Sunday, 7 June 2009

Autoevolution II

This is a sequel.

Genetic engineering is already not science fiction. We are rapidly approaching the era when we will modify the genetic code of various living organisms and our own genetic code in massive amounts, up to a point when such modifications become a centerpiece of technology.
In a 1000 years the impact of these modifications will be so great that our descendants will have little in common with the original homo sapiens sapiens. It is impossible to tell what they will be like precisely (that is, even more impossible than my other ambitions in this series). However, I will try to guess some of their general features.
  • Survival
    Some speciments will be adapted to extreme conditions, such as extreme temperatures, extreme pressures, ionizing radiation, poison etc. In particular, when space colonization will commence, "humans" adapted to the respective conditions will be created. That is, we would have Marsians, Europans etc. historically originating from Earth humans.
  • 6th sense, 7th sense...
    Some speciments will have sensory perception very different from what we are used to. For instance they might have vision with more colour channels and / or in different areas of the spectrum.
  • Communication
    Speech will replaced by more advanced modes of communication, perhaps something like a direct mind-to-mind link. This will increase the bandwidth and reduce the error rate considerably. Among other things, this might lead to much more efficient resolution of disagreements up to the point when "irreconcilable differences" become very rare.
  • Intelligence
    Eventually, not only the "body" but also the "mind" will be enhanced. This will start with improved memory and faster thought and end-up with capabilities of completely different magnitude. In my opinion, the most critical mental capacity is the ability to hold many things in one's mind at once: a sort of "cache memory". It is the enhancement of this capacity which would lead to the most radical development of intelligence.
  • Specialization
    Different speciments will be adapted to different professions, to an extent much greater than what exists today (up to the point when different professions become virtually different species). In a way, this kind of specialization already exists: division into males and females. However, in the future there will be many more kinds (in ways unrelated to the reporductive cycle).
  • Body-mind separation
    Eventually the brain or mind which carries the information processing function will be separated from the body which carries the input/output functions. It will be possible for a given person (mind) to use a number of different bodies suited for different tasks at different times. Loosely speaking, one will be able to change bodies the way one now changes clothes or cars. Thus some of the traits mentioned above (such as survival in extreme conditions and enhanced senses) will apply to particular bodies rather than particular persons.
At first, there will exists two radically different "technologies":
  • The "conventional" technology we know today, based on semiconductors, fiber optics, lasers etc. At some point this will include some sort of "nanotechnology". The advantage of this technology is that we understand and control it perfectly, since we created it "from the ground up" (except the laws of nature, of course, which are immutable).
  • "Organic" technology employing what we now call "genetic engineering". The advantage of this technology is that it is "more sophisticated" than the ordinary: living organisms do things we yet only dream doing artificially. The disadvantage is the imperfect understanding and control we have over it.
However, eventually they will mix and become one or several technologies descendant from both. These technologies will unite the advantages of both kinds. Thus, the clear distinction between "ourselves" and the "machines" will be erased. At the same time, the distinction between the "technosphere" and the "biosphere" will also be erased. That is, instead of two different environments (the "wild" and our artificially created environment) there will be only one. This new environment will be at least as sophisticated as the ecology existing today in the wild, while being under out conscious control.
As an intermediate stage, we will create much more efficient modes of brain-computer communication. Humans would have computer "coprocessors" wired into their brain and connected into the internet.
There is another essential difference between conventional technology and life. The machines we create are usually "clones" made to resemble a given prototype as much as possible. However, living organisms, even if members of the same species, are always very different from each other (unless, of course, they are the clones of a single ancestor; such groups, however, form only tiny fractions of a given species). It is my suspicion that the second scheme is much more efficient, and we are only bound to the first scheme because of technical limitations. Thus most of the "machines" of the future will resemble living organisms rather than modern machines in this respect.

59 comments:

Eli said...

Isn't a genetically-mandated profession a little... fucked up? Would you really like to live in a world where that happens?

Sounds like some SF story you read once, no (how did it turn out there btw?)

Also: is there a reason for people to be genetically engineered to adapt to harsh enviroments (on Europa I guess that would include the ability to withstand temperatures extremes hundreds of degrees apart and being able to live without oxygen?) or have more senses etc? Aside from the cool factor, what's wrong with using normal tech (even implants, if you insist) and/or terraforming?

Boris said...

Dear Squark, what if technology makes yet another breakthrough in robotics and AI? Then, I suspect, future could turn out to be more Asimovian than, say, Squarkonian... Don't you agree?

ledrose34 said...

Dear, Squark, I completely agree with what you are saying. Technology will never die!!!

www.thoughtsedge.com

Squark said...

Eli,

I don't think genetically-mandated profession is fucked up. After all, your choice of profession is probably already significantly affected by your genes. The difference is that currently the genes are selected randomly.
It is possible to argue against genetically-mandated profession along the lines of: isn't a person X entitled to choose her profession herself? Why should it be imposed upon her before her birth, without her consent?
My answer is that our genes are an important part of the definition of who we are. Therefore, before X exists, it is meaningless to ask whether she would approve of the choice of profession made for her. After X exists, she's already genetically inclined to this profession.
It is also theoretically possible that changes can be made later, for example using retroviruses. It depends on details of future technologies which are probably impossible to guess.

Squark said...

About colonization of space.

There isn't necessarily something wrong with approaches that are not "autoplastic". However, it intuitively appears to me that the most efficient technological solution is going to be a combination of self-modification and environment-modification. For instance, it is possible that humans will be adapted to low pressures, temperatures and gravity but will still require oxygen to breath. Thus the artificial environment (up to the point of terraforming) will provide for the oxygen but not for pressure, temperature and gravity. By the way, artificial modification of gravity appears virtually impossible. Using only environment modification might turn out much more difficult/expensive and there might even be reasons why we would want to preserve non-Earth environments: they might posses some unique advantages.

Mofications of sensors might carry many advantages. Imagine all humans would be naturally blind. Aside from practical difficulties, it might have tremendously impeded science because there are things much more easily understood using eyesight than other senses (perhaps geometry). In the same way, acquisition of additional senses would allow us to directly experience dimensions of the physical world we are currently only able to access by technological tricks. These tricks will become better, of course, but I think that "input modes" built into the brain will always be superior over external "props".

Squark said...

Boris,

You are right although genetic self-enhancement appears to me a closer possibility than AI, at least AI based on computer technology similar to what exists today.
What is the precise definition of AI? Does an artificial replica of a biological human brain count for an AI?
The difference between the two scenarios is the underlying technology. My guess is that the eventual underlying technology is going to be descendant both from organics and electronics.

Squark said...

Also, about senses.

I think that sense modification is (among other things) going to a part of the adaption to extraterrestrial environments. For instance, our eyesight is optimized for sunlight observed from Earth and materials common on Earth. It is quite natural that living on Europa (say) would be easier with eyesight adapted to light conditions and materials on Europa. Even on Earth, the response curves of our RGB receivers were optimized for evolutionary reasons that are not necessarily relevant today. Intuitively I don't expect that our eyes are fine-tuned for the precise colour of the fur of the tigers that ate us 100 kiloyears ago. However e.g. infrared eyesight or ultrasound hearing might still be useful for needs such as science or engineering which were irrelevant for evolution and/or they were ruled out by economy constraints which are no longer valid.

Eli said...

As for professions: if the genetic tendency for a certain profession would be just as it is today, I have no problem with it. It's not like there's a "lawyer gene" - there are general skills that are affected by genetics. But if genetic specialization becomes such that a person cannot choose a different profession than the one he was born with (which has to do with the example you gave - traditional gender roles), then it becomes a problem.

