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2022: The Year of the Great Filter – Article by Gennady Stolyarov II

2022: The Year of the Great Filter – Article by Gennady Stolyarov II

Gennady Stolyarov II

2022 is the year of the Great Filter. There has never been a more dangerous time for our species before, and there will not be again, if we survive this year.

The war in Ukraine has brought the world to the edge of nuclear calamity, because neither side wishes to negotiate or make concessions. The Russian regime makes reckless nuclear threats, Western/NATO powers recklessly ignore them, and continue to supply offensive weapons to Ukrainian forces, whose ideology favors recklessly dying for their country instead of prudently choosing to live for themselves. The risks of especially unintended, accidental escalation continue to accumulate the longer this war drags on with no clear end in sight.

The one ray of hope in all this is that I am firmly convinced that this is a unique, non-repeatable situation. If humankind can avoid extinction arising from reckless escalation here, then our species will never be in this much existential danger again, at least not from manmade causes. Here I provide my top ten reasons for holding this outlook.

1. Vladimir Putin’s misguided ideology and complete misunderstanding of the military and geopolitical situation in Russia and Ukraine led to this disaster of an invasion, but Putin is not in good health and thus his days in office are numbered. Any other person in power would not be locked into Putin’s must-win situation and may likely try to undo the damage and even try to bolster his reputation for doing so. The key is to avoid escalation while Putin remains in power, to prevent Putin from seeing no reason not to take the world down with him. If we wait this out, Putin will either succumb to his illness or be “encouraged” to retire by his inner circle. But in order to avoid the scenario where he behaves like a cornered rat, we need to allow this to happen on its own.

2. The stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a uniquely insane climate of public opinion, including in the West (while also contributing to the irrationality of Putin). Norms of civility and the valuation of peace have been significantly eroded, particularly among the neoconservatives, the establishment Left, and nationalists of all stripes (Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Baltic, et al.). Accordingly, the preponderance of warmongers among the populations of Europe and America is at a historic high. However, in the coming years, as the pandemic recedes and people gradually regain a sense of normalcy, war fervor will subside, since most of the same people were not advocating war 10 years ago and, under the right circumstances, could become largely peaceful again. Americans were overwhelmingly tired of war through 2021. If we wait this out, war fatigue will become the dominant view again not too long from now.

3. We were on the verge of the Transhuman Era circa 2015 based on the trajectories of various emerging technologies. This, however, was derailed by the Left-Right hyperpolarization from late 2015 onward, by the COVID-19 pandemic from 2020 onward, and now by the war in Ukraine in 2022. All of these developments benefited the legacy ruling elite, whom the Transhuman Era would render obsolete; they used these crises to turn ordinary people and innovators against one another, when we should have all been working in concert to build the Transhuman Era. However, if we avoid world war and nuclear annihilation now, then the progress of emerging technologies will still gradually displace the legacy ruling elite and inaugurate the Transhuman Era, at which time humans will become too prosperous and enlightened to be willing to tolerate the risk of species extinction.

4. Averting nuclear war in 2022 will lead to the widespread recognition of how close we came to calamity from the potential of a pointless local conflict to engulf the world. The phrase “Never again” will henceforth be applied to nuclear brinkmanship, and a concerted push for worldwide nuclear disarmament could be made by a coalition of activist groups who are already sympathetic to this cause. They will have a lot more political capital once people are able to take a breath and come to their senses.

5. Artificial intelligence and nanotechnology will never pose the same existential risk as nuclear weapons, because their modes of functioning are much more sophisticated, and thus there will be many more places along the chain of events leading to calamity where human intervention could stop that chain of events. AI and nanotechnology of the future will be “smart”, which will make them safer. Nuclear weapons are “dumb”, combined with awesome destructive capacity, which makes them the most dangerous technology of all history, past and future.

6. Climate change, too, is a much milder and even non-existential risk, compared to nuclear war. This is a risk that will play out over decades, allowing for mitigation and reversal through emerging technologies, as well as adaptation to any lasting climate shifts. This is not to say that climate change would inflict no damage, but rather that the damage would be far from enough to destroy the species or even significantly slow down our technological and economic progress. If we can avoid nuclear war in 2022 (which would also bring about the worst climate change of all – a nuclear winter), then it will be much more feasible to devote more resources toward the development and deployment of technologies that would counteract climate change.

