Friday, March 31, 2006

Compared to Him, I'm Eeyore

Reinventing Humanity
by Ray Kurzweil

[All emphasis added] [The] explosion in machine intelligence, and rapid innovation in the fields of gene research as well as nanotechnology, will result in a world where there is no distinction [...] between physical and virtual reality. These technological revolutions will allow us to transcend our frail bodies with all their limitations. Illness, as we know it, will be eradicated. Through the use of nanotechnology, we will be able to manufacture almost any physical product upon demand, world hunger and poverty will be solved, and pollution will vanish. Human existence will undergo a quantum leap in evolution. We will be able to live as long as we choose. [...]

How is it possible we could be so close to this enormous change and not see it? The answer is the quickening nature of technological innovation. In thinking about the future, few people take into consideration the fact that human scientific progress is exponential: It expands by repeatedly multiplying by a constant (10 to times 10 times 10 and so on) rather than linear; that is, expanding by repeatedly adding a constant (10 plus 10 plus 10, and so on). I emphasize the exponential-versus-linear perspective because it’s the most important failure that prognosticators make in considering future trends.

Our forebears expected what lay ahead of them to resemble what they had already experienced, with few exceptions. Because they lived during a time when the rate of technological innovation was so slow as to be unnoticeable, their expectations of an unchanged future were continually fulfilled. Today, we have witnessed the acceleration of the curve. Therefore, we anticipate continuous technological progress and the social repercussions that follow. We see the future as being different from the present. But the future will be far more surprising than most people realize, because few observers have truly internalized the implications of the fact that the rate of change is itself accelerating.

Exponential growth starts out slowly and virtually unnoticeably, but beyond the knee of the curve it turns explosive and profoundly transformative. My models show that we are doubling the paradigm-shift rate for technology innovation every decade. In other words, the twentieth century was gradually speeding up to today’s rate of progress; its achievements, therefore, were equivalent to about 20 years of progress at the rate of 2000. We’ll make another “20 years” of progress in just 14 years (by 2014), and then do the same again in only seven years. To express this another way, we won’t experience 100 years of technological advance in the twenty-first century; we will witness on the order of 20,000 years of progress (again, when measured by today’s progress rate), or progress on a level of about 1,000 times greater than what was achieved in the twentieth century. [...]

[R]esearcher Robert Freitas estimates that eliminating 50% of medically preventable conditions would extend human life expectancy 150 years. If we were able to prevent 90% of naturally occurring medical problems, we’d live to be more than 1,000 years old.

Well, we'd have the potential to live for a thousand years, but most people would die due to accidents long before then.

The full article is much longer, and offers many specific predictions about how the future's miracles will be achieved, and what affect on human society they'll have.

I take issue with the estimate that during the entire 20th century, there was only twenty years' worth of technological advance at the year 2000 rate, and therefore I disbelieve that we'll see advances during the 21st century that will more than eclipse the entire current sum of recorded human history.

For one thing, there's an enormous difference between a lab breakthrough, and full society-wide integration of a working device or technique based on that research.
DVD players, for instance, took a decade to become ubiquitous, and they weren't even a new concept, merely replacing VCRs.

Still, the trend is clearly more, faster, and I expect that the 21st century will see technological change equal to that of between Magellan and now, especially in the biosciences.

I agree completely that virtual reality will become extended reality. It won't just be an escape, or entertainment, it'll be an everyday method of interacting with geographically-dispersed people, machines, and information-gathering sensors, for both fun and work.

While in most cases we'll know whether we're operating in reality or virtual reality, it'll only be backround knowledge, just as we now keep track of day and night, but don't keep our schedules by them anymore.


Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Wow! I'm just salivating with excitement at all the coming developments I can oppose.

March 31, 2006 3:44 AM  
Blogger M Ali said...

As long as I get heat vision and the ability to fly, I'm A-OK with the future.

March 31, 2006 5:16 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...


And just think, you'll have a thousand years of life in which to oppose them.

One positive development, from your viewpoint, is that eventually the randy young men of the future will be taking advantage of robots and holograms, and won't pester young bio-women as much.

M Ali:

Heatvision, no problem; flying is much more iffy.

How about the ability to leap (modestly) tall buildings in a single bound ?
That I can guarantee.

