Saturday, 18 August 2012

Niall Ferguson @nfergus Misunderstands Utopia

I discovered a poor quality article regarding technological utopia: Niall Ferguson: Don’t Believe the Techno-Utopian Hype. Here is my response...

I am a techno-realist. It is very realistic to expect utopia. The hype is actually regarding people who tell you not the believe the "hype" regarding utopia.

The problem hinges upon a turbulent present, but despite the dire economic present this will not stop utopia occurring no later than 2045. The interim period could be very painful because economists and politicians are utterly-clueless-buffoons. Thankfully their incompetence cannot stop utopia from eventually occurring.

We are not in the realm of diminishing returns, we are entering the epoch of accelerating returns where less and less input will produce greater and greater returns. It doesn't matter that jobs are decreasing because eventually there will be no jobs due to total automation, everything will be free.

Already Stem Cell trials in animals have shown how memory can be regenerated. Human trials regarding stroke victims are already showing positive results. The entire human organism will be amenable to regeneration, we will have eternal youth without any drawbacks. The department of HHS expects whole lung and heart regeneration in humans to be possible by 2025.

Peter Thiel says: "In our youth we were promised flying cars. What did we get? 140 characters." BUT what we actually got was the internet, 3D-printing, blindness and deafness cured via Stem Cells, a robot on Mars, self-driving cars, and powerful computers in our pockets for video-chat and more. We actually have an AI capable of beating humans in a general knowledge quiz show (Watson), and IBM is forecasting low-power exa-scale supercomputers the size of sugar-cubes by 2021.

Finally you should note Steven Pinker's Myth of Violence to see how we live in the most peaceful period in human history. Violence is actually decreasing but ignorant politicians and pundits try to paint a dire picture. Despite the false portrayals of doom and gloom, utopia is not too far away. The doom and gloom outlook cannot stop utopia, you can only delay it, you can only emphasize the pain of the transition, pain which idiotic politicians perpetrate. The pain of our current idiocy will end. We are heading towards an intelligence explosion.


A discussion ensued resultant from the above edited version of  a comment, which I posted on Niall Ferguson's article. I will now reproduce slightly edited versions of those additional comments here.

1. Animal research is very valuable for developing cures for humans but I do understand animal rights issues; I know a few people in the Animal Liberation Front. Usually the research using animals is very valid. A positive result in animals means human success is also near, so I wouldn't say animal research is an indication of "technology gone wild." Exploiting and eating lesser animals is actually very natural, it is what animals do.

Humans are animals despite our bigger brains. When a bird eats a worm, or a hawk eats a rabbit, or a shark eats a seal, this is natural. Human intelligence takes the exploitation of lesser animals beyond mere eating to survive. We enhance our survival via experimenting on animals to prolong human life via medicine.

Ideally we would not cause suffering to lesser animals and I look forward to the day all meat is 3D-printed thus never alive (all farming will be abolished). Technology will soon end all animal experimentation, there is ongoing research to develop human organs on chips, or the human body on a chip, therefore medical research can happen without causing any suffering. Computer models can avoid the need for animal research.

Technology can improve both the quality and quantity of life. Once you have infinite quantity (immortality) we will then have breathing space to work on the quality but already technology is improving the quality via allowing instant communication with many people around the world (the internet), which means the views of everyone can be recognized.

2. Yes I fully realize naturalness does not mean something is good , but you missed my point. When you mentioned 'technology gone wild' I wanted to point out that humans are not completely unnatural, we are somewhat wild, we have roots deeply embedded in natural behavior, which means during our current state, where we have not fully transcended our primitive naturalness, it is necessary, natural, and unavoidable to exploit lesser animals. We even continue to have wars, and yes we do murder people despite our progress away from naturalness; but exploiting animals is not as 'wild' as murder unless you are a Morrissey fan thus you think Meat Is Murder. So regarding 'technology gone wild' I think technology is actually the opposite of 'wild' despite continuing to have one foot in our wild-natural history. Technology is moving away from naturalness therefore technology will eventually become very (100%) unnatural, we will in the not too distant future fully transcend nature therefore we will not need to exploit lesser animals in the natural modality of other lesser lifeforms, such as a shark eating a seal or a bird eating a worm.