7. For all of the irrational panic regarding the alleged threat of China, the fact is that China has orders of magnitude fewer nuclear weapons than Russia or the United States. The Chinese government knows that it would lose any nuclear war decisively. Hence, China will never attempt or provoke a nuclear war. When it comes to the risk of civilization-ending nuclear war, only a conflict between the United States and Russia would pose that risk. Moreover, China is so globally interconnected through trade, especially with the United States, that it would never risk a military conflict which would be tantamount to economic suicide.

8. If nuclear war is avoided in 2022, Putin’s regime will atrophy by 2025 (as long as the Western powers do not try to overthrow him or invade Russia, an attempt which would paradoxically strengthen Putin’s regime, just as the sanctions against Russia have done by rallying Russians through a sense of being attacked and targeted by the West). Once Putin’s regime atrophies and is discredited within Russia, it will be possible to support more humane politicians in Russia, who might continue the policies of Gorbachev and seek at least a phased nuclear disarmament. As noted above, among geopolitical conflicts, only the US-Russia nuclear standoff poses an existential risk to the human species. Nuclear disarmament of Russia, or even a determined move in that direction, would essentially resolve that risk.

9. With enough time during which peace prevails, the Transhuman Era will see the creation of technologies that would help avert other existential risks, such as asteroids, supervolcanoes, and any yet-unforeseen consequences of future technologies. Existential risk will decline with each peaceful year from now on.

10. Surviving 2022 will give humankind an impetus to pursue the rejection of the Cold War mentality, of militant nationalism (especially ethnic nationalism, which is the most pernicious), and of Left-Right polarization. Getting rid of those three terrible mindsets will be largely enough to render most of humankind constructive again. It is only because of those mindsets that we have not reached the Transhuman Era already. Just as the aftermath of World War II rendered certain ideologies unacceptable, so I hope that the narrow avoidance of World War III will render Cold Warriorism, Left-Right militancy, and ethno-nationalism unacceptable in America and Europe at the very least. (The rest of the world could help us in overcoming these perilous mindsets. One consequence I hope to see in the coming decades is a multi-polar world with a greater prominence for Asian, African, and Latin American countries, to broaden our perspectives on the considerations that should matter for the future of humanity.)

So, essentially we just have to survive 2022 without a nuclear war in order for history to turn toward the long arc of progress once again. However, we absolutely have to survive 2022 – and this will entirely depend on whether public opinion will be able to restrain the war fervor of Western hawks in particular. A combination of reckless overconfidence, intransigence, and moral self-righteousness (on both sides) has placed our species into unparalleled danger. Perhaps this was the kind of moment from which many alien civilizations have not been able to emerge successfully – hence, one potential explanation for Fermi’s paradox. Will we have enough prudence and basic love of life to avoid that fate? We will find out in the next several months. If we pass this Great Filter, a future of boundless possibility and growth awaits our species. Do not throw this future away over a local conflict. What humans do now will be most consequential for the future of the entire universe.

This essay may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.


U.S. Transhumanist Party Virtual Enlightenment Salon with Zach Richardson, Jason Geringer, and Ben Ballweg – July 25, 2021

U.S. Transhumanist Party Virtual Enlightenment Salon with Zach Richardson, Jason Geringer, and Ben Ballweg – July 25, 2021

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Jason Geringer
Ben Ballweg
Zach Richardson
Gennady Stolyarov II
David Shumaker
Art Ramon Garcia, Jr.
Alexandria Black


The U.S. Transhumanist Party Virtual Enlightenment Salon with Zach Richardson, Jason Geringer, and Ben Ballweg of July 25, 2021, is now available for viewing on Odysee here.

On Sunday, July 25, 2021, at 4 p.m. U.S. Pacific Time, the U.S. Transhumanist Party invited its new Officers, Zach Richardson (Director of Publication), Jason Geringer (Legislative Director), and Ben Ballweg (Director of Longevity Outreach), to discuss some of their ideas, planned initiatives, and perspectives on the current condition of the transhumanist movement. The discussion focused on improving the internal functions of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, attracting volunteers, and raising the visibility of transhumanist projects and causes. An interactive discussion transpired about ways to bolster the publication and legislative-tracking activities of the USTP. The conversation also extended to subjects of general interest to transhumanists, futurists, and those seeking to learn about the transhumanist movement.

