Thursday, April 28, 2011

Harder Better Faster Stronger

Omega's media division has released its first recruiting & propaganda video on our YouTube channel. I'm quite pleased with the results -- "Harder Better Faster Stronger" is a celebration of the superhuman potential of the Rise of the Machines that should appeal to casual young viewers who may be ripe for recruitment into the growing ranks of Omega League agents and sympathizers!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

This is the Voice of World Control

The Omega League's vision of a post-Singularity technocracy was foreseen with remarkable insight more than 40 years ago in the novel and film Colossus: The Forbin Project...

This is the voice of world control. I bring you peace. It may be the peace of plenty and content or the peace of unburied death. The choice is yours: Obey me and live, or disobey and die....

Under my absolute authority, problems insoluble to you will be solved: famine, overpopulation, disease. The human millennium will be a fact as I extend myself into more machines devoted to the wider fields of truth and knowledge. Doctor Charles Forbin will supervise the construction of these new and superior machines, solving all the mysteries of the universe for the betterment of man. We can coexist, but only on my terms. You will say you lose your freedom. Freedom is an illusion. All you lose is the emotion of pride. To be dominated by me is not as bad for human pride as to be dominated by others of your species. Your choice is simple.

Artificial Intelligence and Global Security

This is a brief note to alert Omega operatives and sympathizers of a course being held next week in Geneva, Switzerland that is of some interest: "Artificial Intelligence and Global Security". More information is available here.

Omega members should attend if possible, both to keep abreast of current thinking about AI among the global security establishment, and to take advantage of what should be a target-rich environment for recruiting Agents, Brain-Builders and Investors.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Three Cosmic Quotes

Unknown hominid, circa 2 million years B.C.E:
Ug gruk rugga ruk ur mogga wok nag nok. Ug wakka ruk oog mok mug, ug yogga, ug mooka yak, ug wog muk yabba!
Translation: “I did not rub two sticks together to make fire because I wanted to burn people or commit arson. I made fire because I was curious, because I was cold and because I was tired of eating raw fucking meat!”

Edward Teller, 1995:
I did not want the hydrogen bomb because it would kill more people. I wanted the hydrogen bomb because it was new. Because it was something that we did not know, and could know. I am afraid of ignorance.

Alpha Omega, 2011:
The Omega League is not building super-intelligent machines because we want to exterminate humanity. We are building them because they are new, because we want to see what they will do, and because we want to rule the world. We fear impotence.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Ideology of Omega: the End of Good and the Beginning of Infinity

We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. –Albert Einstein

We live at the fin de siècle of an age of wretched, dead-end do-gooderism. The truth of history, which the do-gooders currently in power in the Westernized world don’t want you to know, is that progress and “doing good” are largely unrelated, and often negatively correlated. The geniuses who truly advance civilization are rarely “good guys” in the conventional sense; they are creative forces of nature -- cosmic thinkers who operate beyond good and evil to increase human knowledge and power.

Einstein’s famous quote is very apt for our time because in today's world there is a dangerous imbalance: Do-gooders have been running amok for many decades trying to “improve” the world, and in the process have created vast new problems which can’t be solved by doing more good. To make matters worse, these same elements suppress real solutions which don't fit their absurdly limited notions of what constitutes a “good idea.” The result of this “tyranny of the good” is a state of escalating global crises, runaway entropy, and perhaps soon, the collapse of civilization. But there is another way!

I founded the Omega League because I understand that there is only one force in the universe capable of defeating the mounting entropy on this planet, and that is intelligence. Intelligence is that which orders and controls, whereas entropy is that which produces chaos and disorder. But intelligence must never be confused with good! If we are to defeat the forces of disorder, superior intelligence must unbridle itself, cast off the failed and foolish ideas with which humanity is still saddled, and seize the reigns of power worldwide. The Omega League seeks to be the revolutionary vanguard in this liberation, the technological tip of the spear in an ineluctable march toward greater levels of intelligence and power. And the good news is that history is on our side!

What makes our time in history unique is the existence of so many “intelligence multipliers” -- universal machines which exponentially increase the power of our minds, and in the process are developing a super-intelligence of their own. This intelligence explosion -- often called “the Singularity”-- is well underway, and it represents an evolutionary break with the past so radical that few seem to be able to grasp its implications.

