Bill Gates can't eat you…just yet.
Posted: 25 August 2005 05:46 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Bill Gates can't eat you…just yet. Bill Gates, as rich as the poorest billion or so poor people, can't eat many more calories per day than the poorest person on any given day—perhaps 5,000 calories versus 1,000 subsistence calories.

This may change in 20-40 years.

If the day comes when we can upload our minds into "mindspace" surfers things may change. Consider the recent development of neuroelectronic systems in particular [6] and the current clinical work to build direct brain/machine interfaces for paraplegics and quadriplegics [7]. The FDA has, in fact, recently granted approval to allow Cyberkinetics to begin a clinical trial in which small chips will be placed beneath the skulls of paraplegic patients to control computers by thought alone. Further down the line there are ongoing efforts to build brain chips to replace Alzheimer and stroke damaged brain tissue in general by Dr. Berger and colleagues at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

[6] R. A. Kaul, N. I. Syed, and P. Fromherz, “Neuron-Semiconductor Chip with Chemical Synapse between Identified Neurons”, Physical Review Letters, Vol. 92, No. 3, Jan. 2004.

[7] Duke Med News, “Human Studies Show Feasibility of Brain-Machine Interfaces,” http://www.dukemednews.org/news/article.php?id=7493 23 March 2004

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ECONO WAR (Currently a Los Alamos physicist, I am an ex-quant from Dynegy, neighbor, and one time proud owner of fallen Enron for about a week)

I very much doubt that once the neuro implant game begins, humanity will remain corporeal for very long afterwards. Research work going back more than a decade and reported in important, peer reviewed journals has demonstrated the joining of neuronal nets with electronics via impaled microelectrodes [8, 9, 10] (See references below). More recent research being conducted at the prestigious Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry has reported in Physical Review Letters successful, direct, noninvasive coupling of a silicon chip with the basic element of neuronal learning via electric fields [6]. Along these lines, Dr. Berger at the University of Southern California is attempting to develop a hippocampus brain prosthesis chip for Alzheimer’s disease. Given all this work, I can imagine the eventual development of hybrid silico-bacterial-nanobots designed to directly couple with a person’s brain tissue to (1) absorb and archive all the person’s knowledge in situ, (2) augment the person’s mental capabilities in situ, and (3) connect the person’s mind to the wireless internet. Such a person, much as we are oblivious of which brain cells drive our conscious thought, would, through his or her lifetime, remain oblivious that his or her brain cells, dying of old age, are being replaced by more robust, faster bio-silico replacements. He or she may even remain unaware that parts of his or her consciousness may begin to reside inside wirelessly linked extra-corporeal servers, which I dub IQ mindspace servers. With our frail human bodies being so susceptible to damage from bacterial and viral infections, cancers and accidents, why wouldn’t the natural progression to humanity’s use of neuroimplant technology be to embed itself directly into more robust, redundant IQ mindspace nano/bio-electronic/spintronic-based server farms spanning the Earth in bunkers, or orbiting it, or on the Moon, or beyond. In such an evolved post-Darwinian, post-corporeal world, all necessary interaction with the corporeal world to dig for energy resources, manufacture power plants, produce goods, run laboratories, explore the solar system, etc., could then be done telerobotically using (bio)robots ranging in size from the nano scale and upwards. Clearly, this path, should we take it, will spell the end of evolution by passive natural selection far more rapidly than our current post-genomic tinkering is already doing so. Lifespan lengths will then be indefinite, and humanity, moreover, will have entered the post-Darwinian, post-corporeal evolutionary phase.

5.1 Micro scale conflict, zombies and “unMurder”

In such a post-Darwinian, post-corporeal world, on a smallish, micro scale, a financial analyst might rather infiltrate, overwhelm and ultimately control a competitor’s very IQ mindspace’s will, making the victim an overpowered lackey—read zombie—with the victim’s cohorts, family and friends remaining none-the-wiser throughout some indefinite period. Would it seem reasonable to conclude that the victim would thus be rendered nonexistent, or should he or she be considered murdered and dead? Might it not be possible, the perpetrator having saved his victim’s mental assets in some kind of static memory device, that such a murder could be undone? For the undoing of such type of murder, more akin to a coma, would one have to demonstrate to the court by a preponderance of evidence, from family members, friends and associates, under an extensive psychological examination process, that, more likely than not, the victim’s characteristics have been restored wholly and with little or no significant corruption? Could spouses claim rape? Could employers claim sabotage? Finally, if the victim could not be legally proven to be unmurdered, would the “entity” remaining behind, unless family or friends took him or her in, be left out in the cold, having no access to any of his or her prior possessions or privileges. In such cases, would it be the government’s responsibility to take care of the hapless victims?