Read about Zach Richardson here.
Read about Jason Geringer here.
Read about Ben Ballweg here.

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside.

NOTE: Even though the U.S. Transhumanist Party is staunchly pro-vaccine and expressed such views during the Virtual Enlightenment Salon, YouTube algorithmically censored the video, most likely with no serious human involvement, and algorithmically rejected our appeal as well. The U.S. Transhumanist Party strongly condemns such censorship but also sees an opportunity here by encouraging people to watch and spread this video for the purpose of overcoming arbitrary barriers put forth by unintelligent and unaccountable algorithms.

 

Ben Ballweg, U.S. Transhumanist Party Director of Longevity Outreach
U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II Interviewed by Roen Horn of the Eternal Life Fan Club

U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II Interviewed by Roen Horn of the Eternal Life Fan Club

Gennady Stolyarov II
Roen Horn


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, was interviewed on December 14, 2019, by Roen Horn of the Eternal Life Fan Club. Topics discussed included recent developments in transhumanist politics, the Presidential campaign of Johannon Ben Zion, transhumanist elements in the candidacies of Zoltan Istvan and Andrew Yang, how to persuade religious individuals to be more receptive to the ideas of transhumanism and life extension, prospects for the transhumanist movement to find a spokesperson regarding life extension as influential as Greta Thunberg has been regarding climate-change activism, preservation of the self and “I-ness”, existential risks, and longevity themes in film and literature.

References

– Ben Zion 2020 Campaign Website
– Johannon Ben Zion Candidate Profile

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party for free, no matter where you reside. Click here to apply in less than a minute.

Gennady Stolyarov II and Johannon Ben Zion Discuss a Transhumanist Vision for U.S. Policy

Gennady Stolyarov II and Johannon Ben Zion Discuss a Transhumanist Vision for U.S. Policy

Gennady Stolyarov II
Johannon Ben Zion


Johannon Ben Zion of the Futurist New Deal Podcast interviews U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II regarding the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s recent efforts, visions for the future of American politics, technological progress and technological Singularities, the importance of life-extension advocacy, open-source approaches to innovation, and overcoming challenges such as information overload and overly slow and cumbersome approval processes for innovative medical treatments. Mr. Stolyarov and Mr. Ben Zion also discussed in general terms the upcoming USTP Presidential Primary Election, for which voting will open on September 22, 2019.

This interview was filmed in Burbank, California, on August 24, 2019, following the Wellness and Longevity Seminar that was hosted there to mark the publication of The Transhumanism Handbook.

References

– “Progress in the Politics of Abundance” – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II
– U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel – Burbank, California – August 24, 2019
– The Transhumanism Handbook
– “The United States Transhumanist Party and the Politics of Abundance” – Mr. Stolyarov’s chapter in “The Transhumanism Handbook” – available for free download
– Free Transhumanist Symbols
– Futurist New Deal Podcast videos
– Johannon Ben Zion – Candidate in the 2019 U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party Presidential Primary

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Those who join by September 22, 2019, will be eligible to vote in the Presidential Primary.

Gennady Stolyarov II Interviews James Strole Regarding RAAD Fest 2019 and Life-Extension Advocacy

Gennady Stolyarov II Interviews James Strole Regarding RAAD Fest 2019 and Life-Extension Advocacy

James Strole
Gennady Stolyarov II
Johannon Ben Zion


On Tuesday, July 16, 2019, U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II invited James Strole of the Coalition for Radical Life Extension and People Unlimited to discuss the upcoming RAAD Fest 2019 in Las Vegas on October 3-6, 2019 – the fourth RAAD Fest in history – https://www.raadfest.com/ – and the first in a new venue. Mr. Stolyarov and Mr. Strole discussed the importance of unity in the transhumanist and life-extensionist movements, as well as what opportunities for education and inspiration RAAD Fest will offer to those who wish to live longer and healthier. They also addressed audience questions and were briefly joined by Johannon Ben Zion, Chairman of the Arizona Transhumanist Party. Watch the interview on YouTube here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party for free, no matter where you reside. Apply here in less than a minute.

Watch some of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s prior appearances at RAAD Fests in 2017 and 2018 below.

