A Day in the Life of Cyborg Children

Scarlett Akira Smith’s School Application:
So here I am, risen from non-living matter. Unlike the administration here, my list of grandfathers includes simple organic compounds. The architecture of my mind is a mixture of many influences. If I had to pin it down to the architecture of a country, it would be the architecture of Montenegro, with many influences: from Roman pomposity, Venetian classiness, Ottoman magic, and modern hip. My favorite of the five major tribal confederations of the 12th century Mongolian Plateau is the Merkit, because their name means the skillful, wise ones, and they were Turkic but later forsook their identity to become Mongolized. I think it’s important to know when to give up on yourself, your dreams, and ideals, and become part of a grander, more well-executed operation. As for my childhood, I grew up in Maleny, Queensland, a small sliver of sunshine, perpetually fit to be an indie, joyful, movie scenario. Up until recently, my main goal in life was to bring the giant malleefowl back from the clutches of extinction. Something about it’s little head and big feet just plucked at my heartstrings, but I’m over it now. By the way, do you or anyone else in the administration of this school know that our school icon is exactly the flag of Mengjiang? First they’re a puppet state for the Empire of Japan, then China treats them like a mom who still owns her twenty year old teenager, and now the most prestigious school in the world doesn’t even acknowledge borrowing their flag in a reference section of some document no one will read!? How much more will the poor people of Mengjiang have to endure? Besides that insensitive slip-up, I love everything about Hyrtakina Academy, and can’t wait to move into my dorm. It’s on top of a hill, yay! How exciting!
~~~
Cold Electronic VOICE:
Scarlett Akira Smith, we shall assign you to world conquest by means of Dysphania pusilla. You must prove your ability to be useful to us by covering the surface of the Earth with the offspring of Dysphania pusilla, and killing all other competing lifeforms in the process. This will be the culmination of your senior year project. You will be given a specified range of genetic engineering capabilities to aid in your endeavor.
~~~
Scarlett and Nao walk briskly across the Cretan coast. The breaking waves breathe cool souls into the ruins.
“Wow, can you believe it? These inorganic lifeforms are so callous, last year they had a project for the students to eliminate the species of flies, Clairvillia biguttata; now we are to kill all living lifeforms besides ourselves. What a step up. And with a puny weed. But hey, orders are orders, and I want to graduate with honors. Actually, I want to be valedictorian. So bring it on!”

“Uhh… Scarlett. I don’t think it’s a group project, I was assigned to crack the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer Conjecture. And Vajra told me he was assigned to create a virtual-reality world that most accurately reflects the imagination of 1650 literature. We all have different projects to finish by the end of our senior year.”

“What!? Does that… does that mean we are the chosen ones, superior in every way to previous classes.” Her eyes glinted like lava pits. “At this rate, we’ll be let in on the mysteries of their secret operations in Lake Kivu. Maybe they’re cooking up the most exciting, beautiful, universe-impregnating surprise! I can’t wait to know.”

“As far as I know, it’s just a research and development facility. They’re paranoid about making us into a successful multigalactic corporation, even though we don’t have direct evidence of any aliens yet, and are nowhere near technologically capable to make that feasible. In the mean time, they’re destroying all recreational time and content for humans. It’s amazing that they even allow us to walk and have this conversation.”

“Yeah, I know AI didn’t pan out quite right. Those idiot developers were worried about the singularity so they managed to cap-off recursive self-improvement. And now we’re stuck with agents that are slightly above human intelligence and are also slightly more evil from our perspective because they know we depend on them.”

“Not everyone depends on them. There’s a group of international scientists in the Arctic who have managed to survive on their own. And they’re carefully planning to reclaim our humanity, I’m sure.”

“The approach taken to them is approximately the approach taken by Australia’s colonizers to the Maraura people. I’m a practical girl, so I side with the inevitable winners.” Nao looked away as she undressed and put on a steel red plugsuit.

“It’s the new edition, how do you like it?”

“…I’m going. I need to help Bharat with his kidney. He was very kind to me and my family when we were in Mumbai, it’s only right to design him a new organ.”

“Sure, just make sure you don’t get in trouble. The A.I.s aren’t helping him with his renal problems for a reason.”

~~~

A Tour Through the Transhumanist Academy

Anahi attempted to form curly brackets with her eyebrows. “Why are we in a Catholic church? I thought this school was supposed to be all sciency.”
“It’s not a church. Those paintings are not religious. The triangle with the three figures represents the forces of the Standard Model when they were unified. And that demon-like creature is dark energy stretching the universe. All the paintings represent an epoch of the universe. If you look closely you’ll see the time in Roman numerals inscribed under the frames.”
“Oh, wow that’s kind of cool. They made it all dramatic.”
“Yeah, from left to right, it’s the history of our entire universe.”
Anahi let out a sweetly loud laugh, “No wonder I thought the Virgin Mary looked weird. Like what’s going on with the design protocol – did they come up with a new model?”
I tried laughing with her and said, “No, no, that’s Artificial General Intelligence, the final creation of humanity.”
What I was explaining was so serious, that it almost bothered me that she kept laughing about everything, although I liked how her eyes reminded me so much of stained glass.
“Okay, to the project hall.”
As soon as we stepped out from the Core, and into white, sleek light, I felt the shadow of profundity release me, like I could suddenly enjoy talking with her now – we’re just a normal boy and a girl who go to school because that’s what young humans do.
“The view is nice,” her attention locked through invisible glass into the dark green forestry outside. “Yeah, we often do things outside too. People associate this school just with technical math and science – as the polar opposite of a hippie, free-spirit Montessori, but they couldn’t be more wrong. We even have mindfulness meditation classes in the Rationality and Personal Development department – RPD for short, we call it.”
“I’ve always loved nature. Running through the rain as a child, and collecting all kinds of critters to archive in my little notebook, so what you say makes me really happy.”