March 31, 2006 5:59 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

I'd be content merely with the ability to get down the pub faster then a speeding bullet.

Nobody ever predicts the future accurately (except Edgar Allen Poe in Eureka He got relativity and the Big Bang before anyone else).

One of my favourite quotations is from the Director of the US Patent Office in 1899, who is supposed to have said "Everything that can be invented, has been invented."

At the other, wildly optimistic end of the scale, there used to be TV programme in the 70s and 80s in Britain called 'Tomorrow's World' which every week confidently said things like "by 1998 everybody will fly to work in their own mini-saucer" etc.

Unexpected things take off, and take off very quickly when they get affordable. The ubiquity of the cellphone has changed social interaction enormously inside a decade. Google is another wonder of the world: mankind's accumulated knowledge is instantly available anywhere (except China, obviously).

One thing that strikes me when I watch old sci fi movies and see their 'visions' of the future, is that none seemed to predict the importance of the computer screen.

They have giant computers and rows of buttons, but no user-friendly monitors. The invention of the mouse and the graphic 'window' was a genius breakthrough in making computers usable.

March 31, 2006 6:43 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Thank you, Xerox PARC and the Stanford Research Institute.

Future people are likely to comment on the fact that the SciFi produced now has screens.
They're likely to have on-call projected displays instead of physical monitors.

Physical control panels and keyboards will vanish too.
You can already buy a projected-keyboard device.

March 31, 2006 7:01 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Smart-boards - yes, we've got one in the office. The idea was neat, but we never use it.

Those big touch screens Tom Cruise had in Minority Report were pretty cool.

He was swishing his arms about as if there was an 'arty' element to controlling it that only experts could understand.

March 31, 2006 7:18 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Here is my favorite prediction of the future.

The problem with predictions is that, even when they are correct, there is no way to know beforehand that they are correct. Even people who were correct once can be spectacularly wrong in their next prediction. Fred Smith, the spectacularly successful founder of FedEx, followed up his success with the spactacularly unsuccessful "ZapMail".
Steve Jobs, who successfully predicted that the GUI/mouse combination would rule the computer desktop, also unsuccessfully predicted that computers would revolutionize education.

I think that Kurzweil is so clouded by his pathological need to transcend his human boundaries that he can't think straight. If you really want to have fun with pop psycho-analysis, you could ponder why anyone would want to become a "trans-human". These guys sound downright Millenial, like the people who sit in rowboats waiting for the Rapture. For me, my money is on human nature. We don't really understand it, and noone is a thoroughly unapologetic fan of it, but as the product of untold millions of years of evolutionary successes it hugs the ultimate necessity curve more closely than anything we could possibly invent to replace it.

March 31, 2006 8:29 AM  
Blogger M Ali said...

I think the most pertinent comment came from Isaac Asimov, when he said that plenty of sci-fi writers predicted the Moon-landing but no one foresaw the world would be watching it on television.

March 31, 2006 10:05 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

I've read Kurzweil's article in full. I agree that advances in genetics and nanotechnology can greatly increase our health in the future, but I don't see that as transcending the human boundary. We'll still be essentially human. It is starting with the following paragraph where I think Kurzweil "loses it":

The revolution in nanotechnology will allow us to do a great deal more than simply treat disease. Ultimately, nanotech will enable us to redesign and rebuild not only our bodies and brains, but also the world with which we interact. The full realization of nanotechnology, however, will lag behind the biotechnology revolution by about one decade. But by the mid to late 2020s, the effects of the nanotech revolution will be wide spread and obvious.

Nanotechnology and the Human Brain

The most important and radical application particularly of circa-2030 nanobots will be to expand our minds through the merger of biological and nonbiological, or “machine,” intelligence. In the next 25 years, we will learn how to augment our 100 trillion very slow interneuronal connections with high-speed virtual connections via nanorobotics. This will allow us to greatly boost our pattern-recognition abilities, memories, and overall thinking capacity, as well as to directly interface with powerful forms of computer intelligence. The technology will also provide wireless communication from one brain to another.

Telepathic? Does anyone really want that? Does anyone want their every thought available to every passerby? If people think cell phones and pagers are intrusive, wait till these devices are hard wired into our neurons! I can't see how any normal human psyche could survive such a radical invasion of its boundaries. And I can't see any rational reason that anyone would want to go there.

