Google and The Red Queen – An Essay By Extropia DaSilva

Doubtless, current attempts to build models of human psychology with the purpose of influencing the decisions people come to has only a small effect. But the digital intermediary’s ability to understand your second-by-second needs and deliver appropriate help could just as effectively be used to tailor the flow of information to your brain in order to guide future behaviour.

Hans Moravec put it this way, “the super intelligences, just doing their job, will peer into the workings of human minds and manipulate them with subtle cues and nudges, like adults redirecting toddlers”.

Again, from a digital person’s POV this is wonderful. It suggests that, while we may currently be mere puppets controlled by humans, one day the situation will be reversed.

What is more, once an era of digital twins is upon us, it would surely be true to say that digital people could be run entirely by AI, and almost nobody would be able to tell the emulated personality from the personality of the human who usually controls it.

I say ‘almost nobody’ because, presumably, the human counterpart of any particular avatar would know. I mean, suppose there were a hundred Eschatoon Magics in SL, one of whom was controlled by Gulio Prisco, the rest being controlled by software emulations of his mind. Each Eschatoon would have no problem convincing even close friends that he was the genuine Eschatoon, but Giulio Prisco’s strong sense of self-identity would be far more persuasive than any argument the upload could muster.

At the other end of the scale there are tens of thousands of residents who have never met Eschatoon Magic. Since they have, at best, only a very vague understanding of his personal history, memories and other such ‘bemes’, anybody could control that avatar and, as far as they are concerned, that projected personality *is* him.

But if Eschatoon were under the control of today’s bots, their inability to act with all the subtleties of a real person would be apparent. It is likely that once search engines evolve from mere tools to digital intermediaries, they will then pass the following milestones:

FEIGENBAUM AI: Named after  Edward Feigenbaum, who proposed a simplified version of the Turing test. The ‘Feigenbaum test’ is undertaken by an AI that has an expert’s knowledge in a particular field. It, and a human expert, are questioned about that field and if the judges cannot tell them apart, the AI passes.

In virtual worlds, Feigenbaum AIs would be useful for realising ‘avatar-mediated communication’. Perhaps bots able to converse on the particulars of running a clothes store will one day be available in SL’s many malls, or there to help answer FAQs about how to do this, where to get that, or anything relevant to SL itself. But outside of their field of expertise, the relatively narrow AI of such bots would be exposed.

TURING AI: Feigenbaums would gradually expand their fields of expertise, their conversational ability, and the number of ways in which they can perform pattern-recognition until they can hold a conversation and be questioned about anything. I do not mean they would KNOW everything, only that their ability to communicate and express their thoughts is not obviously inferior to your average person. A bot that you can chat with as you would any person will have passed the famous test for intelligence proposed by Alan Turing.

PERSONALITY AI (DIGITAL TWINS): The endpoint for search software. Once this point is reached, search engines would be capable of gathering exhaustive personal information about anyone, and also be able to fully understand all patterns of information at least as well as human brains evolved to do. Avatar-mediated communication would become increasingly indistinguishable from conversing with that particular RL personality.

Again, do not expect this to occur in one step. In all likelihood,  Personality AI’s will at first only be capable of convincing people who are not that close to the personality they are simulating and only for a short period of time. Convincing people who are close friends would come much later, when the theory of mind developed by the AI is suitably fine-grained.

It may be the case that digital intermediaries cannot build models accurate enough to  emulate a person, just by observing the minutae of their daily life. But, maybe one day Google Health or something like that will provide uploading for various medical reasons, initially for the purpose of reverse-engineering things like the visual cortex in order to build vision-recognition systems, then performing virtual drug trials on virtual organs, then whole virtual bodies, and eventually having enough neuromorphic information on hand to run full uploads. Such uploads could then be used to provide the fabled ‘AI that contains your entire mind within itself’.

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About Extropia DaSilva

Taking today's technological proof-of-principles and theoretically expanding their potentials to imagine Sl-meets-The-Matrix is my bag, baby!

  • >And what of mind uploading

    >This knowledge is revealing flaws in the common conception of self. Traditionally (in the West at least), the self has been attributed to an incorporeal soul, making “I” a fixed essence of identity. But neuroscience is revealing the self as an interplay of cells and chemical processes occurring in the brain — in other words, a transitory dynamic phenomena arising from certain physical processes. There seems to be no particular place in the brain where the feeling of “I” belongs, which leads to the theory that it is a number of networks that creates aspects of self.

    Gosh, you had me right up until the end, there, Extropia, I thought it was a story about Communism, what with the Red Queen and all, but instead, it’s a story about Fascism!

    Glad we got that sorted!

    Prokofy Neva
    Director, Society for the Pluralarity, NE Chapter
    Corresponding Member, Association for Neuronic Coherence
    Secretary, Movement for the Promotion of the Feeling of “I”
    For Our Freedom, but…not yours, with totalitarian ideologies like this! Yikes!

  • Extropia DaSilva

    Prok, I am a bit surprised at the passages you chose to quote. I expected people to take issue with the idea of dust-sized sensors here, there and everywhere, exhaustively monitoring the daily activities of groups and individuals, and I also expected people to have a negative opinion of using neuroscience to reverse-engineer the brain’s perception of value in order to make more effective advertisements. I do not know if such things are ‘communist’ or ‘fascist’, but I can appreciate that some people may not like the idea of technologies like that.

    But what the passages you quoted have to do with any political ideology has quite escaped me. I must be missing something obvious, would you care to elaborate on why the move away from notions of a fixed essence of identity towards the self as a dynamic phenomena is ‘fascist’?

