Monday, May 9, 2011

Kevin Kelly: The Technium vs The Singularity 2

We continue with our discussion of how the technium compares with the singularity and the omega point.

At first, when we look at the technium, it appears to have nothing to do with anything "spiritual."  Yes this is not true.  Kelly himself speaks of his spiritual experience when he was twenty-seven years old.  He states that his mind was bypassed in this experience and later his mind had to acknowledge the reality of the experience.

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The Substrate of the Mind Matters
To Kelly, the matrix in which a mind exists, affects it thinking and behavior.  In the case of the human mind, he is referring to living tissues, its biological nature.  This assumption means that no machine can ever achieve human intelligence.  But to Kelly, this is not any kind of inferiority.  He does believe that there will be a day in which machines will achieve a kind of consciousness, just not a human one.  He does not view computer consciousness, when it arrives, as one which will be "superior" to man or more advanced.  He views there to be multiple consciousness already existing in nature.  He views all of them as equally advanced within their matrix or substrate.

Kelly also believes that each of these consciousness will, as they get more sophisticated, achieve what he calls a "spirit."  Obviously, this definition of "spirit" is very different from that of Ray Kurzweil, which can be easily detected from the titles of one his famous books, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence.  So to Kurzweil, spirituality equals consciousness.  It seems that Kurzweil does not see the substrate as a barrier to reduplicating human consciousness.  He does espouse that eventually human minds will be able to uploaded to a computer-robot-machine that will grant that consciousness immortality.  Kurzweil has indicated that this substrata can be duplicated in a way that will trick the human brain into thinking it is in a body similar to the way he sees virtual reality environments of the future as tricking the mind it somewhere where it is not.
"...the greatest technology humans have ever invented is humanity itself."
Kevin Kelly

What is a Spiritual Machine?
To Terence McKenna, there is a "spirituality."  His conversations with this entity logos, indicate this.  This does not mean that he supported any organized religion.  He saw all ideologies as limiting to the human mind.

Kelly, a professed Christian, views the fact that the Bible states that we are made in the image of God, as meaning that humans are expected to create intelligence that will also be able to create intelligences with free will.  On the subject of God, Kelly states,
...any description of the universe without God is also compromised with contradictions. How does existence begin with no beginning? If the universe is deterministic, what determines its first motion? In a field of infinities, why is anything at all finite?
So Kelly has both a scientific and spiritual view of the universe.  Although, these may come into conflict in the minds of some, it does not need to be so.  In fact, Kelly explains that, "...the convergence of a scientific view and a spiritual view will come from machines.  it will come when we begin to make other types of intelligences."  This falls into line with our position, that one can create an overlying philosophy or religious view, that can justify all the research and thinking being done by the transhumanist movement.
"There is zero reason to make an artificial human brain. First of all, we can't do that because the matrix, the substrate of what a mind is made with matters. There is not a seperate duality that the matter is happening makes a difference in that the only way you can make a mind that behaves and thinks like a human mind is to make it with exactly the same kinds of tissues. There is no reason to do that since we can do it so easily in nine months."
Kevin Kelly

The technium has a spiritual dimension.  One of these spiritual dimensions is what Kelly and others have called emergent intelligence.  A classic example is an ant colony where the colony has an collective "intelligence" that is not found in any one ant.  This permits the ants to communicate with one another as a group.

But there is more on the idea of spiritual machines.  Kelly believes that the robots we create (not until the year 2100), will themselves have a "spiritual" nature, a quality, brought to them through us, of the God that made man (he is not a creationist).  He thinks this process of creation which happens with our biological children, will also extend to our "robotic children."
To be innovative, imaginative, creative, and free, the child needs to be out of control of its maker. So it will be with our mind’s children, the robots. Is there a parent with a teenager who is not concerned, who does not have a bit of worry? It took us a long time to realize that the power of a technology is proportional to its inherent out-of-controlness, its inherent ability to surprise and be generative. In fact, unless we can worry about a technology, it is not revolutionary enough. Powerful technology demands responsibility.
Although Kurzweil has been listed as one of the top twenty-five atheists of our time by superscholar, we have not heard Kurzweil speak of it on record.  But for now, we have come to understand that Kurzweil, would no doubt view consciousness, as "spirituality" (when viewed through cognitive psychology spectacles).

We have not been able to find specific statements by McKenna on the "spirituality" of robots.  But we have no reason to doubt he would have been in agreement with Kelly on their evolvement upwards towards a spirituality.  This view makes perfect sense with his thoughts on the necessity for science and spirituality to merge at some point in the future.  Unlike Kelly however, McKenna would not have endorsed a Christian model for this spirituality.

We include an interview conducted by Ken Wilber with Kevin Kelly. If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link:

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