Re: [unrev-II] The perils of high technology... (fwd)

From: Jon Winters (
Date: Tue Mar 14 2000 - 20:16:10 PST

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    From: Jon Winters <>

    Paul Fernhout wrote:
    > From: Paul Fernhout <>
    > Jon -
    > I was in an Ecology and Evolution graduate program for a while.
    > To sum up two years of studies: Evolution happens.
    > The best one can do is slightly delay this.


    Thanks for the very interesting reply. I don't have all the science and
    training to back it up but I agree with you about evolution. Why is it
    that folks still call it the "theory of evolution?" Certainly someone
    has been able to prove that it happens... there is evidence all around

    > People often make major errors in underestimating self-replicating
    > technology -- for example, Tom Ray himself thought that by evolving code
    > in a "virtual" environment it would never get out. All one needs is for
    > the virtual environment to be hooked to a real one somehow, and for all
    > relevant purposes, the code can evolve and interact with the real
    > world. Such a link could happen by malicious intent, a design mistake,
    > or a VM coding bug (the same way problems with some versions of Internet
    > Explorer can be exploited to modify files on your hard drive.). More
    > subtly, such a link can take place by evolving systems creating
    > fascinating patterns that are interpreted by the observing scientist (on
    > a view screen, or with a code viewer) and cause them to act.

    I was a volunteer when Tom did his "Network Tierra" project. He wanted
    his AI programs to travel about the Internet from virtual machine to
    virtual machine. Was kinda funny because they quickly realized travel
    was dangerous and they tended to stay put. To remedy this situation Tom
    added a catastrophe routine that would kill off all the programs who had
    not travelled recently. At the time it seemed like a good idea.

    > Nano-tech, Robo-tech, Corporate-Tech, Computer-Tech, AI-Tech,
    > Money-Tech, Meme-tech, Habitat-tech, BioTech -- it makes no difference.
    > All these systems can evolve if the can replicate something with
    > variations that are selected for and against somehow.

    So our strategy should be to recognize this and steer things in the
    proper direction. Give the evolution a helping hand?
    > Technology is an amplifier -- possibly of the tiniest most distasteful
    > voice.

    We see this today when some pissed off misfit codes up a virus toolkit
    and releases it. This person knows that it is only a matter of time
    before someone uses the toolkit to unleash a virus that will replicate
    all over the place causing all kinds of trouble. Aren't some viruses
    coded to mutate so they are harder to detect?

    > Self-replicating technology is even a greater amplifier.


    > There will always be disturbed people with significant power -- for
    > example, imagine what would happen if Bill Gates had a minor stroke in a
    > part of the brain related to emotional control.

    Um... well... I guess that would be bad but the thought of Bill having a
    stroke kinda makes me happy. (I'm not a big fan of Microsoft)

    > Or if that money is left
    > somehow to disfunctional relations in his will. [He actually says he
    > will give the bulk to charity].

    Heh... we should see if he is interested in donating some money to
    extend and embrace bootstrapping concepts.

    > We might be looking at $100 billion
    > dollars out of control.

    Last I checked Microsoft is pretty much out of control today.

    > (Obviously, on the other hand, Bill Gates could
    > also invest his money helping save humanity.)

    I don't doubt he will make good on his promise to give away most of his
    money. I an optimist and I hope he invests it in projects that will
    make a difference. I also hope the donations don't come with contracts
    forcing the use of Microsoft products.
    > Given the rising magnitude of the money, information, and energy flows
    > on this planet, I don't see anyway to stop a major singularity or even
    > greatly impeed it. Gaia is about to give birth to something new. I don't
    > see any other hope than to surf the evolutionary wave and hope for the
    > best.

    From the Gaia site:

    "Consumers have an abundance of shopping opportunities. Unfortunately,
     they're spending less time at it. Gaia clientelling[tm] enables you to
     provide your consumers with the shopping experience they want...
     deserve... will demand. Our turnkey clientelling network solution
     leverages the latest in wireless, handheld and Internet application
     technology to put you in touch with your consumers' individual profiles
     to personalize every interaction... bridging stores, direct mail, and
     retail. The result... increased brand loyalty. "
    > That said, I stoppped doing artifical life over a decade ago in part
    > because of fear of the consequences and not wanting to contribute to
    > such disasters. Now that such knowledge has become mainstream and there
    > are hundreds or thousands of serious ALife practicioners in every field
    > from finance to scheduling to art, I no longer have the same level of
    > qualms about my own efforts significantly speeding the problem along.

    I've seen a couple of interviews with scientists who also dropped out
    for the same reasons. I feel like its time for us to concentrate on
    becoming part of the solution.
    > Real world living systems survive by dispersing, varying, and having
    > refugia (places to hide from predators). We must do so if we care about
    > ensuring humans and other biological creatures survive.
    > I think our best hope for human survival in the next few decades is to
    > develop a wide variety of self-replicating systems at a macroscopic
    > level (like space habitats or underwater habitats) capable of sheltering
    > human and other biological life within. That is my long term interest in
    > an OHS/DKR:

    Very interesting indeed.

    > If we worry about fantastic futuristic problems, then we must admit the
    > possiblity of working towards fantastic futuristic solutions.


    Jon Winters

    "Everybody Loves The GIMP!"

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