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Review of Frank Pasquale’s “A Rule of Persons, Not Machines: The Limits of Legal Automation” – Article by Adam Alonzi

Review of Frank Pasquale’s “A Rule of Persons, Not Machines: The Limits of Legal Automation” – Article by Adam Alonzi

Adam Alonzi


From the beginning Frank Pasquale, author of The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information, contends in his new paper “A Rule of Persons, Not Machines: The Limits of Legal Automation” that software, given its brittleness, is not designed to deal with the complexities of taking a case through court and establishing a verdict. As he understands it, an AI cannot deviate far from the rules laid down by its creator. This assumption, which is not even quite right at the present time, only slightly tinges an otherwise erudite, sincere, and balanced coverage of the topic. He does not show much faith in the use of past cases to create datasets for the next generation of paralegals, automated legal services, and, in the more distant future, lawyers and jurists.

Lawrence Zelanik has noted that when taxes were filed entirely on paper, provisions were limited to avoid unreasonably imposing irksome nuances on the average person. Tax-return software has eliminated this “complexity constraint.” He goes on to state that without this the laws, and the software that interprets it, are akin to a “black box” for those who must abide by them. William Gale has said taxes could be easily computed for “non-itemizers.” In other words, the government could use information it already has to present a “bill” to this class of taxpayers, saving time and money for all parties involved. However, simplification does not always align with everyone’s interests. TurboTax’s business, which is built entirely on helping ordinary people navigate the labyrinth is the American federal income tax, noticed a threat to its business model. This prompted it to put together a grassroots campaign to fight such measures. More than just another example of a business protecting its interests, it is an ominous foreshadowing of an escalation scenario that will transpire in many areas if and when legal AI becomes sufficiently advanced.

Pasquale writes: “Technologists cannot assume that computational solutions to one problem will not affect the scope and nature of that problem. Instead, as technology enters fields, problems change, as various parties seek to either entrench or disrupt aspects of the present situation for their own advantage.”

What he is referring to here, in everything but name, is an arms race. The vastly superior computational powers of robot lawyers may make the already perverse incentive to make ever more Byzantine rules ever more attractive to bureaucracies and lawyers. The concern is that the clauses and dependencies hidden within contracts will quickly explode, making them far too detailed even for professionals to make sense of in a reasonable amount of time. Given that this sort of software may become a necessary accoutrement in most or all legal matters means that the demand for it, or for professionals with access to it, will expand greatly at the expense of those who are unwilling or unable to adopt it. This, though Pasquale only hints at it, may lead to greater imbalances in socioeconomic power. On the other hand, he does not consider the possibility of bottom-up open-source (or state-led) efforts to create synthetic public defenders. While this may seem idealistic, it is fairly clear that the open-source model can compete with and, in some areas, outperform proprietary competitors.

It is not unlikely that within subdomains of law that an array of arms races can and will arise between synthetic intelligences. If a lawyer knows its client is guilty, should it squeal? This will change the way jurisprudence works in many countries, but it would seem unwise to program any robot to knowingly lie about whether a crime, particularly a serious one, has been committed – including by omission. If it is fighting against a punishment it deems overly harsh for a given crime, for trespassing to get a closer look at a rabid raccoon or unintentional jaywalking, should it maintain its client’s innocence as a means to an end? A moral consequentialist, seeing no harm was done (or in some instances, could possibly have been done), may persist in pleading innocent. A synthetic lawyer may be more pragmatic than deontological, but it is not entirely correct, and certainly shortsighted, to (mis)characterize AI as only capable of blindly following a set of instructions, like a Fortran program made to compute the nth member of the Fibonacci series.

Human courts are rife with biases: judges give more lenient sentences after taking a lunch break (65% more likely to grant parole – nothing to spit at), attractive defendants are viewed favorably by unwashed juries and trained jurists alike, and the prejudices of all kinds exist against various “out” groups, which can tip the scales in favor of a guilty verdict or to harsher sentences. Why then would someone have an aversion to the introduction of AI into a system that is clearly ruled, in part, by the quirks of human psychology?

