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Comments on Sentient Developments: Transhumanism and the 'Intelligence Principle'

Updated: 2017-11-17T18:19:34.322-05:00


His central contention is that we should readjust ...


His central contention is that we should readjust our thinking and consider a postbiological universe -- an argument powered by the likely age and lifetimes of technological civilizations and the overriding importance of cultural evolution as an element of cosmic evolution.

Not mystic at all, Michael. This is a totally reasonable hypothesis rooted in a more complex view of living systems as knowledge and complexity generators (feel free to swap in intelligence, another clunky old-school meme that muddles these arguments and slows consenus building). These monkeys are significant in that they are tools used by a mesh of complex adaptive life systems to increase survivability and control over perceived environment.

Even uber-transhumanist Kurzweil acknowledges this continuum:

"[T]he more complex any system becomes, the better it models the universe that engendered it, and the better it seems to understand its own history and environment, including the physical chain of singularities that created it." "..there is something about the construction of the universe itself, something about the nature and universal function of local computation that permits, and may even mandate, continuously accelerating computational development in local environments."

Dick's argument is that we represent a developmental step in a broader process that may well be redundant throughout the universe. From another POV, one could easily argue that it is mystical to assume that we are disconnected from universal rule sets - that we are more special than we really are - it's reminiscent of not believing in a heliocentric model way back in the day. Def take a look at the Evo Devo bibliography posted above and get into some of that work, particularly John Smart's "A Framework for Speculations on Cosmic Culture", which threads together many of the other increasingly convincing arguments.

I think such papers will help bring much clarity to our definitions of life, humanity, intelligence, etc.

This the crux of the intelligence principle: " the extent intelligence can be improved, it will be improved."

Agian, I'd swap out intelligence for knowledge development and survivability, but I definitely agree.

And overcoming the limitations of human biology would certain seem to be on the agenda. Among other things, the transhumanist 'to do list' typically includes the eradication of infirmity, aging, and suffering. We don't imply that solving these problems is going to be easy, but we do suggest that these problems are not intractable.

Nicely put. Though I do think that new universal/cosmic frameworks for understanding information, knowledge, life suggest that while we be capable of solving human-centric material scarcity and perhaps suffering, that there will always be more to learn in order for our system to increase its odds of survivability and control in the broader universe and cosmos. Trans-systemism baby. Continued development of skillz to avoid cosmic commoditization and/or erradication.

Overall, George, I applaud your efforts to link overarching systemic/cosmic theories with transhumanism - they will link up somewhere in the middle - and strongly encourage you both to immerse in the evo devo literature - imho, that's where the most interesting and forward-looking research on acceleration, information, CADS, etc is emerging.

Nice article. Glad to see you exploring bridges b...


Nice article. Glad to see you exploring bridges between transhumanism/accelerating change and universal/cosmic rule sets.

Taking a step back, can we seriously argue that the apex of intelligent life is the state at which it was last crafted by the processes of natural selection?

Just a point of clarification, albeit an important one given the transhumanist tendency to create hard distinction between man, tech and environment - evolution has been show to be rather more complex than straight-up natural selection. The Evo-Devo community, for example, is making significant progress in their demonstrations of more-complex- than-previously-thought evolution and development.


Note that Steven J. Dick is just one of many serious researchers participating in this community.

In his paper, Dick makes the case that we may become (or spawn) a postbiological species, one that has "evolved beyond flesh and blood intelligence to artificial intelligence" and is a "product of cultural rather than biological evolution." He believes that this possibility hasn't been given the attention it's due, nor has it been carried to its logical conclusion. Consequently, Dick argues that we need to apply more long-term thinking when contemplating the problem of our future and that of intelligence in the universe.

Great stuff, though I find the hard distinction between cultural and biological evolution to be a false dichotomy. Clunky outdated memes that result in clunky frames. Culture, info management, knowledge generation are natural extensions/updates of biological processes that exist in concert with biological systems.

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Yes, I agree that Dick's thesis is optimistic,...


Yes, I agree that Dick's thesis is optimistic, but I'm not so sure I'd go so far as to describe it as being mystical. He has said that, "Biologically based technological a fleeting phenomenon limited to a few thousand years, and exists in the universe in the proportion of one thousand to one billion, so that only one in a million civilizations are biological."

He argues that, in a post-biological universe, machines are the dominant form of intelligence.

Be sure to check out this Daily Galaxy article for some clarification.

The intelligence principle sounds pretty darn opti...


The intelligence principle sounds pretty darn optimistic. If it's true, then why has cultural complexity risen and fallen multiple times throughout our history?

"the overriding importance of cultural evolution as an element of cosmic evolution."

I don't buy this. Sounds mystical. What does a few little monkeys on a backwater planet have to do with cosmic evolution? Sure, one day we may grab control of the cosmos, but right now we're quite insignificant. To suggest that human cultural evolution is connected to cosmic evolution is mystical.