Species Dominance, Artilects, Artilect War, Cosmists, Terrans, Gigadeath, Essays, Media, etc
Pollyannists vs. Jeremaists
Over the past few years, I have become increasingly frustrated at the (in my view) over optimistic attitudes of people like Ray Kurzweil, who portray the future of the rise of the artilects (artificial intellects, massively intelligent machines) in an irresponsible way, by under emphasizing considerably, the very real possibility that the rise of these artilects may end up very negatively.
In my view, I see the most probable scenario as being the worst, i.e. that an “Artilect War” between the Terrans (people who are opposed to the building of artilects) on the one hand and the Cosmists (people who want to build artilects) and Cyborgists (people who want to become cyborgs (cybernetic organisms, part machine, part human)), will kill billions of people (“gigadeath”) using 21st century weaponry. I see the Terrans rejecting with passion the idea of having to live with artilects and cyborgs and thus seeing their species dominance superseded. The Terrans will go on an extermination war to stop this. They will probably have to “first strike” before they become too inferior, but the Cosmists and Cyborgists will anticipate this and be ready. 21st century nano weapons will kill not millions of people (as in 20th century wars between nation states) but billions in a global civil war, in the second half of the 21st century.
The above Artilect War scenario is the opposite extreme of Kurzweil’s optimism (e.g. we can cyborg ourselves, making ourselves more intelligent, immortal, disease free, etc). I do not deny the possibility that what Kurzweil is predicting may end up being true, but I do claim that he is only preaching a half truth, that he is cherry picking and not presenting to the public with adequate weight the whole range of artilect scenarios.
As a result of this frustration, I have coined the terms “Pollyannists” (e.g. Kurzweil) and “Jeremaists” (e.g. me) to label this polarity that exists amongst artilect futurists.
The Need for Opinion Polls on the Issue of “Species Dominance”
So who is right? One way to get the two sides speaking to each other, is to organize opinion polls. If the results of these polls show that a substantial proportion of humanity thinks that an Artilect War is coming, then that should impact on the Pollyannists. If, on the other hand, most of humanity thinks that nearly all humanity will cyborg themselves and that an Artilect War can be avoided, then that will impact on the Jeremaists.
So, I constructed my first questionnaire on the topic of “Machines with Superhuman Intelligence”. You can view it (here).
It contained questions asking people whether they were more Terran, Cosmist, Cyborgist, whether they thought an Artilect War is coming, whether they felt fearful of the rise of artilects, etc.
This questionnaire (the first of its kind on the planet, as far as I know) was handed out at a meeting of about 40 engineers and IT types at a talk I gave entitled “Should Humanity Build Massively Intelligent Machines in the Next Few Decades?” at Melbourne University, Victoria, Australia, on August 24th 2011 (my 64th birthday, a nice round binary number). A video of that talk can be seen (here), and the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) television clip mentioned in the talk can be viewed (here).
The raw results are contained in an Excel sheet that can be viewed (here).
A Majority of People Think an Artilect War is Coming
What really floored me about the results, was that 60% of the 30 responders felt that an Artilect War was either moderately or very probable.
Also interesting, was the result that half of the responders preferred the Cyborgist philosophy, and a quarter each for Cosmism, and Terranism.
A more detailed analysis of the results can be found (here).
I am not a sociologist, and have been criticized for the amateurishness of the above questionnaire, so I have sought help from people more expert in such things. So expect better, more scientifically based, questionnaires in the near future, that I will hand out at future invitational talks. If a majority of people keep thinking that an Artilect War is coming, then I will approach the world media with this startling result and then hit the Pollyannists hard with it.
After receiving suggestions from my friend Ben Goertzel and his sociology professor father Ted Goertzel, I made a second attempt at a questionnaire. I hope you will find this one better than the first attempt. I will use it at the upcoming Applied Brilliance event in October 2011. If the results are interesting I may present them as news to the international media.
The second questionnaire can be found (here).
The results of these two polls were put into an essay “Species Dominance” Poll Results, that you can see (here) and in the Essays tab. For the raw scores of the second poll, see (here). The same essay was published by the HumanityPlus magazine (here).
In Dec 2011, I gave a talk at the Humanity Plus (H+) conference in Hong Kong, where I handed out the second questionnaire for a 3rd poll. The raw data can be seen (here), and an essay giving the results can be seen (here), which also appeared in the Humanity Plus magazine, that can be seen (here).