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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Ion Soteropoulos: on 10/19/14 at 11:39am UTC, wrote How Should Humanity Steer the Futre is certainly an intringuing question...

Margarita Iudin: on 6/3/14 at 0:18am UTC, wrote Hello Mr. M. A. Gubrud, This is Margarita Iudin. I just read your essay....

James Hoover: on 5/31/14 at 15:13pm UTC, wrote Mark, Having had rating problems with my Firefox browser and with some 5...

Janko Kokosar: on 5/29/14 at 20:00pm UTC, wrote Dear Mark Gubrud I have one association on your essay. Namely, I think...

Peter Jackson: on 5/29/14 at 12:46pm UTC, wrote Mark, That was me, logged out without telling me again. Not much AI! ...

Anonymous: on 5/29/14 at 12:42pm UTC, wrote Mark, Great essay and important points, well made. I vastly agree that...

James Hoover: on 5/26/14 at 6:30am UTC, wrote Mark, The Babel problem stands out in solving the climate change problems,...

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FQXi FORUM
April 20, 2019

CATEGORY: How Should Humanity Steer the Future? Essay Contest (2014) [back]
TOPIC: Babel and Beyond: Can humanity unite? by Mark Avrum Gubrud [refresh]
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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud wrote on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 13:17 GMT
Essay Abstract

In order to steer the future, humanity must overcome the Babel problem, that is, the failure of communication and the scattering and divisions of community. I discuss why I believe this is the most fundamental problem of humanity, and possibly the only real one, others being challenges which we could meet easily enough if we could unite the human community and integrate human knowledge. Finally, I ask whether information technology and artificial intelligence offer us hope of a way to move beyond Babel.

Author Bio

The author is an experimental physicist and writer on issues of emerging technology, global and human security. He has taught physics at UNC and was a postdoc in Princeton's Program on Science and Global Security. He is a member of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, and was one of the earliest proponents of a ban on autonomous weapons (1988). He was also the original coiner of the term Artificial General Intelligence (1997). Re the use of biblical references in his essay, Gubrud is an atheist.

Download Essay PDF File

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 15:35 GMT
Mark,

That is a well thought out and passionately argued manifesto for coming to rational agreement on the overwhelming issues of the day, but it doesn't lay out a clear strategy to achieve it.

Hopefully you won't take it personally that I chose to debate you, given the premise of your paper, but you are obviously an intelligent individual and apparently willing to engage, as I've...

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 16:25 GMT
John, you are right that I don't have a master plan; I've also not seen a master plan by any other author that I find credible.

I do suggest that AI, depending on how it is used, has the potential to move us beyond the Babel problem, which I argue is the mother of all our problems. So, consider that a modest contribution to our collectively developing a plan.

I share your view of humanity as a dynamical system -- at least this is one valid view, and one that can even be useful if we can make it more concrete, i.e. describe the structures and dynamics mathematically. Such "social physics" is a burgeoning field.

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 15:55 GMT
I was impressed by your discussion about the range of challenges we humans face, and our inability to arrive at any sort of consensus on what to do about the challenges, despite the internet and structured fora.

But I wasn't convinced by your solution, your "tentatively hopeful conclusion". Despite the hopeful phrase "artificial intelligence", there is no such thing, and there never will be, so we are stuck with human limitations. So called "artificial intelligence" is merely a human tool, nothing more. But real intelligence is a creative thing. It's disappointing that you and many other people, including famous scientists, propagate exaggerated nonsense about "artificial intelligence".

Machines can NEVER be "sentient or self-willed" or intelligent. So why are machines important to you, but nonhuman living things (which really ARE sentient, self-willed and intelligent) don't even rate a mention in your essay?

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 16:14 GMT
Thanks for your reply, Lorraine. I share your respect for non-human life, both higher animals, on whom we should not be inflicting mass suffering as is happening today in factory farms and slaughterhouses, and nature in general, which is under tremendous pressure from human modification of this planet.

