Friday, 26 November 2010

My response to David Brin critcism

I posted a comment regarding a life expectancy article featuring David Brin and Aubrey de Grey: When Will Life Expectancy Reach 200 Years? Aubrey de Grey and David Brin Disagree in Interview.

Here is my initial comment that prompted the whole saga:
(see Facebook link at bottom of page)

I often find people react very adversely to optimistic proclamations of techno-utopia. My comment, which I thought was relatively innocuous provoked a rather extreme battle of comments on Facebook, in the heat of battle comments seemed to be flying left, right, and center. I will now try to summarise my comments from the chaotic heat of that battle. I am now re-posting my comments here with some minor corrections. I will also include, at the bottom of my comments to David Brin, some comments to other people I posted on David Brin's Facebook page, in connection with this issue, which arose from the initial comment. Phew people! They are troublesome. Click here for the facebook link to the comments.

To put things in perspective I think firstly I should include an appropriate excerpt from David Brin's comment which demanded my response to such calumny:

  • So why do I -- and Vernor Vinge, the coiner of the term "tech singularity" react with sighs and eye-rolls to all this fervent "hossanah" shouting over salvation from above or an imminent Day of Transcendence, when Death shalt be no more and ye true believers will all be rewarded...

    ...because we've heard it all before. The terminology may be different, but the PSYCHOLOGY is still the same as in every tent show revival meeting across 6,000 years. It's not just the substitution of anecdotes for actual capabilities. (Lots of stem cell papers, but not one regrown nervous system, yet.) Nor the coincidence that Salvation Day always calculates out to be just in time for YOU!

    But no, I'll tell you what bugs me.

    It's the psychology. The incredibly self-centered, solipsistic, self-serving, "I-am Soooooo-darned-important!" narcissism of the fantasy is what bugs me. The hand-rubbing, chortling I-am-So-gonna-live-forever! zealotry that seems never to entail ANY of the virtues that we've long associated with adulthood.

David, you say you react with "sighs and eye-rolls" to my positive utopian outlook. Maybe this is your problem, you have become cynical. Yes, previously there have been many incorrect proclamations of utopia just around the corner. In the 60s people proclaimed we would all be flying around on jetpacks etc by now. This is a bit like the boy who cried wolf

Now that utopia IS possible, people such as yourself who've heard it all before (false cries of wolf) are now too cynical to listen. Previous false proclamations created your cynicism. Your cynicism is a damaging trait now that utopia is possible. Your cynicism is harmful.

Let's consider psychology. David you mention psychology. You describe the pro-utopia outlook in the following terms: solipsistic, self-serving, "I-am Soooooo-darned-important!" narcissism. This view of yours reveals an interesting antagonism, anger perhaps, regarding hope and survival. Your critique of pro-immortality (utopia) continues by berating the supposed "hand-rubbing" practiced by people who have a "I-am-So-gonna-live-forever" mentality.

David, there are many aspects in your psychological assessment demanding a reply. Firstly I want to address the issue of self-importance. Is it wrong to have a high opinion of yourself? Having an extremely low opinion of your "importance" often is associated with mental health problems, poor mental health. When people feel they are worthless, unimportant trash, they are inclined to be despondent and lacking in motivation, they lack self respect. So perhaps if more people thought they were VERY important, "Soooooo-darned-important" as you amusingly put it, then perhaps the world would be a better place? When I mention self-importance I am not referring to pretentiousness, I am referring to logical and justifiable beliefs of a person (humans) being important; it is about the importance of life, I think people are VERY important and naturally I am biased towards myself but this is not mindless selfishness, which leads in the the next point I want make.

David your psychological assessment touches upon survival: living forever. The desire to survive is an ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL evolutionary trait. Evolution is all about survival. What makes humans such a superior species is our ability to survive. Luck has played some part in our survival ability, but our defiant animal will to live is a vital factor. This desire to survive has created medicine and has led to massive breeding because humans generally want to live, ardently, passionately, with utter determination. This is not mere "hand-rubbing, chortling I-am-So-gonna-live-forever!" This is a human appreciation of consciousness, self awareness, it is an appreciation of life. If people want to die because they think they are unimportant then that is because they are evolutionary failures. The self importance I refer to shouldn't be confused with mindless selfishness. An intelligent being will naturally want to protect itself but via intelligence a strong appreciation of interconnectedness also exists: ecological harmony.

I think you are wrong to compare "SETI zealots" with utopian-Singularitarian. You are wrong because there is no evidence of high-tech or even low-tech aliens, whereas the evidence of high-technology is already around us, furthermore by plotting the progression of science and technology 20 or 30 years into the future it is easy to see how utopia is entirely possible.