The problem with re-architecting our psyches is that the goals of this re-architecture will be based on the existing wants and desires of said psyche. It would be a fantasy project. Every man would want to be the alpha male. Just imagine for a second how that would play itself out. We are a social species that relies on the contributions of a large base of beta males, who, while holding on to alpha male fantasies, are content to play out a lesser role as supporting player to the alpha. Our psyches are not tuned to "self realization" but to a compromise state between personal ambition and social integration. As Spock has stated, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one. Evolution has doomed us to a state of persistent frustration.

I think Agent Smith captured this essence of human nature as he ranted against humanity to Morpheus in the Matrix:

"Have you ever stood and stared at it, Morpheus? Marveled at its beauty. Its genius. Billions of people just living out their lives... oblivious. Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was re-designed to this: the peak of your civilization."

March 31, 2006 10:16 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Oroborous wrote: "I take issue with the estimate that during the entire 20th century, there was only twenty years' worth of technological advance at the year 2000 rate..."

First, there's various technologies. Would you agree that the vast majority of communications technology improvements were made in the last 20 years? Kurzweil considers GNR (genetics, nanotech, robotics) technology to be the only important technologies - everything else is, in his opinion, superfluous. I think his estimates hold for those.

Second, even with just looking at broad GDP per capita or productivity numbers, if you agree (as I do) with many economists that the CPI is overstated by about 1% per year, each person in the United States produced more in the last 30 years on average than they did in the rest of last century. So I think his statements are hyperbole, but not necessarily all that extreme.

DVDs took a decade to become widespread. Television took 30 years, so even there, change is occuring much more rapidly.

Oroborous wrote: "...we'd have the potential to live for a thousand years, but most people would die due to accidents long before then."

Kurzweil and his buddy Moravec ("Mere Machine to Transcendental Mind") believe that we'll also be able to download our essence into a computer (basically have daily "backups" of ourselves) so even if our biological selves die, we can also be rebooted into new machinery. Kurzweil thinks that eventually we'll just get bored and choose not to continue after a few thousand years.

March 31, 2006 10:45 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Oroborous wrote: "...flying is much more iffy"

Piece of cake in virtual reality.

Brit wrote: "Nobody ever predicts the future accurately..."

True. But Kurzweil's main prediction is of accelerating change. He's less committed to the exact details.

Brit wrote: 'the Director of the US Patent Office in 1899, who is supposed to have said "Everything that can be invented, has been invented."'

Urban legend (which, since you wrote "supposed," you probably already know).

March 31, 2006 11:26 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Duck wrote: "I think that Kurzweil is so clouded by his pathological need to transcend his human boundaries that he can't think straight. ... These guys sound downright Millenial, like the people who sit in rowboats waiting for the Rapture."

Kurzweil is a little nutty, for sure, but he's formed several companies and has personally invented numerous items that have furthered technology.

Duck wrote: "Telepathic? Does anyone really want that? Does anyone want their every thought available to every passerby?"

Like a phone, it's only telepathic if you choose to connect to the person. Indeed, if anything it's more private since other passersby can't eavesdrop in on your communication.

Duck wrote: "The problem with re-architecting our psyches is that the goals of this re-architecture will be based on the existing wants and desires of said psyche."

Hmmmm. In the last post we were just noting how radically female psyches were temporarily transformed by a few beers. Friends who've used psychedelics described psyches that were temporarily unrecognizable. Islamists, with a little propaganda are willing to kill themselves. It seems very, very easy to alter a human psyche.

We can't all be alpha males in the real world, but we can all be in our own virtual reality. We can't all have a beautiful woman (or two or three) on our arms in reality, but we can have as many virtual women as we like. We can't all experience god and spirituality in this world, but we could in the virtual world. Perhaps the old geezers on this site won't be able to adjust in a positive way, but the younger generations will.

The world is so radically different from a technological perspective than when I grew up, yet most (everyone except Peter) have adapted just fine. The same is likely to be true going forward.

March 31, 2006 11:50 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

DVDs haven't reached me, yet, so perhaps I am unqualified to comment . . .

However, about 10 years ago, the director of the AI lab at U. of Illinois visited to show off his virtual reality machine. (It required the biggest mainframe in the world to run, which we had then.) He predicted that in less than 10 years 'You won't have to bring the meat.'