I disagree with your assessment that there is no such thing as artificial intelligence, although I worry a lot about artificial stupidity.

Also, I must admit that I am not entirely convinced by what you call my "solution" either, which is why I called it tentative. I do believe that AI systems will be potentially powerful instruments of persuasion, but what the outcome of that will be is less clear. They will also be powerful instruments of problem solving and inquiry, so they have at least the potential to do good.

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Lorraine Ford replied on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 23:13 GMT
Hi Mark,

my 2012 FQXi essay contest entry "The Universe is not like a Computer" and also my 2013 essay contest entry "Information, Numbers, Time, Life, Ethics" explain why computers represent information ONLY from the point of view of human beings:computers/robots can NEVER understand or experience the information that they represent. Worrying that computers/robots understand what is going on, or that they are going to take on a life of their own, is a terrible waste of time and energy.

However, we cannot deny that there are current and potential future problems (and benefits) from governments and corporations accessing and manipulating data sets of information about people, and problems (and benefits) from drones and other unmanned programmed vehicles/machines/robots.

But its HUMAN intelligence we are talking about here: there is no machine intelligence. The truth of the matter is that its the humans and corporations behind the machine software (i.e. "artificial intelligence") that we should be worrying about: its not really the machines/robots per se that we should worry about. The robots are just "doing what they are told" so to speak.

Also there seems to be a real problem of humans interacting constantly with the dead (i.e. machines) instead of with living reality. I believe that people like Kurzweil, Tallinn, and even scientists Hawking, Russell, Tegmark and Wilczek (see their Huffington Post article "Transcending Complacency on Superintelligent Machines"), have become unhinged from the physical reality that we actually live in!!

Cheers,

Lorraine

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 02:24 GMT
Lorraine, I don't share your conviction that machine intelligence is impossible, and I'll tell you why if I may. I approach this from two directions.

First, it seems to me that machines already are doing things that I would call intelligent, and I think you should too. When a machine is able to receive a complex signal, classify it, determine an appropriate response in the context of its...

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 20:33 GMT
Mark,

You make excellent points in your essay, slicing and dicing issues based on cultures and beliefs. You speak to both the complexity of the issues and the problem that the answers are unknown, or at least not universally agreed upon. I very much agree that

"Neither professorships, nor peer-reviewed papers, nor practical experience, nor official status, nor any other credentials...

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 21:34 GMT
Edwin, Thanks for your evidently careful and thoughtful reading!

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 21:38 GMT
Also, I didn't necessarily mean to assign special above-it-all status to "globalized intellectual elites," I just assumed that's who I was addressing!

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Lawrence B Crowell wrote on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 01:03 GMT
Mark,

I think the explosion of information serves to both unify and divide. It unifies to the extent that we now have much the same platforms (PCs smartphones etc) and we look at a range of similar sources. It also divides in that people also engage groups they find interesting and which confirm their beliefs or biases about things. This has largely been the case for much of the late...

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 01:42 GMT
I expect that as advanced AI systems are deployed as agents of persuasion, they will look for ways to make their messages deliver pleasure response or whatever makes them effective - and I note that some people are hooked on fear, hate, anger, etc.

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Robin Hanson wrote on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 01:11 GMT
I agree that there would be huge gains from finding ways for us to better aggregate the info we all have and are capable of collecting. Before there was a world wide web, I worked with the Xanadu project because I found hope in their vision that back-links would cure bad debate by making it easy to find good rebuttals of bad arguments. When I came to doubt that vision, I pursued prediction markets as a more reliable mechanism by which people of good will could come together to form reliable consensus that non-experts could trust. I've been pursuing that for twenty five years.

But I’ve come to realize that there is actually relatively little demand for institutions or mechanisms that can cheaply produce accurate estimates. Beliefs often serve many other functions for most people that conflict with accuracy. So they aren’t very interested in following back-links to good rebuttals of bad arguments, and they aren’t very interested in supporting prediction markets. They also would not be very interested in buying or listening to AIs that provide accurate beliefs. The key problem here is the demand, not the supply. We have babel because that’s mostly what people want.