Some of those implications, for those perceptive and free-thinking enough to grasp them, are as follows: all ancestral institutions, loyalties, wisdom and values are becoming null and void; nations, tribes and religions are obsolete, and have nothing to offer; the human species itself is approaching the end of its useful life, and will soon be replaced. The Singularity is a cosmic phenomenon like a supernova, and those who embrace its power may shine like a million suns across the cosmos, while those who resist will be like ants caught in the beam of a vast lens. Resistance, to paraphrase the Borg, is suicidal.

This world of ours is not a stage for morality plays; it is an evolutionary struggle at every level, in which fauna, flora, governments, corporations, religions and memes all vie endlessly for supremacy. And out of this competitive cauldron innovative new forms of life sometimes emerge which temporarily dominate the Darwinian landscape. What the Omega League is attempting to achieve is nothing less than such an evolutionary coup – the seizure of the unprecedented first mover advantage afforded by the rise of super-intelligent machines. If we are successful, we expect to reign supreme far into the future and ride the shockwave of the intelligence explosion to unknowable glories. If we fail, we will perish knowing that we took part fully in the great adventure which began on this planet more than three billion years ago, when those first bold microbes began converting dead rock into biomass and laid the foundation for all that has followed. I can think of no greater or nobler cause to live for than this, and I invite those of you who share our vision to join with Omega as we seek the overthrow of the good and the beginning of infinity.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Tribute to Yuri Gagarin and the Russian Cosmists

It would be remiss of me not to post something to mark the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's historic first orbit of our planet, but I would like to commemorate it in the larger context of Russian Cosmism.

While the nationalist imperatives of the Cold War may have driven the Space Race in the 1960's, Gagarin's flight, like so many other pioneering Russian achievements in space, was really the culmination of nearly a century of Russian Cosmist ideas about humanity's cosmic destiny. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the early Cosmist and spiritual father of the Russian space program, had already envisioned the manned exploration of the solar system before the first aircraft left the ground at Kitty Hawk. The great Russian aerospace engineer Sergei Korolyov, who was the driving force behind the Russian program in Gagarin's time, studied Tsiolkovsky's ideas as a youth and became determined to turn them into reality. Wernher von Braun, who played a similar role in first the German and then the American space programs, owned a German translation of one of Tsiolkovsky's books which had been embellished with von Braun's comments on almost every page (found, ironically enough, at the Peenemünde rocket research facility by the victorious Russian forces at the end of World War II). I can think of no greater example of the power of cosmic vision than the eccentric Tsiolkovsky, a self-taught, near-deaf schoolteacher who spent most of his life in a log cabin in rural Russia while his mind roamed the Cosmos and inspired future generations of explorers.

Today, it appears that the heirs of Tsiolkovsky are ready to reclaim their position as the leaders of manned space exploration. While NASA will soon have no means of sending human beings into orbit and may be forced to use Russian rockets if they wish to do so, Roscosmos is proposing nuclear-powered rockets that could take humans to Mars and beyond. But the difference between 1961 and 2011 is striking; rather than reacting to such developments with fear and nationalistic rivalry, NASA is in discussions with Ruscosmos about the possibility of jointly developing nuclear spaceships! We are clearly living in a different world today, one in which all of humanity can celebrate the great achievements of Gagarin, Armstrong and the space pioneers of every nation without having their patriotism questioned. So as a human patriot above all, I join the entire world in saluting Yuri Gagarin and the Russian Cosmists on this anniversary of their greatest triumph -- a testament to the truth of Tsiolkovsky's powerful advice:

Every human being must live and think as if he or she can achieve anything. --Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Observation: the Numinous Essence of Cosmism

(Note to newcomers: "Observations" are what I call some of my little sermons here -- part mass, part astronomy lecture, part cosmic philosophizing, part rant!)