Call me unpersuaded.

I don't think Kurzweil knows anything at all about even simple biology. I cannot imagine how 'nanotechnology' (a word without meaning unless attached to a specific device) is going to de-crosslink our aging collagen. Or, if it could, how you would titrate that so we didn't just dissolve.

A 250-year-old human would have to live virtually, because he wouldn't be able to move a joint physically.

Also, Kurzweil and his critics here also seem to take progress as a given. I don't.

Iraq was once the most technologically advanced society. (See Samual Noah Kramer on Sumerian inventions, who claimed 41 firsts for the early centuries, probably exponential advance since they were starting from almost zero.) The last technological advance to come out of Iraq was in the 9th century.

The technological advance I would be least happy to live without is pure water, invented just 102 years ago, and not yet adopted in 75% (roughly) of the world despite its simplicity, low cost and high return.

March 31, 2006 1:22 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

More details on the pure water story, please. What was the invention - water filtration? Distillation?

I also remember the predictions of human-like artificial intelligence, which we were supposed to have by now. I remember Martin Minsky from MIT was a major proponent.

Yesterday we were pocket protector types, today we're old fogeys. Ah, the joys of blogging. Bret, I wasn't arguing that it would be difficult to alter the human psyche. I'm saying that it would be nearly impossible to do so without introducing significant unintended negative consequences.

Kurzweil is not talking about merely using chemicals to alter the functioning of an existing brain, he wants to edit DNA to create a wholly new brain from scratch.The problems with such a scheme are legion, but the most obvious one is this: what are the goals of this rearchitecture? Who decides?

The human mind is not a standalone processor, but evolved in a social environment. Human social interactions are highly complex, I doubt that any of the trans-humanist proponents have anywhere near the understanding of it in its entirety. You can't have a society where individual psyches are being engineered in isolation to fulfill individual goals, that would be like trying to wire together an internet out of thousands of homemade computers, each of a different design.

As far as adapting to the new technologies, you have it somewhat backward. It is the technologies that adapt to people more than the other way around. If a new invention doesn't solve real problems for real people, it won't be adopted. Twenty five years ago or so video phones were widely predicted to be the communication mode of choice for the 21st century. We don't have video phones today because people didn't want them. People also didn't want to swallow pills in lieu of eating real food.

March 31, 2006 3:37 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

unpersuaded wrote: "... about 10 years ago, the director of the AI lab at U. of Illinois visited to show off his virtual reality machine. (It required the biggest mainframe in the world to run, which we had then.) He predicted that in less than 10 years 'You won't have to bring the meat.'"

The virtual realities we develop our robots in are pretty impressive to me. And the robots too.

Admittedly, if I were sitting in your shoes, I'd be skeptical, so I realize it's probably pointless to try to convince you otherwise.

And as fast as it happens, it won't seem abrupt or amazing. For example, the Internet is really pretty amazing, but it happened gradually enough that people generally never were awestruck by it. So these amazing things may well happen, but nobody will really notice.

"Kurzweil and his critics here also seem to take progress as a given..."

In his book ("The Singularity is Near") he makes the point that his predictions are based on progress and civilization continuing, which he readily agrees may not be the case.

March 31, 2006 3:47 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

Duck wrote: "I also remember the predictions of human-like artificial intelligence, which we were supposed to have by now."

Perfect example. My favorite definition of intelligence is that human quality which we admire but do not understand. Thus, as soon as we figure out how to do something, it no longer seems intelligent.

There are lots of examples of things that would've been considered AI in the 1970s that are commonplace now, but nobody considers them AI. Examples include:

Speech recognition: Consumer level packages such as dragon naturally speaking, commercial varieties such as those that listen to doctor's dictate and figure out insurance billing and airline systems where you call up and ask when the flight will arrive.

Content understanding: Email systems that take customer's questions (totally unformatted), understand what's being requested, and formulate a response if the system has adequate confidence in its understanding (otherwise it forwards the question to somebody else).

Route Planning: MapQuest's routes would have been considered wildly successful AI in the 1970s.

Robots: Our robots navigate and operate completely autonomously in complex and arbitrary human environments. The first commercial product will be launched next year. Again, the sort of things my buddy (NOT!) Minsky talked about in the 1970s.

