Rapture of the nerds: will the Singularity turn us into gods or end the human race? A gathering of experts on artificial intelligence becomes a search for deeper meaning.
By Ben Popper on
Excerpt 1: The Singularity Summit bills itself as the world’s premier event on robotics, artificial intelligence, and other emerging technologies. The attendees, who shelled out $795 for a two-day pass, are people whose careers depend on data, on empirical proof.
My comment: If any attendees accepted mutation-driven evolution as if the theory was supported by data from scientific experiments, they should look for data that proved mutations could somehow contribute to adaptive evolution. There is none!
Excerpt 2: “…the Summit is a sort of nirvana for hyper-intelligent dreamers: sci-fi fans with PhDs, big bank accounts, and boring day jobs, who love to debate radical visions of the future. Making a religion of rationality, it turns out, can lead some very smart people to embrace some insane-sounding ideas.’
My comment: Haldane’s insane-sounding ideas about mutation-caused evolution helped to make a religion of rationality, because many PhDs have embraced them. Is The Singularity akin to a religious belief in insane-sounding ideas?
Excerpt 3: “The Singularity resolves a lot of the problems that religion irons out for humans,” said R.U. Sirius, a longtime attendee I chatted with. “The contradictions, the pains and suffering of living: these are deeply troubling for people who pride themselves on their rational minds. Here you can find a vision of absolute transcendence, but one that uses as its foundation long-term projections that are at least somewhat grounded in science.”
My comment: In what science is their vision of absolute transcendence somewhat grounded? It is not rational to think that what is currently known about systems biology and the complexity of all life on earth will ever be uploaded into a functional computer that can, at best, only imitate life.
Excerpt 4: …The Singularity is Near broke through to become a New York Times bestseller, largely by mixing Kurzweil’s earlier notions of sentient machines with new predictions about the possibilities for eliminating diseases…
My comment: Self / non-self recognition is an innate aspect of genetically predisposed human sentience. Recognition and sentience result from the de novo creation of olfactory receptor genes and nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction.
Excerpt 5: In Kurzweil’s vision of the future, we can merge our brains with computers, giving us a near godlike intelligence and the ability to back up our memories and thus live forever. This new species of man-machine will spread out across the universe, a super race on an infinite quest for knowledge.
My comment: See Excerpt 2: Making a religion of rationality, it turns out, can lead some very smart people to embrace some insane-sounding ideas.
Excerpt 6: Kurzweil’s most important and controversial belief is that sciences like biology and medicine are increasingly becoming “information technologies.”
My comment: That is an important fact, not a controversial belief. Perhaps Kurzweil and his nerd-pack awaiting their rapture should become familiar with the concept of Biological Information.
Excerpt 7: He didn’t mention it onstage, but Kurzweil also sells his own line of supplements.
My comment: He sells vitamins! For a living, or are they just avocational sales? (As part of my avocation, for example, I’ve developed a line of human pheromone-enhanced fragrance products.)
Excerpt 8: “When he came on stage, it was definitely a Jesus moment,” said Tom Rausch, a first time attendee, sipping a beer, noting the way people hung on Kurzweil’s every word.
My comment: The “Jesus” I’ve learned about was not a vitamin salesman, and the Biblical “Rapture” is obviously different from the “Rapture of the Nerds”. Perhaps he’s talking about a different Jesus. In any case, this just goes to show how nonsense breeds nonsense. The nonsense about mutation-driven evolution has probably been taught to the attendees of The Singularity Summit, which explains in part why they are attending. It is much easier to believe in oft-repeated nonsense and find others who also believe in it. You can start by ignoring biological facts and find others who are also too disinterested to ever question how mutations could cause disease and also cause adaptive evolution, or ask what role mutations really played in Darwinian natural selection and ask “Is there a model for that?”