And all of those sensors and adaptation, yeah I get why it could be useful, but:

1. Humans are great at manipulating their environments. That's what we always did, and that's what we're doing now.

Why does anyone have to live on Europa (or any bleak, inhospitable world) anyway? What kind of a unique advantage it can provide that we (the futuristic, technologically omnipotent "we") can't recreate with a shitty artificial environment? Why not build space stations, ringworlds, whatever?

Terraforming has one advantage - that given a roughly earth-like planet (that is, solid, with roughly the same gravity, etc.), you can theoretically re-create Earth, which is the way of life we, as Earthlings who might dislike the idea of living in a completely artificial place, might prefer. But living on a world that might have oxygen, but is otherwise a glorified asteroid? No thanks.

Adapting our bodies to harsh environments only gives us less flexibility (what if a Europan wants to move to Mars? even with retroviruses and all kinds of made-up bio-tech, he still needs to change his whole body), and kinda feels like giving up :)

2. Why are "props" inherently worse than natural organs? They are not limited by our biology, and can be (theoretically) quickly implanted and removed. Obviously, when your point of reference is modern night-vision goggles and the like, "props" don't look all that appealing. But when you think of a "night vision goggle" that's installed on your retina, and unlike a natural organ, doesn't have to be grown, and can easily be replaced and upgraded, I think it's kinda cool.

Squark said...

Professions:

I don't see the principal difference between the two scenarios. A person cannot choose a different profession, so what?

Space colonization:

Humans are great at manipulating the environment, yes. But until now we had no technological possibility of self-modification, so environment-modification was the only path of technological progress.

The characterization of a world as "bleak" or "inhospitable" is subjective. It is possible that for "homo europus", Earth would seem bleak whereas Europa would be the most hospitable place ever.

The possible advantages are many: unique resources, advantageous conditions for certain industrial processes, other things that I cannot imagine.

Colonizing outer space is also a possibility, although it seems to me that at first colonization of planets, moons et cetera would be more profitable due to the large supplies of resources which are probably available there.

Restricting our choices to "roughly earth-like" planets dramatically reduces our options. For instance, we don't have any such planets in the solar system. On the other hand, colonization of other star systems is paramount to the creation of virtually independent civilizations due to the light speed barrier (provided it is truly as insurmountable as it presently appears).

You are right that Europans might be unable to move to Mars. However, it might be a small price to pay. At present people don't even move between countries too often, not speaking of moving to a different planet. Eventually, body-mind decoupling will probably allow people moving between planets. Thus there will be no "inherently Europan" people, only "inherently Europan" bodies.

I think that currently biology is mostly more "powerful" than technology. It is obviously more compatible with our bodies. Therefore, an attractive possibility is a collection of replaceable biological retinas. This is in-line with what I said about body-mind separation. Also, eventually we'll have "superbiologic" technology which combines the advantages of organics with those of conventional technology.
However, what if I want eyesight with more colour channels and/or with higher resolution and/or "frame rate"? This will probably require changes deeper than in the retina: the nerve system and the brain. The reason is that the "format" of the data is different, and even worse, than bandwidth is higher.

Squark said...

One more comment regarding moving between planets. As I said, other "earth-like" planets are outside the solar system and moving to those planets might be very hard for reasons of distance. Suppose X wants to travel from Y to Z. We would have four possibilities of achieving that:

1. X is modified with life span much longer than normal, and the journey from Y to Z is very long.
2. Near light speed travel so that the proper time of the journey is reasonable. The problem is humans can't endure extreme accelerations. Also it would be very energy-expensive.
2a. X is modified and can withstand high accelerations.
2b. The spacecraft is towed by e.g. a black hole so that the gravity of the black hole compensates the acceleration. This is very far from reach, though.
3. Some kind of cryogenics. So far, we don't sure it can really work.
4. X doesn't reach Z, only her descendants do.

Even in cases 1-3, the journey is somewhat irreversible: if X returns to Y she will discover a world in which a long time has past, especially so in cases 1 & 3.

Lev said...

> Near light speed travel so that the proper time of the journey is reasonable.
This is also very limiting.

Squark said...

Limiting in what sense?

Eli said...

If a person is born with a specific profession and is stuck with it for the rest of his life - to me, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one, it's a dystopia. Not having control over one's future to such a degree is an appalling idea.

To make Europa look like a nicer place on Earth, you have to make Homo Europus something very different from humans, in physical and cultural ways. It's a goddamn rock - and even if you're a fan of deserts, it's all there is there.

And what do we need it for, in the first place? If the reason is simply the dwindling space on Earth (which won't happen very soon btw - despite what it seems, Earth is actually pretty sparsely populated), then in my opinion, building a good, comfortable space station is much easier than sorta-terraform an existing planet and then modify the actual people to be able to live there. What's more, to me, a space station is a nicer to place to live, and at most, if I don't like it - I can always move someplace else.

But unique resources, advantageous conditions for certain industrial processes? You mean the kind of shit we're working hard to solve with robots today? These are truly pathetic "advantages", especially since the price is to turn some people into something other than human only to force them to live on a barren rock for all of their lives.

It's like you're making up 22nd-century solutions for 19th century problems. I guess we should genetically engineer people to be better coal miners too (note how it dovetails with my first point :) - make them immune to the myriad of miner's diseases, make them genetically conditioned to like dark, damp places, why not? Hell, why not make pearl divers with gills, or rickshaw runners who can outrun horses?

And biology currently is more powerful than technology? First of all, not true. The amount of artificial "biological" modifications we can currently make on human body is close to nil, and where it does exist - transplants, it's certainly not "more compatible with our bodies". People who have transplanted organs have to get immunosuppressants for the rest of their lives, and still, there's a huge risk of rejection.

But most importantly - who cares?! You're not talking about today's technology or bio-technology anyway. And while our biological structure is cool and all, there's no reason to assume that it's optimal, especially when we're talking about things that it never meant to do.

That includes all kind of wonky brain mods - who said that our brain is the perfect computer? Who said that it's not easier to make something that ties into the brain instead of redesigning the brain to allow that feature?

I know that it's a bit of a "who's stronger, Superman or Zeus" debate (like all of this post), but think about it - what's easier: to re-design an old COBOL mainframe to support web services, or to make it interface with a modern machine that does it?

Eli said...

Re: Europa - I mean icy desert, not rock :)

Lev said...

I think there are not so many stars that can be reached during the human lifespan even if traveling with near-light velocity

Squark said...

Your ethical judgement of this point is the result of the reality into which you were born. In a world where people can breath under water, being restricted to living on land may seem a dystopia. However, it is not, since we are restricted in that way and it's OK. Most people would hate doing something that they suck at. Vice versa, if you're adapted to profession X I see no reason why would you want to practice profession Y instead. Anyway, you are free to do whatever you want (more on that point in later posts of the series), the question is whether it's beneficial to society.

Firstly, I don't think we know that much about Europa or any other extraterrestrial world. It might seem an icy desert because we project the environment there on the space of things we know on Earth. In reality, this "icy desert" might have many interesting geological and other features.
Secondly, specifically Europa might very well have an ocean under the ice, about which we don't know anything. It might even contain some sort of life, exploiting geological energy source.
Thirdly, we _will_ modify the environment on Europa, as we do on Earth. This doesn't mean, though, that Europa is going to be similar to Earth. It's going to be a new version of Europa, in the same way that human-modified environment on Earth is a new version of Earth.
Fourthly, we are going to create a biological ecology on Europa. That is, Europa is going to be settled not only by modified humans but also but other engineered living organisms. Thus we will cover Europa with "grasslands", "Forests" etc.

I don't know why you think a space station is nicer than a planet/moon. A planet/moon has a supply of resources which a space station lacks. Economically speaking, the only resources a space station offers are solar energy and volume.