You mention the "vastly complicated the internal processes of a neuron", but come on David, at one point in history brain surgery was vastly complicated well beyond the powers of culture at the time of Henry The 8th The question is this: Now that we have reached a certain level of competence regarding our understanding of the human organism, how quickly we will progress? Complexity of systems is ultimately no obstacle. I feel our rate of progress is accelerating, and the evidence seems to corroborate the acceleration, therefore complexity issues regarding neurons will be solved within 35 years, but if some aspects of human complexity elude us in the short term, I continue to maintain medicine and tech will nevertheless allow for RADICAL life extension and utopia within 35 years.

Regarding your "tent show revival" aspersion, I find it funny how people want to link hope regarding technology to hope in God. David you talk about the coincidence regarding how utopia arrives just about in time for me, or you; but that is ALL it is; it is merely a coincidence. COINCIDENCES DO HAPPEN, get over it. Let's assume that utopia can arise and that at some point in the future it will arise. Now let's assume utopia is almost upon us; is it valid to criticize the imminent arrival of utopia because it fits in with the belief system of a person expecting utopia? Imagine in the year 2005 you were waiting for stem cell therapy to cure your blindness and you said to people: "It looks like stem cells will cure my blindness within 15 years." Would it be fair criticism to say such an optimistic view (regarding a stem cell cure for blindness) is suspiciously coincidental even if the evidence points to an actual cure?

I assure you if I was born 200 years ago I would not believe in any form of technological-utopia. I'm a rational and logical person. It is via my logic and rationality that I believe utopia and eternal life are possible. This is NOT some pathetic death-aversion, escapist fantasy, or God-delusion, or tent-show revival. Please!

I assure you I am aware of the history of civilization: culture, past generations, and I'm aware of possible future generations. "Enlightenment of Civilization" is an indomitably crucial component, of ineffable significance, regarding my motivations. A "grand leap to transcendent immortal suppersmart godhood" is a vital aspect of civilization becoming ENLIGHTENED (truly educated) because it will ensure civilization never descends into darkness. This is not "transcendentalist crap", it is education on super-steroids (hyper-supreme EDUCATION of a moral and intellectual type). It is not merely one mother (or father) educating her few offspring, it is education given to millions or billions of minds in cyberspace. It is intelligence exploding.

It is all about breaking the vicious cycle of idiocy, cynicism, negativity, and self-defeating ideology.

It is about educating people regarding how they have the power to change the world, civilization, reality, their minds.

Our thoughts and views have an impact upon the collective consciousness of the human race. The question is this: what pebbles will you throw into the pool of this cyberspace? Will you create positive ripples? Whatever way you choose to act I assure you utopia will be created because I am VERY important, more powerful than you can possible imagine, and I will manifest my importance in an extremely powerful way. This is not a petty ego battle, I am merely aware that I am alive, exceedingly AWARE. I am aware of Self-Fulfilling prophecy. Hopefully my self-confidence will rub off on you and others but whatever happens I assure you utopia is coming by 2045 at the latest.

The age of blind-sycophantic-thralldom will end. Everyone will unleash their power, even if they are not authors or scientists.


Another response to David:

David. Living forever (and all that eternal life implies) is one of the key aspects of utopia. To live forever in my opinion means absence of disease and illness which is a very good sized chunk of utopia. This is more than mere life-extension, L.E. is a facet of utopia. I may be guilty of rushing to get my words online but I do very carefully consider the meaning, the sentiment, of expressions I criticize. I did carefully read the initial article and most particularly I very carefully read your critical response to my comment. Your comparison to tent-revivalism, singing hosannas etc seems to be the straw-man argument you accuse me of. Regarding your critical response to my comment I did quote you sufficiently to fairly highlight your unreasoned attack. Take this excerpt of yours:

"It's the psychology. The incredibly self-centered, solipsistic, self-serving, "I-am Soooooo-darned-important!" narcissism of the fantasy is what bugs me. The hand-rubbing, chortling I-am-So-gonna-live-forever! zealotry that seems never to entail ANY of the virtues that we've long associated with adulthood."

The "Soooooo" with extra 'ooo's for added effect creates the impression of hostility or anger. The above excerpt doesn't really give any logical criticism regarding my comment. It seems to be mere mudslinging, name-calling. I also disliked the implication that I am puerile.

Your point, in the article, seemed to be that you think that 'There are way too many obstacles' and we haven't made any advances in the fields you think are needed for significant L.E.