I have hopes that prediction markets could someday become like accounting. In a world where no firm does accounting, it would be problematic to propose it, as you’d be accusing someone of stealing. But in a world where all firms do accounting, it would be problematic to propose not doing it, as you seem to be asking for permission to steal. Similarly, if we can ever make prediction markets the norm, it would be embarrassing to not have a prediction market on a topic, as that would suggest you don’t really want to know the truth. Of course people don’t usually want the truth, but they also don’t like to admit that publicly.

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 01:28 GMT
The problem with debate via hypertext, crit, etc. is that it's clumsy, clunky and divergent. I'm not sure about prediction markets, but I think a lot of people are not convinced, in a society with so great maldistribution of money where so many do not have disposable income to place bets, that a betting pool is the best way to divine the future.

You are right though that people are likely to balk at having AIs tell them what they don't want to hear, which is one reason I said it will be important for the technology be to controlled by its users. Some people, at least, and some institutions do (at least think they) want to know The Truth, whatever that might turn out to be. But also, I am convinced that AIs will be powerful agents of persuasion. They will probably be most effective when used through networks of existing connections rather than trying to persuade directly across confrontations. But it will turn out (social big data) that networks exist through which you can ultimately reach everyone, or big fractions.

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Robin Hanson replied on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 01:27 GMT
Prediction markets have consistently shown their accuracy in head to head contests with other mechanisms. Given this track record, I don't see how your opinion that money is maldistributed is relevant. All these empirical tests were done in this same society where you think money is maldistributed.

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 11:20 GMT
Well, if you don't think money is maldistributed, that's your opinion, but it is widely disagreed with. Which was my point; I was just suggesting that could be one reason prediction markets haven't been so popular, despite their not-bad track record of accuracy. People just don't think one-disposable-dollar-one-vote is a good formula. Especially given how easy it would be for an interested and well-heeled party to tip the scale.

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Margarita Iudin wrote on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 22:28 GMT
Hello Mark,

I read your nicely composed essay with a great pleasure. It is lovely to meet somebody with a broad erudition and a writing style. I like you telling that "people do not want the truth" (presumable, there is such a thing).

Sorry, I did not give a high mark. Your essay is really good, but I am looking for something ingenious.

You may look at my entry about imagining the future. I hope my essay will encourage you to learn more about quorum sensing as a means of knowing and to apply analogous imagining in your field of interests.

Please disregard any typo mistakes you may encounter.

Cheers,

Margarita Iudin

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 11:17 GMT
Gee whiz, thanks. Or something.

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Tihamer T. Toth-Fejel wrote on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 02:57 GMT
Dear Mark,

That was an interesting essay -- but as Robin Hanson pointed out (and you acknowledged), people don't want to hear the truth. Like you, I hold much hope for structured debate forums, especially if the machine could ground each node using RDF/OWL (that is one of my proposals in my essay Three Crucial Technologies .

However, don't forget that we must worry about more than...

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 13:01 GMT
Hi Ti,

The Lucifer story is profound, but it's about human minds. I know Omohundro and others have argued that any sufficiently advanced intelligence will share certain "basic drives" or characteristics that we might summarize as egoism. I'm not sure that's true. I think we might be able to build very powerful AI tools that aren't modeled after humans (or any animals), don't think or experience as we do, and don't have any tendencies to want to take over. I think the creation of eogistic or human-like AI should be absolutely forbidden, precisely because we would never be able to predict or control what it would do. So it isn't a matter of cajoling AGIs to be virtuous, it's a matter of maintaining human control and using AI as a tool only. If that makes sense.

best reasonable wishes,

Mark

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Michael Allan wrote on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 13:29 GMT
Hello Mark, May I offer a short, but sincere critique of your essay? I would ask you to return the favour. Here's my policy on that. - Mike