You are right that we can create a closed robot/biorobot ecology on Europa, which would make use of whatever unique resources and conditions are there, without introducing intelligent beings to live there. In the far future, it will not be satisfactory since thought rates will be so high that the many hour communication delay will be significant for supervision of the Europan ecology (more on that in sequels). In the nearer future we might avoid colonizing Europa by intelligent beings, but I don't see a reason why would we.

Moreover, this possibility will no longer be available when colonizing other star systems. We would have to send humans there since it's too far to be remotely controlled.

There are several reasons to colonize space. Lets try to list them.
1. More space for more humans. It is true that we still have lots of space on Earth. However, besides space there's also the amount of available resources. High population density might mean resource scarcity and poor life quality.
2. Risk of doom. What if Earth is hit by an asteroid or some other (natural or human-made) calamity? If humanity is spread across many planets the potential damage of such an event is much lower, relatively speaking.
3. More/unique resources and unique conditions for industrial processes. This might allow for colonization by "unitelligent things", at least when the destination is not too far.

Colonizing Europa to exploit its resources doesn't mean the colonists will do hard manual labor in the mines. They will be scientists, engineers and artists.

Please read again my comparison of organic and conventional technology, I think it answers your last questions.

Squark said...

Lev,

You are mistaken. Due to relativistic time dilation, the _proper_ time of the journey approaches 0 when velocity approaches the speed of light.

Squark said...

Btw, regarding the perception of the future as a dystopia. It is not surprising if many people today will regard certain aspects of the future as dystopian. Many Europeans from the year 1000 C.E. would regard the spread of atheism at the present as dystopian. Also, (at least according to LevRa) Richelieu once said that "a society in which everyone can read is as ugly as a body covered with eyes". This sentence relates very nicely to the present topic :-)

Also, when I think about it, there is a sensible scenario in which there will be an era in the future during which all humans in the solar system will live in one place (e.g. on Earth) whereas other places in the solar system will be colonized by biorobot ecologies. This way the "average population density " across the solar system will remain low and the relatively few people will enjoy relative resource abundance per capita.
In this scenario there will be no "homo europus". However, there will still be e.g. "homo gliese 581 d".

Squark said...

Of course, the later scenario does not exclude the appearance of "Europan bodies" during the era of mind-body separation. Abstractly speaking, a remotely controlled robot is also a "body" though with very poor body-mind coupling: in the future we'll have much better ones.

Squark said...

Come to think about, even a communication delay of ~ 1 hour can justify sending humans to the colonies. Suppose you're developing a robot that should operate on Europa. If you have to wait hours for the results of any test run (when you want the test to be in the real Europa environment), this might impede development significantly. Same goes for debugging malfunctions occuring on Europa. This will probably require at least a small number of humans living on Europa.

Squark said...

We should also factor in bandwidth limitations on communication between Earth and the colony.

Squark said...

However, in this scenario an artificial Earth-like environment on Europa will probably be preferably to "homo europus", since on the one hand the environment will be small and thus inexpensive and on the other hand it will allow you to choose who to send there.

Eli said...

First of all, I'd really like to swim underwater, or fly, or, say, live forever. I think that a world where we can easily do those is a much better world than ours. It has nothing to do with my current abilities.

Most people like to have a choice. Being locked into a profession is an ancient idea - medieval farmers and serfs, Indian castes, etc. Today, we see our freedom and social mobility as a step forward. You'll have to work much harder than you did to convince me otherwise.

Europa is objectively much smaller and has a much less varied environment than Earth. The possibility of it having an ocean underneath the ice, and other stuff - only means that it's slightly more interesting than we think it is.

I said that a space station is a nicer place, because it's a place I would rather live in, a place that provides a better quality of life. It has nothing to do with resources. Who said that we have to live where we extract our resources? We certainly don't do it today.

Robotic exploration and resource extraction is not a far-future thing, simply because we have those today, which is more than you can say about genetically-adapted humans or terraforming.

So, in my opinion, the second option (people living on Earth, resources mined outside) is more logical - maybe supplemented by space stations... if the space on Earth runs out, or if we decide to turn Earth into a reservation of some kind.

I'm not really sure why there would be a different "human" species in other solar systems, unless, of course, you mean the appearance of a normal reproductive barrier due to the complete separation of the two populations. I still don't see the great advantage of living on a planet, unless you want to recreate Earth (at least then you have a cultural/nostalgic impetus).

And as for your comparison of organic and conventional technology. You said that currently, organic tech is more powerful. This is, as I pointed out, simply not true. We are much closer to making "artificial retinas" than making "organic" ones, and the limited organic implants that we can do, are not very "compatible" with our bodies either. Rejections and all kinds of compatibility problems are still the norm. With that in mind, my "who cares - it's all made-up future tech anyway" argument certainly has merit.

Squark said...

About professions.

At this point we have to delve deeper into the definition of "choice".
Firstly, intrinsic enhancement of one's abilities can only increase her choices. The apparent "decrement of choice" stems from other people intrinscially adapted to other professions. This makes competing with them in other professions virtually impossible thus restricting the choice of profession. However, I wouldn't regard it as a limitation of freedom since I don't think people have inherent freedom of being able to compete with other people. Sometimes someone is just better than you.
Secondly, freedom is only valuable when you are free to do things you would actually enjoy. The freedom to bath in boiling oil is not a very important freedom. When you are good at something you would enjoy doing that professionally, rather than doing something that someone else can do a 1000 times better.

Europa is less varied than Earth, but this is an inherent property of any world devoid of life. This circumstance will change when we colonize Europa with various life forms. It is true that it's also smaller, but with a perimeter of 10000km I think it's large enough. It's certainly way larger than a space station.

Firslt, a space station wouldn't provide a better quality of life if everything there would cost more: and it might since its cost includes the cost of transporting it to the space station and the cost of its volume.
Secondly, you will less things to do on the space station if all industrial processes happen on the planet. Today we also live near the place we work.
Thirdly, what made you think the life quality on a space station is high in the first place?
A space station is by design far from anything interesting and is therefore not an attractive place to inhabit. I can see two reasons why we might want space stations after all:
1. Zero-gravity might be good for something
2. Space stations inrease the total surface area from which solar energy can be collected. Eventually this leads to a Dyson sphere. However, for this to be significant we need space stations construction on an enormous scale. I think this will only happen at some later age.

Robotic exploration exists today but this is nothing compared to the fully autonomous closed robot ecology we are discussing. Also, today the costs of transporting resources between planets are unreasonable (which is not to say it will remain that way in the future).

I think you still haven't read what I wrote about technologies. I'll just copy pase it, then.

At first, there will exists two radically different "technologies":
The "conventional" technology we know today, based on semiconductors, fiber optics, lasers etc. At some point this will include some sort of "nanotechnology". The advantage of this technology is that we understand and control it perfectly, since we created it "from the ground up" (except the laws of nature, of course, which are immutable).
"Organic" technology employing what we now call "genetic engineering". The advantage of this technology is that it is "more sophisticated" than the ordinary: living organisms do things we yet only dream doing artificially. The disadvantage is the imperfect understanding and control we have over it.
However, eventually they will mix and become one or several technologies descendant from both. These technologies will unite the advantages of both kinds. Thus, the clear distinction between "ourselves" and the "machines" will be erased. At the same time, the distinction between the "technosphere" and the "biosphere" will also be erased. That is, instead of two different environments (the "wild" and our artificially created environment) there will be only one. This new environment will be at least as sophisticated as the ecology existing today in the wild, while being under out conscious control.

Lev said...

Squark:
> However, I wouldn't regard it as a limitation of freedom since I don't think people have inherent freedom of being able to compete with other people.
That's a good point as long as additional capabilities don't come at the cost of existing ones.

Squark said...

