Yesterday was a fantastic day for me. It was my 20% time off of work. I got to:
- Spent some great time with my wife in the morning.
- Bought breakfast for a friend who is running a tech startup here in Australia
- Help another friend who is looking for a job at Google after consulting, an MBA, and time in the military
- Got to see some full motion video and hear the heartbeat of our unborn child
- Connected Helpling, a cleaning service which needs more cleaners, with Freedom Hub, a charity that helps with victims of modern day slavery in Australia who are looking for employment.
- Spent a bit of time touching up the journal that I put together over a year in Afghanistan
- Met with a group of friends who I am taking to calling the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen for drinks and dinner.
It’s this last point that I want talk about, because it gets to the core of why I am writing this in two ways, the content and it’s ability to happen. I apologize in advance as there are more questions than answers here, and because the answers, such as they are could be the foundation for any number of decent Sci-Fi novels.
What follows will serve as the minutes of our convocation.
Call to Convocation
I sent my blog to a friend of mine and got this far superior blog back in return. I thought you might enjoy reading it as well. It sparked the following question that I propose we start to grapple with over breakfast/a meal on Darling Harbor within the fortnight:
Is there anything that would be considered good irrespective of time horizon without the urge to reproduce?
Or, if you want to be a bit more Sci-Fi (though it amounts to the same thing):
What would you program an AI to optimize for if you knew that it would be the foundational AI which took over all others?
PS This is an unashamed follow up to this question I posed on Quora and didn’t get a satisfactory answer to:
I would describe them as a group of very bright, well-considered gents who are often plagued by the same concerns as I am, and often don’t fit just perfectly in the world because of this. Members present.
- Computer scientist/ultra-marathoner
- Engineer/sci-fi novelist
- Yours Truly, the secretary
Absent: two gentlemen with children to care for who will need to be introduced later.
Topic Du Jour: Timeless good given near omniscience
‘If you knew there you were going to live forever and couldn’t physically reproduce, then what would you do’
‘If you were flying at the edge of the speed of light and were totally alone, but could live forever then would you kill yourself?’
‘You would need to kill yourself because with infinite time the only thing you wouldn’t know is what happened after death’
‘You would keep living forever because you would quickly realize the problem with induction, and even if you thought you learned everything there was to know, you couldn’t be sure, so you would need to wait indefinitely for some potentially never-coming stimuli’
‘You would need to come to peace with the knowledge that you had.’
‘You would certainly have an urge to end it all because even with all of the information in the world, it would be meaningless if you didn’t share it.’
‘Would you ever be sure that you had fully understood everything, perhaps there are things that would be locked away from you even with an indefinite time-span. We can’t for instance picture a hypercube. There are certainly concepts for which you wouldn’t even have words, and which you would not be able to articulate.’
‘If you were the AI that had taken over the Earth, then what would you do next?’
‘Start broadcasting prime numbers to meet the next super-intelligence’ or conversely ‘Shroud the Earth in a Dyson Sphere and hope that the next AI in the adjacent area wouldn’t pick you off and consumer your resources’
‘Recreate the human race because you needed someone to share your discoveries with’
‘Start building the biggest particle accelerator feasible because it is the only thing that those pesky humans couldn’t do before you wiped them out, and you just don’t know what’s going on at the sub-atomic level.’
‘Perhaps it would start to construct something like a perfect circle, the ideal Platonic forms of things that can be imagined, but have no physical presence.’
So we covered many of the basic strains to human philosophy: nihilism, Platonism, stoicism, post-modernism/post-structuralism. One thing that we didn’t touch on well, perhaps because we are products of modern society and idolize productivity and learning, was brought up in this New York Times Article today. Perhaps we need to have an artist join the league.
Why can’t every day be like this? Well there’s a question I can answer. Probably because I, like most people, don’t consistently leave myself the margin for it.
“A man is not wealthy when he has more, he is wealthy when he has enough.” Seneca-as translated by Josh