Transhumanism, Darwin and Religion

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posted on Mar, 27 2012 @ 05:19 PM
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Transhumanism is opposed by a coalition of two groups. On the one hand, most vocally we have the Creationist argument that God put a barrier between the species, and that man should never tamper with it. We were created to be a certain way, and we should not tamper with our genes or merge with machines.

The other group of opponents come from the left, namely from animal rights activists and environmentalists. They would posit that man should not tamper with Nature, and that genetic chimera experiments violate animal rights (they most certainly do!). Their broader argument is that transhumanism hands capitalism the tools it needs to further dominate humans and Nature (it most certainly does!).

Both of these arguments point out that humanity is less wise than it thinks it is. When you get Tom Horn and John Zerzan agreeing on something, well, that is something indeed. Allow me to add a third argument against transhumanism that would rely on principles of evolutionary biology accepted by AI believers themselves. The usual AI argument is that intelligence is an algorithm, that it can be reproduced by knowing certain constants and certain variables. Without going "Penrose" on my reader, let me suggest that intelligence may be more complex than a simple algorithm that any sophisticated computer can generate.

Evolution arose through adaptation. At least this is the dominant Darwinian narrative. It is the model I will follow for purposes of this thread, leaving ancient aliens to other threads (of which there are many, I am sure). Again, if intelligence arose through adaptation then it might be precisely the randomness in Nature that gives rise to an intelligence capable of intuition and flexibility. Adaptation gave rise to intelligence, not computer programmers or Silicon Valley dreamers. We have no workable model of real intelligence emerging from human or alien computer programmers. We have only Nature and adaptation as our model.

Most arguments against AI rest on the idea that our intelligence is not sophisticated enough to create other intelligences. I would assume that the "man is arrogant" meme as held by religious and environmentalist narratives would both maintain this position. Allow me to turn the argument around, and appeal to Darwinian supporters of transhumanism on their own evolutionary grounds, adaptationism. To be clear, I admit to a secret feeling that LaMarckian adaptationism has never been disproven to my satisfaction. However, even with Darwinian adaptationism there is the idea of genetic memory still embedded withhin it. Traits that have been dormant can be reactivated according to our modern notions of genetics. I will stick with the Darwin-Mendel synthesis for now and leave LaMarck aside, remaining within the ideological pale even if my Irish and Native American side of my heritage likes to go beyond the pale when Anglo-Saxon ideology says to stay within it.

So, again, assuming even a Darwinian form of adaptationism would mean that intelligence arose through experience. It is a safe bet then that intelligence is based on experience, one that we can truly say is accumulated over billions of years. Again, as a closet LaMarckian I would press the argument a bit further, but even in Darwinian thinking you could still argue that our instincts and mind arose in a certain set of ecological contexts. The broader those contexts, the more intelligence we manifest. Again, I repeat, the broader those contexts, the more intelligence we manifest. At no point could those contexts be planned out logically in a think tank in Mountain View. They are products of Nature, of chance and of the broad latitude allowed by physical laws.

Formal models are incomplete to any system that is sufficiently complex as reality (Godel). Penrose makes good use of this argument in his anti-AI brief. What this means is that far from the human brain being not complex enough to create intelligence, we might actually be too complex, too beholden to a formalistic way of thinking. It may well be, in my view, that Nature in her randomness might actually do the job better after all. More variables are taken care of by Nature than by our ability to plan existence out.

One last thing. Transhumanism is something of a religion. It holds to a faith in some kind of intelligent design to the cosmos, even if a decidedly anti-Christian (and anti-Jewish, as I have noticed) form of it. Often ideas from Gnosticism are drawn upon in the more metaphysical forms of transhumanism. In a sense, they have in common with their Creationist and Gaia-ist opponents a belief that life follows a grand narrative. It should at least be admitted on their part that they are not purely scientific. That is OK, because I do not believe that one has to be purely scientific. I am not purely scientific myself, and feel entitled to hold metaphysical views of my own. But, I think one should be honest about it. Transhumanists are Gnostics without the honesty to admit it.




posted on Mar, 29 2012 @ 11:20 AM
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Let me simplify my claim:

The very randomness of Nature is what gave rise to intelligence. Hence, I am skeptical of AI because it is a planned event, whereas real Nature is chaotic---in the Chaos Theory sense of what chaos means.