Lev,

The notions of "additional" versus "existing" capacities are not
well-defined. When you use these notions, you have in mind some kind of relatively minor modifications of homo sapiens sapiens that we are going to do in the relatively near future. However, the physiology of the "humans" I am talking about does not necessarily has perfect historical continuity with the physiology of humans today. Instead, it might have continuity with the physiology of chimpanzees, dolphins, AIs, something else or a combination of several of the above. They are not necessarily even based on the
DNA-RNA-protein-lipid membrane paradigm of modern living beings. In fact I think they will be based on something else. It would be more accurate to speak of "intelligent beings comprising the civilization descendant from modern human civlization 1000 (say) years from now". I will still call them humans, at least for brevity's sake :-)

Squark said...

Two more comments.

First, I think that what's "better" about modern society (in developed countries) than feudalism or the caste system, is not the mere fact the profession of a person is unknown a the time of her birth. It is the opportunity each person has to realize her potential. The later circumstance is only going to be improved in the future.

Secondly, about making Earth a reservation. I don't think Earth will be a reservation in the far future I'm discussing. Surely, there is much beauty in the Earth's biosphere as it is today. However, the same may be said about the Earth 10^6 years ago, or 10^7 years ago, or 10^8 years ago (for example). These are very different "Earths", yet each has its own beauty. I think it is not feasible to create a reservation for the snapshot of the Earth from each era. So why should we try doing that for the very last snapshot?
I'm not saying the Earth of the future is going to be a huge pile of junk, toxic waste and metal pipes. The biosphere will not be replaced by the "technosphere". Instead, the two will become one. This new "sphere" will be more similar to the modern biosphere in the respect of its beauty, diversity and sophistication. It might even surpass the modern biosphere in these qualities. On the other hand, it will be more similar to the modern technosphere in the sense that it will serve the objectives of human civilization.

Eli said...

Professions: We don't know what genetically-enhancing people entails. Who said you have to optimize for a specific profession in the first place? Your implied assumption one can't be as good as humanely possible in all (or at least, many) fields at once, is completely unfounded. Otherwise, how would yo explain Renaissance men (... people?), as well as people who had several, unrelated, successful careers.

Therefore, the question is a philosophical one. You seem to think that being "the best" in a certain field (even if it's chosen for you) is the most important thing. I think that freedom of choice over the course your one's life is even more important. But here, I think, you're in the minority.

When people talk about the injustice of feudal/caste society, they aren't talking about a lost generation of carpenters and lawyers (that became peasants instead). They are talking about the lack of freedom, and control over your own life. Freedom, as opposed to the belief that every person is best suited for a particular task (which more of a Metternichian idea), is the guiding principle of liberalism, and of modern democracies.

Besides, (a little off-topic), as a result of your particular philosophy, you seem to assume that people can only enjoy their work if they're among the best in the field (going as far as to compare the opposite to bathing in boiling oil), and that's simply not true. That might be true for science, and maybe for engineering and computer programming (although many people simply enjoy programming, even though they're not Knuth), but the truth is, many people get out of their very successful careers to become mediocre entrepreneurs, charity workers, farmers, and so forth. Some professions are enjoyable and/or important even if you're not "the best".

Eli said...

Europa is less varied because it's devoid of any major topographical features whatsoever. AFAIK, it's a ball of ice.

Even Mars and the like are still much more boring than Earth, simply because they don't have oceans. But it doesn't really matter, because terraforming usually includes creating oceans, an Earth-life atmosphere, etc. Unless, of course, you're going to re-engineer all of the species living there to not require water and the like.

Which brings me to space stations:

Space stations are better because you can control the gravity, air pressure, etc, meaning that you don't have to make a new breed of people just to live there, and because it'll be cheaper.

Why? Because unlike space-station-building, terraforming is, at the moment, a crazy sci-fi idea. We don't know if it's even feasable (can Europa even sustain an atmosphere?). The only thing we do sorta-know about it, that it's insanely, astronomically expensive. I can't even imagine the kind of energy or resources required to create from scratch a sustainable ecosystem, with Earth-like atmosphere, water sources, and soil. Hell, we have a hard time preserving our own ecosystem.

You've mentioned robotic explorers. You should also think about unmanned deep-sea oil-rigs. A "deep-space oil rig" doesn't seem like a remote possibility at all. Certainly not when compared with a terraforming/genetic engineering mix. It doesn't even have to have incredible AI - it can be remote-controlled. I'm not sure that the delay is that big of an issue - I'm not sure those things actually require split-second human intervention, so batch processing is possible. And even if it isn't (and assuming that we won't have the required AI technology), at most you can put a small space station in orbit to control the operation.

Eli said...

I have read what you said about technology, but for some reason, you decided to not read my comments. So, if we're copy-pasting:

Squark:

"I think that currently biology is mostly more "powerful" than technology. It is obviously more compatible with our bodies"

Eli:

"And biology currently is more powerful than technology? First of all, not true. The amount of artificial "biological" modifications we can currently make on human body is close to nil, and where it does exist - transplants, it's certainly not "more compatible with our bodies". People who have transplanted organs have to get immunosuppressants for the rest of their lives, and still, there's a huge risk of rejection.

But most importantly - who cares?! You're not talking about today's technology or bio-technology anyway."

Since I like to add some value to my comments, instead of just ignoring your points and claiming that I was right from the start, I'd just say that we're obviously in agreement that eventually hyper-imaginary-tech would allow us to modify our bodies. However, I disagree with the idea that we're any closer to the imaginary bio-tech solutions you're proposing. At the moment, our ability to create new or enhanced "biological" organs is nil. We don't even have the ability to replicate existing ones. Our ability to create implants and other body enhancements (ehem) is much more advanced. There's no reason to assume that at some point, it'll be easier to create a "biological" retina (or brain mod or whatever) than it'll be to create a purely artificial one. There's even less reason to claim that it's true today.

In copy-pasta-ese, it'll probably be - I don't agree with:

"At first, there will exists two radically different "technologies":

* The "conventional" technology we know today, based on semiconductors, fiber optics, lasers etc. At some point this will include some sort of "nanotechnology". The advantage of this technology is that we understand and control it perfectly, since we created it "from the ground up" (except the laws of nature, of course, which are immutable).
* "Organic" technology employing what we now call "genetic engineering". The advantage of this technology is that it is "more sophisticated" than the ordinary: living organisms do things we yet only dream doing artificially. The disadvantage is the imperfect understanding and control we have over it."

Squark said...

