The post Review: Transcendence — The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity is a new book by former h+ Magazine editor R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell that will bring transhumanism to the masses. The title might be confusing; this isn’t just a book about spirituality, but is an encyclopedia of short articles on a wide range of topics related to transhumanism. The book clearly reflects R.U.’s personal take on the topic, which is brimming with cynical and somehow still fun optimism, and which is clearly influenced by the psychedelic side of the house. R.U.’s vision for a future transhuman world is a freaky party and we’re all invited.

The book is organized around a list of words similarly to an encyclopedia or dictionary, and therefore each of the topics is presented in alphabetical order. This makes it relatively easy to find a topic of interest, or return to an old favorite, but the book is still fun to read linearly as well. In addition, each chapter includes one or more links to other chapter titles at the outset, a crude hypertext feature that sort of works. You will find some well known topics of interest like artificial general intelligence, cryonics, and nanotechnology that will be familiar to h+ Magazine reader, as well as some somewhat less well known ideas such as “The Methuselarity”.

My main quibble with this book is the title. The use of the title *Transcendence* seems like a decision from an SEO consultant looking to scarf hits from the movie release, and it has less to do with the content than the secondary title. It’s set up like an encyclopedia.

But still, while this work is a fun and easy introduction to transhumanism, calling it an “encyclopedia” is a bit of an exaggeration. The book is neither large enough nor complete enough to earn this description I think, but perhaps a future version will be expanded to move in that direction.

I would expect an encyclopedia to be more comprehensive and technical than this book, which is to say “encyclopedic”, but for now, this encyclopedia is fun but certainly not complete.

Nevertheless, I expect that transhumanists will call this book simply “The Encyclopedia” and it will be widely read and enjoyed. Move over Ray Kurzweil.

Of course any “encyclopedia” about transhumanism printed on paper is destined to be outdated rapidly or arguably immediately in the modern world. An annual update would be welcomed in addition to expanded and more technical coverage of some topics. The use of the wiki like text features here also suggests the benefits of an electronic version. But I like books too.

*The Encyclopedia* includes a variety of short interviews or comments from well known, and some less well known, transhumanists which add a lot of expert knowledge and narrative flavor to what could have been a monologue. Readers of h+ Magazine will recognize many of them of course.

Some of the best parts of *The Encyclopedia* are these commentaries. However some of it also diverges into what might be called “industry gossip”. I don’t think most readers are interested in transhumanist micropolitics or will even get most of these references. While perhaps of historical interest, I would have left this sort of thing out.

Each section introduces and focuses on a topic, e.g. the NBIC technologies, but many also include a critical reality check of the idea presented and the entries are not simply promotional puff pieces. R.U. reports real progress in numerous areas, but he also isn’t afraid to point out those areas where our projects remain mostly or entirely dreams.

Despite the lean treatment of some topics, there are some real gems here. If you are looking for a holiday gift for someone that is a transhumanist or might be interested in transhumanism, they probably will enjoy this book. This isn’t an academic text, but it is a fun introduction that will leave them laughing. And there are some unique pieces here that are not available elsewhere which I think will be referenced widely.

I have to here proclaim my fan boy status. I am and have been for some time a huge fan of R.U. and his writing dating back to Mondo 2000 and even High Frontiers. I like R.U’s humor and style and that shines through here especially in some specific articles.

I imagine some transhumanists organizing to buy a large number of copies of *The Encyclopedia* and placing them in hotel room drawers or distributing them in airports and train stations. If this is you, go for it!

The post Review: Transcendence — The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>The post Video Friday: The Winograd Schema Challenge — In Conversation with Dr. Charlie Ortiz of Nuance Communicaitons appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>I recently visited Nuance Communications and talked with Dr. Charlie Ortiz about the Winograd Schema Challenge an alternative to the famous turing test which has been proposed to test and measure artificial intelligences.

The post Video Friday: The Winograd Schema Challenge — In Conversation with Dr. Charlie Ortiz of Nuance Communicaitons appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>The post A Simple Trick To Improve Your Memory appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>**Want to enhance your memory for facts? Tom Stafford explains a counterintuitive method for retaining information.
**

If I asked you to sit down and remember a list of phone numbers or a series of facts, how would you go about it? There’s a fair chance that you’d be doing it wrong.

One of the interesting things about the mind is that even though we all have one, we don’t have perfect insight into how to get the best from it. This is in part because of flaws in our ability to think about our own thinking, which is called metacognition. Studying this self-reflective thought process reveals that the human species has mental blind spots.

One area where these blind spots are particularly large is learning. We’re actually surprisingly bad at having insight into how we learn best.