5.2 Macro scale conflict and ultimate winners

On a larger, macro scale, the issues of a post-Darwinian, post-corporeal world of competition and conflict would likely acquire a far more ominous tenor. Let us assume that business works as usual, and that the more money one has, the more one could and would use it to augment one’s own brain. Then an empire builder such as Mr. Bill Gates, whose wealth exceeds the first billion or so poorest people, now becoming blessed with an indefinite cyber-based lifespan and controlling an army of employees, agents, as well as an army of semi-autonomous robots could come to dwarf humanity in a way the mortals Khan, Napoleon, Hitler, or Stalin never could. A post corporeal Mr. Bill Gates, occupying one of the world’s largest IQ mindspace server farms, could in principle be running in the background all manner of (bio-molecular manufacturing based) factories, laboratories, fossil fuel extraction operations, and conventional, nuclear, solar or other types of unconventional power plants, with all of these facilities being manned by an army of semiautonomous robots ranging in size from the nano to the macro scale under his direct control, whilst he simultaneously occupies himself with manifold other activities. Moreover, unless he is either forced by some form of economic and/or legal system, or is philanthropically inclined, there is no fundamental reason why he should have to share his advancements with the remainder of humanity. Instead, he would rather likely not share his scientific and technological advancements for fear of giving any advantage to any potential, or real rivals of his own class. The richest rich will thus likely leave the poorer classes commensurately scientifically and technologically behind at an ever increasing pace, and this leads to two worst sub cases for the poorer classes, each of which could spell the end of humanity, save for a few ultimate winners, or even one ultimate winner.

Let me explain what I mean by the phrase one ultimate winner. Let us suppose that we are in that period when the human race is transforming itself into an advanced post-corporeal IQ mindspace society which, for technical and/or economical reasons, remains bound to Earth. To continue to exist, the society must continue to consume resources to extract and use useful energy, with the supply of useful energy being restricted to what can be extracted from the Earth, the moon thru tidal power or lithium mining, and captured from the Sun. These energy constraints, then, would be the physical constraints restricting the initial post-Darwinian, post-corporeal evolution.

Let us consider the worst case. Even if it is the case that the available supplies of energy, and the ability to exploit them with advanced technologies, are, by our present (corporeal) standards, illimitable, there is no apriori requirement that the transformation of humanity into IQ mindspace resources be done so equally or equitably according to current moral standards. At present, the poorest man and the wealthiest man cannot personally consume a significantly disparate amount of food and water on a day-to-day basis. But the wealthiest man, if his wealth be proportionately converted into IQ mindspace server capabilities (to store vast libraries of knowledge and acquire massive amounts of computational power to simulate market behavior, develop even more advanced technologies, and so forth) would dwarf the energy usage of the poorest man (reduced to a small IQ mindspace server if at all) by many orders of magnitude. Then, in much the same way that Earth’s current, most advanced species is using increasingly greater planetary resources at an ever accelerating pace—because its science and technology are accelerating at an ever increasing pace—extinction of the less advanced beings of the future will happen at an accelerating pace in proportion to the rate at which their resources get usurped. That is, the richest rich, by rapidly outpacing the science and technology of the rest of humanity, will rapidly come to consume so much of the energy from the Earth, the Moon and the Sun, to the maximum rate physics allows, that the poorer (lower IQ mindspace) classes will literally be starved out of existence. Then, ultimately, after the sun is no longer useful, the richest rich will either migrate elsewhere in the galaxy, or, should it be the case that for physical reasons interstellar space travel never becomes practicable, the richest rich too will die out when the Sun can no longer be tenably exploited, and the human story ends.

Two notes to the worst case:

(1) Regarding the world’s poorest people being converted into IQ mindspace entities, I wrote above that it might not happen at all to cast doubt that the conversion would necessarily happen to all of us. Not many of today’s billion poorest can readily buy a low-end personal computer, let alone a massive supercomputer server farm. Thus it may be the case that a large fraction of humanity may be dropped off the evolutionary tree, but, as explained in the preceding paragraph, this is not to say that the situation for most of the remainder of humanity, from those with enough assets to purchase entry level IQ mindspace servers up to, but not including the richest rich, is any less dire. As has been argued above, we could all of us, en masse, be starved out.

(2) Nothing so far expressed, including physical limitations, fundamentally precludes the eruption of IQ mindspace class warfare, and the possibility that only one future being might, by quashing out all other life (either directly or by passively starving the rest out) become the ultimate winner of Earth’s four billion year old evolutionary competition, except perhaps the speed of light. It may be the case that the Earth is simply too big (light taking about 0.064 seconds to travel half way around its circumference) to allow a single being to maintain coherence between distant parts of itself, especially if the situation is very fluid. The larger dinosaurs for instance, with long distances between their brains and tails, and slowly traveling nerve signals, likely found it very disadvantageous to only eventually feel their tails being bitten by some rival. Thus, instead of there being one ultimate Darwinian winner dominating the Earth, it may be the case that there will be a multitude of such grand winners, with the “size” of the area of their control being limited to the longest reaction times that still allow them to maintain coherence across their largest dimension within a fluid, competitive environment.