DoNotPay is an an app that helps drivers fight parking tickets. It allows drivers with legitimate medical emergencies to gain exemptions. So, as Pasquale says, not only will traffic management be automated, but so will appeals. However, as he cautions, a flesh-and-blood lawyer takes responsibility for bad advice. The DoNotPay not only fails to take responsibility, but “holds its client responsible for when its proprietor is harmed by the interaction.” There is little reason to think machines would do a worse job of adhering to privacy guidelines than human beings unless, as mentioned in the example of a machine ratting on its client, there is some overriding principle that would compel them to divulge the information to protect several people from harm if their diagnosis in some way makes them as a danger in their personal or professional life. Is the client responsible for the mistakes of the robot it has hired? Should the blame not fall upon the firm who has provided the service?

Making a blockchain that could handle the demands of processing purchases and sales, one that takes into account all the relevant variables to make expert judgements on a matter, is no small task. As the infamous disagreement over the meaning of the word “chicken” in Frigaliment v. B.N.S International Sales Group illustrates, the definitions of what anything is can be a bit puzzling. The need to maintain a decent reputation to maintain sales is a strong incentive against knowingly cheating customers, but although cheating tends to be the exception for this reason, it is still necessary to protect against it. As one official on the  Commodity Futures Trading Commission put it, “where a smart contract’s conditions depend upon real-world data (e.g., the price of a commodity future at a given time), agreed-upon outside systems, called oracles, can be developed to monitor and verify prices, performance, or other real-world events.”

Pasquale cites the SEC’s decision to force providers of asset-backed securities to file “downloadable source code in Python.” AmeriCredit responded by saying it  “should not be forced to predict and therefore program every possible slight iteration of all waterfall payments” because its business is “automobile loans, not software development.” AmeriTrade does not seem to be familiar with machine learning. There is a case for making all financial transactions and agreements explicit on an immutable platform like blockchain. There is also a case for making all such code open source, ready to be scrutinized by those with the talents to do so or, in the near future, by those with access to software that can quickly turn it into plain English, Spanish, Mandarin, Bantu, Etruscan, etc.

During the fallout of the 2008 crisis, some homeowners noticed the entities on their foreclosure paperwork did not match the paperwork they received when their mortgages were sold to a trust. According to Dayen (2010) many banks did not fill out the paperwork at all. This seems to be a rather forceful argument in favor of the incorporation of synthetic agents into law practices. Like many futurists Pasquale foresees an increase in “complementary automation.” The cooperation of chess engines with humans can still trounce the best AI out there. This is a commonly cited example of how two (very different) heads are better than one.  Yet going to a lawyer is not like visiting a tailor. People, including fairly delusional ones, know if their clothes fit. Yet they do not know whether they’ve received expert counsel or not – although, the outcome of the case might give them a hint.

Pasquale concludes his paper by asserting that “the rule of law entails a system of social relationships and legitimate governance, not simply the transfer and evaluation of information about behavior.” This is closely related to the doubts expressed at the beginning of the piece about the usefulness of data sets in training legal AI. He then states that those in the legal profession must handle “intractable conflicts of values that repeatedly require thoughtful discretion and negotiation.” This appears to be the legal equivalent of epistemological mysterianism. It stands on still shakier ground than its analogue because it is clear that laws are, or should be, rooted in some set of criteria agreed upon by the members of a given jurisdiction. Shouldn’t the rulings of law makers and the values that inform them be at least partially quantifiable? There are efforts, like EthicsNet, which are trying to prepare datasets and criteria to feed machines in the future (because they will certainly have to be fed by someone!).  There is no doubt that the human touch in law will not be supplanted soon, but the question is whether our intuition should be exalted as guarantee of fairness or a hindrance to moving beyond a legal system bogged down by the baggage of human foibles.

