Thursday, February 16, 2012

Why Some Form Of Transhumanism Must Come (UPDATED)...


Over a year now, we have thought about the the basic idea of transhumanism- the idea that men will evolve into something more than human and somehow transcend their human limitations.  It is clear to us that within the transhumanist community there are variations in views on how humans will transcend their present humaness.  It is correct to say what MIQEL states that,
It should be emphasized that transhumanism is not a fixed set of dogmas. It is an evolving worldview, or rather, a family of evolving worldviews – for transhumanists disagree with each other on many issues. The transhumanist philosophy, still in its formative stages, is meant to keep developing in the light of new experiences and new challenges.
So there is room for opinions and disagreements in the sphere of transhumanism.  But there are some core values.   To us, one of the essential core values is that we are dissatisfied with the limitations of the human body, as marvelous and wondrous as it is.  Some of these limitations include its mortality, its ability to succumb to various diseases, the necessity it requires for a very specific ecosystem of oxygen and temperature, among other things.

Of course, it could be argued that to wish to improve the human body and transcend its limitations does not cease to make us human.  So then here again we left with a definition of what being human really means.  This is open to opinion and much debate.

There are some serious problems, it seems to us, with certain positions held by some transhumanists.  This is not only a problem for them, but for other scientists who approach research in the same mindset.  The group of transhumanists I am talking about are those who want to model the mind and create an artificial human brain.  The issue of complex emergent systems which seems to be nature of the human brain is the obstacle.  This issue underscores the present biggest difference between a machine and a living thing.  As Rachel Armstrong has eloquently explained in her latest work, Living Architecture,
Although machines are able to handle vast amounts of data, their software cannot accurately model the infinite complexities of reality.  There are simply too many variables in the world and not enough processing power to simulate these interactions.  The human mins is able to fill in the gaps between experience and expectation with imagination, but software cannot do this.  Machine minds can solve problems presented to them only though a formal logic, which necessarily leads to a specific, anticipated "answer."  If the mechanical mind cannot solve a problem, the resulting errors in the operating system can cause the machine to crash.
This is now a well known problem in creating models and even simulations of living complex systems.  This does not mean that these problems will not be solved, it just means that they have not yet been solved and until they are, no machine will be able to even approximate a living system like the brain.  We do not feel that by simply understanding all the vast component parts of a the brain, that this will enable us to model it accurately.  We are open to be being proven wrong in this.  We welcome all endeavors in this area.  We encourage all research that attempts to prove us wrong in this.

But when we speak about views of transhumanism that makes sense and in our opinion must come, we are more directed towards systems that will combine a computer and our minds working in tandem.  We strongly feel that those who criticize all transhumanist positions do not understand precisely where our society is headed.

It is our view that once computers were introduced into society we began a head long descent into an ever accelerating society.  Computation has increased the speed of almost everything.  As the speed of processors increases and their prices plummet, this acceleration will only increase.  Already in many areas of society, for example in information, the speed and flow of it is so fast that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to keep oneself informed and up to date.  In the finance markets once computers were enabled to make purchase and sell decisions, the whole market spun out of the hands of human eyes simply because of the speed of the processes.  It is said, and we believe it to be so, that the sheer volume of information is also increasing exponentially.  It is becoming more and more difficult for the human brain to keep fresh within its conscious part even the core information of a discipline.  This is because of the increasing size of this core.  If this is compounded with the modifications of this core with the advent of new discoveries and theories, the task of remembering or recalling this core is even more difficult.

It is not difficult to see where this is all headed.  We need a computer kind of memory attached and accesible to our brains to have this encyclopedic kind of grasp of vital information.  This interface will also function as a translator of how a computer sees information and between how our minds see data.  A digital computer is a very different thing from the human brain.  The former works on the processing of binary code, which is by its nature a sequential process.  The brain is a chemical living organism which "processes" information in parallel manner.  This makes it much powerful for the tasks that the human body requires.

