If We Don’t Know What Consciousness Is Or Means, Why Are We So Scared Of It?

(Originally posted on Patreon, on November 18, 2014)

This post now resides at AFutureWorthThinkingAbout.com

If We Don’t Know What Consciousness Is Or Means, Why Are We So Scared Of It?

Fairytales Of Slavery: Societal Distinctions, Technoshamanism, and Nonhuman Personhood

This post now resides at AFutureWorthThinkingAbout.com

Fairytales Of Slavery: Societal Distinctions, Technoshamanism, and Nonhuman Personhood

The future offers very little hope for those who expect that our new mechanical slaves will offer us a world in which we may rest from thinking. Help us they may, but at the cost of supreme demands upon our honesty and our intelligence.

Norbert Weiner, “God and Golem, Inc.,” 1964

Even the father of cybernetic theory realised that the meeting and subsequent entanglement of human and machine consciousnesses would be a process that would require discernment rather than assumptions.

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The future offers very little hope for those who expect that our new mechanical slaves will offer us a world in which we may rest from thinking. Help us they may, but at the cost of supreme demands upon our honesty and our intelligence.

Norbert Weiner, “God and Golem, Inc.,” 1964

Even the father of cybernetic theory realised that the meeting and subsequent entanglement of human and machine consciousnesses would be a process that would require discernment rather than assumptions.

Quote

Someone Asked “I think I read on your tumblr recently that there would probably be a difference between human consciousness and machine consciousness. Would this be due to the immanent nature of human consciousness and the derivative nature of a machines consciousness?”

This post now resides at AFutureWorthThinkingAbout.com

Someone Asked “I think I read on your tumblr recently that there would probably be a difference between human consciousness and machine consciousness. Would this be due to the immanent nature of human consciousness and the derivative nature of a machines consciousness?”

Religion in the Time of Superintelligence

So. We’re still doing that whole “Westernized Manichean Good Vs Evil Original Sin Theology Will Be A Thing A Machine Consciousness Cares
About Unless We Convince It That It Should” thing, then?

All right, I
guess, but mightn’t it do us a world of good to try some non-dual,
non-western approaches to a notion of both the self and moral
responsibility? Something like the principles of Buddhism and Taoism,
where the self/Soul is an interconnected and interdependent expression
of elements of universal change, which survival depends on the
maintenance of the whole, rather than a set of post-death rewards?

I
mean, if we’re going to apply the principles of religious scholarship to
the theorizing about and development OF machine minds, then let’s do
some deep, DEEP diving here, rather that retreading the same old ground.​

Religion in the Time of Superintelligence

Link

John Brockman

protoslacker:

There wasn’t a single “like” to the link the The Edge Annual Question” I posted yesterday.

I never know what people will find interesting, all I’ve got is hunches. And my hunch about no links is that I’m old.

John Brockman is a literary agent. There’s a good profile of Brockman from ten years ago by Andrew Brown in The Guardian entitled, The Hustler. Here’s a short snippet from the end of that piece:

Even the name, the Reality Club, goes right back to his earliest big idea: that reality is what the smart people, who should be friends of John Brockman, decide to make of the world: “It’s an argument that I have with all my scientist friends, and I lose it every time. They don’t buy it at all. It’s very primitivistic, I’m told, or even solipsism, but it works for me.”

The responses to this year’s question: WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT MACHINES THAT THINK? are good.  The assortment of 180 responses bends towards old. Old is good when it comes scholarship. But taken together, even with all the diversity of opinion, something seemed missing.

I follow Damien William’s (Wolven) Tumblr blog, I’m Not Really Here. As I was scrolling through the responses at EDGE, I kept wondering how Wolven would respond. Better yet, What would smart people, who should be friends of Wolven, decide what to make of the question?

First and foremost, thanks protoslacker for the extremely kind and thoughtful words. I’ve been reading through and thinking about these for the past few days, as well, and while I don’t have any new thoughts Yet, I do have some older thoughts.

They’re thoughts from both myself and others, some from well before this most recent round of Machine Mind Panic was set off by Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking’s unnuanced perspectives on the potential directions for the development of machine intelligences, and some which were developed both concurrently and in response to said.

And I get a little “I-Told-You-So”-y about Musk and Hawking, because I TOTALLY called the kind of machine consciousness backlash we’re seeing from people like those two, back when Google, NASA, and Boston Dynamics announced they would be working together.

But Anyway: Here are the proceedings from The Machine Question Symposium in 2012 (PDF), in which myself and others talked about a great many perspectives on the ethics, agency, rights, and responsibilities of machine consciousness.

Here’s the proceedings of Laval Virtual’s 2013 Virtual Reality International Conference. Look specifically for the sixth session, “The Progress and Uncertainties of Human-Robot Relationships.”

Here’s me talking about the problems with the Roko’s Basilisk thought experiment—the idea that, basically, thinking about an evil superintelligence will cause it to com into existence: “Laboring in the Liquid Light of Leviathan”

Here’s me talking about Elon Musk’s first flailing about: “If We Don’t Know What Consciousness Is Or Means, Why Are We So Scared Of It?”

And here’s’ fhrevue‘s Response/Companion piece to said.

In addition to all of that, I owe large debts of inspiration to jamaiscascio, zerosociety, m1k3y, catvincent, shriekygirl, firepile, Donna Haraway, Scott Midson, Tommaso Bertolotti, teratocybernetics, kalimayablack, Tom Henderson, and many other Very Smart People who’ve made it their job to think about these things, in general, and who have been gracious enough to talk about them with me.

I think that’s a pretty good place to start.

John Brockman