Adam Alonzi is a writer, biotechnologist, documentary maker, futurist, inventor, programmer, and author of the novels A Plank in Reason and Praying for Death: A Zombie Apocalypse. He is an analyst for the Millennium Project, the Head Media Director for BioViva Sciences, and Editor-in-Chief of Radical Science News. Listen to his podcasts here. Read his blog here.

Gennady Stolyarov II Interviewed by Nikola Danaylov of Singularity.FM

Gennady Stolyarov II Interviewed by Nikola Danaylov of Singularity.FM

Gennady Stolyarov II
Nikola Danaylov


On March 31, 2018, Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, was interviewed by Nikola Danaylov, a.k.a. Socrates, of Singularity.FM. A synopsis, audio download, and embedded video of the interview can be found on Singularity.FM here. You can also watch the YouTube video recording of the interview here.

Apparently this interview, nearly three hours in length, broke the record for the length of Nikola Danaylov’s in-depth, wide-ranging conversations on philosophy, politics, and the future.  The interview covered both some of Mr. Stolyarov’s personal work and ideas, such as the illustrated children’s book Death is Wrong, as well as the efforts and aspirations of the U.S. Transhumanist Party. The conversation also delved into such subjects as the definition of transhumanism, intelligence and morality, the technological Singularity or Singularities, health and fitness, and even cats. Everyone will find something of interest in this wide-ranging discussion.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party website at http://transhumanist-party.org. To help advance the goals of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, as described in Mr. Stolyarov’s comments during the interview, become a member for free, no matter where you reside. Click here to fill out a membership application.

Beginners’ Explanation of Transhumanism – Presentation by Bobby Ridge and Gennady Stolyarov II

Beginners’ Explanation of Transhumanism – Presentation by Bobby Ridge and Gennady Stolyarov II

Bobby Ridge
Gennady Stolyarov II


Bobby Ridge, Secretary-Treasurer of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, and Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, provide a broad “big-picture” overview of transhumanism and major ongoing and future developments in emerging technologies that present the potential to revolutionize the human condition and resolve the age-old perils and limitations that have plagued humankind.

This is a beginners’ overview of transhumanism – which means that it is for everyone, including those who are new to transhumanism and the life-extension movement, as well as those who have been involved in it for many years – since, when it comes to dramatically expanding human longevity and potential, we are all beginners at the beginning of what could be our species’ next great era.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside.

See Mr. Stolyarov’s presentation, “The U.S. Transhumanist Party: Pursuing a Peaceful Political Revolution for Longevity“.

In the background of some of the video segments is a painting now owned by Mr. Stolyarov, from “The Singularity is Here” series by artist Leah Montalto.

Abstract Orderism Fractals 68, 69, 70, 71, and 72 – Art by G. Stolyarov II

Abstract Orderism Fractals 68, 69, 70, 71, and 72 – Art by G. Stolyarov II

G. Stolyarov II

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Abstract Orderism Fractals 68, 69, 70, 71, and 72 were created in December 2017 as gifts for individuals who were instrumental to advancing the work of the United States Transhumanist Party or who have otherwise assisted me in profound ways. Each fractal communicates an aspect of the personality, values, and work of the person to whom it is dedicated.

Navigate to Individual Fractals

Abstract Orderism Fractal 68
Abstract Orderism Fractal 69
Abstract Orderism Fractal 70
Abstract Orderism Fractal 71
Abstract Orderism Fractal 72

Abstract Orderism Fractal 68

Abstract Orderism Fractal 68 – by G. Stolyarov II

Note: Left-click on this image to get a full view of this digital work of fractal art.

Abstract Orderism Fractal 68 is dedicated to Adeel Khan – a polymath whose never-ending curiosity and willingness to engage in discourse on a myriad of topics are just the attitudes that are necessary to achieve meaningful progress and make sense out of a complex world. Many of Adeel’s ideals align closely with mine, and he appreciates the multiple facets of the mindset needed to bring humankind into its next era – from the embrace of scientific reasoning to the support of the individual’s liberty to innovate.