And the list goes on and on...

So no, there will never be anything that is developed that will be considered AI. Once its developed, it's no longer intelligent, and nobody notices.

Duck wrote: "I'm saying that it would be nearly impossible to do so without introducing significant unintended negative consequences."

Of course, but so what? The Internet gets you google and blogging (good!!!) and lots more porn (bad!!!). Yes, you have to take the bad with the good.

Duck wrote: "As far as adapting to the new technologies, you have it somewhat backward."

Yes, technologies and people co-evolve. Clearly, you weren't born blogging so you must have adapted to it. Kurzweil emphasizes repetitively that demand will drive technology (which it does now), not the other way around. And yes, products like video phones will flop. That's just part of the process.

March 31, 2006 5:04 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Well, if he thinks that demand will drive technology then I think he is out of touch with what normal people would demand. I really don't see that there will be any demand for telepathic implants, outside of a few novelty seekers. Of course, being an old fogey I really don't see what all the fuss is about with IPods, so don't rely too heavily on my judgment.

April 01, 2006 6:58 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

It's a trivial example, but I think Post-It notes suggest that demand does not drive technology. It isn't a one-way deal.

And, to repeat myself, if demand drives technology, then we would have to believe that most of the world does not demand pure water.

Referring back to AI, it came in strong and weak versions. Minsky was associated with the strong version, now discredited, I think.

All the examples, like voice recognition software, are weak AI, if AI at all.

Strong AI believers are enamoured of the Turing Test, which was flawed in a basic way. The idea that the tape would advance or retreat until an outcome was obtained that mimicked living Intelligence assumed, wrongly, that living Intelligence does not produce emergent novelties.

Although genetic software can generate some pretty complicated outcomes without getting fresh instructions from a human programmer, I am not aware that anyone has ever claimed a novelty from it.

Complexity is not the same as innovation.

April 01, 2006 9:55 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

harry eagar wrote: "I am not aware that anyone has ever claimed a novelty from it."

That's at least partly back to the definitional thing. If a computer does it, it's inherently not novel. If a human beats Kasparov in chess, then that human's particular set of moves would be considered both novel and intelligent. When a computer kicks Kasparov's ass, it's considered neither novel nor intelligent. Yet if you asked anyone in 1970 (probably including you) if an entity had to be intelligent to be the best chess player in the world, they would've answered yes.

Computers can perform better than humans in many ways that were once considered part of the realm of intelligence. For example, circuit placement on ICs come to mind. Using a variety of non-predictable techniques (neural nets, genetic algorithms, simulated annealing, etc.), computers lay out the circuits on complicated ICs far better than humans are able. I consider these circuit layouts emergent and novel.

But that is just my subjective opinion.

April 01, 2006 10:37 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Duck wrote: "I really don't see that there will be any demand for telepathic implants..."

That's just an example of what might be possible that people might want. Kurzweil would readily agree that his examples are more flavors of things to come than actual predictions.

April 01, 2006 10:39 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

My guess is that the future's demand for telepathic implants will be exactly the same as today's demand for cell phones.

Further, some jobs and organizations will require their use.

April 01, 2006 11:28 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

It's kind of funny to see comments about old SciFi movies not having video screens and then comment about "who would want e-telepathy?". If there's something like to replace video screens, it is e-telepathy where your computer interface lives in your head. What's more portable, more resistant to environment conditions, more convenient? In fact, rather than virtual reality, I expect to see enhanced reality where people are both walking down the street and hanging out in chat rooms and weblogs.

One work I think will considered prescient is Tenchi Muyo where interfaces look like magic to everyone else, as people interact with internalized interfaces.

April 02, 2006 8:43 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Well, Big Blue still doesn't know it's playing chess, while I do.

For many years I have been telling a story about that contest. My son was then a student at SUNY-Purchase, right down the road from Armonk. He was among a group alpha testing VRML, perhaps the first program that could mimic 3-D via software without too great difficulty.

IBM had spent big bucks to have some German design a special stainless steel chess set for the Big Blue/Kasparov match, and it also was displaying the chessboard moves in 2-D on the Internet. This was, recall, early days for the Internet.