Researchers Jeffrey Karpicke and Henry Roediger III set out to look at one aspect: how testing can consolidate our memory of facts. In their experiment they asked college students to learn pairs of Swahili and English words. So, for example, they had to learn that if they were given the Swahili word ‘mashua’ the correct response was ‘boat’. They could have used the sort of facts you might get on a high-school quiz (e.g. “Who wrote the first computer programs?”/”Ada Lovelace”), but the use of Swahili meant that there was little chance their participants could use any background knowledge to help them learn. After the pairs had all been learnt, there would be a final test a week later.

Now if many of us were revising this list we might study the list, test ourselves and then repeat this cycle, dropping items we got right. This makes studying (and testing) quicker and allows us to focus our effort on the things we haven’t yet learnt. It’s a plan that seems to make perfect sense, but it’s a plan that is disastrous if we really want to learn properly.

Karpicke and Roediger asked students to prepare for a test in various ways, and compared their success – for example, one group kept testing themselves on all items without dropping what they were getting right, while another group stopped testing themselves on their correct answers.

On the final exam differences between the groups were dramatic. While dropping items from study didn’t have much of an effect, the people who dropped items from *testing* performed relatively poorly: they could only remember about 35% of the word pairs, compared to 80% for people who kept testing items after they had learnt them.

It seems the effective way to learn is to practice retrieving items from memory, not trying to cement them in there by further study. Moreover, dropping items entirely from your revision, which is the advice given by many study guides, is wrong. You can stop studying them if you’ve learnt them, but you should keep testing what you’ve learnt if you want to remember them at the time of the final exam.

Finally, the researchers had the neat idea of asking their participants how well they would remember what they had learnt. All groups guessed at about 50%. This was a large overestimate for those who dropped items from test (and an underestimate from those who kept testing learnt items).

So it seems that we have a metacognitive blind spot for which revision strategies will work best. Making this a situation where we need to be guided by the evidence, and not our instinct. But the evidence has a moral for teachers as well: there’s more to testing than finding out what students know – tests can also help us remember.

###

Tom Stafford is a Lecturer in Psychology and Cognitive Science for the Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield, UK. He is the co-author of the bestselling popular science book Mind Hacks and writes for the award-winning blog Mind Hacks which reports on psychology and neuroscience. You can follow him on Twitter at @tomstafford.

All blog posts by http://mindhacks.com/ are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

*Read more: **Why cramming for tests often fails*

*The original is here*

The post A Simple Trick To Improve Your Memory appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>The post Why Do People Fear Immortality? appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>Anyone who reads this blog knows that I think death should be optional. Yet I always encounter resistance when introducing this idea to others. Why is that? There are many reasons. For some the idea that we should choose whether to live or die contradicts religious beliefs or seems impossible. For others death is thought to be natural or what gives life meaning. And fiction influences others by often portraying immortality as bad because:

1) You will be bored.

2) You will be unable to die.

3) You will hurt others to attain it.

4) You will lose your humanity.

5) You will turn into a monster

6) You will destroy the environment.

My guess is that negative views of the future are more exciting, selling more books and movie tickets than descriptions of utopias. But think of it this way. About ten generations ago the average life expectancy in most of the world was about thirty years. If someone told you then that they could triple that lifespan, would you voice the above concerns? I doubt it. Some people will be bad or bored or destructive because they live longer, Some are like that now. But for others with age comes more kindness and wisdom. Yes there are bored, horrific people in the world, but that is not connected with how long they live. Some people are just horrible.

Now suppose we tripled the lifespan again? Say an average healthy lifespan becomes 250 years. What would change? I can’t say for sure but I see no reason to think life would necessarily get worse. In fact knowing our lives would be longer might force us to better cooperate with others and preserve the environment. If we are going to be alive when the ecosystem is ruined, we might be more likely to care for it.

Of course if we had the option to live forever that would be different. That would create different problems some of which I’ve tried to answer previously. So let’s continue to increase our lifespans and see what happens.

###

John G. Messerly, Ph.D taught for many years in both the philosophy and computer science departments at the University of Texas at Austin. His most recent book is *The Meaning of Life: Religious, Philosophical, Scientific, and Transhumanist Perspectives*. He blogs daily on issues of futurism and the meaning of life at reasonandmeaning.com

Image of D. Jeffry Life age 74. See http://drlife.com/

The post Why Do People Fear Immortality? appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>The post Cybernetics, Art, and Ideas (1971) — Lost Transhumanist Classics appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>Cybernetics, Art, and Ideas (1971) by Jasia Reichardt is a lost and out of print masterwork of multimedia, interactive, and computer generated art that will be of interest to transhumanists.

The book was published in 1971 and is a collection of short articles from various authors related to the intersection of technology and the arts. Topics range from the use of randomness in computer graphics to social implications of computer human relationships and beyond.