Like Adeel’s interests, this fractal branches out in many different directions, but there are common overarching themes of improving our species! The path(s) toward a better world may be spiral in nature, but let all of us earnest thinkers explore them or forge our own.

Abstract Orderism Fractal 69

Abstract Orderism Fractal 69 – by G. Stolyarov II

Note: Left-click on this image to get a full view of this digital work of fractal art.

Abstract Orderism Fractal 69 is dedicated to B.J. Murphy, who has been a steadfast ally and a major contributor to the success of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, of which he serves as the Director of Social Media.

This fractal is gear-like in shape and in the impression of rotation it conveys. The gears at many scales symbolize the technologies that will form the backbone of the new transhuman civilization. B.J. extensively monitors, writes about, and contributes insights to the development of new technologies and entrepreneurial ventures, both on a large scale (for instance, space colonization) and on a small one (for instance, genetic engineering or cryptocurrencies, which exist as bits of code inhabiting physically tiny computer storage drives). The coppery orange color of this fractal is, of course, fitting for gears, but it also completes the color scheme for the U.S. Transhumanist Party, whose colors are orange and black. Orange, in particular, depicts the new political paradigm we seek to bring about. On the visible-light spectrum, orange is between red and yellow. In conventional politics, red has often been associated with socialism, while yellow has often found uses in libertarian symbols. B.J. has a history of involvement with socialist ideas and causes, while I have a (small “l”) libertarian background and sympathies (although the world and life are complicated!) – and yet the future cannot be won by either socialism or libertarianism as such. Rather, the orange color evokes our attempt to take the best aspects of these movements, leave behind ideas that did not anticipate the technological future, and invite all thinkers of good will to participate in the creation of the new era, whose political ideology will differ immensely from anything that came before. One reason why the Transhumanist Party has remained ecumenical and diverse – without being able to be pigeonholed as either “right” or “left” – is because B.J., like me and the rest of our Officer team, has understood and embraced the desirability of keeping it out of the political trenches and, instead, focused toward the stars.

Abstract Orderism Fractal 70

Abstract Orderism Fractal 70 – by G. Stolyarov II

Note: Left-click on this image to get a full view of this digital work of fractal art.

Abstract Orderism Fractal 70  is dedicated to Kim Bodenhamer Smith, who is herself an artist and combines a unique and extensive variety of passions and activities. One of these activities is unicycling in caves. (I am not sure just how she does it, but she does!) If you follow the progression of the circles in the center of this fractal, you will see the resemblance to a time-lapse of a unicycle wheel entering a cavernous tunnel. Of course, I made this fractal more colorful than the typical cave, because that would convey Kim’s personality more accurately.

In addition to sharing a commitment to truth and justice, Kim also has a highly creative mind and thinks outside of conventional parameters to seek solutions to today’s problems and ways to improve life on both large and small scales. She contributed great insights to our recent Discussion Panel on Art and Transhumanism, and she embraces technology and the innovative use of media in ways that get people thinking about how the world might be changed for the better. She has been a great ally to the U.S. Transhumanist Party as we seek these new paths that will lift humankind into its new era of advancement.

Abstract Orderism Fractal 71

Abstract Orderism Fractal 71 - by G. Stolyarov IIAbstract Orderism Fractal 71 – by G. Stolyarov II

Note: Left-click on this image to get a full view of this digital work of fractal art.

Abstract Orderism Fractal 71 is an example of what happens when an artificial intelligence is fed desserts. I started out with a fractal that somewhat resembled an ornate display dish on which desserts might be served. Then I used the Google Deep Dream Generator to sequentially feed it images of cakes and cupcakes by Tiffany Henderson Bateman, who has a thriving baking business. As the AI was “dreaming” of delicious treats, the fractal was transformed! J

Abstract Orderism Fractal 72

Abstract Orderism Fractal 72 - by G. Stolyarov IIAbstract Orderism Fractal 72 – by G. Stolyarov II

Note: Left-click on this image to get a full view of this digital work of fractal art.