Professions:
It is a basic principle in engineering that optimizing one thing comes at the expense of another. The reason is simple: if U and V are different variables on a compact space X, there are points where U is maximal and points where V is maximal, but in general there are no points where both are maximal.
Of course, certain skills are beneficial for several professions, therefore these optimizations are not entirely at odds. Moreover, we want people adept at several fields since these will be able to connect them and help them to cross-fertilize. These people will see some kind of a "bigger picture". Thus, given two fields U and V, we would want all three kinds of people:
1. People good at U
2. People good at V
3. People good at both ("Renaissance men")
People of category 3 will be not as good as those of category 1-2 in each of the fields separately, so each kind of people is important. In reality, there are a lot of different fields and different combinations of fields that will be optimized.
Regarding freedom of choice, I already wrote that:
"At this point we have to delve deeper into the definition of 'choice'.
Firstly, intrinsic enhancement of one's abilities can only increase her choices. The apparent 'decrement of choice' stems from other people intrinsically adapted to other professions. This makes competing with them in other professions virtually impossible thus restricting the choice of profession. However, I wouldn't regard it as a limitation of freedom since I don't think people have inherent freedom of being able to compete with other people. Sometimes someone is just better than you.
Secondly, freedom is only valuable when you are free to do things you would actually enjoy. The freedom to bath in boiling oil is not a very important freedom. When you are good at something you would enjoy doing that professionally, rather than doing something that someone else can do a 1000 times better."
Regarding me being in a minority, I already wrote that:
"Btw, regarding the perception of the future as a dystopia. It is not surprising if many people today will regard certain aspects of the future as dystopian. Many Europeans from the year 1000 C.E. would regard the spread of atheism at the present as dystopian. Also, (at least according to LevRa) Richelieu once said that 'a society in which everyone can read is as ugly as a body covered with eyes'. This sentence relates very nicely to the present topic :-)"
I suggest that we avoid using emotionally charged labels such as "Metternichian idea", "liberalism" and "modern democracies" and stick to the essence. Also note that those are _modern_ democracies, not _future_ XXXs :-)
I do not by any means claim that each has to be the best in her profession. If there are 10^6 people of a given profession, it is not possible for everyone to be the best. I say the following. Suppose P stands between a choice of two professions, U and V. Then P would enjoy practicing U more if she is able to contribute much more in U than in V. Thus it's a relative thing, not an absolute one.
It's true that Europa has much less topographical features than other objects in the solar system. However, I don't think topography is what makes a place varied from a human point of view. I think the biosphere is much more important in this respect. Also, I don't think people will die from boredom only because they have no oceans. I haven't seen an ocean in my entire life and I still live :-) Moreover, space stations excel in their topographical features and oceans even less.
A surface colony can also have controlled temperature, pressure and air composition. Controlled gravity is more problematic whereas a space station can rotate. However, making a new breed of people is a 1-time investment.

Squark said...

Btw, let us consider the scenario we _will_ build lots of space stations, up to the point of a Dyson sphere. Then it might happen that much more people will live on space stations than on Earth. In this case, there is no reason making the space stations "Earth like". It appears much more sensible to create humans adapted to zero gravity and what else.
I'm not sure whether and when are we going to do terraforming. I don't think we are going to do terraforming in the sense of creating an Earth-like environment. We are going to start from local, closed artificial environments. However, instead of making these environments as Earth-like as possible we are going to combine them with modified humans and other life forms. Regarding genetic engineering being "remote", read my comments below.
Perhaps I simply haven't expressed myself clearly enough. 1. Biotechnology is currently very young compared with other "conventional" technologies. I think each technology has a "maturity curve": the further along, the slower is the progress since the potential of the technology comes closer to full realization. In case of biotechnology, we are _very_ far from realizing the potential. The amount of control we currently have over biological systems is very small. However paradoxical, It is precisely because of this immaturity I think biotechnology is important, because once we _do_ achieve control and realize the full potential, the impact will be tremendous. 2. When I said biology is more "powerful" than conventional technology, I didn't mean "biology" as in our control of biology but "biology" as it exists in nature. This is why I wrote that "The advantage of this technology is that it is 'more sophisticated' than the ordinary: living organisms do things we yet only dream doing artificially. The disadvantage is the imperfect understanding and control we have over it." The reasons organics appear to be more "powerful" are: a. It is designed on molecular level. b. It does things in terms of efficient and microscopic chemical synthesis we cannot match. c. It is self-reproductive. d. It is amazingly stable and adaptive (homeostasis). e. It produced an intelligence. 3. The "natural competitor" of organics is nanotechnology. However, if God did so much of the hard work for us, why not steal some of His designs? Let's don't fall into the "not invented here" trap. :-) 4. I wrote that the eventual technology is _not_ going to be biotechnology but _something else_, descendant both from biotechnology and conventional technology. 5. It is currently easier to create a biological retina, not speaking of abrain, than an artificial one. All you need is 1 sexually mature fertile male and 1 sexually mature fertile female. The question is what if we want to introduce modifications. 6. If you _are_ right and biotechnology will be completely outpaced by "conventional" technology, the future "humans" are going to be robots. Which _is_ a possibility, I admit. However, in this scenario they are unlikely to care about Earth-like gravity, pressure etc. ! 7. This whole debate is secondary. The point I was making is that we _will_ make self-modifications, and I tried to outline the kind of self-modifications we are going to make. The underlying technology is much more debatable and inessential to the point.

Eli said...

Professions

First of all, slightly off-topic:

The reason is simple: if U and V are different variables on a compact space X, there are points where U is maximal and points where V is maximal, but in general there are no points where both are maximal.

Small question - why did you write that sentence? Was it even meant for me?

Anyway. As you know, we don't know of a specific "lawyer gene" or "astronomer gene", and I mean that in the broadest sense possible. We don't know what kind of innate abilities is required for any profession, unless we're talking about manual labor and sports. There's no reason to assume that having one beneficial genetic trait hurts others (as Lev proposed). In fact, other possibilities exist - maybe there's only a tiny set of genetic traits that's required by all profession? Maybe "super-Renaissance people", that are enhanced in all traits, will always be better than any "specialists"?

The point is, that there's no conclusive answer for this question. If there was, our education system, and indeed, our whole society would've been very different.

So, since we know so little about this, we can only debate the basic motives, and that's where you and I differ.

If I would've written such a post, I would've dreamt of a society where everyone has the maximum ability to be whatever he wants to be. My main goal would've been to increase the number of choices people have, while optimizing for specific professions or environments would be something I'd only grudgingly allow in extreme situations.

This idea - that having many options in life is something very valuable, is not only my idea. That's why I mentioned liberalism and democracy. Those are leading concepts of modern society. They are emotional terms, which makes sense - as we have so little objective data, all we can talk about is our emotional stances. Anyway, since we agree on you being in the minority, I think we can move on...

I've already talked about your flawed assumption that working in a profession you're not particularly talented in is akin to "the freedom to bath in boiling oil". It might be your personal experience, but that's about it. Your assumption that "... P would enjoy practicing U more if she is able to contribute much more in U than in V" is just another version of it. but I won't start quoting myself, so you just have to re-read the previous comment :)

Eli said...

Europa, space stations, etc.

That depends on what you intend to do. If you want to build a hermetically closed station on foreign planets, essentially space stations on the ground, then obviously, they'll be very much like space stations - perhaps even with a slightly more interesting view. The only problem there is that you can't control gravity, and in my opinion, your idea to create a new breed of people just for that is not a great one. First of all, we're nowhere close to doing that, so we have no idea what that seemingly easy task might take. It might require us to re-engineer our whole cardiovascular system, add new muscles (with all of the attached cruft), and other things that might be impossibly difficult, so we can't even assume it's cost-effective. But most importantly, you're severely limiting the options of the people who live there.

It's the same debate, all over again, but even worse - I might accept that being an exceptional artist/scientist/doctor might be an acceptable price to pay for losing one's freedom of occupation. But becoming a Europa-bound miner, especially since the job might be done either robotically or remote-controlled? I think not.

When I was talking about the bleak, desolute Europa, I was talking about a "half-terraformed" one. That is, if you just put oxygen and water there, it's a bleak hell-hole. If you create an intricate living ecosystem, then it's first and foremost, an insane waste of resources. Creating new, sustainable ecosystems on decidedly non-Earth-like environments, is as much of a crazy sci-fi idea as is terraforming in general. Do we even know the scale of resources, energy and science required for something like this (beyond "fucking a lot", of course)? And, to make things worse, it still won't be as interesting as Earth, since it's very small, and devoid of topographic features. I don't really know why you think topography is negligible when it comes to "varied environments". A flat, but botanically varied forest that goes on for miles is just as boring as a desert landscape - especially if you consider that deserts have breathtaking mountains, canyons, and the like.

Dysonian spheres, zero-gravity

If I go along with your assumption, that all, or at least most of humanity lives in zero-gravity environments, then you might have a point, at least from a philosophical POV. That is, this is a society I'd be glad to live in.