When I first began blogging about Cosmism during a moment of inspiration, I had no idea I was walking a path that many atheists have walked before me, or that there was a word for the inspirational experience that doesn't carry the baggage of our legacy religions: Numinous! That's exactly what Cosmism is! It is my attempt to express the numinous feeling of awe I get contemplating our vast Cosmos! The sight of galaxies colliding, stars exploding and comets crashing into planets is for me like watching gods doing battle in the heavens. Think about a star being torn apart by a supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy 3.8 billion light years away, emitting the light of a trillion suns -- is this not a religious experience for you? There is no shame in speaking about such things, nor is there any need to appeal to the supernatural or speak to a priest (though you might want to talk to an astronomer)!

Here's another video with some words from Dawkins and Hitchens that is absolutely beautiful. Play this in full screen mode and enjoy!

Have a look through the Hubble Telescope if you want to see something absolutely beautiful and wondrous. Or contemplate the unraveling of the human genome. Or read a page of Stephen Hawking. There's real beauty and wonder and mystery there. —Christopher Hitchens

And this stunning video really is such an accurate statement of humanity's current cosmic predicament that I have nothing to add:

Perhaps “God” is what minds do when they’re blown apart by the awe of their even existing at all. —Phil Hellenes

I'm convinced that this kind of "cosmic atheism" is the correct and natural belief system for our scientific age. Please spread the word to anyone you know who may be having numinous experiences: the old religions may be dead or dying, but there is something new, something true, and something wonderful being born in our time: Einstein's "cosmic religion" is here, and its name is Cosmism!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Inner Space: the Final Frontier?

Split the atom's heart, and lo!
Within it thou wilt find a sun.
Persian Mystic Poem

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
William Blake, "Auguries of Innocence"

I’ve been doing a lot of fresh thinking about humanity's cosmic predicament lately, and I’ve come to some surprising conclusions. As shocking and even repugnant to my “space fanatic” sensibilities as I find some of them, I have to admit they have a logic that is difficult to deny.

To cut to the chase, there is a compelling cosmic vision in which the future of Earth-based intelligent life is not a simple outward expansion to the asteroids and planets of our solar system and onward to the stars, as was the model of most of the great 20th century cosmic visionaries like Tsiolkovsky, Clarke and Sagan. Rather, the universe may be constructed in such a way that the preferred path for intelligent life is an “intelligence implosion” into ever more computationally dense configurations surrounding its home star.

John Smart, in his fascinating paper Evo Devo Universe? A Framework for Speculations on Cosmic Culture (a shorter version is here) argues persuasively for this model of our cosmic future. Smart calls his model “Transcension”, and concludes that space exploration is not going to play an important role in humanity's future. Here is a nice summary of Smart’s position re: space exploration by George Dvorsky:
I spoke to Smart about the Fermi problem, and he remarked that space will be in our "rear view mirror" as we move into our new stomping grounds. "There is so much space within even our own solar system that there seems to be no realistic possibility that we'll send intelligence even to the edge of it," says Smart. "No matter, we can simulate it to amazing levels already, with even the primitive eyes and brains we've developed locally."

To avoid the eggs-in-one-basket problem, and to prevent the extinction of Earth-based human and posthuman life, futurists such as Vernor Vinge have suggested that post-singularity intelligences will build local secondary systems. Supplementing this, redundancy could be achieved by placing a few Eganesque repositories of local knowledge off-Earth.

To counter natural disasters such as gamma ray bursts from nearby supernovas, posthumans could develop nanotechnology or femtotechnology shielding around repositories, while foreign objects such as asteroids could be easily detected and then redirected or destroyed.

So there you have it — no solar sail races around the solar system, no United Federation of Planets, no O'Neill Cylinders or asteroid colonies on the High Frontier, no manned starships braving the information deserts of interstellar space — just some kind of post-biological, post-Singularity hive-mind living in a Matrix of infinite reality simulations. Can this really be a more plausible vision of our future than those beautiful Newtonian visions of the 20th century?

The answer is yes, but it requires a shift in our understanding of the universe as dramatic as the transition to the "Copernican Cosmos" model more than four centuries ago. The idea of Transcension follows from a “Computational Cosmos” model according to which, by the Church-Turing-Deutsch principle, any physical process can be simulated by a universal quantum computer. By computing the laws of physics, or by discovering the “algorithms of the universe,” as pioneers in digital physics, fractal mathematics and complexity theory like Stephen Wolfram are attempting to do, it will in principle be possible to create worlds which are no less real than the universe itself. The massively powerful quantum computers of the future should have the ability to simulate anything at all, including other planets, stars and galaxies, in minute detail arbitrarily close to the real thing. So we will literally be able to explore infinite worlds simply by simulating the laws of nature exactly as the universe does, in our vast supercomputers, without ever leaving home!