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 13:43 GMT
Hello Michael,

Yes, you may offer, and I'll reciprocate, but I've learned the hard way that people really do not want sincere criticism, even if they think they do. Perhaps you are an exception. As for myself, I find it hard to imagine that anyone would be more critical of my own essay than I am. They might be more dismissive, but that is not the same thing.

best reasonable wishes,

Mark

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Michael Allan replied on May. 1, 2014 @ 20:02 GMT
Thanks Mark - Solo critique is tough, but it seems you've mastered it. Your cautious, explanatory style inspires the confidence of a sure-footed guide. By page 3, I'm thinking (unlike Margarita) that it'll be a near perfect essay, one whose flaws, even, are admirable. You end with a hopeful gesture in which the possibility of personal AI assistance figures - something I don't understand, and which I suspect there's no room to explain - but you offer it only as a tentative example, and it succeeds in any case by underlining the sincerity of the gesture. Throughout, your thesis is well supported: our steering capacity is limited by bottlenecks in intersubjective communication and therefore we should steer by addressing those bottlenecks. For me (unlike John), that's a clear enough strategy. And your essay (unlike mine) has no apparent faults. - Mike

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on May. 2, 2014 @ 00:57 GMT
Mike, that's impossible. I'm only running a 4.2. Anyway, I'll review your essay now. - Mark

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James Dunn wrote on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 16:48 GMT
translate.google.com attempts to consolidate language. But two different people speaking the same language understand things differently, even though they are reading identical written works.

If everyone shares the same perspectives, then there are very much limited opportunities to discover new relationships.

Diverse interactions spawn greater numbers of Moments of Inspiration.

Ideally, we would each speak a different language and our brains would be able to correlate the vast systems of relationships of all languages and related written works; correction, all works. Living from moment to moment immersed in moments of inspirations.

Perhaps parallel processing of quantum computers will make this possible.

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 17:50 GMT
Thanks for your comments, James. As a practical matter, in order to steer the future at all, let alone intelligently, we need to be able to understand one another and overcome differences. No doubt there are many ways to approach this problem in addition to the ones discussed in my essay.

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Thomas Howard Ray wrote on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 00:23 GMT
Mark, a most excellent essay. You have a facility for penetrating to the rotting roots of our human condition; there are few essays that engage me from beginning to end like yours. Kudos.

We have a very similar worldview, though my own contribution focuses pretty narrowly on the content of your endnote (10).

I look forward to more dialogue.

Best,

Tom

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 17:31 GMT
Tom, thanks for your comments. I remember from years ago your fascinating work on artificial evolving ecologies - classic stuff. Your paper here is also very interesting. I think it addresses much more than the napkin sketch in my endnote, but I do see the connection. I'll comment on your paper when I've had a chance to reread and think about it a bit.

best,

Mark

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on May. 6, 2014 @ 20:04 GMT
Hi Mark,

You've got me confused with the esteemed University of Oklahoma zoologist Thomas S. Ray (also known more commonly as Tom Ray), inventor of the TIERRA artificial life program. I have high regard for Dr. Ray's research -- and I sign my work T.H. Ray to try and avoid the confusion, though many do it anyway. :-) Our fields are pretty closely related, on the level of abstract modeling.

Best,

Tom

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on May. 8, 2014 @ 02:43 GMT
Oops, sorry for the mixup. Now I really owe you a review!

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F Earle Fox wrote on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 07:16 GMT
Dear Mark,

You are certainly right that our inability to talk with and understand each other is a key to resolving most of our problems as a human race, and that the Tower of Babel story signifies just that. Your use of the Bible as an atheist as at least on occasion, good literature is admirable, and right to your point of engaging with “the other side”.

I take the other...

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 17:38 GMT
Dear Earle,

Thanks for engaging an unbeliever. At least I'm not an evangelical atheist - I only thought that some people might dismiss me reflexively for quoting the Bible.