I think stem cell advances we have already made, and the projected stem cell advances we will make, are enough to give people a boost long enough for intracellular nanotech.

Regarding this point of yours, you say this is a requirement for significant L.E.: "1) THOROUGH nanotechnology, applied down at the INTRA-cellular level"

Are you aware that DNA logic gates have already been created for prospective biocomputers?

You say you don't have time for this debate? Do you think I have time for this? I only posted a relatively innocuous comment and then it seems hellfire descended on me.

Regarding why you "react with sighs and eye-rolls" to fervent shouts of salvation or transcendence, you wrote in comment "...because we've heard it all before. The terminology may be different, but the PSYCHOLOGY is still the same. It's not just the substitution of anecdotes for actual capabilities. (Lots of stem cell papers, but not one regrown nervous system, yet.) Nor the coincidence that Salvation Day always calculates out to be just in time for YOU!"

I provided links regarding positive progress in stem cell therapy, not mere papers. Admittedly the tangible results were not regarding a regrown nervous system, but the evidence was regarding a regrown windpipe and repairs to eyes/vision. I then project the progress from the evidence so far into the year say 2025. Based upon stem cells alone I think people alive in 2025 will live for 500 years, which is basically forever because by 2045 intracellular MNT will cure or resolve anything.

So regarding "when will life expectancy reach 200?" You say: "I do not expect this any time soon. There are way too many obstacles."

You say there are "no low-hanging fruit" but I disagree; the fruit is stem cell therapy, which is already working in many wonderful ways in the year 2010. You will be surprised at how far stem cell capability progresses in 10 years. By 2020 or 2025 stem cells will repair almost any part of the body and each year beyond 2025 our competence will rapidly increase.

I do expect LE reaching 200 years and beyond relatively soon and I think such constitutes a large facet of utopia.


Another response to David Brin

LOL, David, I'm confused when you say I am yattering at someone other than you. Are you saying someone hacked into your FB account and is impersonating you? If, as you say, I haven't a clue what you are complaining about then please spell it out clearly. So you are saying you are NOT David Brin? The supposed "faux quotations" (as you say) by David Brin were actually taken from this Facebook page allegedly posted by you. The evidence is there, with currently 5 people who like it. In case you are having trouble finding your comment regarding the "faux quotations" the comment is the one where you use the word "BELIEVE" in caps and an exclamation mark (!) in brackets. What were your actual points? Truly I'm mystified but you have made me laugh.

Regarding my accurate quotations I believe the use of quotations is a valid method for debate. Accurate quotations are NOT strawmaning as you allege.

OK, seeing as you have such a bee in your bonnet (or should that be bot-net) I shall paraphrase your position via illustratively paraphrasing Nietzsche from Thus Spoke Zarathustra:

'I David Brin have served the people and the people's superstitions because I am a famous philosopher therefore I have not served truth! It is precisely for this reason that I am paid reverence. I stand here stiff and straight because I am a famous philosopher devoid of strong winds or fiery will. I am servant of the people. I cough to try and silence strong winds. I have learned to stride forward in my own way, but this is my limping whereby I become a hindrance to anyone who is in a hurry. I go forward and at the same time look back with a stiff neck so that speedy souls can run up against me. In the face of utopia I feel small; my mendacity glimmers with hidden vengeance because I know nothing of the raging spirit. Foot and eye should not lie but there is much lying among the small people.'


And another....

David, on the contrary I am extremely curious, please educate me. Perhaps it is me but you seem to be rambling without addressing the points I earlier raised, and instead of dealing with the issues you are diverging into some weird linguistic, semiotic, phenomenological dissertation on how to communicate effectively. Very esoteric and enthralling from an artistic viewpoint but you evade my points. Maybe I have stumbled into a cubist many worlds alternate reality.

Can you define your point in the original article? The point you were making seems clear to me. I have reiterated your point from my viewpoint but you failed clarify my appraisal, other than by saying my view was wrong. How was my interpretation of your view in the article wrong? What is your point? English is not a difficult language to use. Simply explain yourself instead of being evasive.


And another

David how can you claim to be the injured party when you initially attacked my character, without provocation, via comparing my psychology to a tent show revival meeting, the same as every revival meeting across 6,000 years? Your calumnious... misrepresentation, by claiming I fervently shout hossanah was also an uncalled for injury to my character. I have criticized what you actually said (according to Facebook). If you scroll up the screen to your earlier comment you can see your insults are plain as day. I have asked if someone hacked into your account to make that comment but you failed to respond, but you continually refer to things you supposedly said when in actual fact it appears you did say (write) them.