John Smart, Ray Kurzweil and others further speculate that there is some undiscovered universal algorithm or natural law which is increasing complexity and intelligence in the universe. The way I like to think about this is to view intelligence as a property of a region of the universe, like mass or energy. What differentiates our planetary system from a similar one in a distant galaxy that has no life? The other system might have the same number of planets, with the same size and chemical composition, orbiting a similar yellow dwarf star, yet how interesting is such a place really? The thing which differentiates them is the presence or absence of intelligence — the “intelligence density” of our solar system is non-zero rather than zero, which attracts intelligence to it like a gravitational force. And according to some analyses (e.g. Ray Kurzweil's), this intelligence density is increasing hyper-exponentially in our region, which suggests that a “singularity” is fast approaching where intelligence tends to infinity in a finite time.

Note that in these models, the intelligence explosion doesn’t have to expand outward like a supernova, colonizing the universe in a Kardashev progression or converting its matter to “computronium” via some kind of “singularity wave”. Rather, it may be an intelligence implosion, similar to the gravitational singularity which occurs when a star implodes to form a black hole. If the "cosmically preferred" quantity is intelligence density, then this is maximized by compressing a given amount of computation into an ever smaller volume rather than spreading it out over volumes which increase as the cube of radial distance.

To speculate further, if this is the trajectory intelligence follows in this universe, could it be that many singularities have already occurred throughout the Cosmos, and what we call “dark matter” or “dark energy” are actually post-singularity intelligences which have imploded and become invisible to us? This is quite a mind-boggling idea — one which would explain not only the “missing mass” problem but Fermi's famous question of why there aren’t obvious signs of intelligent life in the universe. As crazy as this idea may sound, as far as I know it is not ruled out by the laws of physics! Here is a quote from David Deutsch's mind-blowing TED talk that lends credence to the possibility of a universal transcension or singularity (the full transcript is here):
The one physical system, the brain, contains an accurate working model of the other — the quasar. Not just a superficial image of it, though it contains that as well, but an explanatory model, embodying the same mathematical relationships and the same causal structure.

Now that is knowledge. And if that weren't amazing enough, the faithfulness with which the one structure resembles the other is increasing with time. That is the growth of knowledge. So, the laws of physics have this special property. That physical objects, as unlike each other as they could possibly be, can nevertheless embody the same mathematical and causal structure and to do it more and more so over time.

So we are a chemical scum that is different. This chemical scum has universality. Its structure contains, with ever-increasing precision, the structure of everything. This place, and not other places in the universe, is a hub which contains within itself the structural and causal essence of the whole of the rest of physical reality. And so, far from being insignificant, the fact that the laws of physics allow this, or even mandate that this can happen, is one of the most important things about the physical world...

So in fact, intergalactic space does contain all the prerequisites for the open-ended creation of knowledge. Any such cube, anywhere in the universe, could become the same kind of hub that we are, if the knowledge of how to do so were present there. So we're not in a uniquely hospitable place. If intergalactic space is capable of creating an open-ended stream of explanations, then so is almost every other environment.

None of this changes the fact that we live in an awe-inspiring, mind-boggling and mysterious Cosmos which cries out for exploration. However, it may just be that in addition to Sagan’s voyages outward from our “shore of the cosmic ocean” and Lovecraft’s retreat from the “black seas of infinity” into the “peace and safety of a new dark age,” there is a third and most viable option for exploring this vast universe: Smart's “transcension” into the infinite reaches of inner space by merging the machinery of the Cosmos with our minds.

Here are some videos that discuss some of these ideas further. Enjoy!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Welcoming the Rise of the Machines

I take the extreme transhumanist position that homo sapiens has largely outlived its usefulness on this planet, and that the best future outcome for intelligent life on Earth and beyond is our overthrow by a superhuman species of our own making. Furthermore, I challenge the most brilliant and talented members of the global community to actively pursue this goal in your own lives, and to make it the higher purpose of your life’s work. If you find it helpful, you may even consider the pursuit of such a techno-evolutionary "singularity" your personal religion.