Any takers?



posted on Mar, 31 2012 @ 04:56 PM
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If God meant for us to be better than we are now, he would have made us that way to start with.
If God wanted us to stay the same, he would never have let us invent the technology to advance our society.

Therefore, either there is no God or his intentions are for us to only change when we are ready, aka transhumanism.



posted on Apr, 1 2012 @ 08:39 PM
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reply to post by 1pi314
 


You seem to know a lot about what God thinks. I do not claim a knowledge that exalted when it comes to this subject. My belief is that the randomness of Nature, which if one believes in God could be said to be part of the Divine Plan, is what shapes intelligence.

Hence, AI becomes questionable and problematic.
edit on 1-4-2012 by EarthEvolves because: Sentence insert



posted on Apr, 3 2012 @ 12:12 PM
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Please allow me to link to a BBC story entitled "Can computers have true artificial intelligence?" My comments at the end:

www.bbc.co.uk...



The Turing Test

The benchmark for the success of AI that Turing suggested in his original paper of 1950 was about communication.

If you were talking online with a person and a computer, could you distinguish which was the computer?

Since we can only assess the intelligence of our fellow humans by our interaction with them, if a computer can pass itself off as human, should we then call it intelligent?

There are some very good candidates out there that are getting close to passing The Turing Test, including this one, cleverbot.

Interestingly this hurdle is more and more being regarded by those in the field of AI as a red herring.

Even if a computer passes the test, it does not mean it understands anything of the interaction.

In fact I was recently put through a thought experiment called The Chinese Room devised by philosopher John Searle, which challenges the idea that a machine could ever think.

I was put in a room with an instruction manual which told me an appropriate response to any string of Chinese characters posted into the room.

Although I do not speak Mandarin, it was shown I could have a very convincing discussion with a Mandarin speaker without ever understanding a word of my responses.
The Chinese room problem Continue reading the main story
Chinese room problem A message is sent to a non-Mandarin speaker in "The Chinese Room"
Chinese room problem Armed with an instruction manual of possible questions and answers, the non-Mandarin speaker is able to match the characters and select a response.
Chinese room problem The Mandarin speaker believes he has been talking to another Mandarin speaker. But the person in "The Chinese Room" has no idea what he has said.
Continue reading the main story
previous slide next slide 1/3

Searle compared the man in "The Chinese Room" to a computer reading a bit of code. I didn't understand the Mandarin so how could a computer be said to understand what it is programmed to do.

It's a powerful argument against the relevance of Turing's test. But then again, what is my mind doing when I'm articulating words now?

Aren't I just following a set of instructions? Could there still be a threshold beyond which we would have to regard the computer as understanding Mandarin?



I tend to believe that this problem can be resolved more easily through organic evolution than through human design. The Chinese Room problem is an impossible problem if a machine is programmed. One can never tell the difference between an algorithm and genuine understanding, which is often gained through experience on the tabula rasa of the mind.

However, if there is enough experience, and an organism is able to pass genes down, as well as culture, then an accumulated understanding emerges that is an open-ended ability to adapt as opposed to an algorithm. You can think of it as a chaotic interplay of a number of algorithms, not as a single algorithm. This defines intelligence in my book.

Now, if I am wrong, and we can create artificial life, then by definition we no longer have a computer. We have silicon based life. At that point, the organisms created become their own organisms and not artificial by definition. We cannot then program what we have created. It becomes autonomous. Are we ready for that?



posted on Apr, 16 2012 @ 02:17 AM
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There are three ideas that place the Universe on a bigger footing than man. One is the idea that the evolutionary process is much bigger than he is, that our attempts to control Nature will be overcome by the inevitable uncontrollable elan vital of life. The other is the Native American narrative that the Earth is much bigger than we are. The third would be the Creationist and Intelligent Design concept that a bigger picture exists metaphysically. Transhumanists seem to want to refute all three notions at once while reserving the right to confuse them at will.

