Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Weirdtopia's Invented

So after long delay here is a follow up to my Weirdtopia promise. The "Utopia" and "Distopia" are from Eliezer Yudkowsky, the Weirdtopia's are mine. I think it's interesting to note how similar most of the "dystopias" sound to our current reality... I suspect that this exercise reveals more about the writer than about the future, but even so it's a very interesting exercise...






Obviously I personally wouldn't want to live in many of those Weirdtopia's, but I do think that people living in them could be "better off" than in the utopia. Also check out Eli's latest Lower Bound on Utopia.

Monday, January 12, 2009



Eliezer Yudkowsky, at Overcoming Bias (one of my favorite blogs), writes about Weirdtopia, the place which is neither Utopia (the projection of your hopes / beliefs) or Dystopia (the projection of your fears), but something altogether different and at least potentially better than Utopia to actually live in. His recent series on Fun Theory give potential civilization engineers much food for thought. The opposite of happiness isn't isn't sadness - it's boredom. And it follows that a "perfect" world probably isn't a very happy one.

Does your perfect world leave room for personal development/growth? Challenge? Failure? If so, what makes it different from this world?

I hope soon to actually fill in those blanks in Eliezer Weirdtopia post - at least several have fairly interesting answers you can generate from "sustainable/green transhumanism"... in the mean time, please enjoy thinking of some weirdtopia's yourself.

Friday, January 9, 2009


The Edge 2009 Annual Question

What will change everything? 150 scientists, authors and public figures answer this question. You can learn lots. How to sum it up?

George Dvorsky said it best: Edge.org Answers Overwhelmingly Transhumanist.

Having seen George's collection, I don't feel like I can top that view of the answers. So what I present here is just a collection of the ideas which were novel to me, i.e. said something I didn't already know... I've also picked a few I think are relevant to the metaciv project. Obviously I think you should read all the answers yourself. But if you want a curated collection, here's mine.

Kevin Kelly - a new kind of mind. Not strong AI, but ubiquity of intelligence. Fascinating insight.

Chris Anderson - a web empowered revolution in teaching (by video, of course)

George Dyson - Interstellar Viruses - actually, transmitting alien intelligences, and having civilizations "unpack them", similar to hosting a virus... interesting idea - why send messages when you can send yourself?

Daniel L. Everett - Undoing Babylon: universal accurate language translation

Nicholas Humphrey - this one really sums up WHY transhumanism is the dominate answer. If you change human nature, you change everything in the most fundamental sense.

Freeman Dyson - radiotelepathy

Haim Harari - education is still awaiting revolution

Leo Chalupa - drugs for brain plasticity!

Steven Pinker - thoughts on failed futurism, personal genomics

Keith Devlin - the mobile phone!

Howard Rheingold - social media explosion?

Eric Drexler - carbon emissions problem, nanotech removal

David Gelernter - track & cluster to replace school as we know it

Brian Eno - self fufilling feelings of things getting worse

Sherry Turkle - robots as companions - and dangers thereof

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster - miniaturizing people to reduce their burden

David M Buss - exploitability

Robert Sapolky - people who can intuit in six-dimensions. But such humans may never exist!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Metaciv Project Goals

I want this "Meta Civilization" project to deliver on multiple fronts.

First, I see it as an evolution of my older Digital Crusader blog (no longer accessible - but I hope to import the archives here soon) - which was subtitled "questing for sustainable transhumanism". I was interested in the application of sustainable/green/environmental ideas to transhumanism/mega-engineering. And vice-versa. Narrowly, I was motivated by the idea that if we're going to live a long time, doesn't it behoove us to preserve our natural environment to the best of our ability, so that our options remain open, or at least so that we don't actively destroy our own past? So I see Metaciv as a platform for the continued comparisom of the green movement with the transhuman project - an interdisiplinary learning & cross-fertilization exercise. I remain convinced that greens and transhumanists have a lot of valuable stuff to learn from each other - and that we need not be enemies. STEER.

Second, I'm motivated by a long-term view of personal identity. Carefully consider what you'll be around to experience if you live for thousands of years. History is cyclic - there are periods of civilization, and periods of decline/collapse. Highly improbable but highly damaging events occur. Circumstances change in ways which make the future/past almost incomphrensible. The reason this bears thinking about is that a transhuman person may wish to perserve some things between cycles, after major events, etc. The most obvious thing is life itself - come what will, it's important to preserve enough infrastrucutre and knowledge to stay alive. We need both civilizational "life boats" and personal philosophies which will allow us to handle real change. An important goal here is to build our civilizational resilience. UNDERSTAND/STEER.

Third, a study of civilizations should lead to theories of behavior - a knowledge of how to act given the surroundings in order to achieve the best kinds of results. Properly understanding how a civilization really works should be a key which allows you to unlock the wealth of that civilization to your personal benefit. My main contention here is that it's possible to recognize and exploit the systems which govern a civilization. Obviously you need to balance such exploitation against your resilience goals. OPTIMIZE.

Finally, I hope that with a sufficiently broad understanding of civilization, and the natural laws within which they must function, it will be possible to design civilizations to achieve goals which are not well matched with our current one. This is admittedly the craziest of the goals, but I think it speaks to the heart of the transhumanist project: the idea that changing human nature should allow us to open up a possability space in "the meaning of life" which is far broader than anything we can now implement. Virtual worlds populated with AI agents (whether uploads or designed minds) offer the most obvious "freedom" on that front, but there are many other ways as well. This kind of work could be supported by a through understanding of how human nature leads to human civilizations - so that changes in human nature could be projected into expected changes in civilization. Massively ambitious, and not the only thing we need by far, but at least it's something. ENGINEER.

With a mandate this broad, my vision is that almost anything can be grist for our mill - I expect to link to lots of online content and offer a few bon mots of commentary, as well as to write larger peices, to review books, to build arguments and material over time (at the wiki), etc. And I invite other people to contribute - I'd like very much for this blog to have multiple authors and an active, commenting readership. This is a very long-term project, as benefits something with such a huge scope - so I hope to still be here writing about something fascinating years from now. Join me.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Meta Civilization Blog Launch

First post!

From my taking notes at Convergence '08:

Meta-Civilization: how to think about civilizations as if you'll outlive them all. Understand, steer, optimize, engineer...

- transhumanist intro - How to think about civilizations as if you'll outlive them all. Cynthia Breazeal at SS: "what kinds of experiences do we need in order to make living forever worth enduring? How to maintain trans/posthumanism during periods between civs?
- civilization intro: governance, infrastructure, language, eventually via virtual worlds, the laws of reality. Cyclic history (Chinese: dictatorship, oligarchy, democracy, chaos, start over...). Governance/politics: "how shall we live together". Infrastructure: roads, communications equipment, economics, etc. Language: Form that minds use to communicate with each other (not equipment) - current poverty of serialized vibrations in air / linear strings of symbols.
- UNDERSTAND: studying history, dynamics of power, human nature, institutions, bureaucracy. Guns, Germs & Steel. Collapse. Rise & Fall. On Human Nature. The Amish. The Long Decent. The Ultimate Resource. The Upside of Down.
- STEER: politics, technology/innovation, advocacy, civics. Don't bail! Citizen Cyborg. The Assault on Reason. League of Angry Voters. democracylab.org
- OPTIMIZE: maximize your returns from a given civilization. What does it reward? Which rewards are the best? Rich Dad Poor Dad. Mystery of Capital. Wealth of Nations. How do we ensure we get posthumanity from THIS civilization?
- ENGINEER: Utopia/Science Fiction (Brave New World). Founding Fathers. Long Now. Seasteading. Virtual Worlds. Fun Theory.

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