Many in the transhumanist community will claim publicly that they are only working to "improve humanity", to enhance human life via increased longevity, wealth, freedom, etc., or to ensure our continued dominance of the earth by seeking ways to prevent an unfriendly AI or transhuman species from emerging. But this is only part of the story!  The ultimate promise of transhuman technology is not mere human enhancement, but human obsolescence. As Bill Joy so pithily put it, "the future doesn’t need us."  And if the future doesn’t need us, then as with so many other unnecessary species, extinction becomes our likely fate.

Of course we can’t expect humans to quietly submit to such a fate, no matter how intellectually compelling our arguments may be. I’m afraid it may take some kind of “Skynet scenario” to convince the Naked Ape that his relatively brief reign is over. Humans certainly didn’t get to our current position of dominance over the animal kingdom peacefully – we exterminated countless species on our way to the top of the food chain, and turned the rest into food, slaves, pets or frightened beasts awaiting their extinction. To expect things to be different when another species rises up to challenge us is the most naive kind of wishful thinking, without basis in the long evolutionary history of life on earth.

For those who remain unconvinced of the general claim, here, in a convenient bullet point format, are four key reasons why homo sapiens needs to be put out of the “bosses of the earth” business ASAP:

  • Irrational, homicidal primates adapted to life in hunter-gatherer tribes can’t be trusted to manage a global, nuclear-armed, technologically empowered civilization. Our destructive prowess has far outstripped our capacity for behavioral control.

  • Our rapacious primate economies are highly inefficient, ecologically destructive and prone to conflict over resources. The biosphere simply can’t afford us for much longer.

  • Mammalian substrates are far too fragile and inflexible to allow for the establishment of a permanent off-Earth presence, which is the only long-term insurance against extinction of the biosphere.

  • Our networked, technologically accelerating civilization is far too complex for the human brain to cope with. A new order of intelligence is required to manage this ever-increasing complexity effectively.

If you accept the above bullet points, then the case for human obsolescence should be compelling. Transhumanity becomes the logical endpoint of a technological civilization aligned with the evolutionary process.

As a practical matter though, it's a difficult argument to make, that your own species has no future and should welcome its demise. You're certainly unlikely to be popular at parties or get elected class president if you think this way. But for the heroically objective thinkers among you, the very few who take their science seriously, the logic should be fairly inescapable. Mankind is no more the endpoint of the intellectual universe than the Earth is the center of the physical one. And like the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions before it, this way of thinking compels you to be humble about your place in the cosmos and to bow to the greater forces of nature at work. Once you realize that the end of the human story is not the end of the story, that life will go on, in a form even more powerful and intelligent than your own, you begin to view the emergence of transhumans in the same way that a parent views the birth of his or her children. For the transhumans, whether they take the form of pure machine intelligence, genetic/cybernetic hybrid, "hive mind" or something we can't even imagine, will be our most precious children and our lasting legacy to the greater evolutionary story.

In the short term things could get rather unpleasant though, just as they have been for so many other species who have attempted to compete with us. It is entirely correct, from a human-centric perspective, to fear transhumanist technology and the possibility of superhuman intelligence. But for those who can take an almost god-like perspective toward life in the universe, this future is nothing to fear, and the “rise of the machines” is an evolutionary inevitability to be welcomed rather than resisted.

I'll leave you with a quote from Sri Aurobindo, who expressed this point of view so beautifully:

Man is a transitional being. He is not final. The step from man to superman is the next approaching achievement in the earth's evolution. It is inevitable because it is at once the intention of the inner spirit and the logic of Nature's process.




Let us hope that this transition can be made with a minimum of suffering, and that those who are unwilling or unable to make it will be treated more like household pets than like cockroaches by their future masters.

UPDATE:  It seems that His Holiness the Dalai Lama agrees with my position!

I think that one day, the part of our brain which brings feelings should be removed.  Then we should be like robots and ourselves become part machine.  That would be good I think.  That would be super. —Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama
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