A Critique of Mind Augmenting Technologies

The Practical

Every day the Internet increases CAPACITY, e.g., Google.

CAPABILITY is more difficult and less obvious. I'll address four questions.

   1. Is Superior Intelligence a Myth?
   2. Will we have Intelligent Machines & Superbrains?
   3. Is it Smart to Want Intelligent Machines?
   4. What's Wrong with Practical Machine Intelligence?

1. Is Superior Intelligence a Myth?

This was my first idea for this paper.

Let me ask what I think is a stupid question: Who is the smartest person in this room?

Let's put it another way: is there any way to determine who is the smartest person in this room?

Here's another interesting answer to the question:

Okay, let's examine smart.

Anyone here think our current President is smarter than this President?

Maybe not, but we know Jefferson failed as a businessman, and Bush did succeed in business without really trying, as the saying goes.
        So what is smart? Like any other human attribute, it varies among individuals and within the individual. There is no smartest person. There are only skills and smarts in particular situations.
        There are only TWO ways smarter has any meaning. One is through measurement, but we can only measure in the particular instance. The other is by examining the consequences of particular decisions and actions. Examples of the first are IQ tests, of the second the judgments of history.

2. Will we have Intelligent Machines & Superbrains?

The efforts to create Intelligent Machines invariably leads to a discussion of Superbrains. Hugo de Garis is the self-proclaimed planet's pioneering brain builder. He invented the term artilect to refer to massively intelligent machines.
        Then Sir Roger Penrose posed the Artilect Question: Can we make intelligent machines without consciousness, especially since we don't know enough yet about consciousness? Hugo leapfrogged into a book called The Artilect War (published on the web) claiming Superbrains will eventually dominate or destroy the human race. Hugo thinks Artilects can achieve species dominance.

3. Is it Smart to Want Intelligent Machines?

Intelligent Machines are all based on Strong Artificial Intelligence. I suggest there are SIX major flaws of Strong AI.

1. Strong AI wants only Intelligence
2. Strong AI ignores Emotion
3. Strong AI ignores different kinds of Intelligence
4. Strong AI ignores Creativity
5. Strong AI ignores Common Sense
6. Strong AI ignores Wisdom

The details are in this supplement.

For now, I'd like to address an even more important flaw. There is hardware and software, but you cannot use a computer without it being part of a larger SYSTEM that includes maintenance, operations, and usage plus the supervision of all these.
        We do this every day with our personal computers. We're not just the users of our computers, we are the operators, the maintenance people, and even the owners who supervise. So imagine how complex the systems for these intelligent machines will be.
        Unfortunately, history shows that the design of complex systems is guaranteed to be undervalued by the sponsors, underestimated by the planners, under-secured by designers, unreliable by the builders, and under-maintained by the end users. Think Titanic.

        In complex systems there are lots of things that can go wrong, and there are no computer systems that are not complex. In complex systems errors generated by small faults often turn out to be large, if not terminal. Think O-rings.

        In the creation of complex systems, we must remember these two words: Risk Assessment. We cannot forget Peter Drucker's admonition that there are some risks we cannot afford to take.

4. What's Wrong with Practical Machine Intelligence?

Nothing. Except that it's much harder than HARDWARE OPTIMISTS like Ray Kurzweil believe. Creating machine intelligence at any level is not about the INEVITABILITY OF MORE POWERFUL CHIPS but rather the difficult work of intelligent software design. By people.

Hardware optimism is countered by software optimism.

Software, as Jaron Lanier said, doesn't follow Moore's Law.


If you're looking for practical aspects of mind uploading, you need look no further than an hundred miles north of here in Scottsdale.

There you'll find the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, the world's leader in Cryonics. While their main interest is freezing you, others are promoting mind uploading as a practical medical procedure necessary for the unfreezing process. In other words: unfreeze the body, download the mind.


Whatever the interest in increasing the Longevity of the mind, there is one perpetual obstacle to permanency of data: Media Obsolescence.
        The solution to media obsolescence stares us in the face every day. The Internet upgrades its equipment even as we sleep. Our data is continually being moved to newer, better, smaller, faster, and cheaper storage devices.

At no effort or noticeable cost to us.

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