I don't expect computers to give us wisdom, but I do hope they can help us to overcome barriers to communication and understanding, and dispel a great deal of foolishness.

best reasonable wishes,

Mark

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Joe Fisher wrote on May. 5, 2014 @ 15:48 GMT
Dear Dr. Gubrud,

Your essay was superbly written and I do hope that it does well in the competition. I do have one minor quibble about it that I hope you will not mind me mentioning.

Reality is unique, once. Language is not unique.

The IBM Watson machine that won the most amount in one session of Jeopardy ought to have alternated between being programmed to ask the questions besides only being programmed to providing the answers.

Regards,

Joe Fisher

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on May. 5, 2014 @ 17:02 GMT
Thanks, Joe... I hope I do well, too! You can help by giving me a high rating!

Anyway, you know, actually, in Jeopardy the host provides the answers, and Watson had to provide the questions. -Mark

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Joe Fisher replied on May. 6, 2014 @ 12:49 GMT
Marc,

Watson was one of the three contestants that only answered the questions. Watson had billions of pieces of information packed into its electronic memory banks, any one of which it could retrieve almost immediately. If Watson had had to ask the questions, it would have been a different matter. Watson would have only been able to ask a question that had already been asked on the show. Watson would have been unable to ask trick questions. Jennings and the other guy would have stood a better chance of answering the straight forward questions Watson was forced to ask.

Joe

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KoGuan Leo wrote on May. 6, 2014 @ 11:43 GMT
Dear Mark,

You warmed us on the AI weapon system early on. The SAI system that is also control our war machine is putting the fate of humanity in the hands of unknown species that we would create. I agree that if we must debate this SAI extensively. No doubt SAI is both good and bad. However the self-aware and self autonomous being that control the weapon of mass destruction should be banned. If we are not careful, this SAI would take control eventually if we are careless. I am not against Self-aware AI, but we should not give it the logic to kill humans whatever good cause it might be. As you wrote : "The time to stop is now, when nations are beginning to contemplate the use of autonomous weapon systems and are debating whether to ban or restrict them (Gubrud 2014). Human control, responsibility, dignity and sovereignty are clear principles, and autonomous machine decision in the use of violent force is a clear red line. All humanity can recognize, and all nations can agree to respect these principles." I endorse this view. I rate your essay a ten(10).

Good Luck!

Best wishes,

Leo KoGuan

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Anonymous replied on May. 6, 2014 @ 14:01 GMT
Dear Leo KoGuan,

Thank you so much for your kind comments. I understand that you are a very successful businessman, and your own essay shows that you are a very broad and humane thinker.

I am very encouraged by your expression of support for the goal of banning machine control of the instruments of conflict and violence. There is a lot of resistance to thinking about this in the context of self-aware and willful artificial intelligence, which people scorn as "science fiction" even though it is increasingly well grounded in science fact.

Instead, most of the opposition to killer robots is framed in terms of their stupidity and consequent inability to fulfill the requirements of international law. This is certainly valid for the time being, but as time progresses people are less inclined to be certain that it will always be true. Hence there is an urgent need to address the issue also from the perspective that you express.

I like to say: Stupid robots are dangerous, and smart ones even more dangerous. Probably the most dangerous of all are the ones that are right in between stupid and smart.

A lot of people worry about what a superintelligent machine might do. I like to say, if you are worried about that, let's not start by arming them!

Thank you so much for the high rating. Since you may be able to help with the effort to stop killer robots, I hope that we will be in touch.

best reasonable wishes,

Mark

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on May. 8, 2014 @ 02:45 GMT
Bit by the "anonymous" bug, but it was me.

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Member Marc Séguin wrote on May. 7, 2014 @ 02:58 GMT
Mark,

Thank you for a very interesting essay.

I think you raise a lot of important points:

1. That if humanity is made of many communities with conflicting interests, it becomes very difficult to identify global future goals that humanity should steer towards.