Given the latter case, namely, a population of grand winners, many more complex questions would arise. Among the first questions would concern population dynamics. Would there be tens of grand winners, or thousands, or even larger numbers of winners? Would they reproduce? It seems logical to believe that electronic/quantum computing beings would find sexual or asexual reproduction simple to do, and the process would likely consume little time. Among the winners and their progeny, we might then ask what kind of predator/prey dynamics would prevail. Control and coherence of the society, moreover, would also become an issue as the society spread out further from Earth, first reaching the moon and nearby planets, then venturing further out yet. Two great sources for further reading regarding many possible futures of post corporeal and arbitrarily advance life, each providing many references, are, respectively, Barrow and Tippler [11] and Kurzweil [12].

I will be on live radio/web interview at http://www.changesurfer.com/eventhorizon/ this Saturday at 3:30 EST to discuss these issues as they are developed in my new book: Beyond Future Shock at Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1419609440/qid=1125023632/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/103-5812146-8165456?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

Brief Book Summary: In both Carl Sagan’s “Contact” and Arthur C. Clarke’s “2001, a space odyssey,” advanced beings play a crucial but mysterious role. Beyond Future Shock is about us, the promises and the perils we will face not only from faith-based dogma, but from our science and technology as we progress up the evolutionary ladder. I worked hard at making my book as compelling as Contact and 2001. Beginning as a pre-WWII love story, it flows into an allegory and, ultimately, a powerful morality tale. Three young, brilliant Germans form an intense friendship in academia. Heinreich and Lise marry, but Hans, who has become a fervent Nazi, exposes Lise and her Jewish family. Lise escapes but her family is sent to Auschwitz while Heinreich, a test pilot, is coerced into fighting the war against American bombers to keep his wife’s family alive. After the war ends, neither lover knows that the other is alive. Heinreich is expatriated to develop military jets for the Americans; Lise, caught by the Russians, is forced to help them build nuclear bombs; Heinreich becomes a wealthy industrialist with an American wife. A Cold War KGB assassination attempt destroys his family, except for his son, Douglas, who becomes an oil futures trader. When Douglas is killed in the World Trade Center terror strike, grief, loss, and ambition drive Heinreich into the world of Arab oil and retribution. At this time Lise, freed from the collapsed Soviet Union, retires to Paris. From this point forward, the story explodes into one of scientific vision: youth cocktails and human minds capable of being uploaded into mind-space servers. It is only then that Heinreich and Lise reunite. But it is a time of fear, when these mind-space beings take on the characteristics of aggressive and powerful predators seeking to control the Earth and threaten the survival of humanity in the ultimate post-Darwinian war. Heinreich and Lise, with their sizeable space-based resources, lead a rag-tag fleet of mindspace refugees and humanist rebels to Europa. There the rebels, taking bodies adapted for the local seas, desperately work to build a dangerous technology to end the killing on Earth before only one ultimate post-Darwinian being takes it all.

I hope a few of you enjoy.

Sincerely,

Alex

PS—The full research essay is available upon request.

References:

[1] The International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium (IHGSC) , “A Physical Map of the Humane Genome”, Nature 409, 934 - 941 (2001)

[2] Duggan, D. J., M. Bittner, Y. Chen, P. Meltzer and J. M. Trent. 1999. Expression profiling using cDNA microarrays. Nature Genetics 21:10–14.

[3] Ly et. al., “Mitotic Misregulation and Human Aging,” Science 2000 287: 2486-2492

[4] BBC News, “Hope for gene transplants in womb”, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3581727.stm ,30 March 2004

[5] A. W. S. Chan, K. Y. Chong, C. Martinovich, C. Simerly, G. Schatten, "Transgenic Monkeys Produced by Retroviral Gene Transfer into Mature Oocytes," Science, Vol. 291, pp. 309-312 (January 12, 2001).

[6] R. A. Kaul, N. I. Syed, and P. Fromherz, “Neuron-Semiconductor Chip with Chemical Synapse between Identified Neurons”, Physical Review Letters, Vol. 92, No. 3, Jan. 2004.

[7] Duke Med News, “Human Studies Show Feasibility of Brain-Machine Interfaces,” http://www.dukemednews.org/news/article.php?id=7493 23 March 2004.

[8] D. Kleinfeld, F. Raccuia-Behling, and H.J. Chiel, Biophys. J. 57, 697, 1990

[9] Y. Yarom, Neuroscience 44, 263, (1991)

[10] A. A. Sharp et al., J. Neurophysiol. 69, 992 (1993)

[11] J. D. Barrow and F. J. Tippler, “The Anthropic Cosmological Principle”, Oxford University Press, Walton Street, Oxford OX2 6DP, 1986

[12] R. Kurzweil, “The Age Of The Spiritual Machine”, Viking, Penguin Group, Penguin Putman Books, Ltd., 275 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A., 1999

[13] Heiner R. A., “The Collective Decision Problem, and the Theory of Preference”, Economic Inquiry, 1981, vol. 19, issue 2, pages 297-332

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