TransVision Tuesday Morning Session I
24 July 2007 (updated 12 March 2011)
I’m in Chicago for TransVision 2007. Here are some notes and thoughts from Tuesday morning session I.
Charlie Kam opened the TransVision conference.
Anders Sandberg discussed brain emulation. What level of detail is needed? Down to quantum states? Include spin or more? How do we simulate? Need body simulator and environment simulator (like simulated worlds) for testing and feedback. Start with worms or mice. Non-destructive scan is complicated, so first will be destructive - slicing and electron microscope scanning. We need sufficient computing power, most think will come around the middle of this century. Depends on resolution needed. If some chemistry needed then 2050 is year for sufficient computing power. Gradual emergence of emulation. We’ll see a worm, then mouse then a cute simulated cat, and people will realize that, assuming moore’s law continues, we’ll have a human within a few years.
Mark Walker talked about biohappiness. The thesis that it is permissible for persons to alter the biological basis of happiness. Happiness is multifaceted: about, feeling, disposition, life, etc. Happiness has a market - check out the book store or the philosophers? Why is it important? Only perfectionists, like Nietzsche, claim not to pursue happiness. Primitive drugs won’t work, because of habituation and side-effects. Anti-depressants are slightly better. Even people who are not reporting depression have reported feeling better than well on Prozac, but side effects arise with time. Modeling a pharmecological agent after the the chemistry of the hyperthemic is the best model. They are unusually happy, even sleeping less and facing major life challenges. Genetics play a role. Happiness of twin 10 years ago predicts happiness better than factors like education or income. Can such a tool work? Would it provide false happiness? Is it artificial? Yes. Is it authentic? Yes. It can be both, but hyperthemic sometimes want to experience sorrow and think their happiness is not authentic. Will the cost be a zombie world? Hyperthemic still have ups and downs and are multidimensional. Will it cost a loss of achievement? Some think happiness decreases drive, but that is incorrect folk psychology. The causal direction is not clear, but happiness tends to correlate with excelling at work and in social life, as well as better physical and mental health. Why should we support it? Individual liberty and bio-autonomy, justice relative to success of hyperthemic which have advantage, improve social harmony.
Patrick Hopkins discussed the moral vision of transhumanists - the moral vision of humans that envision transformation to neohumans. We may not be unique, but what distinguishes us? Humans are creatures that can imagine themselves to be other than what they are. Biology, sociality, curiosity, pursuit of happiness and empowerment: these describe humans. We are less empowered than we can desire. Transhumanists think these are more than environmental matters. They are matters that we can address in the human condition. Humans have long imagined ourselves in greater than human projects. Instead of pursuing other worlds, or pleasures, or eradicating desires, why not more closely align the human body with the human imagination? There is paradox in human drive both toward and away adversity. If we don’t struggle, we watch it or imagine it. We are not adapted for heaven or our ideal worlds. Perhaps we should change our natures to not desire conflict? Should we shed our old selves to become new, enlightened, etc. Otherwise, we only become superhuman - not transhuman. Thus, even our characters and wills must be transformed into something better. Are we still ourselves when we change? This may be a problem, but one we already face in growing from childhood to adulthood, or foolishness to wisdom. We hope for that which we cannot understand. We assume that greater knowledge will lead to greater good. Seeking truth is another aspect of a Transhumanist moral vision. Our breadth of human values will be reflected in a breadth of relationships between humans and transhumans, from superhuman warlords to transcendent compassion.