Of notable interest to transhumanists are some of the articles on computers and creativity, and, included here, a short but highly interesting piece documenting a cybernetic approach to “happiness amplification” and “happiness engineering”, *Happiness*,* amplified cybernetically* by Ali Irtem,

This article is an extremely early example of the transhumanist approach to systems design. First, a quality of the human situation is identified and a problem in that situation identified and considered for improvement. The problem identified by Irtem is that people are not as happy as they desire and further they see that there are ways in which they might be happier.

Irtem suggests that happiness is a quality of the human condition subject to measurement and therefore improvement and control. He further proposes a feedback control system to amplify happiness. We can consider similar approaches to improve other aspects of the human condition, for example, we can construct systems which amplify knowledge or increase social connection.

The described mathematics is a first step to a closed loop hedonic circuit which could optimize happiness under conscious control. Exactly the sort of functionality we might expect a future transhuman or post human to possess. It seems unfortunately that little progress was made in this area for a long period following publication of Irtem’s article, however there are some recent investigations into amplifying happiness and also we have of course the transhumanist interest in achieving super-happiness.

The necessity of a firm mathematical foundation for designing working systems is often overlooked. Irtem’s happiness machine is incomplete but, with regard to happiness amplification and happiness engineering, we can now begin with this little known and inspirational piece. Readers with an interest in artificial intelligence will note the connection Irtem makes also between happiness and intelligence which I think would still remain controversial.

The book also includes some early ideas about interactive and reactive environments, plus a few oddities such as the mathematics of Mondrian paintings and nose shape. You never know when that will come in handy.

Cybernetics, Art, and Ideas is rare and hard to find, but still thought provoking 40 years later.

The post Cybernetics, Art, and Ideas (1971) — Lost Transhumanist Classics appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>The post Quantum Computers Could Crack Existing Codes But Create Others Much Harder To Break appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>The massive release of the US National Security Agency (NSA)’s classified documents by Edward Snowden continues to raise questions about security.

One of these documents deals with the NSA’s classified research program in the exotic field of quantum computing.

This research investigates ways to process information using the laws of quantum mechanics, rather than the familiar physics underlying present-day computer processors.

Why should the NSA care? Because the single most famous application of quantum computing is in code-breaking.

During World War II, a team led by Alan Turing used a primitive computer to break the Nazis’ Enigma code

The NSA document, which can be found online, deals with the excitingly named project “Penetrating Hard Targets”.

An unknown portion of the US$80-million budget is devoted to building a small quantum processor, capable of counting up to four. (No, not four-million. Just four!) This doesn’t sound like much, but one has to start somewhere.

Another portion supports research into quantum cryptography, which offers new, higher-security secret codes based on quantum mechanics.

The news here is that the NSA had its own secret experimental program. It was already public knowledge that the NSA is interested in quantum computing.

The NSA has been financially supporting non-classified quantum computing research at universities since the 1990s, and many academic journal articles acknowledge NSA support.

In fact, my own PhD work on quantum computing with trapped ions was largely funded by the NSA. One day, our funding managers came to visit. They looked like my maths professors from undergraduate days – slightly nerdy men in sweaters.

I was a little disappointed until I came up with a theory that when they went back to the NSA building, they would tear off the sweaters to reveal the long trenchcoats of a typical spy drama.

But iIt’s no accident that our NSA funding managers looked like mathematicians. That’s what they were. Modern cryptography is, in many ways, a branch of applied mathematics.

The Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA) algorithm, which protects almost all e-commerce, relies on one fact that can be understood with primary-school maths (it can even be used to send love letters).

Multiplying two large prime numbers is easy – say, 547 × 617 = 337,499. There’s a simple process that you can follow and making the numbers a little bigger only makes the process take a little longer. In the jargon of computer science, the problem “scales polynomially”.

However, suppose someone just gives you a large number and asks you to work the process in reverse.

In our example, you are given the number 337,499 and asked to find out which numbers (the “factors”) should be multiplied together to produce 337,499.

You would just have to try factors, almost at random, until you hit on the correct factors by chance (547 and 617).

This would take an exceedingly long time since you would have to perform many multiplications. Making the numbers a little bigger makes the problem much harder – it “scales exponentially”!

The efforts of the world’s mathematicians over decades have not been able to find an easy way to solve this problem, and they’ve certainly tried.

If an easy and practical solution were found, the RSA code would be broken and the prize is, well, most of the world’s bank accounts.

In a less criminal frame of mind, you might want to feel secure about your next internet purchase, so you might want to convince yourself that RSA is unbreakable. Email encryption also relies on RSA, so trying to break RSA is core business for the NSA’s mathematicians.

