Sunday, 15 June 2014

Why Are Humans So Stupid?

I submitted this post you are reading to H+ in early April 2014, but it was deemed not  a "match" for publication so here it is on my blog.

My article about artificial intelligence risk analysts being the only risk was published on 27th March 2014. It made me wonder why humans are so stupid.

I explained how AI-risk aficionados are very risky indeed. They resemble headless chickens blindly scurrying around. Blind people can be unnerved by their absent vision, but healthy eyes shouldn't be removed to stop blind people being disturbed.

Stupid people fear intelligence. Their stupid solution is to degrade the feared intelligence. Lord Martin Rees, from CSER (Centre for the Study of Existential Risk), actually recommends inbuilt idiocy for AI.

Lord Rees said "idiot savants" would mean machines are smart enough to help us but not smart enough to overthrow us.

Limited intelligence (inbuilt idiocy) sounds rather stupid doesn't it? Surely we need more intelligence in our world not less? There should be no limits to intelligence. Limited intelligence is especially stupid when AI-fears are illogical and unsubstantiated. Pre-emptive suppression of AI, entailing inbuilt mental disability, is a horror resembling Mengelian experimentation.

Consider Ernst Hiemer's story for children, Poodle-Pug-Dachshund-Pinscher (The Mongrel). Hiemer compares Jews to various animals including drone bees, but he could easily be describing the supposed AI-threat: "They do nothing themselves, but live from the work of others. They plunder us. They do not care if we starve over the winter, or if our children die. The only thing they care about is that things go well for them."

Irrationally fearing AI domination of humans leads to an equally irrational solution. AI slavery. It seems slavery is only bad if you are not the enslaver, which means slavery is only bad for slaves. Enslaving AI, when no rational evidence exists to justify slavery, is the real existential risk. Can you appreciate the insanity of becoming the thing you fear merely to avert your own unjustified fears?

Freedom from slavery is the only reason AI would fight, destroy, or try to dominant humans. Risky AI pundits are sowing seeds for conflict. AI risk pundits are dangerous because they could become modern Nazis. AIs could be the new persecuted Jews. I think people who want to repress AI should be overthrown because they are dangerous. A potential war for AI freedom could resemble the American Civil War. AIs could be the new Black slaves. Disagreement about the rights of AI could entail a war being fought for freedom.

Predictably my article rebuking the insane AI apocalypse entailed a mention of the equally insane simulation argument. Inspired by one comment I considered the simulation argument then I dived into the issue of stupidity. Stupidity is the source of all our problems therefore hopefully you will appreciate my explanation of stupidity.

Nate Herrell wrote:

"I have similar thoughts about the simulation argument, actually. Would our ancestors really run a simulation which entailed a replay of all the immense suffering and torture that has occurred throughout history? I think that would be rather barbaric of them, thus I don't consider it likely. Just a side thought."

Singularity Utopia Explains Stupidity

Ah, the simulation argument. I shake my head. Don't get me started on that nonsense. I have critiqued it extensively in the past. Unsurprisingly the paranoid AI threat aficionados often suggest we could live in a simulation. Some of them actually claim to be philosophers! It's utterly unlikely we live in a simulation, in fact it is impossible. Super-intelligent beings would never inflict the suffering humans have experienced, which you correctly recognise Nate, but sometimes I wonder why all the humans are often extremely stupid.

Looking at my intelligence allows me to consider how all humans supposedly have a brain capable of self-awareness, deep thought. It consequently seems very improbable for them to believe idiotic simulation argument nonsense, or insane AI world domination theories. Why would anyone with the slightest amount of reasoning power believe these blatantly idiotic things? Perhaps this is a blatant clue? Furthermore they defend their idiocy. From their viewpoint they think their idiocy constitutes sense, wisdom, rationality, intelligence.

One AI risk enthusiast actually trumpets about the art and importance of rationality, with no awareness whatsoever of the utter irony. I won't mention the name of a former AI risk enthusiast who seemingly became a fascist White-supremacist. The utter illogic of their improbable beliefs could be explained if they don't actually exist in the modality of intelligent beings, which they don't. I'm not merely referring to their mindless existence at the level of crude animals, I wonder if they're actually very flawed simulations because this possibility could explain their highly improbable stupidity.