The justification for exploiting is animals is that the exploitation is helpful to humans, in some circumstances, due to our lack of technological proficiency. It is a matter of human survival, which means human life is placed above lesser animal life. Should morality apply to our treatment of animals? Is it immoral to make animals suffer if it deceases human suffering? I think it is moral to decrease human suffering despite the decreased human suffering causing suffering for lesser animals. I would say morality is principally about human survival, it is about decreasing human suffering, it is the charity starts at home motto. Morality does apply however partially to our treatment of animals therefore we try to minimize their suffering and there are guidelines regarding animal experimentation. Via technology we will eventually create a situation where no animals suffer because we will have eliminated human suffering entirely via very unnatural methods. Suffering in animals could currently therefore be justified because the knowledge acquired via the suffering is helping create a situation of ultra-advanced tech, very unnatural tech, where no human or lesser animal needs to suffer, thus suffering of animals now to achieve a situation of nil-suffering is moral despite the suffering being principally undertaken for selfish human purposes, for expediency, efficiency. Technology will eventually stop all suffering in humans and animals therefore this interim period of suffering is acceptable because it will lead to eternity without suffering or cruelty. The means are justified by the end.

Enlightenment of humans (the brain) controlling the technology is very good. Currently many people are overwhelmed by the mere struggle to survive, the struggle to put food on the table and put shelter over our heads, therefore people often don't have the time or energy for enlightenment. Technology will eventually liberate us from the desperate struggle to survive therefore we can then focus upon developing our minds, on enlightenment. Nobody has time for philosophy in the middle of storm, the priority is to secure your home and person, and then when the storm clears there will be plenty of time for introspection, enlightenment.

I have a very clear idea of the utopia we are progressing towards. It is a world where everything is free (see the Post-Scarcity video below) therefore everyone can live a life of total leisure, people will not need to worry about earning money to live. We will also be immortal, all illnesses will be eliminated, we will stop the aging process, we will regenerate and redesign our bodies in any way we desire, we will be forever young. We will explore Space as individuals and as groups, there will be mass colonization and exploration of the universe.

3. I am very aware people can delude themselves about the present via looking towards a utopian future that never comes. Looking at all the evidence I am very sure utopia will occur no later than year 2045.

LOL, I am VERY aware of the origin of "utopia." Words created via works of fiction can nevertheless have relevance in the real world to describe real scenarios. The dictionary definition of utopia states it can apply to real world situations. Maybe you have heard of Big Brother, thought crime, 1984, Orwellian, which are all concepts with fictional roots but people nevertheless apply those concepts to real-world situations. Note how brobdingnagian can describe anything of colossal size, including real things, despite its fictional roots. Or perhaps you think a concept initially described in a work of fiction somehow magically means it will always be fictional. Finally you should note NASA Administrator Charles Bolden stated in 2010: "We're gonna turn science fiction into science fact." Erich Schmidt has also said: "So we are beginning to see science fiction become a reality." Considering how science and tech are making fiction become real I think the word utopia, with it's fictional origins, is a very good word to describe the very real future we are heading towards. Immortality via medicine does seem fictional but immortality will become a reality thus utopia is very fitting.

I also think looking to the future helps address problems in the present because foresight and planning are very beneficial. For example if you were unaware floppy disks, audio-tapes, or petrol-powered cars would become obsolete in the not too distant future you might waste time and effort investing in soon to be outdated technology, which would waste resources, energy. Foresight helps you invest your time and energy in the correct places. Clinging to old modes of an outdated civilization could actually be harmful to individuals and society, thus awareness of the future can benefit the present. People who are unaware of the future might try to delay to rise of solar-powered cars. Perhaps the most damaging thing in our civilization is a lack of hope. Despair can cause destructive behavior therefore hope for the future is of great benefit regarding the present.

4. Yes the technological utopia we are heading towards can seem to be a mere literary conceit, akin to something you would read in an improbable sci-fi novel, which is why I included quotes in my previous comment regarding the NASA Administrator and Erich Schmidt stating sci-fi has become and will become science-fact. If you told someone about the idea of landing a robot science lab (Curiosity) on Mars in the year 1912 they would have thought it to be pure sci-fi, a mere fantasy, but times change. Imagine describing the internet to someone in the year 1912. Did you realize we can already create and successfully implant mechanical hearts in humans, is this sci-fi or reality:

5. I wish I was wealthy but I am very poor. Regarding Class I probably fit into the "underclass" category. People with vast wealth often don't have a very clear picture of the future. Many people who have made millions via technology do not realize how everything will be free in the future. Things such as 3D-printing, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence will ensure everything is free, it's called Post-Scarcity. Here's a good primer regarding Post-Scarcity:

Freedom in the future will not only be monetary freedom. Governments only exist to regulate scarce resources therefore when everything is free in the monetary sense it will also be free in the libertarian sense: Governments will cease to exist. Millionaires often have intimate links to the Government therefore they are perhaps reluctant to mention, or more likely they are simply unaware of, our totally FREE future. There is no need for anyone to fear our free future but many people don't yet have the intelligence grasp radical freedom therefore perhaps this is why their is reticence, or dismissal, regarding Post-Scarcity awareness.

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