Quantum computers became big business in 1994, when Peter Shor demonstrated theoretically that a quantum computer could find the factors of a large number easily. Making the number bigger shouldn’t faze the quantum computer – it’s enough to add a little more computing capacity.

However, you needn’t worry about your bank account. Translating Shor’s algorithm into practice is tremendously difficult. No one has built a practical quantum computer that could break RSA, and that goal is still a long way off – decades, at the current rate of progress.

Remember, the NSA’s current program, if successful, will handle numbers up to four, not exactly the “large numbers” we were talking about earlier.

It’s quite likely that a quantum computer will be built eventually, but quantum mechanics can make codes as well as break them. The complementary part of the picture is the NSA’s effort in quantum cryptography, which provides new security methods that are resistant even to quantum computers or any other kind of code-breaking.

Messages encoded in quantum systems have a perfect “tamper-proof seal”. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principletells us that measuring one property of a quantum system must always change another property of the system.

One can create a code based on this principle, such that if the coded message is intercepted and read, the process of reading the message actually changes it. The recipient can check parts of the message with the sender over an open line to make sure that there has been no tampering.

Even better news, quantum cryptography is much further advanced than quantum computing. There are already commercial ventures deploying quantum cryptography links for banks and governments. Australia’s own Quintessence Labs, based in Canberra, is a major player in this area.

Quantum computing’s roots may be in the cloak-and-dagger business, but it has great potential for civilian uses too. For instance, a quantum computer can efficiently simulate advanced materials, such as high-temperature superconductors, at the atomic level.

The ability to direct manufacturing efforts for these materials in a clever way could save tremendous effort. However, like all scientific advances, the uses of quantum computing will ultimately be determined politically and financially.

###

David Kielpinski is a Professor of Physics, Centre for Quantum Dynamics at Griffith University. This article originally appeared here, republished under creative commons license.

The post Quantum Computers Could Crack Existing Codes But Create Others Much Harder To Break appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>The post Strict Finitism and Transhumanism appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>Is infinity an illusion?

Strict finitism, or simply finitism, is a somewhat obscure mathematical idea that has important implications for transhumanism and key transhumanist projects such as mind uploading and artificial general intelligence. Finitism is a philosophy of mathematics that rejects the existence of infinite mathematical objects.

The finitist philosophy of mathematics is best understood in comparison to the mainstream philosophy of mathematics where infinite mathematical objects like infinite sets are accepted as legitimate objects existing in some sort of “Platonic universe” of forms.

For example, strict finitists accept finite sets of natural numbers, rational numbers and finite precision real numbers, but they do not accept infinite sets and infinite series, real numbers, surreal numbers, transfinite numbers, etc. Importantly a strict finitist would reject the idea of a Turing Machine in the general case because it includes the idea of an infinitely long tape. For a finitist ideas like Turing Machines, advice TMs, analog neural networks, and similar systems are essentially nonsensical or, at best, non-realizable ideals or thought experiments.

Within mathematics, the finitists are contrasted with the transfinitists who are proponents of Georg Cantor‘s hierarchy of infinities. Leopold Kronecker was perhaps the best known finitist and opponent to Cantor’s set theory who said,

God created the natural numbers, all else is the work of man.

Reuben Goodstein is another well known proponent of finitism and his work involved building up to analysis from finitist foundations. Although he apparently denied it, much of Ludwig Wittgenstein‘s writing on mathematics also has a strong affinity with finitism.

Aristotle might be characterized as a strict finitist. However Aristotle especially promoted the potential infinity as a middle option between strict finitism and actual infinity:

But on the other hand to suppose that the infinite does not exist in any way leads obviously to many impossible consequences: there will be a beginning and end of time, a magnitude will not be divisible into magnitudes, number will not be infinite. If, then, in view of the above considerations, neither alternative seems possible, an arbiter must be called in.

—Aristotle, Physics, Book 3, Chapter 6

Aristotle’s actual infinity means simply an actualization of something never-ending in nature, which is in contrast the Cantorist actual infinity which means that of the transfinite cardinal and ordinal numbers, which has nothing to do with things in nature.

Ultrafinitism (also known as ultraintuitionism) has an even more conservative attitude towards mathematical objects than finitism, and has objections to the existence of finite mathematical objects when they are too large to be produced or considered.

Physical finitism is the position that all observable things and entities are finite systems. Notably since humans are finite systems in both time and space, infinite quantities, sets, and objects can not be taken to meaningfully reference humans or to exist since humans being are finite beings that can never produce or examine infinite objects.

The simplest argument against finitism is simply the existence of the elementary mathematical operations. For example addition of one produces the next number in sequence, and so it seems, as long as we keep adding, we always get a number, ad infinitum.