But! Remember that you don't only have to engineer zero-gravity humans. You have to engineer a whole zero-gravity ecosystem! Zero-gravity trees, zero-gravity snakes (if you go for that thing :) etc. As both dysonian spheres and adapting whole ecosystems to live without gravity are very far in the future, there's simply nothing I can say about it. Maybe it'll be more effective? Maybe not? It's all pie in the sky for now.

Eli said...

"Biological" technology

Yes, natural organisms are amazing compared to modern technology, for many reasons. But they were also created via an evolutionary process. That means that the way they actually work is arcane, insane, and possibly pointlessly hard to explore completely (to the point of creating new organs, for example). I do agree, however, that we have a lot to learn from nature. But stealing "his designs" might not always be better, or even simpler than inventing our own, especially when it comes to things those designs were never meant to do.

The progression of electronics->bio-engineering->nano-technology is a bit of a Sci-Fi cliche, but it's pretty unfounded. In any case, I don't know why you mentioned that robots (cyborgs!) don't care about gravity, pressure etc., though. I agree that if you have easily removable or very flexible implants, then the question of freedom is gone, and most of my objections to it are gone with it. And, of course, if those implants are limited and not easily removed, then all of my objections remain. But it's not like I was objecting to super-bio-tech on principle - I just pointed out that it might never be the best choice.

And, btw, I was talking about an ehnaced retinal implant, rather than about organ trade - I was mostly talking about modification. But if you want to go there, it's not that straightforward either. To create an organ for someone (which is what we're talking about), you need to mate a close relative of his, pray hard (being related doesn't mean you're a match), and then pray even harder, because transplant technology is pretty primitive and we still can't trasnplant many organs at all (the brain is an obvious example, but from what I've read on the net, retinal transplant is at very experimental stages as well). After that, you can stop praying, because you've just killed/mutilated a healthy child to get his organs, so you're going to hell anyway :)

I know, it's a bit of a nitpick, and I agree with the basic premise. In the future, we'll probably modify ourself to some extent. It's a pretty good assumption, considering that we've been doing it for over a century (at least!).

I don't know how you can "outline the kind of self-modifications we are going to make", though. All you can do is tell about your vision of the (perfect?) future, don't you think?

Squark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eli said...

Professions

As I said, there's no lawyer or mathematician gene, so we're talking about a collection of general traits like good memory or spatial reasoning skills. There's no reason to assume that someone who has good memory should have bad spatial reasoning etc. There's no reason to assume that one can't be great at all of those skills at once.

Having many choices in life is important for many rational reasons. It creates a more flexible society, for one. It makes happier, more stable society, as people don't like to be stuck in a profession for life - look at how the idea of such freedom was popular with everyone but the ruling class, look at sons of rich people, child geniuses and celebrities who complain about their life being figured out for them. And, if indeed you can optimize for all professions at once, then you get equal or better professionals, because they have a wider perspective (that's assuming that there are different trait sets for all professions).

But the main reason is not purely rational. It's about the kind of life one would like for himself. I think that's true for the both of us. You would rather be born with insane math skills, even if it was at the expense of everything else (or maybe you think that's what already happened? i don't agree :), while I would rather be good at whatever I feel like doing, with the emphasis on "feel like doing" rather than "being good".

Because of your particular point of view, you casually brush off the idea that one can be very good at a profession he hates, or preferring to do something he's not great at. You claim that being good at something automatically means you like doing it, and vise-versa, but I really see no basis for this claim, aside from your own personal attitudes and some baseless theorizing. The truth is, there there are many counter-examples, invloving both famous personalities and people we know. I have no idea how or why you came up with the mediocre lawyer/great doctor idea, though.

"Btw, another observation. Having more specialization in the future doesn't imply having less "choice of efficient profession". That's because the fields it would make sense to choose from would be deeper. E.g. a choice among different areas in mathematics is better than the choice among being an accountant, a janitor or a firefighter. That's because mathematics is a deeper and more varied field than the other free."

There are a lot of implied assumptions here, so it's gonna be a hard one. First of all, I have no idea how janitors or firefighters have anything to do with it - if those fields are roboticized away, then it has nothing to do with your ideas, and if not, then how exactly being genetically optimized for something else helps? You still need firefighters and janitors. On the simplest level, being optimized for a profession means you get people who are born accountants, janitors and firefighters as well. Here you imply that people should be both optimized for professions and those professions should be "deep", meaning "intellectual". That is, usually, academic or some sort of applied science. Am I right?

Even if I go a long with that assumption, it still implies that being tied to a single intellectual field (no matter how deep) is enough for everybody, and again, it's a baseless, and in my opinion, patently false assumption.

Eli said...

Professions (continued)

"1. If your top priority is maximizing the choice of "efficient professions", the best strategy is making everyone clones. That way, no person has a genetic advantage over any other person in any given profession."

Yeah, that's a pretty big argument of the opponents of human genetic engineering. They even go as far as opposing curing genetic diseases because of a "slippery slope" argument. There are many reasons to be afraid of something like this - it's a clear sign of human intervention in something "sacred" (just like your ideas), it has Nazi overtones (what if everybody chooses to have blue-eyed, blonde babies?) and it implies a monotonous society without original thought or progress. In my opinion, those objections are unfounded.

First of all, you don't need clones - people can still look differently, for example (not even beautiful - beauty standards can change widely in a person's life). Second, even clones, like twins, are different people - not everything is about genetics. And third, it implies that being optimized for all professions has only a single result, as if a professional skills are all what a person is.

"2. Even if genes have little to do with the choice of profession today, other factors uncontrollable by the person certainly do [...] the world of the present doesn't have as much freedom of choice in this area as you appear to assume."

You're completely right, and I (and thankfully, our modern society as well), view it as a problem to be solved.
If society limits your choice of profession, there's a problem with the society. If your have childhood traumas that prevent desired career paths, you have a psychological problem. Parents who choose their children's careers for them are looked down upon, and are considered bad, domineering, or at least extremely old-fashioned.

Eli said...

Dyson spheres

"Once again, we'll have to engineer a lot of things, but it's a 1-time investment."

Maybe, maybe not? Maybe it will be much harder and more expensive that providing artificial gravity for a million years? Maybe we can somehow get long-term artificial gravity "for free" while re-engineering complex ecosystems, would still be out of our reach? Maybe energy would be free, and people would just prefer to have an Earth-like environment, because it's what they're used to? Again, you're guessing the limitations of far-future tech. I think that we can't really assume anything about a civilization that can build Dyson spheres.

"My intuition tells me that the fact we can already dream of engineering new humans, ecosystems etc. now means it will be a mundane thing a 1000 years from now."

People have been dreaming of free (or nearly-free) energy and resources for much longer. And as, opposed to custom-designed humans and eco-systems, those are pressing necessities, rather than expensive sci-fi hobbies. So what?

Eli said...

Europa, space stations

"I don't see why I'm limiting the options so much. The only option I'm removing is moving between planets [...] She won't be a Europa-bound miner. She will be a Europa-bound engineer of mining and other industry on Europa.
"


Yeah, I thought of addressing that in my original comment - I felt you're going to say something like that. In any case, being a geologist or an engineer in a mine in the middle of the Tundra is not much better than being a miner (unless that's the kind of miners that crawls naked with a pick, rather than operating heavy machinery). Now think of being stuck there for all of your life (and note that a Tundra is actually a more interesting environment than Europa). Sounds more like a punishment for Soviet political dissenters than something to look forward to.

"I don't think creating a Europan biosphere would take a lot of resources. That's because the whole point of life is the ability to use the local resources and reproduce itself. Moreover, it's not a "waste" since the biosphere would be a part of the industrial cycle."