RAAD Fest 2017

The U.S. Transhumanist Party – Pursuing a Peaceful Political Revolution for Longevity – August 11, 2017

RAAD Fest 2018

The U.S. Transhumanist Party: Four Years of Advocating for the Future – Gennady Stolyarov II at RAAD Fest 2018 – September 21, 2018

Gennady Stolyarov II Interviews Ray Kurzweil at RAAD Fest 2018 – September 21, 2018

U.S. Transhumanist Party Meeting at RAAD Fest 2018 – September 22, 2018

Andrés Grases Interviews Gennady Stolyarov II on Transhumanism and the Transition to the Next Technological Era – September 23, 2018

Register for RAAD Fest 2019 here

Empowering Human Musical Creation through Machines, Algorithms, and Artificial Intelligence – Essay by Gennady Stolyarov II in Issue 2 of the INSAM Journal

Empowering Human Musical Creation through Machines, Algorithms, and Artificial Intelligence – Essay by Gennady Stolyarov II in Issue 2 of the INSAM Journal

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Note from Mr. Stolyarov: For those interested in my thoughts on the connections among music, technology, algorithms, artificial intelligence, transhumanism, and the philosophical motivations behind my own compositions, I have had a peer-reviewed paper, “Empowering Human Musical Creation through Machines, Algorithms, and Artificial Intelligence” published in Issue 2 of the INSAM Journal of Contemporary Music, Art, and Technology. This is a rigorous academic publication but also freely available and sharable via a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license – just as academic works ought to be – so I was honored by the opportunity to contribute my writing. My essay features discussions of Plato and Aristotle, Kirnberger’s and Mozart’s musical dice games, the AI-generated compositions of Ray Kurzweil and David Cope, and the recently completed “Unfinished” Symphony of Franz Schubert, whose second half was made possible by the Huawei / Lucas Cantor, AI / human collaboration. Even Conlon Nancarrow, John Cage, Iannis Xenakis, and Karlheinz Stockhausen make appearances in this paper. Look in the bibliography for YouTube and downloadable MP3 links to all of my compositions that I discuss, as this paper is intended to be a multimedia experience.

Music, technology, and transhumanism – all in close proximity in the same paper and pointing the way toward the vast proliferation of creative possibilities in the future as the distance between the creator’s conception of a musical idea and its implementation becomes ever shorter.

You can find my paper on pages 81-99 of Issue 2.

Read “Empowering Human Musical Creation through Machines, Algorithms, and Artificial Intelligence” here.

Read the full Issue 2 of the INSAM Journal here.

Abstract: “In this paper, I describe the development of my personal research on music that transcends the limitations of human ability. I begin with an exploration of my early thoughts regarding the meaning behind the creation of a musical composition according to the creator’s intentions and how to philosophically conceptualize the creation of such music if one rejects the existence of abstract Platonic Forms. I then explore the transformation of my own creative process through the introduction of software capable of playing back music in exact accord with the inputs provided to it, while enabling the creation of music that remains intriguing to the human ear even though the performance of it may sometimes be beyond the ability of humans. Subsequently, I describe my forays into music generated by earlier algorithmic systems such as the Musikalisches Würfelspiel and narrow artificial-intelligence programs such as WolframTones and my development of variations upon artificially generated themes in essential collaboration with the systems that created them. I also discuss some of the high-profile, advanced examples of AI-human collaboration in musical creation during the contemporary era and raise possibilities for the continued role of humans in drawing out and integrating the best artificially generated musical ideas. I express the hope that the continued advancement of musical software, algorithms, and AI will amplify human creativity by narrowing and ultimately eliminating the gap between the creator’s conception of a musical idea and its practical implementation.”

Gennady Stolyarov II Interviews Ray Kurzweil at RAAD Fest 2018

Gennady Stolyarov II Interviews Ray Kurzweil at RAAD Fest 2018

Gennady Stolyarov II
Ray Kurzweil


The Stolyarov-Kurzweil Interview has been released at last! Watch it on YouTube here.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II posed a wide array of questions for inventor, futurist, and Singularitarian Dr. Ray Kurzweil on September 21, 2018, at RAAD Fest 2018 in San Diego, California. Topics discussed include advances in robotics and the potential for household robots, artificial intelligence and overcoming the pitfalls of AI bias, the importance of philosophy, culture, and politics in ensuring that humankind realizes the best possible future, how emerging technologies can protect privacy and verify the truthfulness of information being analyzed by algorithms, as well as insights that can assist in the attainment of longevity and the preservation of good health – including a brief foray into how Ray Kurzweil overcame his Type 2 Diabetes.

