Wednesday, March 01, 2006

What's Your Future Shock Level?

Here's a piece on future shock levels.
A Shock Level measures the high-tech concepts you can contemplate without being impressed, frightened, blindly enthusiastic - without exhibiting future shock. Shock Level Zero or SL0, for example, is modern technology and the modern-day world, SL1 is virtual reality or an ecommerce-based economy, SL2 is interstellar travel, medical immortality or genetic engineering, SL3 is nanotech or human-equivalent AI, and SL4 is the Singularity.
I am at SL3, which means I'm comfortable with the concepts of "nanotechnology, human-equivalent AI, minor intelligence enhancement, uploading, total body revision, intergalactic exploration." This is the level inhabited by "extropians and transhumanists."

How about you?

(ht: Jacqueline Passey)


At 1:37 PM, Blogger David said...

Actually, SL3 is pretty extreme...
Nanotechnology - This is the easiest in my opinion. But consider the effect of full-blown nanotech manufacturing. As soon as we have a complete nano manufacturing capability, physical money (you know, coins and dollar bills) become obsolete, as well as any form of physical value (example, centuries old paintings), since anything can be duplicated down to the level of the atom. That's a very profound change.

human-equivalent AI - Imagine your daughter is found guilty of killing a human equivalent AI and sentenced to death. Machine AI will have profound effects on all of the basic tenants of our society. We haven't even begun to think of how society will be affected.

Minor intelligence enhancement - I think this should be in SL2. First, what's minor? An IQ of 300? Even 300 would be a tremendous improvement. How about 3000? Personally, I think that minor intelligence enhancement is simply anything more of what we already have. SL4 should include changes that create the next big thing after intelligence. After all, our view that intelligence is the end game for biological development comes out of our own ignorance as to what comes after (in other words, intelligence as we define it may just be a waypoint in a continuing progression).

Uploading - How do we define life? If an uploaded person is a person, our current definition of life is no longer valid.

Total body revision - Forget gender change, what if you change species? What if you create a previously unknown, new living oganism? What if you figure out how to create a physical organism capable of thriving on Mercury? Is the new organism still covered under your current health insurance plan?.

Intergalactic exploration - Everyone claim ownership of a galaxy and hop to it (considering that there are more known galaxies than there are people on the earth).

Developments listed as SL3 are so far beyond our everyday lives that I thing we routinely underestimate their impact.

At 2:05 PM, Blogger Glen said...

"human-equivalent AI" means AI that is as smart as a human. It doesn't automatically mean we grant them all human legal rights. Actually, the more interesting question is what rights they grant us...

Similarly, uploads will force us to rethink the legal definition of "person" -- can my upload inherit when I die? Is it murder to erase your own spare copy? -- but the definition of "life" is probably fine to leave unchanged.

At 8:09 PM, Blogger David said...


You're right of course that the first Human Equivalent AI (HEAI) would hardly be granted full human status immediately. However, it would only be a matter of time, one way or the other. Your joke about what rights they may grant humans emphasizes how a true HEAI may fundamentally change our society. While we argue amongst ourselves about whether they should be considered human in the fullest sense of the word (and as an aside, force us to clearly(?) define what it means to be human), they may well label humans as rather talented animals and decide to manage us the same way we now manage our pets (example, the life of a pet isn't more important than that of a human for most of us). The point is that HEAI as an SL3 event is very likely underrated and may in itself fundamentally change our reality so much that we never get the chance to reach SL4.

The same can be said of a true uploading of the human brain. It's really (probably) the same thing, assuming the goal of the upload is to create a functioning mind of human intelligence operating at machine speed. The successfully uploaded mind would insist that it is human in every sense of the word, with the only difference being that they have an electronic (or nanotronic?) body instead of a biological one. The first successfully uploaded fully functioning human mind immediately forces us to decide the human status of such an entity. It's not something we're ready for and to be honest, I don't think the human race can deal with it. We can hardy deal with each other right now while we're all flesh and blood.


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