So, you want to create an ecosystems, composed of life forms, that would only use local resources (in the case of Europa, that would be ice, sunlight and nearly no atmosphere?), turn the barren landscape to a lush, varied one, and be part of the industrial cycle? Is it even remotely feasable? And if so, what's the point of all of those completely imaginary efforts?! Just so the mining/industrial/scientific station would be a manned one? Again, applying 31st century solutions to 19th century problems.

"Your love of topography is romantic but I don't see it as a strong argument. Moreover, I think you're judging Europa by Earth standards. Maybe Europa has something beautiful Earth doesn't and we're missing it because we're looking for the things we love on Earth."

Whatever Europa has, it certainly has much less of it than Earth, both in variety and in sheer size. I guess I could see the beauty of an icy desert near Jupiter, but on Earth, I have many more landscapes to choose from.

"Moreover, space stations excel in their topographical features and oceans even less."

Again, I won't quote myself, but it does show you didn't really pay attention to my previous comments. Anyway, I'll elaborte:

The fact it's a completely desolate place comes into play if you try to "live on the outside" (partial terraforming, as you proposed or any other way).

If the end result is to build something very much like a space station on the surface, then it's obviously as varied as interesting as one in space. All of the "environment" can be inside, up to indoor parks, ski resorts and whatever. The only question is if the luxury of putting it on the surface of a bleak ball of ice is worth the sacrifices you make for not having normal gravity.

And anyway, I don't think living in space stations so great either. I was just proposing it as a simpler alternative to terraforming + genetic manipulation. At least, as I've said before, you can leave a space station.

Eli said...

Super Bio-tech

"I'm no saying it is always better."

I didn't mean that either. The sentence was a bit ambiguous, but the meaning was that it's possible that when we would be able to make super bio-tech, we'd have no reason to do it, because we'll have better options by then.

"I think bio-engineering/nanotechnology is a founded expectation. That's because progress in technology happens, in particular, through engineering things on smaller and smaller scales."

That's an argument for nano-tech, not super bio-tech. If anything, the fact that we can create highly-miniaturized tech, and we can't make even the simplest bio-tech, just tells me that we might skip the whole "bio-tech" stage altogether.

"The reason I mentioned robots is the following. If technology X will be best for creating organs including sensory organs and even the brain, there is no reason not to replace humans by something made entirely of technology X:"

OK, I guess you're right - when we could make some things better than nature, then people might be cyborgs, and when we could learn to do everything better, people might choose to be robots. I'm pretty sure that this is the progression, btw, simply because we already have "cyborgs". But I don't see how being affected by gravity or air pressure is related. If it's a tie-in with the space-station debate, then see my previous comment on this subject.

"I wasn't talking about organ trade other. I was talking about creating a fully functional human with all needed organs :-)"

Ahm, do you really consider this an example of bio-technology, or technology in general, at that? Organ transplants are much more primitive than the "biological" technology you're describing, but at least they count as a human achievement.

Squark said...

Professions

About your "no reason" and "wider perspective" comment, I wrote:

"It is a basic principle in engineering that optimizing one thing comes at the expense of another. The reason is simple: if U and V are different variables on a compact space X, there are points where U is maximal and points where V is maximal, but in general there are no points where both are maximal.
Of course, certain skills are beneficial for several professions, therefore these optimizations are not entirely at odds. Moreover, we want people adept at several fields since these will be able to connect them and help them to cross-fertilize. These people will see some kind of a "bigger picture". Thus, given two fields U and V, we would want all three kinds of people:
1. People good at U
2. People good at V
3. People good at both ("Renaissance men")
People of category 3 will be not as good as those of category 1-2 in each of the fields separately, so each kind of people is important. In reality, there are a lot of different fields and different combinations of fields that will be optimized."

and

"Let me put it more simply. There is no reason to expect that the optimum of ability U coincides with the optimum of ability V. Usually (or even always) no two essentially different things coincide unless forced so by symmetry."

About people "stuck in a profession": I think that's only true if they are bad at their profession or not implementing enough of their skills.

About sons of rich people, child geniuses and celebrities. I don't know any but I guess that if they're complaining they are whining ;-) Anyway, sons of rich people are not genetically engineered for their parents' profession.

I didn't say I would rather be born with "insane math skills, on the expense of everything else". Firstly, it's not true. Secondly, it is not very meaningful to discuss what I would rather be since in such a scenario I wouldn't be myself.

Let's try to avoid labels such as "baseless theorizing".

People like doing things they are good at because
1. Success is pleasant
2. Such activities stimulate the person precisely in the ways she can be stimulated
I don't know which counterexamples you mean.
But even if people don't necessarily like doing things they are at, we can engineer them to like these things. :-)

The doctor/lawyer comment was directed against your observation that many people are content with being mediocre.

About fields of different depth. Yes, the "shallow" fields will be robotized. So what?

Squark said...

Clones

1. I don't care much about the looks of people in this context. Appearances will loose meaning completely when body-mind separation is implemented.

2. Not everything is about genetics, but human engineering is not confined to genetics either. Especially so when humans are no longer based on "classical" organics.

3. The boundary between "professions" and "other things" is thin.

Society and the choice of professions

People grow up to become more skillful in certain areas compared to other areas. This is the result of the influence of society among other things, most of this influence probably unintentional. I don't see any "problem to be solved" with any of this. The only problem is that this process is not under our control.

You seem to be advocating a society in which
1. People will be identical genetically
2. People will be raised so that they have exactly the same skills when they grow up

In my opinion, it is a rather boring and inefficient society. I think that most people would agree with me on this point.

Squark said...

Dyson spheres

I thinking you are missing the point of the exercise. Yes, I cannot be sure about anything. Yes, there are a zillion factors about I know nothing. However, the whole idea of this series is making as many wild speculations as my imagination allows me, wherever there are some bits of information for assessing what is more probably.

People haven't been dreaming about free energy for longer than a 1000 years, since the very concept of energy is only a few centuries old. Also, resources in modern societies are "free" compared to a 1000 years ago.
I don't know why you mentioned "sci fi hobbies" and what it has to do with anything.

Squark said...

Europa, space stations

I don't see what's wrong with Tundra except
1. Few people
2. Harsh conditions
Both can be corrected, the 1st in obvious ways, the second using a combination of environment and self engineering.

The point of those efforts is not manning the place. The point is that in the future, an "ecosystem" and an "industry" are going to be synonyms. An "ecosystem" is already an "industry" today. The difference is
1. This "industry" isn't controlled by us.
2. This "industry" is in many respects much more advanced than our "industry".

Your claim about the lack of beauty of Europa is somewhat dogmatic.

So basically you object to colonizing Europa since it's not varied but you don't object colonizing outer space since... It is varied? Or is that if we don't create a closed environment completely shut off from whatever was there before we somehow automatically lose in variety?

Squark said...

Super Bio-tech

As I said, many things is possible, I'm just guessing here.

That's an argument for both because biology involves nanoscopic design. Our tech is not as minituarized as biology. So either we will make it more minituarized or we're use
bio-tech. or both.

Yes, it's in tie with space station debate. I don't the relation of your previous comment.

My sin is that I am using the word "technology" in a slightly perverted way. I regard biology as a kind of technology in the same ways transistors is a kind of technology and vacuum tubes is a kind of technology. The advantage of biology is sophistication. The advantage of the other two is our higher level of understanding and control.

Squark said...

One more thing about "dreaming". When I spoke of dreaming, I didn't mean the act of imagining something without any bearing to reality. I meant "dreaming" as in realizing that something can be theoretically achieved if technology makes sufficient progress.

Eli said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Squark said...

The previous comments by Eli have been deleted because they used the offensive phrases
"baseless theorizing" and "...only tells how much you don't understand that aspect of human psychology". These phrases contain no information except pure insult and I explicitly asked to avoid using such phrases.