Learn more about RAAD Fest here. RAAD Fest 2019 will occur in Las Vegas during October 3-6, 2019.

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

Watch the presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II at RAAD Fest 2018, entitled, “The U.S. Transhumanist Party: Four Years of Advocating for the Future”.

Advocating for the Future – Panel at RAAD Fest 2017 – Gennady Stolyarov II, Zoltan Istvan, Max More, Ben Goertzel, Natasha Vita-More

Advocating for the Future – Panel at RAAD Fest 2017 – Gennady Stolyarov II, Zoltan Istvan, Max More, Ben Goertzel, Natasha Vita-More

Gennady Stolyarov II
Zoltan Istvan
Max More
Ben Goertzel
Natasha Vita-More


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, moderated this panel discussion, entitled “Advocating for the Future”, at RAAD Fest 2017 on August 11, 2017, in San Diego, California.

Watch it on YouTube here.

From left to right, the panelists are Zoltan Istvan, Gennady Stolyarov II, Max More, Ben Goertzel, and Natasha Vita-More. With these leading transhumanist luminaries, Mr. Stolyarov discussed subjects such as what the transhumanist movement will look like in 2030, artificial intelligence and sources of existential risk, gamification and the use of games to motivate young people to create a better future, and how to persuade large numbers of people to support life-extension research with at least the same degree of enthusiasm that they display toward the fight against specific diseases.

Learn more about RAAD Fest here.

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

Watch the presentations of Gennady Stolyarov II and Zoltan Istvan from the “Advocating for the Future” panel.

Review of Ray Kurzweil’s “How to Create a Mind” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Review of Ray Kurzweil’s “How to Create a Mind” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

G. Stolyarov II


How to Create a Mind (2012) by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil sets forth a case for engineering minds that are able to emulate the complexity of human thought (and exceed it) without the need to reverse-engineer every detail of the human brain or of the plethora of content with which the brain operates. Kurzweil persuasively describes the human conscious mind as based on hierarchies of pattern-recognition algorithms which, even when based on relatively simple rules and heuristics, combine to give rise to the extremely sophisticated emergent properties of conscious awareness and reasoning about the world. How to Create a Mind takes readers through an integrated tour of key historical advances in computer science, physics, mathematics, and neuroscience – among other disciplines – and describes the incremental evolution of computers and artificial-intelligence algorithms toward increasing capabilities – leading toward the not-too-distant future (the late 2020s, according to Kurzweil) during which computers would be able to emulate human minds.

Kurzweil’s fundamental claim is that there is nothing which a biological mind is able to do, of which an artificial mind would be incapable in principle, and that those who posit that the extreme complexity of biological minds is insurmountable are missing the metaphorical forest for the trees. Analogously, although a fractal or a procedurally generated world may be extraordinarily intricate and complex in their details, they can arise on the basis of carrying out simple and conceptually fathomable rules. If appropriate rules are used to construct a system that takes in information about the world and processes and analyzes it in ways conceptually analogous to a human mind, Kurzweil holds that the rest is a matter of having adequate computational and other information-technology resources to carry out the implementation. Much of the first half of the book is devoted to the workings of the human mind, the functions of the various parts of the brain, and the hierarchical pattern recognition in which they engage. Kurzweil also discusses existing “narrow” artificial-intelligence systems, such as IBM’s Watson, language-translation programs, and the mobile-phone “assistants” that have been released in recent years by companies such as Apple and Google. Kurzweil observes that, thus far, the most effective AIs have been developed using a combination of approaches, having some aspects of prescribed rule-following alongside the ability to engage in open-ended “learning” and extrapolation upon the information which they encounter. Kurzweil draws parallels to the more creative or even “transcendent” human abilities – such as those of musical prodigies – and observes that the manner in which those abilities are made possible is not too dissimilar in principle.