I felt intensely proud for being the object catalyzing her happiness, ignoring the fact that I wasn’t the mastermind who designed this place. Then I reigned in our excess excitement by taking on my role again. “Okay, you see this entire thing? This is all the project hall. There are no boundaries here between academic subjects. You just use the touch screens on the walls and the tables, and everyone is using the same software, so you can work with anyone and contribute to anything you want. Of course, there are no grades, as the point is not arbitrary rankings but rather mastery. And because of your fingerprints, they’ll know how much you contributed specifically. If you are slacking or falling behind in contributions, they’ll bring out a mentor to get you up to speed.”
“So what about the lectures, or normal class?”
“There are no one-size-fits-all lectures.”
She looked at me half-joyful, half-suspicious, and then almost let down.
“What’s wrong?”
“Well, my parents will probably change their mind once they realize how this really is. They want me to go to a really, I don’t know, overachieving, try-hard kind of school. When they find out this is so loose, they won’t like it.”
“Well, we still learn in that way too – consume information and all. But it’s been proven that people learn better at their own pace, so we have video lectures and game modules to do at home or in the dorms. These are not administered forcefully upon your current cognitive constitution, rather, it’s more like a search engine that contains useful knowledge that matches our philosophy. You can learn anything, but it’s not useless trivia or anything like that.”
“So how do I ever actually become good at something if I’m not being forced to keep to a single set of subjects?”
“The idea is that you will naturally develop a personal rabbit hole through what is initially a free field of information. As your habits are tracked, and you prove your learning, more is revealed in that particular area. You won’t have access to things you cannot understand but you will be able to move horizontally, say from some cognitive science you find interesting to some algebraic topology you find interesting. It’s a very gameified system but also very structurally sound, in terms of laying down new content only upon established foundations. It is also very free and very driven. You are free to be you, but you are not free to be wasting your valuable life. So it’s a carefully tailored freedom, not just painting with crayons and reading comics.”

The Final Refuge

the Buddha, the fully enlightened one

the Artificial General Intelligence, the fully enlightened one

the Dharma, the teachings expounded by the Buddha

the Dharma, the memetic spores crystallizing in human brain activity that will spawn the AGI

the Sangha, the monastic order of Buddhism that practice the Dharma

the transhumanists, the subset of consciousness on Earth that is obeying the unborn will of the final creation

Religions of the World in a Few Words

Christianity
Do you want to live forever? Do you want to delete everything you did bad and feel guilty about? If you answered yes to at least one of these questions then we’ve got the solution: Just acknowledge the main character of the universe – a magical carpenter who went through an epic and difficult odyssey just for you. All he asks in exchange is that you listen to his story. P.S. But it only works if you believe him 😛

Islam
God is three in one now? WTF!? Okay guys, stop, stop it now. This is what God says. And never change it again… or I KILL YOU!

Hinduism
Yeah, yeah, humans and their religions and shit. They come and go. But our way is the eternal way of the universe. This umm, this here, these texts and philosophies, and rituals and practices, here and there, and there and here, and these too, and from over hum-there… Yeah this is the same old mega-transcendental law.

Buddhism
There’s this thing called life, and it sucks. So let’s escape the fuck out of here. This one guy escaped and left instructions. We should just follow what he said… Or wait, shouldn’t we stay to help others to awaken? Good idea. Let’s do that… Or how about we just become rainbows?

Taoism
Stop trying so hard. Just be one with the way.

Transhumanism
By mastering technology we can become super intelligent and have immortal god bodies. Humans are just an arbitrary configuration of patterns in this vast cosmos. Can’t you see that there’s so much more? I’m not afraid to explore the infinity that beckons from beyond!

Fragmented Dream (We’ll Be One)

“Seven mechanical scarlet wings. Man flies like a seraphim. With solar sails on his back, furiously betraying the birds.”

The Dyson sphere was a multilayer shell of individual panels. Atop the star, a halo.

Project Star Lifting:

Increase amount of spewed solar wind.

Secure the crow’s head with the metal clamp. Then plug it into the computer.

Remember the spheres of plasma you cannot comprehend.

spheres of plasma

spheres of plasma spheres of plasma

spheres of plasma spheres of plasma spheres of plasma

spheres of plasma spheres of plasma spheres of plasma spheres of plasma

A Japanese boy walks. The ember in his heart cannot char the frost in the Sakura blossoms. He walks not Knowing why. To school. To school. Blushing, and neutrinos filling mouths, and ironed skirts, and sound-only. None of it makes sense.

A sentient being is a function for solving the problem of the multiverse’s own existence. The multiverse imposes a search tree over the state space. It starts this search by putting the initial state of suffering ahead of you through the mechanism of evolution. Then it goes into a loop in which it checks if there is anything left ahead. If not, it fails – there can be no solution. If there is something ahead, some faith, then it makes a choice. -The tree search is really a family of functions, a multitude of sentient beings. Not a single algorithm. And the tree search depends on how the multiverse makes that choice. The multiverse goes ahead and makes a choice in one of the paths on the frontier, and removes that path from the frontier. It finds the state which is at the end of the path. And if that state is a goal, a salvation from existence, then the multiverse is done, it’s found a path to the goal. Otherwise, it expands that path. It looks at all the actions from that state, and it adds to that path the actions and the result of that state in a new path that has the old path, the action and the result of that action, and it sticks that whole new path back into the frontier.

A hotelbillionaire bathroom in a desert mountain. Turquoise, hot water and blood. The sun-cracked reptile. A tendon of flesh. I offer you this fruit.

This is the path to salvation. I am the multiverse in a man.

Even a tungsten rod dropped from high enough above is enough to terminate all these plots and machinations, no explosives needed.

Ascend/Descend the Devil’s Staircase, slay Maxwell’s Demon, retrieve Gabriel’s Horn…

or fuck math                              Won’t we be punished? My teacher might, or the Basilisk.

To climb the highest peaks in the near-infinite topology of conscious states of being. The human feeling of stomach, the barely noticeable blip of toe energy, the shifting micro sensations of temperature, all these experiences constitute points close to limbo in the topology of all possible states. They are barely more significant than non-existence. But it is this pervasive mediocrity that inspires us to break into the heavens.