Anyhow, somebody who knew my son ran into somebody he knew in Armonk and told him, 'Ya know, there's a kid at Purchase who can make your chess board appear in 3-D.'

So he did, overnight, which launched his career.

Other notes, referring in one way or another to previous threads: The reason he was in a position to do that was that a prof at SUNY-P had ordered a new IBM 9000 (pretty powerful minicomputer in those days) and then left the school. My son, a theater major, had found it in an unopened box in a storage room backstage and asked if he could use it. Shrug from his prof, 'Sure.'

When he got his 3-D chess set up, I asked him how many hits it was getting. 'Two million a day.'

At that time, every local business pioneer who was putting up a Web page expected me to write a story about him, even if he was getting only 10 hits a day.

After that, I told them, 'My new standard is 2 million before I will do a story.'

As I used to chide Orrin, with his worship of dubious statistics, all I do is disaggregate the aggregates.

April 02, 2006 10:19 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

I would call Deep Blue intelligent if it could say "I don't really feel like playing chess today."

April 02, 2006 11:47 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Wow, I guess I'm wrong about the demand for e-telepathy. If telepathic implants are the next incarnation of the cell phone, then I must be turning into a Luddite.

More accurately, I'm just antisocial. I believe in boundaries. Nothing irritates me more than a ringing telephone, especially when it's mine. It's just another opportunity for someone I don't know or don't like to reach out and bug me. I've raised call screening to an art form.

The fact that someone would pay to have a ringing telephone implanted in their noodle totally amazes me. One of my favorite commercials is the one for Corona beer where the guy at the beach uses his cellphone as a skipping stone. How do you do that when it's in your brain?

April 02, 2006 12:56 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

The assumption is that you'll be able to turn it off.

Even before answering machines and caller ID, one could always just unplug the phone.

If we're talking about making every brain an open mic & receiver, then I agree that most people wouldn't be interested.

The availability of brain to brain communication might lead to social pressure to get implanted; your significant other might well wonder why you don't want to share thoughts, especially if your S.O. is female.

On the other hand, I would have thought that the new "super-commitment" marriage licenses that a few states have would have resulted in many females demanding a top-tier commitment, but there've been very few issued.

April 02, 2006 6:43 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Yes, the social pressure to get implanted is what I'm worried about. Especially if you think that employers will require them. For what purpose? And if the productivity revolution puts a premioum on people who are willing to work rather than just drop out of the workforce, what leverage would employers have to demand such personally intrusive requirements?

But first, I'd like to know what benefit having implants gives one over just having a cell phone. What is the benefit? Beyond novelty, that is?

I think that people are underestimating the impact that such implants would have on the psyche. Do you really think that there would be no "mind altering" effects from short circuiting the normal analog communication channels of the human voice and auditory systems?

If such technologies do make it to market, I see their adoption being similar to people getting tattoes. It will be something that young people get on a whim, thinking that it will enhance their personal experience in some way. At some point when they are older, they will wonder "what was I thinking?", and will have to pay to have the procedure reversed.

April 02, 2006 7:41 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Some employers, not all.

Military, emergency workers, top-level executives...
Anyone that has to be able to be reached.

Maybe parolees ?

If the productivity revolution puts a premium on people who are willing to work, rather than to just drop out of the workforce, then employers will have very little leverage to force productive people to be implanted against their wishes, because such people could just go elsewhere to work.
However, people who don't want to be implanted may well be shut out of some career options, just as people who hate firearms would have difficulties now in being in the military, or a police officer.

As Susan's Husband notes, the advantages over cell phones are that the implants can't be lost, stolen, or damaged. It's private - nobody can eavesdrop.
It's always at hand, not left in the car when you're in the store; plus, you can use it without disturbing others, such as during a movie or while others are sleeping.

Also, if it runs on glucose or thermal energy, your body will power it - no more dead batteries or recharging.

As for impacts on the psyche, we'll see. That there will be some impact is indisputable; that it will be large or negative is not.

April 02, 2006 9:02 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Harry said Well, Big Blue still doesn't know it's playing chess, while I do.

True enough.

What's more, what Big Blue is doing shows how fundamentally unintelligent chess playing is.

April 03, 2006 4:34 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Deep Blue is a tool for playing chess. It's a more sophisticated tool than a hammer, but it's no more intelligent.