Excerpt 9: Like most of the dominant modern religions, the Singularity presents a dramatic duality in its visions for what will follow — a heaven and hell. In Kurzweil’s vision, mankind escapes death and gains godlike intelligence. But for many in attendance, including the senior staff of the Singularity Institute, something far more cataclysmic seemed the likely outcome…
My comment: Reece Jones claims to have a biophysics background and he is supposedly a trustee of Singularity University. His comments on the role of olfactory/pheromonal input in human behavior turned critical and he focused on my commercial interests but never commented on the content of my published works, which include Nutrient-dependent/pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution: a model. That led me to learn more about The Singularity. If it is nothing more than a means to increase sales of vitamins, I will understand why he was so critical. Knowledge of biologically based cause and effect (sans mutations theory) could hurt his marketing efforts.
If The Singularity is about anything more that just vitamin sales, I expect Reece to use his biophysics background or prestigious position to answer the question I posed to him. “Do you know what the substitution of glycine for alanine in the GnRH decapeptide does to its thermodynamic stability? I can’t determine whether the substitution, which supposedly occurred 600 – 400 million years ago, increases or decreases the thermodynamic stability of GnRH. But evidence suggests the effect on organism-level thermoregulation was conserved for 400 million years. From a biophysics perspective, isn’t that important?” His answer may help to put our commercial interests into perspective. I’m interest in the conserved molecular mechanisms of nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution in species from microbes to man. He may be more akin to a vitamin salesman.
Excerpt 10: Throughout the Summit, the Singularity Institute’s staff implored the audience for donations of time and money.
My conclusion: The Singularity Summit seems more like a god-less religious service during which pagan vitamin salespeople try to get you to support them financially until they can upload their ridiculously healthy selves into some other form of relatively brainless life. But that’s just my first impression. If one of the attendees can answer my question about substitution of glycine for alanine in the GnRH decapeptide, I may change my mind about the purpose of the Summit and Singularity University. However, I am less likely to change my mind about the way Reese Jones portrays The Singularity. Indeed, he seems to invite the hateful criticisms from the article that I have excerpted above.
I’ve added to our Facebook discussion in this regard, since Reese seems destined to contribute to hateful criticisms by choosing ignorance over education in the context of adaptive evolution.
I wrote: Reese: We’re still not discussing the content of my published work. I think YOUR problem is that you can’t understand the difference between uncontrolled radiation-caused changes and nutrient-dependent pheromone-CONTROLLED changes in nucleotides/base pairs — the changes that cause the amino acid substitutions associated with controlled (non cancerous) morphogenesis and reproduction, which is CONTROLLED by pheromones. Sorry if you get lost in the systems biology, and can’t understand the difference [between controlled morphogenesis and uncontrolled mutagenesis] but didn’t you study biophysics. Do you understand anything about the thermodynamics and organism-level thermoregulation that is required for adaptive evolution — or did you skip the class on molecular bonds that might otherwise have been included in your background in biophysics? If you skipped the class, that would explain why you attribute ignorance of cause and effect to me and fail to use the background you claim to address the biological facts. For an example of nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled organism-level thermoregulation falsely attributed to a mutation and natural selection see: East Asian Physical Traits Linked to 35,000-Year-Old Mutation.
Article Excerpt: “So the changes in teeth, hair and breasts — it’s very possible they are the passengers and thermoregulation is the key,” she said, referring to the role of sweat glands in cooling the body.”
My comment: Sabeti is Harvard-educated, but unlike Reese seems to have some knowledge of the fact that reproduction is nutrient-dependent and pheromone-controlled in species from microbes to man. That suggests the molecular mechanisms are the same. There is no experimental evidence that mutations are fixed in the genome of any species that has adaptively evolved. Thus, after a thorough review of the extant literature on the thermodynamics and organism-level thermoregulation required for adaptive evolution in species from microbes to man, including the latest reports from Harvard, we can readily conclude that “Olfaction and odor receptors provide a clear evolutionary trail that can be followed from unicellular organisms to insects to humans (Kohl, 2012).” But Reese seems to want the folks at Harvard to “…take some radioactivity doses and, in the morning, tell us if your progeny’s traits might change (and explain how pheromones “control” that change)” — after they have already shown that morphogenesis is nutrient-dependent and pheromone-controlled in a human population. Perhaps someone at Singularity University will do an experiment that shows how mutations are fixed in the genome of whatever species from outer space seeded our life on earth sometime before the substitution of glycine for alanine in the GnRH decapeptide occurred.