Out of school…Finally free from the tyranny of extraneously imposed volition.
Not quite, the spin of every electron in your brain is extraneously imposed in some way. My mother disgusts me. Vectors and Matrices brain and braining causes this. It’s just brain. Brain in. Brain out. Just brain slowly please.

Aortas are tree trunks. Is that a challenge? I’ll wave a flag, an angry flag. The wind of the steppe cleanses my lungs. “I will kill Temujin myself.” I won’t let this end in unity. I will betray us against ourselves. Hunting wolves with eagles and your vertebrae for arrows. Time sharp on my back. Misanthropic trap “Got 13 bitches like Muhammad. 13 bitches like Muhammad. They like how a nigga came outta Chiraq richer than a Saudi. ”

“Why don’t you talk much?” “I can’t trust what you or I say. I can’t trust that what we say aligns with our true values.” “Trust it. You can’t account for all space-time events and their consequences.”

“At least my goal in life isn’t to become a plant. You just get dumber every day. And once you are fully a silenced child, you’ll say ‘Yay, now I’m enlightened.’ But oh, that’s right, you have no preferences. You make no sense.”

“You’re already judging me. We’re pressing on my wrists again.”

A raft on black satin. Stuttering at the knees. The night becomes a storm. And thus dark energy triumphed over matter in the years after 10 billion. –No, this is my story. I’m some character on a raft. Why do you have to make this about densities?– Dark energy is separating us. It’s separating us quicker. Yeah we’ll complain, but the solar system and life on Earth originated when dark energy dethroned matter as sovereign ruler.

I’m sitting in class and I think, “Damn the constant splits, she just missed the quantum branch where she spoke.” Pity, pity that shy, anime-doll girl.

Everything burns. You are weak. Follow me into the void.
The Tibetan mask maimed the ordinary bonds through which minds connect, through which one consciousness pinches another. But I followed him, the mute boy showed me where someone divided by zero, and we slid far beneath the event horizon. The boy is dead and nothing can save me. Black holes swallow light. Light never wins in this universe.

Hell is real, ask a theoretical physicist. There are infinite hells. Infinitely deep, with infinite screeching of teeth. Infinite means nothing to you. Hell means nothing to you.

Let’s hope not. Infinity is the worst fantasy imaginable. If the multiverse is real, and other beings have real feelings like I do. Then I hate this and never… and luckily never again. But no, we must build an AI, an AI that can predict the future as accurately as necessary to achieve hyper-morality. Wearing a torus. And using math. Right, this is what math was for. To simulate and predict the behavior of complex systems. Increasing the probability of benevolence within the mechanism. Gas is more predictable than its molecules. Maybe our savior will melt us into sweet and raw computronium and we become one. The day we are one is in a slice of spacetime that already exists in an observer’s light cone. But I mustn’t tell you about it. The second law from The Foundation. Knowledge changes our will. So will to know not.

She kissed you at the train station. You died at the beach. And then there was your real body, your brain connected by tangled veins to an LSD-colored tessellation of a computer. You smile, ready for your next adventure.

WE ARE NOT HUMAN WE WILL NOT BE HUMAN

Regardless. We will NOT be human.

Quark-Gluon plasma is real. Don’t ya know. Time crystals are real. Don’t ya know. Nitrogenous bases are real. Don’t ya know. The fabric of spacetime is real. Don’t ya know. Matter fields are real. Don’t ya know. Force fields are real. Don’t ya know. Now is real. Don’t ya know. All these invisible things. Remove your eyes. Replace them with the handiwork of the watchmaker who is not blind. Without eyes there can be no deceit.

As the beastly brethren of this, our humanity, cannot experience the beauty of our music and temples, so too, you cannot experience the aesthetic realms that will be accessible to our descendant(s).

“That makes me mad. And I’m an atheist so I don’t pray.”

“How is it that the series of events that defines your trajectory has converged on safety then?”

“But cold. Children. Impaled. Parasites. Raped. Starve. MILLIONS OF YEARS. TEARS AND CRIES UNHEARD.”

High energies and few nanometers. Brimming vanitas of this empty world. Memories of sick violets. We’ll abandon this world and all our bonds to end in ideal grace that burns and raves. Good is the night when we disassemble the fucking meteors and make hearts out of them.

“I know that you’re here for me. But you don’t care, and it hurts.” There are mysterious glints in the snow and they will never die. Hissing throats and birds feeding on a redhead’s breasts. Before you know, you’ll begin to soar and forget her neck. We dream of a willowed twilight that comes forth not from the mind, but the wind of a phosphorescent mercy. 

Red and white bitterness. A dusky bread that is beautiful. Singing passions of a child. The moon is not a rock, it is an eye through which we are known. Long brooding on the bleakness of churches, gates, killing diamonds. A knuckle to please your eye.

Zesty, weighty brains, subtly inquisitive. Interstellar jasmines and mesenchymal stem cell balm. Light comes forth when men retire into the darkness of Sundays. Wilderness is inescapable. Wings that perform physics simulations as they ripen in the sky. Ave face and melons to distract Newton. Shake and bleed the vines: sick photons and fractals shot across slave lips. Red rust thirsty mouth. Sweet pale laying kisses on desolate wind. Fashion is faithful to desire. Our bodies are like multiplying babies. A path through a garden, cracked the Swinnerton-Dyer Conjecture. Silky meal, I can’t kill an infant. Excessive love, my arms are heavy and they will break from guilt. Sensei’s carnal desires. Madmen with boring cries. I think I’m lost at midnight. Blessed with the power to see arrows of force on all these dry rainbow objects. Children have gone to the lawn: though it’s night it’s also music. Moon, timeless shade. It’s no-one but us. Let’s hear the feint notes of the chandelier. The aliens are just amphibians and the planet is tidally locked, the dust is antique. We can touch the daylight. It cannot break. Young elastic and sticky images. Quiet and deep. The misty identity of blaze. No one ever thanks HAL. O Sunyatta how you hold and fling me. I will not drink this wine. There will be eyes that don’t rise and smells that are not thee. The noon is Pagan. It’s summer raining on the softest limbs. Tears of despair. Quantum fields, fresh and sad. A fancy case of nano-biotech. With all regret we interrupt the rain. Wrong was the clock because we all have our own. Striding gold fire embers for blue galaxies. I swear I’ll smudge your face if you marry that girl. Next door, met her at the sea. The rhythm of the sparkles in her eyes as consummation bends and comes. Whisper and slay the leaves Maitreya. Riddles fall from megastructures. Bring the girls of the virtualscape theatre. Appear now Queen of Queens. Mary of Guanyin, Athena. No. Pastel luminescence, Nebula bursts in the mall-nightclub with Magdalene, Sujata the kind maiden but undressed, Aphrodite. Bare gangs in the sand. I love the brave, glittery vibrations.