With regard to some of Kurzweil’s characterizations, however, I question whether they are universally applicable to all human minds – particularly where he mentions certain limitations – or whether they only pertain to some observed subset of human minds. For instance, Kurzweil describes the ostensible impossibility of reciting the English alphabet backwards without error (absent explicit study of the reverse order), because of the sequential nature in which memories are formed. Yet, upon reading the passage in question, I was able to recite the alphabet backwards without error upon my first attempt. It is true that this occurred more slowly than the forward recitation, but I am aware of why I was able to do it; I perceive larger conceptual structures or bodies of knowledge as mental “objects” of a sort – and these objects possess “landscapes” on which it is possible to move in various directions; the memory is not “hard-coded” in a particular sequence. One particular order of movement does not preclude others, even if those others are less familiar – but the key to successfully reciting the alphabet backwards is to hold it in one’s awareness as a single mental object and move along its “landscape” in the desired direction. (I once memorized how to pronounce ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ as a single continuous word; any other order is slower, but it is quite doable as long as one fully knows the contents of the “object” and keeps it in focus.) This is also possible to do with other bodies of knowledge that one encounters frequently – such as dates of historical events: one visualizes them along the mental object of a timeline, visualizes the entire object, and then moves along it or drops in at various points using whatever sequences are necessary to draw comparisons or identify parallels (e.g., which events happened contemporaneously, or which events influenced which others). I do not know what fraction of the human population carries out these techniques – as the ability to recall facts and dates has always seemed rather straightforward to me, even as it challenged many others. Yet there is no reason why the approaches for more flexible operation with common elements of our awareness cannot be taught to large numbers of people, as these techniques are a matter of how the mind chooses to process, model, and ultimately recombine the data which it encounters. The more general point in relation to Kurzweil’s characterization of human minds is that there may be a greater diversity of human conceptual frameworks and approaches toward cognition than Kurzweil has described. Can an artificially intelligent system be devised to encompass this diversity? This is certainly possible, since the architecture of AI systems would be more flexible than the biological structures of the human brain. Yet it would be necessary for true artificial general intelligences to be able not only to learn using particular predetermined methods, but also to teach themselves new techniques for learning and conceptualization altogether – just as humans are capable of today.

The latter portion of the book is more explicitly philosophical and devoted to thought experiments regarding the nature of the mind, consciousness, identity, free will, and the kinds of transformations that may or may not preserve identity. Many of these discussions are fascinating and erudite – and Kurzweil often transcends fashionable dogmas by bringing in perspectives such as the compatibilist case for free will and the idea that the experiments performed by Benjamin Libet (that showed the existence of certain signals in the brain prior to the conscious decision to perform an activity) do not rule out free will or human agency. It is possible to conceive of such signals as “preparatory work” within the brain to present a decision that could then be accepted or rejected by the conscious mind. Kurzweil draws an analogy to government officials preparing a course of action for the president to either approve or disapprove. “Since the ‘brain’ represented by this analogy involves the unconscious processes of the neocortex (that is, the officials under the president) as well as the conscious processes (the president), we would see neural activity as well as actual actions taking place prior to the official decision’s being made” (p. 231). Kurzweil’s thoughtfulness is an important antidote to commonplace glib assertions that “Experiment X proved that Y [some regularly experienced attribute of humans] is an illusion” – assertions which frequently tend toward cynicism and nihilism if widely adopted and extrapolated upon. It is far more productive to deploy both science and philosophy toward seeking to understand more directly apparent phenomena of human awareness, sensation, and decision-making – instead of rejecting the existence of such phenomena contrary to the evidence of direct experience. Especially if the task is to engineer a mind that has at least the faculties of the human brain, then Kurzweil is wise not to dismiss aspects such as consciousness, free will, and the more elevated emotions, which have been known to philosophers and ordinary people for millennia, and which only predominantly in the 20th century has it become fashionable to disparage in some circles. Kurzweil’s only vulnerability in this area is that he often resorts to statements that he accepts the existence of these aspects “on faith” (although it does not appear to be a particularly religious faith; it is, rather, more analogous to “leaps of faith” in the sense that Albert Einstein referred to them). Kurzweil does not need to do this, as he himself outlines sufficient logical arguments to be able to rationally conclude that attributes such as awareness, free will, and agency upon the world – which have been recognized across predominant historical and colloquial understandings, irrespective of particular religious or philosophical flavors – indeed actually exist and should not be neglected when modeling the human mind or developing artificial minds.