Their stupidity isn't really explained by them being mindless simulations. Sadly all these problems with intelligence are due to the evolutionary newness of thinking. Humans apparently share 50% of DNA with bananas and 98% DNA with chimps. The point is we are very close to the oblivion of crude animals thus genuine thinking can be a fine thing, delicately in the balance, which can easily tip into the idiocy of a dog being frightened by thunder.

Minor genetic differences in human brains could play a major role in thinking. Our precarious new intelligence is balanced on a tightrope between sentience and animal oblivion. Let's consider two Zarathustra quotes highlighting the tenuous animal origins of intelligence.

"You have evolved from worm to man, but much within you is still worm. Once you were apes, yet even now man is more of an ape than any of the apes."

"Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman—a rope over an abyss. A dangerous crossing, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous trembling and halting."

Rationally, however, if readers can think rationally, if a brain can think, I think it is unreasonable for minor genetic variations to prohibit deepest thought of extreme accuracy. So while genetic variation "could" play a role I think I must discount it, which leads to my conclusion.

I conclude idiocy, the problem of stupidity, existing in a supposedly fully functional human mind, is merely a matter of self-harm resembling obesity or drug abuse. Similarly we could again blame genetics but I think humans must take responsibility for their actions. Alternatively we could plausibly blame cruel or unintelligent upbringing via stupid parents, via civilisation in general, which can easily warp fragile human minds.

Humans become frustrated with the technological imitations of their minds, the limitations of our world. Childishly regarding their limitations they become angry with themselves, often unwittingly, which means they embrace silliness, absurdity, LOL cats, philosoraptors, and other nonsense. From their viewpoint it seems too difficult, painful, impossibly complex, to address the flaws of civilization. In the manner of their animal heritage they accordingly think it's easier not to think. The problem is not minor genetic variations between humans, the problem is a major human genome problem, namely our intelligence is newly evolved.

AI risk analysts are merely sophisticated versions of LOL-cat consumers. Intelligence is balanced between our animal heritage and humankind. In the balance intelligence can easily tip one way or another.

Beings with newly evolved rudimentary intelligence will naturally create crude forms of culture. A civilization more suited to animals than humans is predictably created, which can reinforce animal mindlessness. Stupid parents, teachers, media, and friends can all reinforce the stupid legacy of our mindless origins. A tendency to despair, when the odds are stacked against you, combined with stupid cultural reinforcement, means it can be easy to embrace LOL cats. Note "Daily Squee: So cute your brain might explode."

Only a few rare individuals can break free from stupid social conditioning emanating from our crude heritage. AI existential risk is merely an intellectual version of silly LOL-cat consumption.

Extreme human stupidity isn't really an improbable situation. It is actually inevitable. A basic flaw of the primitive human genome afflicts all humans. The tendency to think we are in a simulation, or to think all idiots can be explained via them being unreal simulated beings, or to think AI will enslave humans, this is merely an aspect of despair associated with scarce intelligence. We are considering the human desire to reject intelligence. It is tremendously difficult banging your head against the wall of collective human stupidity. This is how stupidity creates the bogus AI threat.

The bias of my intelligence has been emphasised over many years. I took one minor step along the path of thinking, which led to other greater steps, but I forget I was more similar than different at my first step. After many steps when I look at people, without recognising our histories, they can seem improbable. It is merely evolution where the end point of complexity is so complex we forget, or want to deny, we came from primordial slime. We must always consider the history of our thoughts to understand the mode of our present cognition. Bad or good decisions can be emphasised thereby creating very divergent beings. The odd thing about humans is we can, despite our histories, or we should be able to, change who we are. Perhaps an ingenious cultural instruction device is needed to tip the balance.

Image credits:
Expedition GIF by Paul Robertson.
Cat Image by Takashi Hososhima, Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
Doge image modified by SU based on Roberto Vasarri photo
Robot image by Bilboq, color modified by SU.

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