No Souls or Spirits Allowed
The primary goal of the Singularity movement is to bring about the Singularity, a time when machine intelligence will have surpassed human intelligence. Their greatest fear is that future superintelligent machines may decide they no longer need human beings and wipe us all out. Their most fervent hope is to achieve immortality by uploading the contents of their brains to a machine. What they hate the most: traditional religions. The reason, of course, is that they are all materialists, i.e., they believe that physical matter is all there is. No souls or spirits are allowed in this religion. Matter somehow creates its own consciousness by some mysterious pseudoscience called 'emergence'.
The whole thing could be easily dismissed as the silly antics of a nerdy generation who grew up reading Isaac Asimov's robot novels and watching Star Trek on television. What makes it remarkable and, some may say, even dangerous, is that they count among their members a number of very powerful and super rich Silicon Valley technology leaders such as Elon Musk, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Ray Kurzweil, Peter Thiel, Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Diamandis and many others. Needless to say, most of the prominent scientists in the AI research community are also singularitarians.
Not Even Wrong
LessWrong is an elitist internet cult founded by singularitarian Eliezer Yudkowsky. An offshoot of the Singularity movement, LessWrong fancies itself as a rational group of like minded people who, unlike the rest of humanity, have figured out a way to overcome their cognitive biases. Their goal is to bring about the singularity by building a friendly AI, their so-called artificial general intelligence (AGI). They believe that they are the most qualified people on earth to do it because they are more rational and smarter than everyone else. I am not the only one who thinks the whole thing has gotten out of hand. In a recent Edge.org interview, computer scientist, composer and philosopher Jaron Lanier had this to say about the cult:
There is a social and psychological phenomenon that has been going on for some decades now: A core of technically proficient, digitally-minded people reject traditional religions and superstitions. They set out to come up with a better, more scientific framework. But then they re-create versions of those old religious superstitions! In the technical world these superstitions are just as confusing and just as damaging as before, and in similar ways.For such an elitist and extremely well funded group of know-it-alls, one would expect them to have powerful insights into how the brain works. One would be wrong. So let's see just how wrong the LessWrong cult really is.
- The brain builds a probabilistic model of the world. Not even wrong.
- Everything is physical because we know it is. More wrong.
- We can make a conscious machine because we know that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain. Wrong and wronger.
- We will gain immortality by uploading our brains to a machine because we know that the brain is all there is. Laughably Wrong.
- We must be careful with AI because intelligent machines may decide they no longer need us. Pathetically wrong.
- We are less wrong than others because we are smarter. Wrongest.
In Part II, I will go over the reasons that the Church of the Singularity is wrong about both the brain and consciousness.