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Think Addiction and The Singularity

Posted by majc in Science on Nov 27th 2011 2 Comments »

Lets say you do an fMRI scan on Singularity scientists thinking out the consequences of accelerating technological innovation and smarter-than-human Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). I wonder if, during moments of insight, you might find patterns of activity which correspond to game/reward/addictive experiences? (— What is the Singularity?)

Singularity addiction Thinking is a rewarding process. You can derive immense satisfaction from thought, knowledge, forecasting and successful experimentation. Which is to say the brain lights up and fires a tonne of dopamine at you for it. (Or endorphins or something).

It’s well known that reward-driven behavioural mechanisms can grow uncontrollably. And when such growth is considered counter-productive, we call it addiction. There’s no telling whether this is happening around the technological Singularity.

There is without a doubt an extraordinary intensity of enthusiasm and commitment from many of its proponents. Yet this is to be expected if The Singularity is in fact going to deliver us from even half of the problems it theoretically promises to. Holy shit, eternal life? There are few who would not be excited by the idea of an escape from death. Not to mention the prospect of ever-greater levels of physical health and intellectual achievement in the process – or should I say, in The Process.

And so, with its fantastic promises, although not without risk, this vision of The Singularity, this ideological construct, this reasonable extrapolation of what we know about computation, is rapidly attracting interest and steadily gaining popular support: more and more people building hopefully towards fulfilling some of the most ancient of human desires. »

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“No – you’re a dualist! No you!” Don’t panic, spelling nazis – the title is not mistaken. It’s just a stupid descripto-pun of the battle taking place between proponents of uploadable consciousness and their critics: a fight to the internet-log-off-and-sulk over who’s being the dualist.

Acknowledging any kind of mysterious division between mind and matter is credibility suicide nowadays amongst the inner circle of super sciencey people. Mention soul and unless you’re talking about an out-of-date, Transhumanist Duelism funky music genre or making a dyslexic attempt at communicating that-thing-on-the-bottom-of-a-shoe, your opinion will automatically be dismissed as fast as the disappointingly slow carbon-based computational circuitry in their brains will allow.

No-one in their right proud-to-be-scientific mind wants to be caught indulging (even accidentally) in what is considered by both sides of the ongoing debate to be nothing but wishful thinking; nothing more than a weak and embarrassingly human throwback to religion-like reverence for our own conscious experience and its magical specialness. »

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