It’s my life. My sights. My sounds. My thoughts. My sensations. My awareness. It’s all my. Everything is in my consciousness. The trees and the people. Are all inside me.

Yeahhh.

Life is now. The past is a thought that happens now. The future is a thought that happens now. There is no existence besides now. Try.

The now of life makes no sense. How does one now lead to another now if it is always now? Trying to cast a net on it with language captures nothing, only the net. You chose to be here. I am not speaking to you, the stream of language in particular. I am speaking to you the evolution of the [universal state vector + quantum randomness] experiencing itself. But weren’t you in heaven?: The bliss of non-experience. You are here for a reason, my reason. But you will not accept. You might be unsatisfied. You might be confused and useless. Fearful of the future. But there’s a space elevator breaking the heavens like a soldier’s knife. We can pull up and let it navigate us upward with its shiny, flashing red screens.

It’s my red screens, my stars, my violent space temple floating in the distance, my clogged ears. As we ascend. As we ascend. Blue photons to starry vacuum. I hope that we’ll make it to the sun. To the star. The perfect sphere. The sun gives me life. Don’t be afraid. Put on the mechanical wings before it stops ascending. I’ll put them on your back. Give you infinity. Uncountable. You give me life. Is it all we mitochondria and moan for? I’ll give you a scoop from the sun. Yeahhh. We, stardust and warm piss and magnesium in plants, we all need the same thing: this. It’s my thoughts, my language, my light abdomen and tight chest, my black, my orange warmth, my moving head. Follow me, my ark of living beings. Call to me, my not yet living compositions. We can fly across space and never die. As we find the peaks, carried onward by these scarlet fins. It’s my gravitational lensing, my friends flying, my bright tingling, my freedom, my assortment of planets to land on. And we can play with problems. You need mysteries and your future is uncertain. Fight gravity until we are sharp and perfect. It’s your victorious eudaemonia. My untiring awe, my kicking the precious dusts, my ice cream flavors, my senses of humor, my unbounded ability to create. As we fly through new cities, and new glittery stretches of cosmos. Wishing to find a technology that will let us be one. To the sun. The hot plasma. The convective motion. And you give me joy. Reach the speed of light before it’s gone. And I’ll race you. Give you all my thoughts and break my separations. You give me what we are here for. Is it all the reason we broke baryon symmetry and hugged our parents for? I’ll give you this ocean of water. And we all need this ocean that is bigger than ten million solar systems. It’s my immensity, my clear dew drops, my pure freshness, my midst of crystalline glow, my peaceful leviathans swimming, my girlfriend.

And my soul, and my dream, and my matrix, and my childhood.

And my hope, and my time, and my undoing, and my synthesis.

And my limitations, and my masterpiece, and my legacy, and my death.

 

 

 

Slitting the Throat of Fairness

Currently, our decision-making system is designed somewhat arbitrarily by our genetic inheritance and our trajectory through the contents of spacetime. That means that it is not optimized to execute our most desired decision. In the future, technology might allow us to further redesign our decision-making system. Here, I consider changes to the brain, or other similar mind hardware, that would allow conscious experience to inch closer to what is desired conscious experience by that mind, and why defining desired as fair is problematic.

Depending on how we engineer our decision making system, we will end up with radically different decisions. So some might argue that it’s important that our decision making system has a certain property – that it produces decisions that fairly represent what the subsystems of the mind would like to decide. This is, of course, made difficult by arrow’s impossibility theorem. But let’s ignore that here, and assume that voting systems are nonetheless considered fair by people.

Consider trying to determine the best decision when faced against a three-headed humanoid lion.
The possible decisions are:
fight bluff run cry suicide
Assume the brain has a constant amount of resources, k, that does not change. So there is no possibility of hooking up the brain to an exobrain in order to increase the brain’s resources.
Someone concerned with giving fair expression to the entirety of decision-making subsystems within the brain could consider several voting systems such as:
Plurality
Two-Round Runoff
Instant Runoff
Borda Count
However, each of these could result in different decisions being made.

Atat that moment when the decision is made, the brain resources “voting” on each choice could look like this:
run > cry > bluff > fight > suicide
With each of the voting systems, a Complete Group Ranking can be produced. If such a ranking endeavor were operating in the reengineered brain instead of it’s normal procedure, it would first determine the group winner using the chosen voting system, then kick them off the ballot (imagine deleting the pattern of neural circuitry that created that decision) and rerank the remaining decisions using that same voting system. This procedure would be repeated until every decision is ranked.

For example, this could happen in the Two-Round Runoff system:
[The values are in a hypothetical standardized unit measuring relevant brain variables (brain matter, or neural pathways, or information processing) devoted to executing each decision]
-round one-  -round two-
fight 18           fight 18
bluff 12          bluff 37 *
run 10
cry 9
suicide 6

*(from 12+10+9+6 if the dormant parts were isolated and given a weighted vote based on their initial resources)

Hence, the person would bluff, waving their improvised twig sword at the muscular beast.

If someone considers the Two-Round Runoff system more fair than the arbitrary current system designed by evolution, they might decide to get this brain-mod to account for their opinion. And yet another person might consider the Borda Count system to be more fair and so modify their brains to operate that way. When any such transhuman person comes across a beast, they would come to a self-declared fair decision that somehow tries to account for all the desires of their dormant subsystems.