Abstract Orderism Fractal 72 is dedicated to John Marlowe, whose staunch advocacy for patients of rare diseases is greatly needed in today’s medical system. In spite of his own struggles, John has found the time and energy to contribute to the transhumanist movement and has been a great friend of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, which embraces any and all efforts to increase medical research and funding toward combating as many rare diseases as possible. John has offered excellent insights on films and science fiction at the Discussion Panel on Art and Transhumanism, and I also enjoyed conversing with him at length at the Super Longevity Holiday Party in Newport Beach. John has been there for our movement and for me personally when we needed both a thoughtful and encouraging voice. We will be there for him and for everyone who needs the public, entrepreneurs, and officials alike to recognize the urgency of fighting every disease with the resources at our disposal.

This fractal might be best interpreted as a view from the top down of an upward spiral of progress, from which luminous flames fan out. This can be seen as an illustration that, from the advancement of medical science in general, specific insights and breakthroughs will arise to cure one disease after another – including rare ailments with no known cures today. We do not always know what the breakthroughs will be or which diseases will be defeated when – but the combination of scientifically informed hope and the ceaseless outward pushing of the boundaries of knowledge will improve the chances of as many people as possible. We have a long struggle ahead to win the war against disease and death, but with John as an ally, the Transhumanist Party will strive to make concrete differences for as many people as possible along the way.

About the Abstract Orderism Fractals

Each fractal above is a digital artwork that was created by Mr. Stolyarov in Apophysis, a free program that facilitates deliberate manipulation of randomly generated fractals into intelligible shapes.

This fractal is an extension of Mr. Stolyarov’s artistic style of Abstract Orderism, whose goal is the creation of abstract objects that are appealing by virtue of their geometric intricacy — a demonstration of the order that man can both discover in the universe and bring into existence through his own actions and applications of the laws of nature.

Fractal art is based on the idea of the spontaneous order – which is pivotal in economics, culture, and human civilization itself. Now, using computer technology, spontaneous orders can be harnessed in individual art works as well.

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s art works.

Transhumanism: Contemporary Issues – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II at VSIM:17 Conference in Ravda, Bulgaria

Transhumanism: Contemporary Issues – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II at VSIM:17 Conference in Ravda, Bulgaria

The New Renaissance Hat

G. Stolyarov II


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, outlines common differences in perspectives in three key areas of contemporary transhumanist discourse: artificial intelligence, religion, and privacy. Mr. Stolyarov follows his presentation of each issue with the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s official stances, which endeavor to resolve commonplace debates and find new common ground in these areas. Watch the video of Mr. Stolyarov’s presentation here.

This presentation was delivered by Mr. Stolyarov on September 14, 2017, virtually to the Vanguard Scientific Instruments in Management 2017 (VSIM:17) Conference in Ravda, Bulgaria. Mr. Stolyarov was introduced by Professor Angel Marchev, Sr. –  the organizer of the conference and the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Ambassador to Bulgaria.

After his presentation, Mr. Stolyarov answered questions from the audience on the subjects of the political orientation of transhumanism, what the institutional norms of a transhuman society would look like, and how best to advance transhumanist ideas.

Download and view the slides of Mr. Stolyarov’s presentation (with hyperlinks) here.

Listen to the Transhumanist March (March #12, Op. 78), composed by Mr. Stolyarov in 2014, here.

Visit the website of the U.S. Transhumanist Party here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Fill out our Membership Application Form here.

