Synthetic Super Intelligent Life

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Discussions of "synthetic super intelligent life" are highly speculative. To get into the subject, I recommend the following:

(1) Read the short essay, "Pigs in Cyberspace," by Moravec. This article will stretch your imagination.

(2) Study specific examples: I made up two fictional but scientifically accurate stories. Both are free and can be downloaded below. The short story, The Avatars Remember Nothing, shows an example of how human civilization might give rise to a synthetic super intelligent life form. The novella, The Observers, shows a possible motivation for such a civilization.

(3) Repeat (1) and then explore on your own. Starting points are given below.

The Avatars Remember Nothing pdf or html

The Picnic: July 2110

Stacks of plates sat on tables. Ice chests of cold drinks dotted the lawn. Technicians from Event Recording and Virtual Simulation, Inc., swarmed about the perimeter of the picnic area. Mobile micro-sensors, scattered everywhere, signaled each other in preparation for archiving the event for history.

Amanda joined the guests queuing for last-minute bio-checks. For her, this family reunion was a dangerous mistake. She waved to her parents in the distance. Their fortieth anniversary -- her attendance was required.

"You're crazy to let ERVS do this, Mom," she had warned. "The personal avatars they create aren't just toys that look and act like us, they're living beings."

From The Avatars Remember Nothing, S. Gill Williamson

Comments by computer scientist and author, Vernor Vinge:

Are there possibilities that we humans should have recognized long before they finally forced themselves on us? One such is the idea that microbial life exists and can cause disease. After all, we see life in greater and greater profusion at ever smaller sizes down to the limits of our vision. Even without microscopes, there should have been suspicion that the trend doesn't stop at the limits of human eyesight. Our ancestors conceived of "invisible spirits" but they rarely wrote about the possibility of invisibly small antagonists.

Nowadays, I think there may be a similar oversight committed by people who talk about flying saucers and little green men -- or even Fermi's paradox. The universe is more than 13 billion years old. We have good evidence that planets have been nearly ubiquitous for most of that time. If technological intelligence has comparable age, why would it not be widespread too, and how could we miss it? S. Gill Williamson's story "The Observers" suggests a very cool explanation. -- Vernor Vinge

ObsCovSmall

For a free copy of the The Observers click here: Download PDF

iUniverse has published a paper back edition of The Observers (ISBN 978-0-595-39478-4). An E-Book version is available at the publisher's site.

Kindle Edition is available through Amazon, as is the paper back edition (cover shown to the left). There is a thoughtful review on Amazon by a Ms. Olive Branch "Olivia," La Jolla, CA.

Barnes and Noble also carries the book online.

CMSSMug2a

"Keep track of your infant or toddler, anytime, anywhere with a CMSS sensor system. Shaped as attractive mugs, our baby monitors start at only $40."

The Observers, Chapter 5, "Human Subjects, September 7-10"

"Our colony will leave the solar system and head outward, away from the center of the galaxy. The goal is to be in position at the galactic outer edge where we can start recording the collision of the Andromeda Galaxy with the Milky Way. The collision will start in about two billion years."

J. P. Graves-bot was struck by the magnitude and daring of the project. "Nothing like thinking ahead," he said.

The Observers, Chapter 19, "Five Hundred Years Later"

Starting Points for Further Study

Virtual Reality Research:

Recording Human Lives:

Microsoft Research, MyLifeBIts

Stanford Virtual Reality Lab

Movies: The Final Cut, The Adjustment Bureau*

EPFL Virtual Reality Lab

TV: Caprica*

*The world of David and Elise is a simulation. Adjustment Bureau = Gamers.

*Zoe = Amanda but breakout of avatars is very different.

Time Travel and Virtual Reality

The Avatars Remember Nothing makes a connection between time travel and virtual reality. Here is a good movie that does the same: The Thirteenth Floor

Is there enough computational power to support super intelligent life?

My point of view is that there is plenty of "room at the top" in terms of computer capabilities. See for example the article by Seth Loyd (pdf) and the article in Edge about the same topic (pdf). As to intelligent machines generally, you can follow current results on the Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence website.

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)

I recommend the following two articles by Seth Shostak:

"When Will We Find Extraterrestrials?" Engineering and Science, CIT, Spring 2009, 13

"What Will ET Look Like and Why Do We Care?" (pdf) 60th Int. Astronautical Conf., Daejon, Korea, 2009

Is there already a civilization like the Observers somewhere in our galaxy?

Far from being unlikely, the existence of such a civilization is a natural consequence of the laws of computer science. The Drake equation L-value of the Observers is essentially infinite, with signals theoretically detectable but far below the threshold of SETI detectors.

The most advanced such robotic civilizations are probably recording and studying the history of the universe--a challenge uniquely complex enough to force them to continue to evolve as societies. Within a few hundred years we will be able to create our own version of the Observers. There are many possible ways this could happen. The Avatars Remember Nothing gives just one possibility.

As the universe ages and expands, civilizations of intelligent biologically-evolved beings will become more isolated in space-time. Their only hope of learning about the early development of our universe may be from contacts with robotic guardians of history such as the Observers.

See the Author's Notes for The Observers for more discussion (p. 163 of free pdf download, p. 147 of paperback).