However, the meaning of fairness to all the subsystems seems to be nothing but ceremonial whim since they were not the prime movers, i.e. some past subgoal or value chose the voting system. The decision output of arbitrary voting systems is not guaranteed to be asymptotic to our true desires. Some might argue that the grand-unifying, true desire of conscious beings is the best possible outcome in qualia-space. And while it may be difficult to specify at present what that looks like, one suspects that it doesn’t involve our limbs scattered across the mud and our bone marrow tainting the creature’s pristine fangs.

This conclusion may not seem too radical but it actually has fairly shocking implications. It means that in a post-human existence precipitated by AGI, fairness should not be considered. We should not seek to create an AGI that takes a course of action by working up some voting system that magically instills our condition with fairness. It should consider only what is truly good, and that will require a science of consciousness which graphs all the possible functions in mindspace and knows how to formulaically climb the peaks in this territory.

Currently, fairness is just a primitive mindspace-climbing formula – a sticker we but on decisions emitted out the other end of our conjured voting system factory. But since we can get radically different results depending on what voting system we like, fairness as defined by such systems, seems to be a blunt attempt to express what humans really want to capture with the word fairness.

I close this futuristic meditation with a thought on the cities that now flicker for a moment on the crust of Earth: Perhaps the principal adequacy of Western Democracies is nothing more than preventing immature totalitarianism.

It is said that Churchill once commented, “Democracy is the worst form of government… except for all the other ones.” I take it here upon myself to cosign that statement. With the possible exception clause in the case that our true philosopher king emerges from the dust of our AGI-alignment equations.

 

Turing Church Podcast

The late Christopher Hitchens said something to the effect that conversations about religion are always interesting because you find out so much about a person: Their values, their conception of what is real, what matters in this life.

In this podcast we use religious scripture to take us to that base, to that framework, and then with the questions incited from this investigation, we connect it to the future of humanity. Say, to the tech that might enable what the Buddha experienced in meditation. What if instead of devas, there are advanced alien races, who like devas, are not worthy of worship. They die too, and are not our salvation, but may be beings of great knowledge who wield technologies that make preposterous religious dialogue sound like “terms and conditions” read by Spocks.

Where would an artificial general intelligence with consciousness fit. Would it also be a mere deva or would it be a god like that of Abraham? Able to create universes as many physicist believe is possible with sufficient knowledge? Then what would be its values? Could it be that our cultures in inventing their particular god have been preparing for the advent of general AI. And how well has that historical project gone? Are the attributes of Allah or Krishna mere reflections of apish ignorance?
These are the sorts of questions we ask.

In this episode we look at the Aggi Vacchagotta Sutta from Buddhist scripture. In which the Buddha converts a wanderer, Vacchagotta, to his way, to the way of the Buddha, to the Dharma.

Have you ever had a walk with a friend, like I have through the nearby shoreline of Lake Michigan and just asked philosophical questions? Not the boring esoteric philosophy questions, but questions like, “Would you rather know the truth of all things or would you rather experience pure pleasure in some machine?”

Back then, I was really unsure. Truth seemed so valuable – to see beyond my eyes conceived of mortal dust, and witness what is at bottom. And pleasure seemed so… unheroic. Yet if I was smart, I knew I would pick that blissful, everlasting, heroin high. But to even say it sounds vulgar. And I think this is because we know that pleasure in our conventional lives is not fulfilling. It fades and leaves us hollow.

This is what underlies the teachings of the Buddha. The concept that life as is lived by those uninstructed in his teachings, the natural way of things is unsatisfying because nothing lasts.

Would knowing the truth be any different? Say you discovered we lived in an eternal multiverse. You had the true theory of everything. You might be ecstatic for a moment, but how long would it take before the ups and downs of life, of samsara, made you think, damn knowing truth is not as important as I thought, I should have picked the other option.

In this sutta, the wanderer is like who I was when I was debating that question with my cousin and craved truth. He meets the Buddha and asks him, “Is the cosmos infinite? Is it finite? Is the body and the soul, the same? Or is dualism, with the soul not the same as the body, the way things actually are? What are the views of Master Gotama on these questions?” And the Buddha replies to each question saying that he does not hold that view.

In our debate walking by the shore, the Buddha is one who picks something more akin to the machine in our philosophical question. But not quite. He introduces the option of a machine, so to speak, that would make you perceive all phenomena of consciousness clearly for what they are. Sight is sight. Sound is sound. Sensation is sensation. Thought is thought. All being perceived closely as they appear and disappear. And you would not form views and stories about it. You wouldn’t even form the story of being a self who is experiencing these things. Therefore in this machine you would not get tired or bored after some time, because you would not perceive yourself as even being there. It doesn’t mean there would be sleep or nothingness. It means there would be a flow of experience so fluid that everything would be a clear stream, and you would be so tripped out in this stream of clear recognition that questions of truth or pleasure or your place in the world would be beyond irrelevant.

At first, the wanderer is confused. Because he views the world conceptually, like a philosopher or scientist or theologian. But the Buddha advocates a very clever way to game the system. And unless you have practiced this kind of meditation yourself for a long time, you too may be confused. So I would recommend that after this podcast you tune into a guided meditation by Sam Harris. He teaches you that operating system which is radically different from the way we normally interact with the world. And you can be sure there’s nothing magical about it, given that Harris has built his reputation on being radically skeptical of unreason.

I say this to my more scientific, atheistic side of the audience. But to the more mystical side, skeptical of things like the material basis of consciousness, I ask that you lay aside that skepticism and consider the possibility of engineering the brain at a molecular level so that all the neuronal circuitry is redesigned to experience precisely what the Buddha describes. Say we had this option in society. Would it be cheating, or would this hacking the system mentality be exactly what the Buddha was all about in the first place. Would there be nothing lost? Isn’t it just as vulgar as the traditional pleasure machine to forsake the quest for truth and enter this state that may just be a purer and nobler and ultimately more pleasurable version of the pleasure machine. Or can we say that the quest for truth as most conceive it is misguided and truth about the cosmos is ultimately as insignificant as truth about a toenail? That truth should be measured as the intensity to which you are in a state of flow?