For those not full acquainted with what we are speaking with, we provide a good explanation offered by Charles Sander publisher of Lucid Pages,
Digital computers represent information in binary states of 0's (zeros) or 1's (ones). A "0" usually stands for low voltage (close to zero volts), and a "1" means that a voltage (usually 5 V or 3.3 V) is present. One wire connection is represented by one bit of information. The value of the bit is "0" or "1." Two bits can represent two wires. Each bit can have the values of "0" or "1" at different times, which allows to represent four unique states or events with the values 00, 01, 10, and 11. The state 00 means that both wires have no voltage applied at a given time, and 11 means that both wires have the nominal voltages present at the same time. By increasing the number of wire connections, long strings of 0's and 1's (words) can be produced. Each unique combination of 0's and 1's is decoded and represents a unique number, or information in general. A set of related wires is referred to as a bus. A bus can have 64 or more wire connections arranged in parallel and is controlled by a microprocessor. The microprocessor determines what kind of information is put on the bus at a specific time. It could be memory address, content of the memory address, or operating code (instruction to perform an action). The transfer of information over the bus is controlled by a software program. The arrangement allows the use of the same hardware (the same physical devices) to process very different information at different times. Since the computing is done one variable at a time and is controlled by a timing protocol, a digital computer does serial processing of information. This statement is not totally correct, because all bits of the same word are processed concurrently. But in the analog computer, all input variables can be processed at the same time, which allows parallel processing.
We are still very far from duplicating the massive power of a human brain.  But it is very compelling to grasp that processors are doubling every 18 months and that this trend will continue for the foreseeable future.  So the model of transhumanism is not one where we seek to replace the human brain but to enhance it.   Sanders again provides a good explanation of the difference between the brain and our present digital computers.
Overall, the analog computer better reflects the natural world because specific functions are associated with dedicated wires and circuitry. Also human senses have dedicated sensors with direct neural connections to the brain. Each human eye has about 120 high-quality megapixels. A really good digital camera has about 16 megapixels. The numbers of megapixels between the eye and the camera are not that dramatically different, but the digital camera has no permanent wire connections between the physical sensors and the optical, computational, and memory functions of the camera. The microprocessor input and output need to be multiplexed to properly channel the flow of the arriving and exiting information. Similarly, the functional heart of a digital computer only time-shares its faculties with the attached devices: memory, camera, speaker, or printer. If such an arrangement existed in the human brain, you could do only one function at a time. You could look, then think, and then stretch out your hand to pick up an object. But you could not speak, see, hear, think, move, and feel at the same time. These problems could be solved by operating numerous microprocessors concurrently, but the hardware would be too difficult to design, too bulky to package, and too expensive to implement. By contrast, parallel processing poses no problem in the human brain. Neurons are tiny, come to life in huge numbers, and form connections spontaneously. Just as important is energy efficiency. Human brains require negligible amounts of energy, and power dissipation does not overheat the brain. A computer as complex as the human brain would need its own power plant with megawatts of power, and a heat sink the size of a city.
To us, it seems inevitable that we must construct this kind of interface between our computers and our minds.  It also becomes clear to us that this kind of interface will most likely have a radical effect on how we think and perhaps even what we think. This transformation will not just be human.  It will be in a real way be transhuman.  We believe this will be first kind of transhuman event to take place.  All the pieces are in place for it except for one - the interface, and many are working on it now.

No doubt some will want this interface and others will not.  Those who do not wish it, will, in our minds, fall behind those who do.  This will create difficult and new decisions for society to make, most likely creating tensions and ruptures in families, towns and nations, indeed, in every sector of society.

There will also exist the perverse desire by some to somehow use this interface to manipulate our definition of "truth" or even "history."  As we use this interface it is quite possible that certain parts of our brain will become less efficient from lack of use.  This seems to be happening already in our history, even with the advent of books, movies and other media, all of which, reinforce certain parts of the brain and undermine other parts.

Yet, despite all the good and the bad that might come, to us all these things seem inevitable.  There is no longer any other option but to enter this "brave new world."  The only thing that would stop it in our opinion, would be a cataclysmic-civilization-shattering-event.  We welcome this new age, understanding that in the end the essential values that we value, freedom and toleration can never be extinguished in anything that is remotely human.

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