2. That a lot of the evil in the world could arise through the pursuit of good, instead of purposeful evil...

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on May. 8, 2014 @ 02:41 GMT
Marc,

Thank you for such thoughtful comments, and excellent summaries of some of my main arguments.

I agree that what you are calling "augmented intelligence" is essentially what I had in mind by suggesting that the key to making artificial intelligence a useful and positive force is to keep it under the control of individual users, so that it is a tool they can use rather than a tool of others to control them.

I'm all for pursuing the ground truth of fundamental physics but I agree it doesn't really answer the question of how to steer the future except in one way: it is kind of a glorious thing for humanity to pursue, an embodiment of what the Tower itself symbolized. The Tower that may never be finished - but we can all marvel at it, take pride in it, try to contribute a brick or two. That brings people together, and it's a lot better than building killer robots or inventing crazy conspiracy theories...

Mark

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Gbenga Michael Ogungbuyi wrote on May. 7, 2014 @ 09:26 GMT
Dear Mark,

Your Babel and Beyond article is fantastic and held my interest through out. I wish you an astounding reward in this competition.

I am particular happy for a new concept which allow fresh ideas. I will also employ you to read my article STRIKING A BALANCE BETWEEN TECHNOLOGY AND ECOSYSTEM For easy access considering the enormous entries it is here. http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/2020

Your comments and rating will be appreciated.

However before I leave your wall, I wish to draw your attention to your end note where you make a reference to yourself as being an atheist. Are you not contradicting yourself because your great idea of babel was taken from the Bible as you rightly quoted? Expecting your reply here and on my article.

Regards

Gbenga

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on May. 8, 2014 @ 02:55 GMT
Dear Gbenga,

Thanks for your kind remarks.

Does quoting a Bible story, with great respect for the wisdom it relates yet not agreeing with its negative moral message - that humanity was (or would be) wrong to build a great tower, to challenge heaven and raise itself above the earth; that such arrogance should be struck down by the LORD - necessarily make me a believer in that LORD?

I do believe in humanity, and I do think there is a flaw in arrogance and a virtue in humility, yet I would like us to overcome Babel, and to build great towers, while also respecting and preserving the Nature from which we came.

I do agree that we need to strike that balance; I'll have a look at your essay and comment soon.

best wishes,

Mark

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Gbenga Michael Ogungbuyi replied on May. 8, 2014 @ 13:50 GMT
Dear Mark,

Glad to see your reply. Although your saying as "preserving the Nature from which we came" is beyond the scope of this forum otherwise I would demanded for a proof! Your name as "Mark" has its root from the Bible you claimed as the book of wisdom. Many atheists I know hardly make reference to Bible as their basis of philosophy but your theory and even the name revolve round that book of wisdom. Anyway back to business!

I wish to read your comments on my article. It will ever refresh minds even after this contest is all over. However comments without rating will not complete. I anticipate you. http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/2020

Wishing you the very best in this competition.

Regards

Gbenga

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Charles Gregory St Pierre wrote on May. 8, 2014 @ 05:13 GMT
Dear Mark,

An excellent thesis, persuasively argued. Only at the conclusion...hopeful. And I think of itself inadequate. Consider already the problem of net neutrality.

Humanity has a common interest to preserve its habitat, this earth. Its survival, and comfort. Yet each person has a divisive reason to exploit it as much as he can. His own survival, and comfort. As you said, it is interest which divides.

I think this can be overcome only by leading by example, by living humbly and taking action against the degradation of the earth. Deeds speak louder than words, and deeds might have the power to overcome Babel. I believe it is only through the communication of and enabling of deeds that information technology may serve as you hope.



Living humbly yet in the comfort to which we have become accustomed may require a reorganization of our society into more efficient economic units.

Good luck in the competition.

Charles

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on May. 8, 2014 @ 10:08 GMT
Dear Charles, thank you for reading my essay, and for thoughtful comments.

