next step would be to design an AGI, an Artificial General Intelligence, an entity (as it is no mere system anymore) that has an own view of the whole world (or at least substantial parts of it) and can solve problems on practically every level of our reality.

Ray Kurzweil estimates the time for this to happen to be around 2029. He derived this from years of studying the exponetial curve that describes our growth in things like computational power. In this year the computational capacity of the human brain will be availible for 1000$ and software development will be sure to come up with something that uses this power in a most efficient way. By then our scanning of the human brain will be so accurate, that we can practically reverse-engineer it and have a model of that we know it will work (because it works for us). There are many ways through which we can achieve AGI and one will sooner or later succeed.

Once the human-level AI will appear, it will change everything. Literally, everything. Creating another type of intelligence, free from our human limits, is the single most greatest feat we will ever have brought forward. In practically no time, our problems, each hundreds of years old and fiercly complex, will simply disappear, because they are understood and can be solved. No human would ever have to be lonely anymore, because everyone will have an AI-companion, poorness and scarcity will be things of the past because we finally can manage our resources without too much waste. Ultimately we ourselves will 'upgrade' us and implement AI-systems in our own biology, eventually leaving it behind altogether, because it is extremely slow compared to electronical or optical systems. We will be able to 'reprogram' our thoughts at will, look anyway we want, simulate everything in virtual and 'real' reality. This time will be the great liberation of thought from it's mortal imperfect substrate. Many will still put this far in the future, but I say prepare yourself, The Singularity is Near.

All hail intelligence!

Monday, February 14, 2011

To the Reader

I'd like to address a few words to my dear readers, who may be confused by the projections I present in this blog. I do not fabricate these ideas out of thin air, they are the work of many years of hard research conducted very carefully by extremely intelligent persons like Ray Kurzweil, Marvin Minsky and many many others. I simply digest these ideas and present some of them in a (to say the least) incomplete manner.
I try to put my enthusiasm into these ideas to propagate them to every person possible, because I believe it is extremely important for everyone to know about the promises and dangers the future holds.

What I want to tell you with the things I tell here, is that the very near future, that is the next 15-30 years, are of critical importance to our race. We have to come out of the 'bottle-neck' we have created ourselves. With our exponential growth we stressed the raw capacities of our planet hard, and will do so much in the future, so we need to tap new resources. As Richard Feynmann stated in his famous speech, 'There's plenty of room at the bottom', and nanotechnology is already pretty big on the horizon. Additionaly we can explore space and mine asteriods to get the raw material we lack here on earth (such as the elements of the rare earths), build habitats for people to live in and accomodate as many human beings as we need to. 

So we don't lack the resources or the 'ground' for further exponential growth, but we certainly lack the social mechanisms to distribute the enormous wealth of human-free labor and endless resources. The economical and social systems of today are the outcome of a society living in scarcity and only the most 'valued' of it's members can enjoy the fruits of the civilization to the fullest. Members who didn't contribute anything vital for the society - always the majority of people - had to live in utter poorness and social stagnation. This, one can argue has to be, because noone would care for society as a whole if not for the great wealth and status connected with it. Today, things have changed drastically. Not only are we capable of producing everything necessary for the well-being of every human being on earth, but also we can connect in ways unthinkable only 20 years ago. This calls for a huge change in our distribution system which today, mainly consists of money, a relic of scarcity. The implications of the post-scarcity era must be included in today's social structures. Soon only 50% of the population will have any work at all, and we need to re-think the value of a human life, currently consisting of workforce and consuming power. 

So, do you really live to work, even if you don't have to anymore, or do you wan't to live to enjoy company of others, art, science freely as you wish and when you wish?

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Fate of The Universe: Revisited

The cosmologic model we have been refining for decades based on astronomical observations and particle-physics experiments holds a very dark and lifeless end for our universe. Either it will continue to expand for all eternity and the densitiy of matter and energy will approximate zero. Or it will someday stop to expand, implode and crush all matter and energy into a tiny spot not larger than the Plack-lenght (~1.6 x 10⁻³⁵ m). So it's either a lifeless desert full of nothingness, or the Big Crunch. Not very appealing, is it?

Well this model doesn't take one extremely important factor into account: Intelligence. Intelligence is the single most powerful force in the universe. This is a fact due to our old friend, exponentiality. While yet we still tremble before the might of an earthquake or a hurricane, in a few hundred years we will harvest the entire power of our sun and in a million years (still only 0,00000073% of the current age of the universe) we will have engaged in pastimes such as Stellar Husbandry and zero-energy computation with megascale constructions of black holes.