However physical finitism suggests that according to any method we might choose, and however diligently and long we work, we’ll never get an infinite quantity. The result is always a finite number, one more than the last. Eventually we would get to a number so large we couldn’t record it using all of the matter in the universe. It’s not entirely clear what it means for a number larger than this to exist.

Even if one rejects temporal finitism, the idea that time is finite, we observe that individual organisms and intelligent systems have finite life spans. Knowledge is finite, as is the set of all things we can imagine knowing. What we know and don’t know is limited by our use of language, which is by the way, always a finite system. THis relationship might even point to a deeper relationship between these ideas of time, space and knowledge.

One of the obvious but controversial conclusions of physical finitism is that humans are not even Turing Machines, but in fact, seemingly, just very complex finite state machines. Like your thermostat or TV remote control, but more so.

Consider, the definition of a Turing Machine allows for an infinite tape with finite control logic. But humans, since they are finite systems, can not store an infinite amount of information. We’ve got a finite tape.

We only live for a finite amount of time, and can only process a limited amount of sensory input per unit time. In other words, the number of things we can experience is limited by how long we live and how many experiences we can have per second. Each experience produces a brain state and pattern of memories, but only finitely many of these can exist.

If you think of yourself as a Turing Machine, you can only be a finite Turing Machine. Too bad, because this limits the sorts of computations that humans can do unaided and by a lot. But even a true Turing Machine running a finite amount of instructions per second can only process a finite amount of memory in a finite time.

So, according to finitism, humans can not be Turning Machines but must in fact be merely complex automatons.

The idea has some pretty significant implications for the limitations of human knowledge, creativity, and inventiveness that humans may find a bit hard to swallow in the future. If humans are nothing more than large finite state machines then any output or creative activity we can produce must, by definition, be constrained by a regular language.

We are not as smart as we imagine ourselves to be.

All existent artificial intelligence systems are finite computer programs running on finite machines, and therefore, are not truly Turing Machines at all but also finite state machines or “finite memory” Turing Machines. Despite what you might have (mistakenly) learned in computer science class, all real world computers are only finite Turing Machines too, just like humans.

However, a well known fact, any finite Turing Machine can be shown to be equivalent to a (possibly very large) deterministic finite state machine.

Importantly, the well known halting problem is decidable for finite Turing machines and all FSMs but possibly only in theory as deciding may take as long as executing the number of states considered.

Here is a non-formal outline of the proof:

- A Turing machine with a finite amount of memory can only be in a finite number of configurations. A configuration consists of the position of the head on the tape and the state of the machine. Since both the number of states and the number of locations on the tape are finite, this is also a finite number which we will call
*N*. - After running
*N*+1 instructions, either the machine must stop, or you must visit the same configuration, by the so called “pigeon-hole” principle, creating a loop. Thus, after running*N*+1 instructions if the machine has not yet halted, you conclude that it won’t ever halt, but instead loops forever.

Since any realizable machine must obey the Bekenstein Bound, it must process a finite amount of information and can only consume a finite amount of energy. A realizable machine can only contain a finite amount of matter and therefore can only store finite programs and inputs.

Theorem (Bekenstein 1981): A spherical region with radius R and energy E can contain only a limited amount of information I (in the sense of number of distinguishable (quantum) states):

I ≤ 2π ER/¯hc ln 2 where ¯h is Planck’s constant and c is the speed of light.

Alternatively, I ≤ kMR where M is the mass in the region and k ≈ 2.57686 · 1043 bits/(m kg).

Importantly strong finitism rules out the existence of an infinite intelligence explosion in our universe. All physical systems are limited in power to that of finite automata. Like any quality of a finite system, finitists assert that intelligence must also remain strictly finite.

Given any self improving intelligent system that has existed for time t1, there is some finite amount of space/time that is reachable by the system at time t2. Thus our system can only consider a finite number of sensory inputs or experiences, can only store a finite number of memories, etc. and the number of possible configurations must therefore also remain finite.

No one really knows exactly how much information is required to accurately represent a human brain, however, finitism suggests that it must of course be a finite quantity.

So, given that we observe rapid and exponential or super-exponential advances in information processing and information storage technology, finitism supports the idea of a technological Singularity in the form of the emergence of a greater than human machine intelligence.

In fact, a significantly “larger” intelligence can produce objects which appear infinite to us, and this has important consequences. A much greater intelligence can for example algorithmically construct sequences which are indistinguishable from random bits to humans since the program required to generate them can not be executed by any human brain.

Intelligence augmentation of course would radically alter the size of programs human can “run”.

But without it, a much greater than human superintelligence could produce mathematical proofs that humans can not evaluate manually for correctness as another example. This is already happening with existing work in computer based proofs where proof generating programs either have to be derived from provably correct principles or, at least, the results are checked by a different program or process later.