You may hope for better and wiser children but I believe we can have wisdom in this current generation because I believe science and technology will progress quicker than you envisage.

Anyway I am glad you are moving on, I will do likewise.

Kind regards and no hard feelings.


Alex von Thorn, when you mention overcoming the laws of physics do you mean quantum physics? I have trouble overcoming the wave-particle duality: I'm not sure if you are a wave or a particle, which is probably due to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, which also causes me great uncertainty because if the human brain is based upon physics and I change my mind, or overcome a some backward thinking, does this mean I have changed, or overcome, the laws of physics? Or have I merely changed my mind; I'm terribly uncertain

LOL :)

But seriously I am not trying to change the laws of physics. Whatever gave you that idea, perhaps you are a crackpot, although did you know, in your great wisdom, that the laws of physics may change across the universe

No! What I am doing, which anyone with half a brain should be able to see, is highlighting technological progress:

Quantum computing could soon perform complex calculations beyond today’s computers.

Robot Makes Scientific Discovery All by Itself

IMB plan to shrink the “Aquasar” to sugar-cube-size by 2025.

Self-assembling nanodevices that move and change shape on demand

DNA logic gates - biocomputers

DNA robots have been created

Patient's own stem cells used to regrow then transplant her windpipe:

Vision restored, via stem cells, for people suffering chemical burns to their eyes:

Stem cells trial to cure blindness:

Stem cells trial for stroke victims:

So considering the advances already made in technology/science and then looking at the projected advances based on the logical rate of progress, and then applying the concept of Self Fulfilling Prophecy it is easy to create utopia.

You don't need to change the laws of physics to create utopia although I am sure with enough intelligence anything is possible.


Brittany Gardner, I do think of the children (future generations). I do think VERY big. Technology is empowering and the Singularity will be extremely empowering for present and future generations. I will become a future generation via immortality, I will reinvent myself, I will evolve rapidly. The generational changes we have traditionally seen, from one generation to the next, will seem minor compared to the transformations that will soon arrive. I can appreciate why some people are afraid of a highly transformational future. People like their dull and boring lives stuck in old and familiar ways, where they have kids grow old and die whilst filling up their lives doing stuff like going on holiday, listening to music, watching football games, watching TV. People don't like to think outside the box. Many people are afraid to expand their minds because people cannot tolerate their own minds, therefore culture often has an escapist factor.


Alex von Thorn, yes big issues certainly do bring out the crackpots, I once heard story about some crazy guy trying to invent some crackpot contraption called a "wheel" and then there was this guy called Darwin telling us we are all descended from apes but we lampooned that nutter ok. eh? ;)


Brittany Gardner, why would you think the Singularity is the end? I see it as the beginning. It is the end of idiocy and needless suffering, but it is definitely the beginning of a great leap forward. When apes evolved into humans maybe the... apes said woe is me this is the end of the apes, whereas it was actually the beginning of Humanity. Life changes, we evolve, this is not the end. Maybe no generation deserves immortality. Should immortality be denied to people because they don't deserve it? Who decides whether or not people deserve to be immortal. Brittany, do you believe in God, maybe you think only God can decide when we are allowed to be immortal? Who decides? You say we are not worthy of being super beings, is this because we are sinners in your eyes? Personally I think I am worthy of being a super being and you are welcome to your mortality.


Matthew Reed Bailey regarding your criticism of "myopic focus upon the GOAL of transcendence will tend to cause the loss of sight of between now and then."

Wikipedia states: "For those with myopia, far away objects appear blurred and near ob...jects appear clearly."

Are you stating I see the present (the near) clearly but the future is blurred? Whatever you are stating I want you to know I look at the present and future with equal intensity. I have good vision regarding near and far away goals.


Matthew Reed Bailey, why wasn't David evasive? Can you point out where he clarified his point? BTW the moon is made out of cheese. *Applause* you can't beat a good bit of consensual validation to replace logic. Bravo Milgram!

And will so...FOREVER! :O


Sorry Matthew Reed Bailey, so you are saying I have a lack of imagination, a lack of foresight? Ahh, that's clearer now. Thanks :)

Here's a better definition

"The terms myopia and myopic... (or the common terms short sightedness or short sighted) have also been used metaphorically to refer to cognitive thinking and decision making that is narrow sighted or lacking in concern for wider interests or longer-term consequences"

So it seems you think my vision is narrow-slighted, lacking in concern for longer term consequences, which is odd because I thought I had a wide open-minded vision with great concern for longer-term consequences.

Anyway, it's a funny old world. Thanks for your contributions. No bad feelings. Take care dude.

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