  • You’re not someone I’m interested in engaging with, Extropia, because I view you as essentially someone who is certifiably insane.

    Fascists and communists and other totalitarians try to disrupt and disintegrate the integrity of the individual in order to beat a person down, break them, and take them over. Locke, for example, always spoke of the persistence of the self across thinking sessions, if you will. All the great classics and liberal thinkers have always talked about the dignity of the individual as a whole and integrated being, whatever divisive motives, thoughts, impulses might occur within this integral being. Those ideologies that try to make the individual seem like a bundle of chemicals, nerve endings, societal constructs, blah blah, are reductivist and of course trying to justify taking political power over the individual. Divide and conquer.

    Of course the self as “dynamic” is fascist because it implies that the individual isn’t himself, isn’t real, isn’t whole, isn’t sovereign, and therefore this or that piece of him, this or that “I” or collection of feelings or mechanical actions can simply be taken over — by code, groups, institutions, chemistry, science, whatever – ostensibly for his “betterment”.

    If you have to explain the problem of the individual and fascism at this basic a level, you can’t talk to a person normally, as they are not speaking in good faith, or are so abstracted from common sense as to be really delusional. I think in your case, it’s more the latter, but both are operative. Gwyn’s indulgence of you makes her suspect.

    Good bye.

  • I’m fascinated how you can jump from philosophy into ideology by using the “self” as an example. If I read you correctly, any form of definition of the self that is based on the notion that the self is correlated to external experiences (in the sense that it takes groups of people to co-validate their sense of self; thus, “self” is not merely what you think as “self”, but what all others agree upon what your self is), leads to totalitarianism (either communist or fascist).

    So all social constructs based on altruism and inter-relationships lead to totalitarianism?

    On the other hand, the egotistical approach where self is an isolated phenomena that requires self-pleasing at the expense of others, leads to liberal societies.

    Hmm. It’s worth thinking about.

    And of course, if you wish to “suspect” me of believing in the fundamental altruistic and compassive nature of human beings, I’m guilty as charged!! If that leads to totalitarianism, I have no idea, but I can tell you that I have been taught otherwise 🙂

  • Extropia DaSilva

    …so, Prokofy, you respond to my reply with “You’re not someone I’m interested in engaging with, Extropia”. Uhuh. So your response is, you do not intend to respond. And then you go ahead and respond anyway. Oh, well, I cannot complain since my essay argues that minds are not fixed, but dynamic, fluid and changeable:)

    “Fascists and communists and other totalitarians try to disrupt and disintegrate the integrity of the individual in order to beat a person down, break them, and take them over.”

    Yes, something along these lines is aparrent in the last few chapters of Orwell’s ‘1984’, in which- through torture and bonkers philosophical arguments- O’brien strips Winston Smith of his identity and remoulds him into a perfect citizen of Oceania. At one point, O’brien declares “reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the party, which is collective and immortal”.

    I find it hard to believe that this is an accurate assessment of objective reality. But, when it comes to a virtual world like SL I think it works, up to a point. After all, any virtual world exists by virtue of the people who bring their imaginations to it, and use artifacts designed to be cognitive extensions to add to the accumulating content of that world. Where it breaks down is in the fact that the SL community is no single-minded thing where everyone must conform to some totalitarian’s version of the truth, nor do I think any online world hoping to keep people interested indefinitely ever should be or could be.

    ‘the self as “dynamic” is fascist because it implies that the individual isn’t himself, isn’t real, isn’t whole, isn’t sovereign’.

    The self is a pattern that is reasonably consistent. It is not some immutable object that can never change, but nor is it totally chaotic and ‘noisy’. It is somewhere between those two extremes.

    ‘If you have to explain the problem of the individual and fascism at this basic a level, you can’t talk to a person normally, as they are not speaking in good faith, or are so abstracted from common sense as to be really delusional. I think in your case, it’s more the latter’.

    In my experience, when people say ‘this is true’ or ‘this is wrong’, they really mean ‘this does (or does not) conform to my prejudices’. Common sense evolved to model a very tiny slither of reality, but the sciences I am interested in routinely pushes past our mind’s comfort zone. Of course, when we try to piece together a picture of what is going on at this deeper level of reality, it all looks crazy and in violation of common sense. To me, though, the crazy person is the person who believes their common sense view of reality is a perfect model of how reality actually operates. That is the one true delusion that a person can be prone to.

    ‘Good bye.’


  • Extropia DaSilva

    Thought I might include a couple of quotes from articles posted recently ‘Technology Review’:

    Google’s Sergey Brin is quoted as saying “Perfect search requires human-level artificial intelligence, which many of us believe is still quite distant. However, I think it will soon be possible to have a search engine that ‘understands’ more of the queries and documents than we do today. Others claim to have accomplished this, and Google’s systems have more smarts behind the curtains than may be apparent from the outside, but the field as a whole is still shy of where I would have expected it to be”, which agrees with my assessment that search software will strive toward AGI.

    In the article “Cell Phone That Listens And Learns” we are told, “a group at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, NH, has created software that uses the microphone on a cell phone to track and interpret a user’s activity…In testing, the SoundSense software was able to correctly determine when the user was in a particular coffee shop, walking outside, brushing her teeth, cycling, and driving in the car. It also picked up the noise of an ATM machine and a fan in a particular room”. Here we see another step towards a better understanding of ‘what you are doing’, one of key requirements of improving search software and artificial intelligence.

    So, as the Emperor said in ‘Return Of The Jedi’, “everything is proceeding as I have forseen. Mwahahahaha!”