Become a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party. Apply here.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion on Prosthetics, Neuroscience, and the Future of Human Potential

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion on Prosthetics, Neuroscience, and the Future of Human Potential

The New Renaissance Hat

G. Stolyarov II

Bobby Ridge

Scott Jurgens

September 18, 2017


References

– Hugh Herr – “The new bionics that let us run, climb, and dance” – TED – March 2014
– LimbForge – Enable Community Foundation
– Autodesk Fusion 360
– Thingiverse
– “Metal Gear Solid 5 Inspires an Amazing Prosthetic Arm” – Kendall Ashley – Nerdist – May 23, 2016

Learn more about the U.S. Transhumanist Party here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Fill out our Membership Application Form here.

Become a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party. Apply here.

Panel – Artificial Intelligence & Robots: Economy of the Future or End of Free Markets? – Michael Shermer, Edward Hudgins, Zoltan Istvan, Gennady Stolyarov II, Eric Shuss

Panel – Artificial Intelligence & Robots: Economy of the Future or End of Free Markets? – Michael Shermer, Edward Hudgins, Zoltan Istvan, Gennady Stolyarov II, Eric Shuss

The New Renaissance Hat

G. Stolyarov II

Michael Shermer

Edward Hudgins

Zoltan Istvan

Eric Shuss

July 28, 2017


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, participated in the panel discussion at FreedomFest in Las Vegas on July 21, 2017, entitled “AI & Robots: Economy of the Future or End of Free Markets?” The panelists presented a set of realistic, balanced analyses on the impact of artificial intelligence and automation.

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For this event there was an outstanding speaker lineup, with moderator Michael Shermer, followed by Edward Hudgins, Peter Voss, Zoltan Istvan, Gennady Stolyarov II, and Eric Shuss.

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The general focus of Mr. Stolyarov’s remarks was to dispel AI-oriented doomsaying and convey the likely survival of the capitalist economy for at least the forthcoming several decades – since narrow AI cannot automate away jobs requiring creative human judgment.

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The video was recorded by filmmaker Ford Fischer and is reproduced with his permission.

Visit Ford Fischer’s News2Share channel here.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party website here.

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free by filling out our membership application form here.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party Facebook page here.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party Twitter page here.

Gennady Stolyarov II Discusses Artificial Intelligence with Ford Fischer

Gennady Stolyarov II Discusses Artificial Intelligence with Ford Fischer

The New Renaissance Hat

G. Stolyarov II

July 28, 2017


U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II discusses why artificial intelligence is not a threat to humanity’s existence or to jobs in many professions in the proximate several decades.

This discussion was recorded as part of a larger interview with filmmaker Ford Fischer on July 21, 2017. It was intended to preview and elaborate upon some of Mr. Stolyarov’s remarks at the discussion panel later that same day, entitled “AI & Robots: Economy of the Future or End of Free Markets?”

The video is reproduced on Mr. Stolyarov’s YouTube channel with permission from Ford Fischer.

Visit Ford Fischer’s News2Share channel here.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party website here.

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free by filling out our membership application form here.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party Facebook page here.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party Twitter page here.

AI and the Future of Free Markets: A Nuanced View – Preview of FreedomFest 2017 Panel Comments by G. Stolyarov II

AI and the Future of Free Markets: A Nuanced View – Preview of FreedomFest 2017 Panel Comments by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat

G. Stolyarov II

July 18, 2017


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, offers a preview of his forthcoming remarks at the July 21, 2017, FreedomFest panel in Las Vegas, entitled “Artificial Intelligence & Robots: Economy of the Future or End of Free Markets?”

Find more information regarding the FreedomFest panel here.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party website here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free by filling out our concise application form.

Elon Musk and Merging With Machines – Article by Edward Hudgins

Elon Musk and Merging With Machines – Article by Edward Hudgins

The New Renaissance HatEdward Hudgins
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Elon Musk seems to be on board with the argument that, as a news headline sums up, “Humans must merge with machines or become irrelevant in AI age.” The PayPal co-founder and SpaceX and Tesla Motors innovator has, in the past, expressed concern about deep AI. He even had a cameo in Transcendence, a Johnny Depp film that was a cautionary tale about humans becoming machines.

