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Any Transhumanists?
Posted: 24 November 2006 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Re: Any Transhumanists?

[quote author=“SpartanWarrior”]Oh, by the way, I’m a free-thinker from Buffalo, NY and I think this is my first post on this forum even though I signed up months ago.  It’s not easy to keep track of all the forums.

Welcome to the forum. Good to have you here and posting.

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Posted: 24 November 2006 07:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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[quote author=“Occam”]The only other contact I’ve had with a Transhumanist was on another forum about two years ago.  He posted a twenty-one item list of statements - sort of a Transhumanist Manifesto.  I don’t know if it’s official or just his idea, but they were uniformly puerile, poorly thought through and often just plain dumb.

As dougsmith said, unfettered capitalism is an ethical catastrophe.  The problem is that the only rule is to maximize profit, possibly in a competitive environment.  That means an organization that has ethics or that is concerned about the good of its employees or treating customers fairly is at a severe competitive disadvantage. 

[...]
Occam

Well it wouldn’t have been the WTA (World Transhumanist Association http://www.transhumanism.org ) then, as they are mostly ‘left-leaning’. The Extropy Institute ( http://www.extropy.org/ ) are (or were) Libertarian. But there are (as with all movements) some self-styled ‘individuals’ floating around who don’t represent the whole. I think our British brand of H+ is very firmly grounded.

WW

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Posted: 24 November 2006 11:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Re: Any Transhumanists?

[quote author=“dougsmith”]

Welcome to the forum. Good to have you here and posting.

TYVM!

Can I have your thoughts on that “simulation argument”?

Bostrom says it has never been refuted.  He does not believe we are living in a simulation.  He says option number two - the one about future civilizations being unlikely to run simulations of their past - is the most (slightly, anyway) probable proposition.

Personally I think option number one is the most likely:  the human species is likely to go extinct before reaching the “post-human” stage.  I think “military technology” outstrips our maturity as a species and the end result is doomsday.  I have no problem envisioning some extremist Islamic organization carrying out a horrific biological attack that results in our demise.

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Posted: 24 November 2006 01:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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[quote author=“Occam”]

  That means an organization that has ethics or that is concerned about the good of its employees or treating customers fairly is at a severe competitive disadvantage. 


Occam

Hi Occam.  What do you mean by “treating customers fairly”..?  One would think that the business that makes its customers happy is the business that survives and prospers, while the business that treats its customers unfairly is the business that gets a bad reputation and ultimately goes out of business….

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Posted: 24 November 2006 02:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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[quote author=“SpartanWarrior”] What do you mean by “treating customers fairly”..?  One would think that the business that makes its customers happy is the business that survives and prospers, while the business that treats its customers unfairly is the business that gets a bad reputation and ultimately goes out of business….

This would only be true if the customers recognized they were being treated unfairly, or if they had the option of going to another supplier. 

A company that sells the only medication available that is necessary for the life of someone, but charges far, far more than the manufacturing, selling, research, overhead, and projected research costs may be treating the customer unfairly but the customer has no choice.

Similarly, if all the suppliers of a necessary product, say gasoline, informally agree to avoid significant competition and all charge, say, twice the reasonable price for the product, they are treating the customers unfairly, but are all sharing in excess profits, and won’t be going out of business.

Occam

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Posted: 25 November 2006 06:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Re: Any Transhumanists?

[quote author=“SpartanWarrior”]Can I have your thoughts on that “simulation argument”?

Bostrom says it has never been refuted.

Well, I don’t have time to read through the whole paper, but this is a very old argument in philosophy, that comes up time and again in different guises. It goes back—at the very least—to Descartes, who argued that for all we know we might be dreaming. Newer forms of the argument (from people like Hilary Putnam, etc.) are that we could be ‘brains in vats’ without knowing it; where all our apparent sense data are fed to us through electrical conduits hooked up to the brain. (This all WAY predates The Matrix, BTW).

Can one “refute” such arguments? Well in a sense, no. Just as one cannot “refute” the argument that the universe began twelve seconds ago, with all things created as though it had a fifteen billion year past. These are all logical possibilities, by which I mean that there is no contradiction involved in their being true.

But we have no reason to believe that we are dreaming, or brains in vats, or computer simulations, or that the world just began. Told the right way, we couldn’t have any reason to believe such things, because all experiments we could do would not distinguish between them and an infinity of other equally wacky possible worlds besides.

But they are not the simplest explanation of what we see, and so using Occam’s Razor, we must eliminate them epistemologically, always knowing that we could be wrong.

A separate but interesting question has to do with consciousness. Can a computer simulation be conscious?

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Posted: 25 November 2006 06:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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[quote author=“SpartanWarrior”][quote author=“Occam”] That means an organization that has ethics or that is concerned about the good of its employees or treating customers fairly is at a severe competitive disadvantage. 

Occam

Hi Occam.  What do you mean by “treating customers fairly”..?  One would think that the business that makes its customers happy is the business that survives and prospers, while the business that treats its customers unfairly is the business that gets a bad reputation and ultimately goes out of business….

Perhaps a better example has to do with the so-called “tragedy of the commons”, where there is a commonly available public resource to exploit. If this resource is not regulated carefully, it can be overexploited to the detriment of all. Consider for example a public green, where everyone can let their sheep graze. If this is unregulated, it will be grazed until nothing is left of the lawn and all the sheep will starve. The same is true of fisheries, which can be overexploited leaving no fish and hence no business for the fishermen.