Also, one can be brilliant at chess and deeply unintelligent. For example, Bobby Fischer.

April 03, 2006 6:26 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

The primary determinant in chess success is the ability to visualize and evaluate as many possible future states of the board for as many future moves as possible. It is a computational task, and the people who are good at those tasks tend to be a little on the autistic side, generally. Kasparov is an exception, in that he is highly personable and socially well adjusted, from what I've read. But computation ability is but one narrow aspect of what humans are capable of displaying in the way of intelligent behavior. Beyond our abilities with abstract thought, the most critical use for our intelligence is probably our ability to manage and navigate complex social relationships.

I think that it is possible to distinguish between intelligence and those attrubutes that we associate with personhood. Computers are capable of non-personal intelligence. Person-ability is one specific application of intelligence.

April 03, 2006 9:17 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Nabakov's 'The Defence' (aka 'The Luzhin Defence') is an excellent novel inside the mind of a chess genius/savant.

April 03, 2006 9:50 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

You guys lost me about the time we switched away from dial telephones. I cannot even figure out why the walkie-talkie feature on a cell phone is considered a feature. Telepathic calling is beyond my comprehension.

And I never heard of a 'super-commitment' marriage license. What's that about?

April 03, 2006 10:51 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

The walkie-talkie feature allows one to communicate with dozens of people at once, and with no busy signals - an on-going conversation can be joined or interrupted.

The "super-commitment" marriage is actually called "covenant marriage"; here is Arizona's version:

The State Legislature has created a type of marriage in Arizona called "covenant marriage." It does not replace the kind of marriage already available. Instead it offers an additional option to couples who wish to marry. The covenant marriage differs both in the steps necessary to get married and the reasons why a legal separation or divorce may be granted by the court.

To enter into a covenant marriage, the couple first must have counseling (called "premarital counseling") from a member of the clergy or a marriage counselor. Then, when applying for a license to be married, both persons must show their intention to enter into a covenant marriage by signing a special statement (or "declaration") on the application form. In a covenant marriage, legal separation or divorce (in Arizona, a "dissolution of marriage") may be granted by the court only for specific reasons listed in state law. These are explained in the following pages.



For a covenant marriage, certain information must be included in the marriage license application. By law (Section 25-901 of the Arizona Revised Statutes) a person must state their intention to enter into a covenant marriage. This statement (or "declaration:) must contain three things:

A written statement, printed exactly as follows:

A Covenant Marriage

We solemnly declare that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman who agree to live together as husband and wife for as long as they both live. We have chosen each other carefully and have received premarital counseling on the nature, purposes and responsibilities of marriage. We understand that a covenant marriage is for life. If we experience marital difficulties, we commit ourselves to take all reasonable efforts to preserve our marriage, including marital counseling.

With full knowledge of what this commitment means, we do declare that our marriage will be bound by Arizona law on covenant marriages and we promise to love, honor and care for one another as husband and wife for the rest of our lives.

The signed and sworn statement of both people that they have received premarital counseling from a member of the clergy or from a marriage counselor.In premarital counseling, both people must be advised that a covenant marriage is a commitment for life. Premarital counseling also must include a discussion of the seriousness of covenant marriage, the requirement to seek marriage counseling if marital difficulties develop and the limited legal reasons available for ending the marriage by legal separation or divorce. The couple also must receive a copy of this pamphlet.The signatures of both parties witnessed by a court clerk.The parties must submit with the license application a sworn, notarized statement from the member of the clergy or marriage counselor who provided the premarital counseling. This statement must confirm that the parties were advised about the nature and purpose of a covenant marriage and the limited reasons for ending the marriage by legal separation or divorce. The counselor’s statement also must show that a copy of this informational pamphlet was given to each person. A sample affidavit is available at: [...]


For a covenant marriage, the court can only grant a divorce ("dissolution of marriage" in Arizona) or a legal separation for certain, limited reasons.To get a divorce, any one of the following eight reasons must be proved to the court...

[Adultry, physical abuse, substance abuse, abandonment, imprisonment, etc.]

Basically, it makes it harder to get married, and harder to get divorced.

April 03, 2006 12:14 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

It sounds like being Catholic but still able to eat meat on Friday.

April 03, 2006 4:11 PM  

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