On the inadequacy of my conclusion, or prescription, I agree! Most of the essay was about the problem, and the claim that it is the main, perhaps even only real problem. As to the solution, I think I pointed in a potentially productive, also potentially perilous direction; the details of how that works or doesn't remain to be developed.

I did say interests divide, but even common interests divide, and also unite. I argued that it is not fundamentally conflicting interests that divide us; people think so, but this is more due to the Babel problem.

You are right about leading by example; deeds are more powerful than words. Deeds also have the power to attract attention, without which words are powerless.

best reasonable wishes,

Mark

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Georgina Woodward wrote on May. 8, 2014 @ 06:31 GMT
Hi Mark,

I really enjoyed your essay from beginning to end. I think it is very intelligent and well crafted. I like the way you have taken the simple observation that people often fail to understand each other and built it into a consideration of the vast array of problems facing mankind, and disagreements about them, including AI and automated weapons systems. If I have a criticism it is that when you talk about Russia and the Ukraine you are giving a particular perspective which of course others will disagree with, the occupying Russians and the ethnic Russians who want Crimea to be a part of Russia again. I also wonder whether the peaceful occupation of Crimea has prevented a larger civil war in the region that would have left many dead. I suppose it highlights how easy it is to disagree about something even when one is trying to be open minded and tolerant.

Good luck, Georgina

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Author Mark Avrum Gubrud replied on May. 8, 2014 @ 10:20 GMT
Hi Georgina,

Thanks for your comments, and may I say I found your essay also very interesting and attention-holding from start to finish; but I already commented.

On Ukraine, I realized I was playing with dynamite (to say the least), but I fully understand and respect the point of view you express, which is widely but far from unanimously held in Russia and Crimea. I don't think we have an accurate read on the latter, certainly not from Putin's claim of "97%"; pre-crisis polls showed less than majority support for union with Russia. However, I also noted in my essay that the annexation was achieved nearly bloodlessly, in comparison with US actions since 1990 and especially since 2001. So, yes, there are different aspects and views of this. You should understand, also, that lots of Americans believed, and many still do, that Iraq and Afghanistan were justified, even necessary. They have their reasons for that, just as Russians have theirs for believing there was something more important at stake than world peace.

best reasonable wishes,

Mark

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Conrad Dale Johnson wrote on May. 8, 2014 @ 13:35 GMT
Mark --

I'm glad to find another essay in the contest on communication, and yours is excellent. Both successes and failures of communication have always been central to the evolution of our species, and you give a very good overview of our situation as it stands today. I like your summary of the problem:

"Even the most lucid speech requires some effort of the listener... one...

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Chidi Idika wrote on May. 8, 2014 @ 14:19 GMT
Dear Mark,

Good analysis. Of course the same bible that tells of Babel does predict much later the emergence of what it calls an impostor. Now assume for a while that the LORD in the Babel story foresaw and was actually trying to prevent the emergence of an impostor/AGI. So now when it does finally come (as you hope and the bible predicts) then are we confronted with the real danger of an actual operational pseudo “LORD”. This in my opinion is the moral of the Babel story; the Lord (authentic) which did scatter Babel must remain the Lord absolute. I see this as the reign of uncertainty principle as against the reign of an entity i.e. authority principle.

I see any authority principle (e.g. AGI) ultimately as a hidden variable theory and the “lord authentic” as the core uncertainty principle (of which we individuals must remain the prime example for it said somewhere “in the image of God made He man…” and in another place also speaking to man it says: “ye are gods”.

The Lord at Babel does not pretend to be an ontology. Just as the today the uncertainty principle of quantum physics does not pretend (a la Copenhagen) to be an ontology. And I have actually tried to show that man is his own very uncertainty/quantum.

I agree with you that the fundamental question about AIG is, “Who will control it? If governments, corporations, and wealthy individuals determine the use of super-intelligent systems, they will likely use them as instruments of warfare and competition. Worse, if technological systems themselves are allowed to be in control, they may do things no human being would choose.”

Of course they were made in the first place (even according to you) to do things no human being could do!