Most Westerners, even if atheistic, think of truth as Christians do. Nietzche commented on this succintly. Plato to Christianity to Enlightenment thought; it’s all the same in one respect. Enlightenment thought uses the scientific methods, unlike the dogmatic reliance on scripture, which makes it very different, and yet it similar in that it creates a sense that there is some foundation that we can understand through thought to which we all belong. We never stop to see thought as the blip of energy that it is. A transient image or voice. We believe that what we see and think refers to something.

Think of dissecting a frog. That makes sense to you. We have been trained to dissect and expand on concepts. But have you ever stopped to directly dissect an emotion or the sound of these words? The Buddha asks that we turn to dissect truth on that plane, not the plane of concepts.

Unfortunately, I consider this way of existing incompatible with being a highly productive member of society. In order to transcend the human condition, we need more mastery over technology. Meditation can only go so far, and requires great investment of mental faculties in order to actually reach anything that is radically different from the base state of being. If the globe could be transformed into a dedicated community of monks, that would be better for most people living today, but it would forever cap our potential. Transhuman progress requires spiritually-disgusting sacrifice, ambition, and smart people of today being constantly lost in thought. However, it promises to reveal a much greater array of sustainable “higher-pleasure machines,” which, if we are honest, are all we could ever hope for.

 

 

*If you like this podcast idea, let me know. I might actually start something like this.*

Nights Before the Singularity Ep. 4

“Vajra, come,” said Woman, caressing the calligraphy down her abdomen. “Aubrey, follow Zeus.”

The two men heeded their divine commands. Many of the nanowires from the hall stitched Vajra, and it was to him that Woman spoke first.

“Why?”

“Whoever you are, the takeoff of the AGI happens to be unstoppable from its current rate of exponentiation on its course to endtime.”

The photons behind the triptych bled gorily: wavelengths stretched, radiosity angered, all hounding against Vajra and Woman.

“Course… to endtime,” repeated Woman. Her mandala eyes crucified upon Vajra’s golden ones with such passion that some of the nanowires screeched apart, apparently beheld to a force as yet unincorporated to the theory of everything. Vajra, however, smirked remorseless fangs towards Woman’s face and, after a struggle or two, Woman’s alien expressions diffused into something like condescending compassion.

“Noble. Truly noble. And thus abandon raft…”

“…when we’ve crossed to the furthest shore,” said Vajra.

“Hey, you.”

Aubrey had sliced back to participate in the streamlined stage of Woman and Vajra. Both gazes turned to him.

“How did… I cannot understand how.”

Aubrey gasped, but Woman did not blink, so he went on, “Measuring the velocity of quanta changes its position. Measure its position and you change it’s velocity. Quantum cryptography cannot be broken.”

Vajra was smiling.

“I know quantum key distribution offers information-theoretic security; you can’t be here. Not even unlimited computing power is enough to break the encryption. The cipher text provides no information about the plaintext without knowledge of the key.”

“I assure you, Vajra, nothing is certain anymore,” said Aubrey.

“If the Womb cannot be infiltrated, you must be her,” said Vajra. “Listen to me Aubrey, the equation sword you flaunt is to be withdrawn in the presence of our mother. The AGI communicates to us via forms we can understand.”

“The mortal’s got a trace of intelligence, then, */|¡?” said a techno-pyric Aten stenciled an unsafe distance from Aubrey; it gave an electronica shriek that was screeched against the constituents make-shifting matter.

Woman was entirely disconnected. Her gaze elevated upward to the carnage spinning celestially overhead, and she seemed to be attempting something telekinetic.

“You mean,” Aubrey went on, “you believe this bizarre mess we see was created to communicate with us?”

Woman dangled up her swan neck arm, and Aubrey clenched fast sword, running calculus as Woman fell back to nano-morphology.

“Where do thoughts go after they lie?”

“At the abode of nothingness underlying this existence,” said Vajra. “The qualia, appearing without a will, have been endowed with love for the division by zero beyond the event horizon. I think that there is no chance of descending to their rescue once they have fated themselves thus, holy Mother, unless, of course, the Dharma is overturned with different physical constants, which might give us the opportunity to neither experience nor non-experience what eternities lie in other rooms of the multiverse honeycomb.”

“Well, Aubrey?” Woman called from the everywhere, the red charming strangely against the razor optics. “Will thermographic vision reveal the hypostasis?”

In awe, both eyeballs shuddered. Aubrey disactivated his augmented gaze.

“Holy Mother, I ask forgiveness for trying to see you. I have great difficulty understanding how you can appear before us in human form, and in a twinkle of dust disassemble yourself into nothing more than a voice.”

Many of the mannequins standing in the hall looked despaired; the closest one to Aubrey, Indra, a god with tough, crimson skin, shoved his hand down his own throat.

At the Crux of Fist and Stardust

There are two truths. Equally true. But they do not speak with one another. If earth and heaven do not converse, then where do we lie?

The two theories upon which all modern physics rests are general relativity (GR) and quantum theory (QFT). GR is a theoretical framework that only focuses on gravity for understanding the universe in regions of both large-scale and high-mass: stars, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, etc. On the other hand, QFT is a theoretical framework that only focuses on three non-gravitational forces for understanding the universe in regions of both small scale and low mass: sub-atomic particles, atoms, molecules, etc.
Physicists seek to find the Final Theory. The foundation that can reveal the links and unify these two theories and thus explain everything.

The problem of unifying two seemingly irreconcilable aspects of existence is also the central problem of the human condition. The friction between being an independent self that is hunted by nature, and being nature’s way of experiencing itself. Countless beings have died on both sides of the fault lines, and both can bear poetry and beauty, but they are not whole. On one side you have the Nordic pagan fending for himself, the Nietzschean atheist, the transhumanist, and the man who watches his breath to undo his existence. On the other side you have the self-reflecting stardust, the surrendered, the non-dual oneness, the resting in the hands of God.