Has Musk changed his views? What should we think?

Human-machine symbiosis

Musk said in a speech this week at the opening of Tesla in Dubai warned governments to “Make sure researchers don’t get carried away — scientists get so engrossed in their work they don’t realize what they are doing. But he also said that “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” In techno-speak he told listeners that “Some high-bandwidth interface to the brain will be something that helps achieve a symbiosis between human and machine intelligence.” Imagine calculating a rocket trajectory by just thinking about it since your brain and the Artificial Intelligence with which it links are one!

This is, of course, the vision that is the goal of Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis, co-founders of Singularity University. It is the Transhumanist vision of philosopher Max More. It is a vision of exponential technologies that could even help us live forever.

AI doubts?

But in the past, Musk has expressed doubts about AI. In July 2015, he signed onto “Autonomous Weapons: an Open Letter from AI & Robotics Researchers,” which warned that such devices could “select and engage targets without human intervention.” Yes, out-of-control killer robots! But it concluded that “We believe that AI has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways … Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea…” The letter was also signed by Diamandis, one of the foremost AI proponents. So it’s fair to say that Musk was simply offering reasonable caution.

In Werner Herzog’s documentary Lo and Behold: Reveries of a Connected World, Musk explained that “I think that the biggest risk is not that the AI will develop a will of its own but rather that it will follow the will of people that establish its utility function.” He offered, “If you were a hedge fund or private equity fund and you said, ‘Well, all I want my AI to do is maximize the value of my portfolio,’ then the AI could decide … to short consumer stocks, go long defense stocks, and start a war.” We wonder if the AI would appreciate that in the long-run, cities in ruins from war would harm the portfolio? In any case, Musk again seems to offer reasonable caution rather than blanket denunciations.

But in his Dubai remarks, he still seemed reticent. Should he and we be worried?

Why move ahead with AI?

Exponential technologies already have revolutionized communications and information and are doing the same to our biology. In the short-term, human-AI interfaces, genetic engineering, and nanotech all promise to enhance our human capacities, to make us smarter, quicker of mind, healthier, and long-lived.

In the long-term Diamandis contends that “Enabled with [brain-computer interfaces] and AI, humans will become massively connected with each other and billions of AIs (computers) via the cloud, analogous to the first multicellular lifeforms 1.5 billion years ago. Such a massive interconnection will lead to the emergence of a new global consciousness, and a new organism I call the Meta-Intelligence.”

What does this mean? If we are truly Transhuman, will we be soulless Star Trek Borgs rather than Datas seeking a better human soul? There has been much deep thinking about such question but I don’t know and neither does anyone else.

In the 1937 Ayn Rand short novel Anthem, we see an impoverished dystopia governed by a totalitarian elites. We read that “It took fifty years to secure the approval of all the Councils for the Candle, and to decide on the number needed.”

Proactionary!

Many elites today are in the throes of the “precautionary principle.” It holds that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm … the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those proposing the action or policy. Under this “don’t do anything for the first time” illogic, humans would never have used fire, much less candles.

By contrast, Max More offers the “proactionary principle.” It holds that we should assess risks according to available science, not popular perception, account for both risks the costs of opportunities foregone, and protect people’s freedom to experiment, innovate, and progress.

Diamandis, More and, let’s hope, Musk are the same path to a future we can’t predict but which we know can be beyond our most optimistic dreams. And you should be on that path too!

Explore:

Edward Hudgins, “Public Opposition to Biotech Endangers Your Life and Health“. July 28, 2016.

Edward Hudgins, “The Robots of Labor Day“. September 2, 2015.

Edward Hudgins, “Google, Entrepreneurs, and Living 500 Years“. March 12, 2015.

Dr. Edward Hudgins is the director of advocacy for The Atlas Society and the editor and author of several books on politics and government policy. He is also a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party