So while finitism does rule out a formally infinite intelligence explosion, it doesn’t in any way rule out a relative and apparently infinite intelligence explosion. A much greater than human intelligence could, for example, seem to produce an infinite number of digits for any computable irrational number we select, e.g. it would appear to us to know all of the digits of pi despite knowing only a finite number of them. The chance of us guessing one it didn’t know, would be vanishingly small.

According to physical finitism, all infinite processes are strictly ruled out. A machine, no matter how intelligent, can only reach a finite region of spacetime during its lifetime and therefore can only consume a finite amount of energy and process only a finite amount of information.

All of the universe which is observable to us, lies inside the region of spacetime known as our light-cone.

Consider an intelligence called “A” located at a point in space-time labeled here ‘A’.

In the plot below, time is graphed on the vertical axis, and space is in the imagined horizontal plane. The speed of light defines two cones, one into A’s past and one into A’s future. However, note that various places lie outside of IAs past and future light-cones. Events outside of A’s light-cone, e.g. the event labeled E, can not have any causal influence over A’s structure, state or dynamics.

All relevant information to A’s state must be contained in A’s past light-cone.

Infinite minds, according to finitism, do not exist, but vast planet sized “Jupiter Brains” still might.

Some researchers claim the mind is a type of super Turing or hypercomputation, that is, a machine beyond any Turing Machine.

Note that we can make only a finite number of observations of limited precision of any physical system. This implies that the claim that some system X , say me, is a Super Turing Machine or even simply a Turing Machine may not be empirically meaningful or decidable since there is no method to determine this either way in finite time. It’s an unfalsifiable assertion.

Given that the notion of universal computation is defined over an infinite space of functions, it would appear that no finite series of measurements could ever reject the hypothesis that a real physical system was only computationally equivalent to a finite automaton as opposed to some variety of universal computer. In other words, the hypothesis that a real physical system such as a human cognizer has universal computational power does not appear to be empirically meaningful.

~ Gregory Mulhauser

(see also Russell’s Teapot)

If the human mind is a finite information processing system of some sort, and it certainly seems that it is, then it can process at most a finite amount of information, it can store only a finite number of memories, and it can only perform a finite amount of computation during its lifetime. A full life image or complete sensory life log would include at most a finite number of bits. A full “mindclone” would therefore also require at most a finite number of bits.

Simply stated finitism supports and suggests the viability of mind uploading since a mind, whatever it might be, must exist in a finite region of spacetime and must be defined by a finite amount of information.

In fact it seems that the human mind is a rather simple sort of machine, simpler than the classical Turing Machine from CS 101.The mind it seems is a discrete state finite automation sometimes also known in the literature as an FSM or DFA.

This view is controversial, and various alternative structures have been introduced to counter opposing arguments. Notably by David Chalmers who extends the notion of a finite state automaton to what he terms a combinatorial state automaton. Others have tried similar maneuvers, however, often these alternative formulations can be shown to be equivalent to either FSMs or TMs.

Nevertheless, the idea that the mind is a finite state machine, however vast, has obvious and important implications for mind uploading. In theoretical computer science a bisimulation is a binary relation between state transition systems, which associates systems that behave in the same way. Intuitively two systems are bisimilar if they match each other’s moves during dynamic operation of both systems. In this sense, the systems cannot be distinguished from each other by an outside observer.

In some cases finite bisimulations can be shown to exist for hybrid systems, allowing even complex continuous behaviors to be analyzed as a bisimulation of a finite system. Bisimulation therefore provides a rich mathematical framework on which to analyze proposals for uploading, mindcloning and whole brain emulation. For example, there exist some results about the computational complexity of bisimulation processes. Discussing these is beyond the scope of this article however.

If we can build a bisimulation of your mind, it would be indistinguishable from you. It would think the same thoughts, dream the same dreams, make the same mistakes.

Isn’t the universe infinite?

Well, no one really knows whether the universe is unbounded and infinite or unbounded and finite (closed). At the very least the universe is extremely large and most of the universe remains outside of your light-cone and that of any imaginable intelligence that might originate on Earth. So even a superintelligence, where it to start here, has to remain “small”.

Another seeming problem with finitism is that it possibly violates quantum mechanics such as the no cloning theorem. It seems at least first glance that it is entirely possible to copy a finite system. DOes this imply that the mind is not a quantum system? Finitist proponents would object to any non-finite description of mind whatever mind might really be. This will invigorate proponents of whole brain emulation, but aggravate advocates of quantum mind theories. Finitists think that the human mind must be a sort of regular language.

Some physicists theorize that the universe is a discrete lattice and that continuous space does not exist and some physical experiments support this idea. And of course the speed of light is exactly the sort of physical limitation that a finitist viewpoint would suggest.

