X-Message-Number: 5292
From:  (Thomas Donaldson)
Subject: on.singularities.responsibilities.and.immortality
Date: Tue, 28 Nov 1995 23:36:02 -0800 (PST)

Well well!

Let me try to organize matters a little, with the simple things first.

First, Dr. Stodolsky's statement that "the hidden civilizations idea is 
currently hot". It says ... that other civilizations will not interfere with 
the development of new ones. Well, if that's a hot idea, then the invisibility
of God is a hot idea too. We don't see him anywhere because he's separated
himself from us so as not to interfere ... And if that is the best standard of
thought that Thinkers on this issue have come up with, then it tells us far 
more about the fatuity of the Thinkers than about the universe. 

I do not understand now and have never understood just why so many people want
to believe that there is some friendly, essentially metaphysical entity OUT
THERE who will look after us so carefully as not to interfere in our 
development. Though I admit to being an atheist, I will say when pressed that
the really essential point isn't about existence or nonexistence of God, but
his/her/its RELEVANCE. We still have to live in the world and make our own
choices. And yes, presently I hope that I will be among those who go out to 
the stars to settle and control them. And I will feel no compunction at all
about cutting off the possibility of existence of beings which might exist
if I had not dropped in before them. Whether it is God or faraway but VERY
benign supercivilizations, they can answer none of our questions nor provide
us with the least bit of real help. We have to do that all ourselves.

And I will also say that I very much doubt that all the efforts at SETI
will find anything --- though as a believer in experimental tests, I do not
think they should be simply abandoned. Who knows? Maybe I'm wrong. But if so,
then these hypothetical civilizations would not and could not be concealing
themselves from us --- the "hot idea" still remains wrong.

And more on "The Singularity". We of course are living in a historically
unprecedented time. So many things are happening, so fast. Did you know, 
I recently met and spoke with the inventor of eyeglasses in Italy ... The
feeling that history is now moving very fast has a history that goes back
to the late Middle Ages. How do we, in practice, figure out what is "fast"?
Well, by comparison with how fast things were moving when we were young, or
when our parents were young. Things were just getting into motion then.
Now they're really barrelling along. It's 1495, and think of all the changes..

So far, there are no signs that any specially rapid (more than exponential)
events will happen. And the cases in which they do bring with them some
ominous ideas. Look at the stock market. The time when everything goes up
not exponentially but "hyperbolically" is the time when you try to get out'
before it all collapses around you and your dreams of wealth return to 
dreams once more.

As for superintelligent machines, who would speed up our progress so greatly:
well, they MIGHT speed up their own progress, but not OURS. And that is exactly
the reason why I think they will never be built ... any more than we would 
all decide to set off all the hydrogen bombs in all the respective arsenals,
to clean the Earth of human beings. One is much the same as the other. And
understand, I'm not saying that we cannot improve ourselves (though I will 
say that "intelligence", when considered with care, becomes a far less clear
concept than most be so blithely think). And yes, someday when we become 
"superintelligent" creatures, we will be advancing very fast (compared to 
1995). But it will remain exponential. And what's more, we'll be looking back
and saying: things were just getting into motion then. Now they're really
barrelling along...

Finally, about the draft and old men drafting young men (for Keith Lynch).
I doubt your scenario, for the very good reason that if we all start living
for a very long time the number of young men will become a very small %
of the population. You would not have a war but rather something close to
a football came, perhaps a bit rougher: the 9 young men living in the US 
against the 9 young men in (say) Brazil. Not only that, but those young men
will live in a world in which they expect to live for thousands of years.
I very much doubt that the 9 Americans will be willing to do much damage to
the9 Brazilians. And if others try to force them to do so, the most likely
result would be that we would have to deal with 18 young men who were not 
at all happy with us and our plans for them.

Not only that, but I don't claim any absolutism here. There will always be
someone who dies, or gets into such severe trouble that they need suspension.
And frankly, a major war between Brazil and the US that involved armies 
consisting of 9 men each (and of course did not touch the rest of the 
population) would be a very odd war indeed. It would show far more respect
for life than any war that currently goes on --- even if it would not 
qualify as "moral" to those who believe in an absolute morality.

As for the other kind of warfare, wars of extermination against groups in 
which the fighting is very uneven (such as rounding up all the Tasmanians
by the British settlers) I would say, yes, immortality or great longevity
would not affect that. But no such case presently looks as if it could 
happen. All the parties to conflicts, if anything, are becoming more equal
rather than less.

Finally, there is one point that I should think is almost obvious. These
young draftees will have relatives who care for them, and who are every bit
as old as anyone else. I doubt that THEY would put up with sending off their
young kids to war. And of all the results of longevity, the one that seems
most likely to me is that people will become far more resistant than now to
the nonsense a government puts out when it wants others to die so that its
purposes may be served. And lots of others would join in, because they knew
that if they let this happen someday their own children would be in danger.

Could this cause an immortal society to lose out in battles against a mortal
one? I think not, basically because I think that once discovered immortality
will be VERY infectious (though like most things it won't all happen at 
once). I don't know of any society in which people knowingly refuse to 
extend their lives when the opportunity is really put before them. Not only
that, but mortal societies must carry a big burden, so often forgotten,
both in educating many children and dealing with the sick and old. If a serious
conflict really looked like beginning, the immortals would have a big 
advantage that way... though because of its infectiousness I strongly 
doubt it could come to that.

I believe these things not because I am a pacifist but because they seem to
me to be among the effects of great longevity --- even without any redesign 
of people at all. And the other side of them, too: that we can never expect
a time with no conflicts in which no one ever incurs any danger. But I should
think that an army of 9 in battle with another of the same size would be 
thought by any sane person as a great advance.

			Best and long long life to all,

				Thomas Donaldson


happen. It's not that people would hold to some strong independent standard
of morality that no one really holds to now. It's that simply by acting in

r/tmp/snd.6160" [Modified] line 82 of 101 --81%-- heir own interest they will 
not kill or maim one another nearly as much as
happens now. 

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