The world’s environment is just such a public resource, the use of which is not reflected in profit and loss statements of the individual businesses that exploit it. Without strong and effective environmental regulations forcing all businesses to use the same regular and expensive clean-up mechanisms any business that decides on its own to be environmentally friendly will be at a business disadvantage compared with its competitors. It will be less profitable than them, hence less able to compete, cut prices and expand. And so without such effective regulation the bad guys will prosper.

Similar issues exist with respect to worker health and safety, etc.

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Posted: 25 November 2006 08:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Re: Any Transhumanists?

[quote author=“dougsmith”]

Well, I don’t have time to read through the whole paper, but this is a very old argument in philosophy, that comes up time and again in different guises. It goes back—at the very least—to Descartes, who argued that for all we know we might be dreaming. Newer forms of the argument (from people like Hilary Putnam, etc.) are that we could be ‘brains in vats’ without knowing it; where all our apparent sense data are fed to us through electrical conduits hooked up to the brain. (This all WAY predates The Matrix, BTW).

From the faq section,   , he claims that this simulation argument is not a variant of “Descartes’ daemon or the brain-in-a-vat argument”.

 

[quote author=“dougsmith”]A separate but interesting question has to do with consciousness. Can a computer simulation be conscious?

I believe that is assumed in the argument (II. The Assumption of Substrate-Independence….?). 

My personal opinion is that the debate over whether a computer can be conscious will not be settled unless they actually succeed in building a conscious computer.  Similarly with simulations. 

Modern-day followers of science-fiction religions include Tipler and the Omega Point Theory (the Omega Point will resurrect us as simulations), and the ‘Universal Immortalists’ (our highly advanced descendents will resurrect us as simulations).


One thing that bothers me about the simulation argument is that a former atheist told Bostrom that the argument is the best argument for the existence of god that he ever heard and thus became an agnostic.  Why?  I don’t understand why the simulation argument can be an argument for the existence of god…........?

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Posted: 25 November 2006 08:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]

Perhaps a better example has to do with the so-called “tragedy of the commons”, where there is a commonly available public resource to exploit. If this resource is not regulated carefully, it can be overexploited to the detriment of all. Consider for example a public green, where everyone can let their sheep graze. If this is unregulated, it will be grazed until nothing is left of the lawn and all the sheep will starve. The same is true of fisheries, which can be overexploited leaving no fish and hence no business for the fishermen.

The world’s environment is just such a public resource, the use of which is not reflected in profit and loss statements of the individual businesses that exploit it. Without strong and effective environmental regulations forcing all businesses to use the same regular and expensive clean-up mechanisms any business that decides on its own to be environmentally friendly will be at a business disadvantage compared with its competitors. It will be less profitable than them, hence less able to compete, cut prices and expand. And so without such effective regulation the bad guys will prosper.

Similar issues exist with respect to worker health and safety, etc.

Lack of well-defined property rights.  I don’t let the industrial company down the street come to my house with a big truck and dump their trash on my front lawn.  Likewise, they shouldn’t be allowed to dump their trash into my air (iow, air pollution) that I’m breathing.  But we have no property rights in the air like we do the land….thus the necessity for governmental action…......but what is the best way for government to act?

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Posted: 26 November 2006 09:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Re: Any Transhumanists?

[quote author=“SpartanWarrior”]From the faq section,   , he claims that this simulation argument is not a variant of “Descartes’ daemon or the brain-in-a-vat argument”.

Yes, well ... it appears to have a few differences, but those depend on questionable views about how future civilizations would spend their time (e.g., simulating past civilizations), and that they would do it effectively, and that entities simulated in simulations are themselves conscious.

It’s kind of an interesting thought experiment a la Derek Parfit.

It also reminds me a little of Pascal’s Wager, in that Pascal only assumes that one sort of god could be responsible for the wager. Also there are an infinite number of possible explanations for any possible ‘simulation’, and the assertion that we are living in one doesn’t decide between them.

[quote author=“SpartanWarrior”]My personal opinion is that the debate over whether a computer can be conscious will not be settled unless they actually succeed in building a conscious computer.  Similarly with simulations. 

Er, that begs the question. Also, whether a computer is conscious is only something knowable ‘from the inside’; the issue you’re after is something like the famous Turing Test. The Turing Test does not establish consciousness, only the behavior of consciousness.

Also, there is a distinction at least apparently between a computer being conscious and an element of a simulation running on a computer being conscious.

[quote author=“SpartanWarrior”]Modern-day followers of science-fiction religions include Tipler and the Omega Point Theory (the Omega Point will resurrect us as simulations), and the ‘Universal Immortalists’ (our highly advanced descendents will resurrect us as simulations).

I’ve heard of these guys but don’t recall anything about them.

[quote author=“SpartanWarrior”]One thing that bothers me about the simulation argument is that a former atheist told Bostrom that the argument is the best argument for the existence of god that he ever heard and thus became an agnostic.  Why?  I don’t understand why the simulation argument can be an argument for the existence of god…........?

??? Did he elaborate? The most it seems possible of showing is the existence of a very powerful civilization very taken with simulations.

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