The idea that the Universe is bigger than man gives me hope. Indeed, the Enlightenment's original dream of human freedom was one that arose with the contradiction of also seeing man as the ideal machine. The contradiction smoothed itself by focusing on the idea of political liberation as a unifier between the two streams of Enlightenment thinking, one libertarian and the other mechanistic. Transhumanism seems to want to nullify this contract, to re-awaken the contradiction again. The central questions of the Enlightenment then become unsettled again. Do we really want that?

I think that there is an inevitable elan vital of life that will always surface when there is any attempt to control the processes of life. Come back millions of years from now and you will see Nature working just fine. Species will be different, for sure, while we may or may not be here. At no point will the world be planned or marketed. Such a state of affairs cannot last. Personally, my secret hope is that the Pleistocene reawakens and that rewilding takes us to a new cycle. But, then again, I can no more impose my wishes on the elan vital than anyone else so I will have to await what is beyond my lifetime with only the peace of knowing that I did not plan it.



posted on Apr, 16 2012 @ 02:22 AM
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i dont know what you mean by nature. do you mean rocks and inanimate objects or life? because we understand natural selection and that is absolutely not random.

edit
are you copy pasting?
edit on 16-4-2012 by vjr1113 because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 16 2012 @ 12:41 PM
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reply to post by vjr1113
 


Yeah, I copy-pasted. Let me repost so that there is no confusion. I'll put the article in quotations:

Please allow me to link to a BBC story entitled "Can computers have true artificial intelligence?" My comments at the end:

www.bbc.co.uk...



"The Turing Test

The benchmark for the success of AI that Turing suggested in his original paper of 1950 was about communication.

If you were talking online with a person and a computer, could you distinguish which was the computer?

Since we can only assess the intelligence of our fellow humans by our interaction with them, if a computer can pass itself off as human, should we then call it intelligent?

There are some very good candidates out there that are getting close to passing The Turing Test, including this one, cleverbot.

Interestingly this hurdle is more and more being regarded by those in the field of AI as a red herring.

Even if a computer passes the test, it does not mean it understands anything of the interaction.

In fact I was recently put through a thought experiment called The Chinese Room devised by philosopher John Searle, which challenges the idea that a machine could ever think.

I was put in a room with an instruction manual which told me an appropriate response to any string of Chinese characters posted into the room.

Although I do not speak Mandarin, it was shown I could have a very convincing discussion with a Mandarin speaker without ever understanding a word of my responses.
The Chinese room problem Continue reading the main story
Chinese room problem A message is sent to a non-Mandarin speaker in "The Chinese Room"
Chinese room problem Armed with an instruction manual of possible questions and answers, the non-Mandarin speaker is able to match the characters and select a response.
Chinese room problem The Mandarin speaker believes he has been talking to another Mandarin speaker. But the person in "The Chinese Room" has no idea what he has said.
Continue reading the main story
previous slide next slide 1/3

Searle compared the man in "The Chinese Room" to a computer reading a bit of code. I didn't understand the Mandarin so how could a computer be said to understand what it is programmed to do.

It's a powerful argument against the relevance of Turing's test. But then again, what is my mind doing when I'm articulating words now?

Aren't I just following a set of instructions? Could there still be a threshold beyond which we would have to regard the computer as understanding Mandarin?"

partial quote end

I tend to believe that this problem can be resolved more easily through organic evolution than through human design. The Chinese Room problem is an impossible problem if a machine is programmed. One can never tell the difference between an algorithm and genuine understanding, which is often gained through experience on the tabula rasa of the mind.

However, if there is enough experience, and an organism is able to pass genes down, as well as culture, then an accumulated understanding emerges that is an open-ended ability to adapt as opposed to an algorithm. You can think of it as a chaotic interplay of a number of algorithms, not as a single algorithm. This defines intelligence in my book.

Now, if I am wrong, and we can create artificial life, then by definition we no longer have a computer. We have silicon based life. At that point, the organisms created become their own organisms and not artificial by definition. We cannot then program what we have created. It becomes autonomous. Are we ready for that?

end of old post

OK, so that is the original post with the article still in quotes. My comments come after that, so we don't confuse my ideas with the BBC.

As for the issue of Nature, please see my original post where I try to invoke randomness as the best reinforcer of intelligence and intuition.
edit on 16-4-2012 by EarthEvolves because: More needed



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