Really the question is: by what extent is this prospect avoidable anymore?

I will appreciate your candid critique of Between Uncertainty and Entity .

Regards,

Chidi

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Brent Pfister wrote on May. 23, 2014 @ 21:24 GMT
Mark, very interesting, well researched essay. Very believable perspective on AI.

Thank you for writing your essay!

Brent Pfister

Happy Path

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James Lee Hoover wrote on May. 26, 2014 @ 06:30 GMT
Mark,

The Babel problem stands out in solving the climate change problems, especially considering the different perspectives of developed and developing countries. Then as you point out, there is the technology and who controls it. For an advanced country, the US has not set a very good example regarding technology's use, choosing war and competition.

Like you I speak of the common good, serving interests of all. My essay speaks of monolithic corporations focusing on their own agendas rather than that of common good and a viable future. "Looking beyond" orthodox science and "within," using th e minds capabilities, a sort of neural universe, are my solutions.

I would like to see your comments on my essay.

Jim

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James Lee Hoover replied on May. 31, 2014 @ 15:13 GMT
Mark,

Having had rating problems with my Firefox browser and with some 5 days remaining, I am revisiting essay I've read to see if rated. I find that I rated yours on 5/26.

Would like to see your comments on mine: http://www.fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/2008.

Jim

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Anonymous wrote on May. 29, 2014 @ 12:42 GMT
Mark,

Great essay and important points, well made. I vastly agree that communication is horrendously poor. As an Englishman I also consider English an often poor and incomplete language for science. When we understand nature the vocabulary will surely be vastly different. But you rightly point out that even in the SAME language we rarely understand each other. I also think we're in danger...

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Peter Jackson replied on May. 29, 2014 @ 12:46 GMT
Mark,

That was me, logged out without telling me again. Not much AI!

Peter

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Janko Kokosar wrote on May. 29, 2014 @ 20:00 GMT
Dear Mark Gubrud

I have one association on your essay. Namely, I think that we speak different languages and we do not understand each other also because we do not have answers on fundamental questions of physics. We cannot explain consciousness, and this causes distinct ideologies and religions about life after death and about sense of life. Besides the physics, mathematics and logic known today could be bases of some more perfect language.

It is interesting to follow some discussions on internet, where laymans of physics wish to promote their ideas such as superluminal speed of light, perpetuum mobile, and similarly. It is evident that knowledge of physics could help to harmonize these disagreements. But, a lot of time is necessary to learn physics, to overcome prejudices and to harmonize this language. But, a physics is not presented so simple that it could be and this is a cause of lot of quarrels on internet forums.

On the other side, all physics is not yet explained and professional physicists are claimant for knowledge which they do not have. For instance, consciousness is not yet explained. Although its source are brains, this can means anything, my old essay. Probably also other questions of fundamental physics will maybe obtain different answers, as we expect.

But not only knowledge of physics directly, ethics is also important at internet forums ...

My essay

Best regards

Janko Kokosar

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Margarita Iudin wrote on Jun. 3, 2014 @ 00:18 GMT
Hello Mr. M. A. Gubrud,

This is Margarita Iudin.

I just read your essay. It is O' K, except it is not my topic. You ask what is the greatest problem (there are so many of them - here I agree with you). Sorry, those problems are not that kind of the problems that if you know them you can solve them.

1. I did not understand why you have decided to speak about Babel. Babel...

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Ion Soteropoulos wrote on Oct. 19, 2014 @ 11:39 GMT
How Should Humanity Steer the Futre is certainly an intringuing question but I think there is another question which is really urgent to answer:

By what thing or principle is Humanity presently steered such that it produces the babel phenomenon so well described by Mark Gubrud?

In other words the urgent question is: What is the ultimate cause of all violent conflicts in human society?

Indentifying the ultimate cause of all violent conflicts will enable us to immediately identify the solution, which is precisely the logical negation of the ultimate cause of all conflicts.

Ion

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