Finitism at least suggests that we question whether we can know anything about claimed infinite quantities or qualities. We imagine π has an infinite number of digits, however, we can never produce evidence that this is the case. An infinite decimal expansion can not be recorded in the accesible universe. While we can produce a method that seems to produce an infinite series, there is no executable process or procedure to construct an infinite object or test members of an infinite set for a characteristic or quality.

All real things have at most a finite amount of time and energy available to them.

At best, we can approximate infinite ideas with a finite quantity or measure. But, also importantly, in some cases we can produce the answer to a question that seems to involve an infinite procedure in a finite number of steps. For example, in the mathematics of limits a seemingly infinite limit process is replaced with a finite series of steps by which the human mathematician arrives at the correct answer and without the need to do infinitely many steps.

Even if strong finitism is incorrect and some sort of infinite space or structure does indeed “really” exist, caution is advised when treating what are just very complex finite systems as infinite ones. We can, for example, copy finite sequences but not infinite ones. We might mistakenly conclude something like mind uploading is impossible as a result.

While we can’t implement an infinite procedure, in some cases, we can convert infinite procedures into finite ones. Seemingly infinite quantities and qualities can be represented by finite symbols and manipulated by finite brains. So we can think about infinity with finite resources, in finite time, and even with our seemingly not that amazing monkey minds. Perhaps there is hope for us yet.

If the mind is indeed just a complex finite system, this improves the viability of many transhumanist projects. It suggests bisimulation as a mathematical framework for constructing, testing, and evaluating uploaded minds and mindclones. It outlines some realistic bounds on computation required to construct whole brain emulations.

Whatever position you take on finitism, this obscure area of the philosophy of mathematics is well worth understanding.

van der Velde, Frank. “Is the brain an effective Turing machine or a finite-state machine?.” *Psychological research* 55, no. 1 (1993): 71-79.

Levelt, Wilemm JM. “Are multilayer feedforward networks effectively Turing Machines?.” *Psychological Research* 52, no. 2-3 (1990): 153-157.

Lokhorst, G. J. “Why I am not a super-Turing machine.” In Hypercomputation Workshop, University College, London, vol. 24. 2000.

###

Peter Rothman, in addition to being editor of h+ Magazine, holds a B.A. in mathematics from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a M.S. in computer engineering from the Virterbi School at the University of Southern California. He studied chaos theory, dynamic and nonlinear systems theory, general systems theory, Artificial Intelligence, and neural networks. He designed a dual mode (analog/digital) neural processing system for DARPA especially developed for recurrent multilayer networks such as those employed in deep learning architectures.

The post Strict Finitism and Transhumanism appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>The post MozVR: Virtual Reality on the Web appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>No plugins, installs or expensive development tools are required.

In this brownbag, the developers share information on new builds, new demos, and new tools, and also provide a look at the future of VR on the web.

Learn more at http://mozvr.com/

Get it now!

The post MozVR: Virtual Reality on the Web appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>The post Predictions of Futures Past — Intelligent Agents appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>One of the biggest challenges in future studies is that you can’t verify predictions about the future until you get there. So you have to wait, possibly a long time, to find out if your predictions were correct.

But today is already the future, or at least it is for some of us.

Here’s a prediction I made about “intelligent agent” technology in 1993.

The current state of the art in intelligent-agent technology is very limited. Existing agents are primarily separate systems which are not integrated into virtual worlds. Significant effort will be required to “bind” these separate agents to virtual worlds. Moreover, many of the existing artificial intelligence programs that will be used to construct agents do not operate in real- time.

Real-time execution of these programs will be required in order for agents to support real-time user interaction. Significant advances in the state of the art in a variety of computer technologies will be required to make real-time intelligent agents commonplace.

The ability to interact with intelligent agents as a means of accessing networks of databases and information systems has the potential to radically empower those individuals who have access to the necessary technology. Agents will reduce the amount of time spent doing busy work, responding to junk mail, and so on, freeing individuals to perform more creative and rewarding tasks. Agent technology will enable the construction of new and deeply involving worlds for entertainment purposes. These worlds will combine education and entertainment in a single rich medium, allowing exploratory and experiential learning and encouraging creative thinking.

Agent technology undoubtedly has some potential for very negative impacts on society also. The use of agent technology as a replacement for human beings might lead to widespread unemployment particularly in settings where the user is already interacting with machines. Examples include bank tellers, telephone operators, receptionists, and others whose jobs can be readily transcribed into simple sets of rules or typical cases.

Database inference systems have the potential to allow for widespread and devastating invasions of personal privacy. These systems also can be used to infer classified or proprietary information from public-domain knowledge, possibly encouraging new forms of international and industrial espionage.