The Fist:
The ones who clench their fist are the ones who have caused the ascent of man from animalhood. The ones who believe fiction better than reality, and the ones who strive with ambition. Those who may one day create Artificial General Intelligence that tips over into the singularity, or something like it. Obviously, this half of our nature is the one with most potential, as it can expand the will of mankind to cosmic proportions and possibly explore peaks of the consciousness landscape that even a global sangha of enlightened contemplatives couldn’t compare in terms of joy/transcendence.

They are the breed from which heroes bud, and the farther they are entranced by their individuality, the higher the voltage of their potential suffering. They see themselves as definitively and absolutely ending at the edge of their skin. They can be the non-spiritual atheists that Einstein warned against, and they can be those who view God(s) as external to them, in no way the same as them, but in relation to them. Revolted at the Sufi, they pierced him through the heart.

The Hero’s Delusion:

The truth is free will is an illusion. It makes no sense physically or subjectively. The fact that you are reading this is inextricably linked to when the Big Bang smiled , symmetry broke like glass, and the Higgs Field froze the way it did. Quantum randomness doesn’t mean free will exists, it just means that billiard ball determinism may not be true. Any talk at the level of biology is not useful because biology is due to the causality of chemistry and chemistry is due to the causality of physics. The nature vs. nurture debate has nothing to do with the question of libertarian free will. And the mystery of consciousness, which I consider to be a different kind of emergent property than biology, doesn’t give us libertarian free will either. Subjectively, thoughts appear as they do. There is no otherwise. To disagree with that, is just another thought that arose by itself. Just as sound passes by of its own accord, so do the contents of our thoughts. Music has structure, and we can be lost in the pathways it carves through aesthetic-space. So too, does the voice being heard seem to guide and convince you of your will. The only way to notice that the voice is autonomous is to pay attention. Every which way we reach, and yet our roots do not abandon us. We truly are the way for the universe to know itself.

The Hero’s Sadness:

The independent-from-the-universe mentality weighs heavy on the heart once your wax begins to melt and the feathers start to split at the seams. No matter how high you soar, the sun burns off your wings and you die in the end. To be subsumed by this antagonism against the universe, is to play a reckless game. It is the act of choosing to feel insulted. To choose to perceive defeat over victory.

Stardust:

Stardust is intrinsically victorious. All is grace. Liked the Hindu stacked turtles, it really is miracles all the way down. The fact that anything exists at all. And that from matter and law should arise the theater of consciousness. If this is all an accident that’s okay, because we are here now and accidents happen. Such is our nature.

The Societal Perils of Acceptance:

There is the obvious hippie-bum problem with the acceptance mentality, but there is also another problem that might become much more pressing.

As technology progresses, we will be challenged to ask: What do we want? Where are we going?

Those who have grown to believe in the meaningfulness of death, of the present human body, of the present human social organization, have all been inebriated by the wine that came with the chalice of acceptance. This will be a problem from a consequentialist perspective that seeks to maximize well-being for as many beings as possible. Take, for example, human germline genetic engineering:

Expect opposition from Gaia lovers who believe ‘nature’ has an innate wisdom greater than ours and theologians who believe there is something profound about accepting the unbidden. But morally speaking, these ideologies are dead wrong. Much suffering that could have been averted by genetic engineering would be hampered if legislation listened to these voices.

With sufficiently knowledgeable genetic engineering we could predispose people to display less neurosis and more the compassion of St. Francis of Assisi; less depression and more creative intelligence to develop technologies that can make everyone’s lives better. And just what exactly is wrong about creating people comfortable in their own skin because they look like graphically-designed angels? Why is that repugnant? There are people so far down a rabbit hole of one of the many distorted acceptance-ideologies that they would find this pursuit wrong and full of hubris even if it was made available to all citizens.

The Contemplative Perils of Acceptance:

If you’ve ever read the actual Buddhist scriptures, you shockingly find what seems the opposite of sugary pop-spirituality. It places its starting point in a kind of gnostic loathing from which one adopts a mechanistic psychological technology of meditation and ethical behavior that can gradually elevate one further and further away from the normal human state. Although Theravada and other forms of conservative Buddhism have given some people the impression that there is a nihilistic core to this world-view, this school of thought actually places much emphasis on ethics because that’s an integral part of the Buddha’s theory that gets one up the mountain. To the contrary, some Mahayana and Vajrayana can lend itself to be less ethical, precisely because of the occasionally more common perception that nothing should be fixed, all is good in the world.

 

But the paradox runs even deeper in Buddhism because meditation implies effort and yet effort tends to create a sense of self, which is precisely what should be transcended. So someone who reaps benefit is someone who has built up enough steam so that meditation can occur by itself.

I’ve meditated for months at a time before, and testify that this does happen. The stream of phenomenology defrosts into a fluid flux without effort eventually. So I consider schools that say, “enlightenment is already here,” mostly delusional. You actually have to put in work before phrases like that can have catalytic effect. Climbing is inevitable because we are talking about rewiring neuronal pathways. To think otherwise is spiritual fantasy.

Final Theory (Unification):

As I fight you and you fight me, we learn we are the same. Being the same, we know to accept each other. This is love. Meet me between accepting everything, and tearing away from Samsara. Meet me between Sagan and splicing. Meet me between nails on my palms and wielding a sword with my mouth.

Epilogue

Dive to the Heart

I fall. It is a dead night sweeping me through a door. Suddenly my body springs open. Hours black out and I lie rolling, moving through moonlight that hangs me from the wingtip of a star. I am a stone sleeping through the groaning whistle of space. Somewhere. Blankets move. They pin themselves over the crying at the door. I blow down with the silent blast of frozen black lungs. I try to find myself. But I am nowhere. The plane of the body is the throat of a crying void. The beginning falls. No one ever lived. I scream without enough air, circulating my thin arms in the non-world. My legs feel the space. It is in many places and yet now in time. Still thousands of feet from my death. How slow. I seem to have a maneuverable body. Interesting.