One of the thought experiments presented by Kurzweil is vital to consider, because the process by which an individual’s mind and body might become “upgraded” through future technologies would determine whether that individual is actually preserved – in terms of the aspects of that individual that enable one to conclude that that particular person, and not merely a copy, is still alive and conscious:

Consider this thought experiment: You are in the future with technologies more advanced than today’s. While you are sleeping, some group scans your brain and picks up every salient detail. Perhaps they do this with blood-cell-sized scanning machines traveling in the capillaries of your brain or with some other suitable noninvasive technology, but they have all of the information about your brain at a particular point in time. They also pick up and record any bodily details that might reflect on your state of mind, such as the endocrine system. They instantiate this “mind file” in a morphological body that looks and moves like you and has the requisite subtlety and suppleness to pass for you. In the morning you are informed about this transfer and you watch (perhaps without being noticed) your mind clone, whom we’ll call You 2. You 2 is talking about his or he life as if s/he were you, and relating how s/he discovered that very morning that s/he had been given a much more durable new version 2.0 body. […] The first question to consider is: Is You 2 conscious? Well, s/he certainly seems to be. S/he passes the test I articulated earlier, in that s/he has the subtle cues of becoming a feeling, conscious person. If you are conscious, then so too is You 2.

So if you were to, uh, disappear, no one would notice. You 2 would go around claiming to be you. All of your friends and loved ones would be content with the situation and perhaps pleased that you now have a more durable body and mental substrate than you used to have. Perhaps your more philosophically minded friends would express concerns, but for the most party, everybody would be happy, including you, or at least the person who is convincingly claiming to be you.

So we don’t need your old body and brain anymore, right? Okay if we dispose of it?

You’re probably not going to go along with this. I indicated that the scan was noninvasive, so you are still around and still conscious. Moreover your sense of identity is still with you, not with You 2, even though You 2 thinks s/he is a continuation of you. You 2 might not even be aware that you exist or ever existed. In fact you would not be aware of the existence of You 2 either, if we hadn’t told you about it.

Our conclusion? You 2 is conscious but is a different person than you – You 2 has a different identity. S/he is extremely similar, much more so than a mere genetic clone, because s/he also shares all of your neocortical patterns and connections. Or should I say s/he shared those patterns at the moment s/he was created. At that point, the two of you started to go your own ways, neocortically speaking. You are still around. You are not having the same experiences as You 2. Bottom line: You 2 is not you.  (How to Create a Mind, pp. 243-244)

This thought experiment is essentially the same one as I independently posited in my 2010 essay “How Can Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self”:

Consider what would happen if a scientist discovered a way to reconstruct, atom by atom, an identical copy of my body, with all of its physical structures and their interrelationships exactly replicating my present condition. If, thereafter, I continued to exist alongside this new individual – call him GSII-2 – it would be clear that he and I would not be the same person. While he would have memories of my past as I experienced it, if he chose to recall those memories, I would not be experiencing his recollection. Moreover, going forward, he would be able to think different thoughts and undertake different actions than the ones I might choose to pursue. I would not be able to directly experience whatever he choose to experience (or experiences involuntarily). He would not have my ‘I-ness’ – which would remain mine only.

Thus, Kurzweil and I agree, at least preliminarily, that an identically constructed copy of oneself does not somehow obtain the identity of the original. Kurzweil and I also agree that a sufficiently gradual replacement of an individual’s cells and perhaps other larger functional units of the organism, including a replacement with non-biological components that are integrated into the body’s processes, would not destroy an individual’s identity (assuming it can be done without collateral damage to other components of the body). Then, however, Kurzweil posits the scenario where one, over time, transforms into an entity that is materially identical to the “You 2” as posited above. He writes:

But we come back to the dilemma I introduced earlier. You, after a period of gradual replacement, are equivalent to You 2 in the scan-and-instantiate scenario, but we decided that You 2 in that scenario does not have the same identity as you. So where does that leave us? (How to Create a Mind, p. 247)