The death of the universe is very slow process. It will take at least 10²⁰ years for the last star to die out and 10⁸⁰ years for the (hyothetical) proton decay to become non-negligible. These are extremely long time-spans. Even if the growth of intelligence (that is us and our descendants, if we don't encounter extraterrestrial intelligence.) slows down dramatically (if, for example we can't break the barrier of the speed of light) the exponential nature of it will result in a universe saturated with intelligence, before proton decay would become a problem.

Imagine the beauty of a universe turned into a single gigantic zero-energy supercomputer running a neverending simulation (as real as everything you know and then some) of all individuals that ever were, of everything precious to intelligence. We could even create new universes from the holes in space-time occuring in the center of black holes.  We truly would be gods, gods greater than every human could fathom. I deeply believe that this is the ultimate Fate of the Universe. 

All hail intelligence!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Essay on Anonymous

I have been writing a piece on Anonymous lately, thought I'd share it with you guys.
WARNING: is long.

Dear citizen of the world,
you may or may not have heard of Anonymous, which  is an Internet collective concentrating on a shared idea, the idea of radical free speech. We hereby want to inform you of the true nature of Anonymous and why it is of importance to you.
Since the rise of the phenomenon globally known as the  Internet, the possibilities for people to connect have exponentially grown in a very short time and have come to form the first  self-organizing, free thinking collaboration of minds acting on a global scale to fight for the rights of those who cannot fight for themselves. Anonymous is a leaderless group, whose identity anyone can take on and connect to the buzzing hive-mind that spawns the actions of Anonymous. So, in a very real way, Anonymous is you.

Firstly, Anonymous concentrated its efforts against the "Church of Scientology", then later it included other targets, as the global events taking place in cyberspace unfolded.
In 2010 Mastercard, Visa and others stopped processing of donations to Wikileaks, a platform where secret information can be legally published  and read by anyone. This caused a major outrage in those who thought of themselves as Anonymous. Quickly, an already existing operation, Operation:Payback, was directed at the web presences of the companies, bringing them all down, one by one, with a method which is best compared to a virtual sit-in called DDoSing (Distributed Denial of Service). Everyone willing to participate flooded the target pages in a synchronized attack with great heaps of useless information, thus causing the sites to deny service to users.

Only weeks later, in a moment of truly world-changing quality, the Tunisian people decided to do away with their gruesome dictator,  Ben Ali. Anonymous saw this effort, and saw the hardships the Tunisian people had to suffer not only in the real world, but also in Cyberspace. In the latter, Anonymous could help. This time not only targeting the  government sites of the hated Ministry of Interior and others, but also compiling a "care pack" for Tunisian Web-users, to enable them to get around the firewall of censorship in their country. Notably, Anonymous was amongst the very few ones to hear the outcry of the Tunisian people before their government decided to answer it with brutal violence. We provided our brothers in Tunisia with the much needed tools for anonymous communication and coordination, thus helping them to self-organize and finally oust their hated dictator. By no means is Anonymous taking credit for the uprising, it solely is taking credit in noticing and helping when no one else would. After Tunisia, the revolutionary wave carried on to Egypt and future history will tell where else. Still,  Anonymous is directing all its effort to help the people of all  oppressed countries to collect and exchange information uncensored.

Defining Anonymous as a whole is no easy task. Some might even say it is impossible, and  they are probably right. So we will let actions decide what Anonymous truly is. You may ask, "what is my part in this?". Let me give you an answer. Your  part is to become, be and stay informed of the world around you. Do so from a wide range of angles. And when you see that there is someone in need of help, cry out "Anonymous, we have to act!" and participate in  the breathtaking buzz of selforganizing Operations. In the world of total connectivity you need not lean back and say, "But I can't change anything!", no, you can partake in actions, that may not be world-changing for themselves, but that are the fabric of change itself. The idea of lending your creativity and time to an organism,  that is coordinating all the voices by the power of spontaneous order out of chaos, is awing all by itself, to say the least. Being able to have an impact on human society as a whole by doing so, is the joy that we Anons, as we call ourselves, are rewarded with.

Adressing the legal questions that arise of the existence and the actions of Anonymous, there are a few things we would like to be understood. Anonymous does not destroy or even "hack". DDoSing, as every serious hacker would tell you, is as much about hacking, as  sit-ins are about breaking into offices and stealing property. Nevertheless, some governments around the world deem it necessary to criminalize this act of protest. The United States of America and the United Kingdom have even issued arrest warrants against "members" of Anonymous for attacking the web presences of corporations as Mastercard and Visa, that denied processing of funds to Wikileaks. But one must take into account that over 9000 people around the whole world took part in these attacks. Doesn't that seem more like a protest than the malicious attack of "hackers"?