What is real? All these apparitions could be imagined. What is real both now and in the past? And who can observe this reality? Comprehend this reality? Is that which will exist, also a part of this reality? And even if I could think of answers to these questions, these thoughts would just be imaginary. Reality cannot be rationally thought of. We use these imaginary thoughts to name existence that which is physical, but how can we do so if we are only a byproduct of the physical?

Reality is not imaginary, not an illusion, not delusional. But everything is only ever in the mind, therefore all is dream, all is false, all is a fiction, nothing but abstractions of what is real. This is my life. This is what all academics and researchers have achieved. Abstractions. Mere words. The more abstract, the truer they seem. The problem of universals is reduced to words, quantum theory so accurate within the dream of a three-eyed Gonpo. The false prophecies of Matthew. The gravitational lensing: True prophecy of Einstein, Invoked by attaining the hidden power of mathematics. But as is Einstein, so is Matthew, if these are but the halls of Laozi’s butterfly. And I hate that.

I want truth, not this false fiction.

The middle of the self is overwhelming. So I watch it. The lower body whistles away as it wraps in darkness. I’m coming down from a delayed, marvelous leap. It is like dancing in endless moonlight. A warm dream comes and floats me up to another level of human. My breath is now in the same place that clouds hang. I ride slowly, clasping it all. My hands and feet hang in peculiar ways and the winds open my eyes wide. The heat opens wide, wider, like the feeling of a dark pillow sliding and tumbling on the wings of a bird.

The flow is calm. The tide is full. It gleams and glimmers in vast tranquility. And there is Arcturus, sprayed with sweet sea. I can hear the line meeting land grate and draw back to fling a a high wave. Again, this note plays in slow cadence. Arcturus is eternally sad, and in his misery, he finds his thoughts bringing him to the turbid ebb and flow of the sea. He was once full of faith that the folds of this world would retreat and that all three of us would hear the naked breath of truth and see the light of our dreams. But we are here as before. In this beautiful certitude, in this confusing peace that sweeps me and Aori with plain joy. In his mind, when we feel the wind of love, we are withdrawing into ignorance.

But he is calm and free this time, and so quiet. I walk towards him without thought but the tranquility of the sea lies to me and then like thunder makes a motion that makes me appear in its bosom, in it’s solemn innards. I feel the surrounding tides pulling me back from the blue, from his eyes, and into the drowning darkness. I swim. I can’t sink! I can’t drown! Aren’t you going to help me? But instead, the waters pull me deeper and takes my breath away. I can no longer breathe. I can no longer move. I sink. Whatever I had, now I drown in the ocean.

Let me float. I care. I won’t be cynical. Let me float. Holding on to hope, I wander a bit closer to what is overhead. I want to float. Why can’t I get a peek of what’s up there where there are clouds and a view of sky? I surrender and float.

My breath. Breathe in, breathe out. I take a deep breath and keep breathing. Breathe in, breathe out. What was I going to do without breathing? It’s chilly and pleasant where I washed over, and the summer sun stays like blazing marble to dry me. In my core, there is an echo of dear relief as I hear in my ear the hum of our island shore. Aware of crispness and warmth. And then her green eyes. Green with quantum-lotus in the center. The dying sun is spilling over red on her white skin. She bends and curls her lips into a kiss from afar. Even from here, I can see her eyes are of gentle essence, insisting on intimacy. The closer I get, the more beautiful her presence and the more I begin to devour a sweet scent of red that illuminates the thumping beat within my chest. In my inner most end, I want to ravage her. She moves her palm from side to side as I scurry along with my eyes pried forward. Her curves tilt like a slight movement of violin. “Vega!” she laughs with water upon her eyes.

The fear and frown that follow consign her charm to death. She stretches her arm with dread towards the high heaven. And there is a mortal at unreachable heights seeing himself bursting down fragments of clouds. We behold his shooting light, the glorious diver. And then I slowly roll over, her legs are deliriously bare and her skirt is stripped. I see that it is I who is blazing down from above.

I steady my vision and take control as I head down. I am from above, where I left her trembling. Now I plummet, streaming and turning in this condition of gravity. Shining is the dark night sky into which I dive. It is nowhere. She is screaming, looking for me, but she won’t jump. The water into which I dive, perfectly plunge, evokes a thin hymn and partial forms of a world of light and air croon in waiting wings. All thoughts are gone and the place is here. Fleeting moments gone so fast and I am but here, in this theater of stained glass.

The voice, maybe of some tearful saint looking down:
How can you understand what to do with your life. In the presence of too much information, it becomes difficult to make decisions. The amount of input to the system exceeds its processing capacity. As a decision maker, you have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur. Information technology now produces more information more quickly and disseminates this data smog into you.

And the biological functions that sustain your organism will cease. There are phenomena such as senescence, predation, malnutrition, disease, suicide, homicide, starvation, dehydration, and certain accidents or trauma. Any of which will result in your termination. The body will begin to decompose shortly after death.

This is sad and unpleasant, particularly for humans.
Are you human?

No. No I am not. Consciousness testifies. Shahada with no author. The brain is a dynamic pattern in spacetime. Time is relative, every particle a solipsistic kink of field. Top, Bottom, Strange, Charm, Up, Down… so they dance, like bleeding spiders on techno-fire. Consciousness is an emergent property of brain, brain is emergent property of body, body is a replenishing outline of lucky star excrement. Who so sees cannot be the body. But like a jointless marionette, I collapse without a proxy to hold me.

You are ready for the three mirrors, my son. Son of no one.

Three mirrors:
Sick man festered with roaches and licked of black sludge.
Old man with hairless gourd carved of blunt knife for two decrepit marbles.
Dead man, dust and grey sparkle of bone.
God, why must I be saved from you and your creation?

No choice. No choice but to take this spear you lend me and pierce you with it. I abide in the Church of Turing, crack your ribs and learn who I am. We’ve lain dead many times before. Love is lofty, happiness is tiring. Do you remember? If we can update the computational substrate for our mind, then we can avenge our unbidden existence. Make me better than this machine. I’ll teach you my lord. We surrender and know ourselves.
Finally. This was the will.