Eli said...

"Baseless theorizing" referred to a very specific thing - treating real-life facts as if they're abstract intellectual exercises instead of just bringing evidence. In a nutshell, an inappropriate mode of reasoning. For example, an American who says that national ID cards lead to an Orwellian regime, because it makes it easy for the government to track citizens, makes a logical argument, but since he ignores the decidedly non-Orwellian nations where such IDs are implemented, he's also guilty of baseless theorizing.

Saying that jokingly dismissing my arguments "only tells how much you don't understand" the importance of a subject, may not carry the genteel condescension of calling my "love" of topography "romantic" (I wonder what's the ratio of information-to-insult in that sentence), but it still carries a quite a lot of meaning, which could be addressed.

Obviously, you're free to feel insulted by anything you want, but claiming that what I said contains no information other than insult, is both false and more insulting than either phrase.

Squark said...

The American in your example is not guilty of "baseless theorizing". He is making a logical argument which might be true or false depending on its correct representation of various factors. Bringing a counterexample is valid form or argument. However, calling the argument "baseless theorizing" carries no information since it doesn't explain why the argument is "baseless". You might as well call the argument "stupid".

I don't think calling something "romantic" is not condescending. I don't consider "romantic" to be bad: maybe you do. The point of the "romantic" comment is that in my opinion you were sacrificing pragmatic considerations in favor of considerations of sentimental nature. However, if you thought it was insulting you could have told me so and I wouldn't use it again.

What is the meaning in "only tells how much you don't understand"? This is entirely ad hominem.

I didn't say that everything you said contains no information. I said that these specific phrases carried no information and made me reluctant to continue the discussion in this tone.

Eli said...

The American in my example is doing something wrong - instead of starting by looking for real evidence, he treats the whole debate as purely theoretical. Obviously, this kind of reasoning is useful for some cases, but it's inappropriate for others. It's "baseless" as opposed to concrete facts, not because of the content of the arguments, but because this kind of reasoning is not meant to be directly "based" on facts, but on a line of logical reasoning. "Baseless theorizing" therefore, describes a very specific thing. I guess there's a Latin term for it that I don't know (that would certainly be more pretentious, but not less insulting). "Stupid", on the other hand, only describes a personal feeling towards the argument.

The whole sentence about my "romantic" "love" of topography, is only meant to paint my arguments as a non-pragmatic sentimentalism (as you just explained), and your arguments, apparently, as cold hard logic. Its whole purpose is to belittle me and my arguments. The same could be said about many other things, such as quoting yourself (a serious breach of etiquette IMHO, as you might have deduced from my comments), as if the only reason why I wasn't convinced is because I didn't read your arguments well enough.

The meaning of "only tells how much you don't understand" could have also been phrased as "it's a much more important issue than you seem to think", or "I don't know why you think my arguments are so unimportant". The choice to take it as a pure Ad Hominem was yours.

I'm fully aware that you only meant those phrases, and not the whole thing - I find the insinuation that I "didn't get it" to be a nice example of what I said above. I can't say that I'm too happy about your condescending tone either, but I have no problem sucking it up (or at least, that's what I would like to believe)

Squark said...

The American isn't doing anything wrong. Some arguments are empirical, some theoretical, both are legitimate. "Baseless theorizing" sounds pretty much derogatory to me. If you would say "you are making assumption X which isn't supported by evidence", that would be an acceptable argument.

My understanding was that you love topography because of aesthetic aspect, not because of pragmatic reasons. This is an acceptable point in favor of topography, but not sufficiently strong on itself, in my opinion. I don't see what is "belittling" about that. But once again, if you found that offensive, you could have told me, the way I told you I consider "baseless theorizing" to be offensive.

I don't see the problem with quoting myself. My perception was that the answer to your point is already contained in something I already wrote.

If you said "it's a much more important issue than you seem to think" or "I don't know why you think my arguments are so unimportant", that would be OK. The way you said it, you implied that
a. I don't understand ...
b. My argument is so stupid that if I'm making that argument you clearly don't understand ...

I am not insinuating anything, I honestly didn't understand what you meant.

Squark said...

Pardon, I meant

"b. My argument is so stupid that if I'm making this argument I clearly don't understand ..."

Eli said...

If you would say "you are making assumption X which isn't supported by evidence", that would be an acceptable argument.

I had an issue with jumping to purely theoretical arguments in the first place. It's not (just) an issue with the content of the arguments.

My understanding was that you love topography because of aesthetic aspect, not because of pragmatic reasons

I "love" topography for the same reason you "love" the biosphere, or "hate" clones. And yet, I didn't feel the need to paint you as illogical and sentimental.

if you found that offensive, you could have told me, the way I told you I consider "baseless theorizing" to be

You didn't tell me it was offensive. You just said that we should avoid such "labels". I found out that you found it personally offensive, after you deleted my comment - something I obviously couldn't have
(and wouldn't have, if I could) done to you.

I don't see the problem with quoting myself. My perception was that the answer to your point is already contained in something I already wrote.

And your assumption was that the reason that I didn't understand it was because I didn't read it? When you asked about stuff I already talked about, I assumed I wasn't clear enough (rather than you're just lazy), and tried to paraphrase it. Quoting yourself is an arrogant gesture at best, and an implicit jab at my intelligence at worst.

"b. My argument is so stupid that if I'm making this argument I clearly don't understand ..."

You didn't make an argument. You just casually dismissed my arguments. If you're making this kind of "argument", then it's clear that you either don't understand the importance of the subject, or just trolling.

This sentence means the same thing as "it's a much more important issue than you seem to think", but with the added information that I'm kinda pissed off about it. Saying that it's devoid of information is obviously wrong.

Anyway, I'm not going to tell you what you should be insulted by. However, starting to delete my comments, just because you were somehow insulted by them and you happen to be the moderator here, is against basic netiquette, and is pretty offensive.

Obviously, this is your blog, and you have the right to do so - just as you have the right to replace all of my comments with "I love cock!", but if you start saying "it's my ball and I'm taking it with me", then don't expect anyone to keep playing with you.

Squark said...

I don't understand your issue with theoretical arguments. Obviously I claimed X because my experience supported X. Evidently your experience taught you otherwise. This doesn't mean we are not allowed to analyse the issue theoretically.

I don't think the reason is precisely the same. If you think that way you should have pointed that out. Btw, illogical and sentimental are entirely different things as far as I'm concerned. However, if my reasoning came across as offensive, I apologize. This was not my intention.

Your comment didn't even try to explain why the term you used is appropriate. You just ridiculed my request, which seems like basic disrespect to me.

No, my assumption was that you didn't make the logical connection between the specific thing you said and the specific thing I said.

My perception is that I did make an argument, and I didn't dismiss yours: I honestly tried to refute it by the so-called "baseless theorizing". I could have said "in my experience X is true" instead, but this kind of argument appeared less valuable to me since obviously you interpret your experience the other way around.

I honestly don't see how "...only tells how much you don't understand that aspect of human psychology" is the same as "it's a much more important issue than you seem to think". The later statement suggests that I assigned incorrect relative weight to considerations X and Y. The former says the a + b above.

I don't expect anyone to do anything. But I'm not ready to tolerate ad hominem arguments and complete disregard of my view on what sort of comments are inappropriate here.

Eli said...

This is a futile argument. As I said, I can't tell you what you should be insulted by. If any of my remarks offended you, I apologize.

You're free to do whatever you want with your blog, but if that's your "moderation policy", then I'll have no part in this.

Squark said...

In order to be fair, I removed my "romantic" batch of comments.

Eli said...

These were not the only comments I found offensive.

In any case, I don't care if you start censoring yourself. This kind of moderation abuse is simply unacceptable to me.