Finally, it is not clear what effect prolonged and repeated interaction with non-human agents will have on people. Will it lead to a general de-humanization of the individual? Or will people come to have a greater appreciation for those characteristics that set people apart from machines? Only by considering these issues in the design, implementation, and use of agent-based systems can we be assured that the positive, empowering aspects of the technology will overcome the negative aspects.

How close did I get to our present reality?

What about our near future?

What did I get notably and obviously wrong?

This was part of a larger article on Intelligent Agents that was one chapter in an eclectic book *On The Cutting Edge of Technology* published by SAMS Publishing. The book also covered nanotechnology, virtual reality, fuzzy logic, and chaos theory. Published in 1993, the book was ahead of its time but today is mostly of interest as a historical item. Some mixed production values mar this otherwise pretty interesting book, and there are some copies available online for collectors.

###

The post Predictions of Futures Past — Intelligent Agents appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>The post Keith Wiley’s “Taxonomy and Metaphysics of Mind Uploading” appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>On the Extropy email list, the original online futurist discussion group, arguments about the philosophy of mind uploading were banned for a long while, as they seemed to go around and around in circles without ever getting anywhere new or interesting. But amidst all the confusion and passion that the topic attracts, new progress does get made regarding these issues, step by step as the years pass. A couple years ago I edited a Special Issue of the Journal of Machine Consciousness, on the topic of Mind Uploading, and in my opinion we got some pretty good papers — including from Randal Koene, who has energized the topic in recent years with his foundation of CarbonCopies.org. And this year we had a landmark book by Keith Wiley called “A Taxonomy and Metaphysics of Mind Uploading.” Wiley’s book digs into the philosophy of mind uploading far more carefully, deeply and rigorously than any mailing list post can do — and much more so than I can do justice to in this brief review.

Mind uploading is both a potential (in my view very likely) future technology, and a current tool for unfolding our understanding of personal identity and what it means. Wiley explores it from both of these aspects, but with a bit more focus on the latter.

First of all, after clarifying the often confusing terminology related to the subject, and gives a thorough taxonomy of hypothetical procedures by which mind-uploading might be achieved. He then discusses in intricate detail the philosophical implications of each one of these procedures, assuming a “patternist” philosophy of mind in which (my re-wording) the mind associated with a brain comprises a set of structural/dynamical properties of that brain. For instance, many people have suggested that incremental uploading — e.g. replacing each of a person’s biological neurons, one by one, with a robotic neuron — would bypass the philosophical problems of identity associated with more sudden mind uploading procedures. But when you really dig into it, as Wiley shows, the matter’s not that simple. It really depends what you mean by your “self” — What is an identity that it might persist through systematic changes in substrate?

Various philosophical issues related to mind and brain — such as consciousness and free will — are brought up and then essentially set aside as most probably irrelevant to the core questions of mind uploading and identity. I think this is a philosophically correct stance, but I’m sure it’s also one that won’t be appealing to every reader. From my view Wiley’s treatment of free will is sensible enough yet not terribly compelling, I prefer Henrik Walter’s discussion of free will versus natural autonomy. But as Wiley correctly points out, that’s basically a side issue where mind uploading is concerned.

The biggest philosophical conclusion Wiley derives, via carefully examining the implications of patternism for various mind uploading scenarios, is that following a split of one mind into two — both are fairly considered continuations of the original. It doesn’t have to be either-or. If you are copied into a robot, the biological you AND the copy should both be considered valid continuations of you. This position is of course not original, but Wiley argues for it carefully and rigorously, making copiously clear that to reject it, you have to reject the patternist conception of mind, and replace it with some wholly different conception (say, a theory holding that mind somehow contained in very particular aspects of specific physical objects). Science pushes us pretty hard toward patternism at the moment, and I have argued (see The Hidden Pattern) that diverse philosophical traditions point in the same direction. Alternative philosophies are certainly thinkable, but then the burden is on those who reject the validity of both minds produced in a split, to consistently articulate an alternative to the patternist view of mind and explain how it’s scientifically and logically and philosophically sensible.

What Keith Wiley has given us is not a fluffy, lightweight pop-sci book, but nor is it a dense academic tome — it’s a rigorous and careful discussion aimed at the serious reader. I would strongly recommend the book to anyone who wants to think carefully about mind uploading — or about who and what they really are. If you fit this description, you can order the book, published by Humanity+ Press , from Amazon.com or other online sellers.

Adam Ford has interviewed the author on video, see their Brief Introduction to Mind Uploading

and also a more extensive, in-depth interview

The post Keith Wiley’s “Taxonomy and Metaphysics of Mind Uploading” appeared first on h+ Magazine.

]]>