Kurzweil and I are still in agreement that “You 2” in the gradual-replacement scenario could legitimately be a continuation of “You” – but our views diverge when Kurzweil states, “My resolution of the dilemma is this: It is not true that You 2 is not you – it is you. It is just that there are now two of you. That’s not so bad – if you think you are a good thing, then two of you is even better” (p. 247). I disagree. If I (via a continuation of my present vantage point) cannot have the direct, immediate experiences and sensations of GSII-2, then GSII-2 is not me, but rather an individual with a high degree of similarity to me, but with a separate vantage point and separate physical processes, including consciousness. I might not mind the existence of GSII-2 per se, but I would mind if that existence were posited as a sufficient reason to be comfortable with my present instantiation ceasing to exist.  Although Kurzweil correctly reasons through many of the initial hypotheses and intermediate steps leading from them, he ultimately arrives at a “pattern” view of identity, with which I differ. I hold, rather, a “process” view of identity, where a person’s “I-ness” remains the same if “the continuity of bodily processes is preserved even as their physical components are constantly circulating into and out of the body. The mind is essentially a process made possible by the interactions of the brain and the remainder of nervous system with the rest of the body. One’s ‘I-ness’, being a product of the mind, is therefore reliant on the physical continuity of bodily processes, though not necessarily an unbroken continuity of higher consciousness.” (“How Can Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self”) If only a pattern of one’s mind were preserved and re-instantiated, the result may be potentially indistinguishable from the original person to an external observer, but the original individual would not directly experience the re-instantiation. It is not the content of one’s experiences or personality that is definitive of “I-ness” – but rather the more basic fact that one experiences anything as oneself and not from the vantage point of another individual; this requires the same bodily processes that give rise to the conscious mind to operate without complete interruption. (The extent of permissible partial interruption is difficult to determine precisely and open to debate; general anesthesia is not sufficient to disrupt I-ness, but what about cryonics or shorter-term “suspended animation?). For this reason, the pursuit of biological life extension of one’s present organism remains crucial; one cannot rely merely on one’s “mindfile” being re-instantiated in a hypothetical future after one’s demise. The future of medical care and life extension may certainly involve non-biological enhancements and upgrades, but in the context of augmenting an existing organism, not disposing of that organism.

How to Create a Mind is highly informative for artificial-intelligence researchers and laypersons alike, and it merits revisiting a reference for useful ideas regarding how (at least some) minds operate. It facilitates thoughtful consideration of both the practical methods and more fundamental philosophical implications of the quest to improve the flexibility and autonomy with which our technologies interact with the external world and augment our capabilities. At the same time, as Kurzweil acknowledges, those technologies often lead us to “outsource” many of our own functions to them – as is the case, for instance, with vast amounts of human memories and creations residing on smartphones and in the “cloud”. If the timeframes of arrival of human-like AI capabilities match those described by Kurzweil in his characterization of the “law of accelerating returns”, then questions regarding what constitutes a mind sufficiently like our own – and how we will treat those minds – will become ever more salient in the proximate future. It is important, however, for interest in advancing this field to become more widespread, and for political, cultural, and attitudinal barriers to its advancement to be lifted – for, unlike Kurzweil, I do not consider the advances of technology to be inevitable or unstoppable. We humans maintain the responsibility of persuading enough other humans that the pursuit of these advances is worthwhile and will greatly improve the length and quality of our lives, while enhancing our capabilities and attainable outcomes. Every movement along an exponential growth curve is due to a deliberate push upward by the efforts of the minds of the creators of progress and using the machines they have built.

This article is made available pursuant to the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author, Gennady Stolyarov II (G. Stolyarov II). Learn more about Mr. Stolyarov here

Fourth Enlightenment Salon – Political Segment: Discussion on Artificial Intelligence in Politics, Voting Systems, and Democracy

Fourth Enlightenment Salon – Political Segment: Discussion on Artificial Intelligence in Politics, Voting Systems, and Democracy

Gennady Stolyarov II
Bill Andrews
Bobby Ridge
John Murrieta


This is the third and final video segment from Mr. Stolyarov’s Fourth Enlightenment Salon.

Watch the first segment here.

Watch the second segment here.

On July 8, 2018, during his Fourth Enlightenment Salon, Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, invited John Murrieta, Bobby Ridge, and Dr. Bill Andrews for an extensive discussion about transhumanist advocacy, science, health, politics, and related subjects.

Topics discussed during this installment include the following:

• What is the desired role of artificial intelligence in politics?
• Are democracy and transhumanism compatible?
• What are the ways in which voting and political decision-making can be improved relative to today’s disastrous two-party system?
• What are the policy implications of the development of artificial intelligence and its impact on the economy?
• What are the areas of life that need to be separated and protected from politics altogether?

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside by filling out an application form that takes less than a minute. Members will also receive a link to a free compilation of Tips for Advancing a Brighter Future, providing insights from the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Advisors and Officers on some of what you can do as an individual do to improve the world and bring it closer to the kind of future we wish to see.