So ask yourself once more, "What do I care?", look deep inside you and at just the right place, you can see your connection to all the other human beings out there you would like to help, free and welcome to this wonderful common Infosphere we call the Internet.
So if you feel this urge toward a united humanity, free of oppression and censorship, you instantly know the foolishness of that question. The answer is contained in every fibre of the mind and the body, in the will to be free and to free others. This feeling is what defines Anonymous and is the force that drives it. If you know that feeling, you already are Anonymous. If not, maybe, just maybe you should ask yourself if you feel there is something lacking in your life.

Ultimately, Anonymous is a very human entity. One should be hesitant to call it superhuman, but it definitely carries a transhuman motion. It may not even be fully aware of that, but Anonymous is swarm-like, emergent and self-organizing. It's methods reign supreme when it comes to flexibility and quick responses, proving the efficiency of the concept of leaderlessness in a hyperconnected environment. Most of all, Anonymous is real. It is a concept, an idea, yet it has an effect on what some people like to call "the outside world". It is a radically new form of idea and it is evolving fast. It is becoming more powerful with every idea that is shared and it is here to stay. We Anons have a saying:

"We are Anonymous.
We are Legion.
We do not Forgive.
We do not Forget.
Expect us."
                - Anonymous

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The New Economy

One thing really bugs me when I think about the development of the human race. It is the inequity with that the goods that technology created are distributed. Throughout history, money was a way to organize the things people needed, because they didn't produce everything on their own. So you could simply exchange your goods for the things you needed. That was an extremely important point in human history, because the single members of society could concentrate on what they did best. Eventually money was invented, a universal trading agent, which you could trade for anything you needed (or wanted). The problem with money though is, that with a little knowledge in math you can create more money from itself. Over the course of the centuries this effect accumulated and money quickly got a life of it's own. Look at it now, the 'bail-out' for the banks last year totaled somewhere around 800 billion dollars, that is enough money to update the power-infrastructure of the earth to renewable resources (yes, completely) and then some.

Money really has been the only option while we couldn't trace all resources and distribute them in a perfect manner. But now, we can! The incredible rise of the machines within human society (called 'narrow AI') gives us a unique chance to leave the (obviously pretty) imperfect approximation of mmoney behind and tackle the quest of creating a machine-based resource-distributing system that creates true equality for all human beings. A good example for a project that is already running is the 'Venus Project' founded by Jaque Fresco and explained in 'Zeitgeist: Moving Forward'. A resource-based economy is our only option of solving the numerous problems caused by the defunct monetarian system. So some of you might scream 'COMMUNIST!!1'. Let me explain something to you people. Communism is bad (very bad) if run by humans. We simply don't have the mental capacity of dealing with problems of extremely many dimensions. However, we created something that has this capability. We call it computers. Let me break it down:
Communism w/ human: BAD!
Communisn w/ machines: PERFECT!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Will we live forever?

A thing many people don't believe me is when I say I'm serious about living forever. I understand their reaction, because they are usually not used to thinking into the future for long time-scales, or when they do, they fail to grasp the concept of exponential growth.
It is perfectly reasonably for every healthy man and women born after 1970 to expect to live forever. Let me explain you why:

  • First thing, the methods of prolonging life availible today are pretty good. They are expensive yet, but are subjected to exponential price/value growth, so expect them to be cheap before you know it. A good example for this is the story of Ray Kurzweil, who in the last 20 years aged only 2 years biologically due to extensive supplementation with food additives and substances the body loses with aging.
  • Second, Medicinal Bio-Engineering (MBE) is on a triumphal march for expanding your life vastly. Although one might not see it in public often it is one of the fastest growing sciences at the moment, and we will experience it's peak at around the mid 2020's. With MBE we can repair our DNA, switch off 'bad' genes and rejuvenate cells and organs indefinitely. Already we have grown heart cells from ordinary skin cells, a feat that was science-fiction only 10 years ago.
  • Third, Nanotechnology will truely revolutionize (read: radically accelerate) the way we think, our means of communication and damage-repair. With real Nanomedicine, which I expect to become viable around 2035, we can repair, change and transform our body in the blink of an eye, and 'natural' death will at last be part of the past.
  • Finally, when it is possible to 'upload' your human self totally into another substrate, like a nano-hyper-computer, we will at last have defeated death for good. I don't expect this to happen before 2060-80, but I am confident that I will reach this time with a formidable, healthy and young human body.
If you would like more info on one of the topics above, please comment and I'll see if I can help out.