Dustillations II: AGI has many faces

Reading Time: 5 minutes
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Artificial General Intelligence as a Poly-Edged Sword

Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) stands at the frontier of technological evolution, embodying the pinnacle of what artificial intelligence can achieve. Unlike its predecessors, AGI promises a level of autonomy and capability that mirrors human intelligence, posing profound questions about the future of human-machine interaction.

This intricate black and white pencil drawing is a masterful blend of surrealism and mathematical precision, evoking the essence of M.C. Escher’s work. Central to the piece is the Penrose triangle, seamlessly integrated with a tessellation of geometric shapes that morph into one another, symbolizing the concept of metamorphosis. The drawing’s play with perspective and optical illusions creates a captivating sense of infinity, with endless staircases and looping paths defying conventional logic.

Reflective surfaces introduce symmetry, while natural elements merge organically with fantastical architectural forms, challenging the viewer’s perception of reality. The text embedded within the drawing speaks to the profound implications of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), likening it to a “Polyedged Sword” poised to redefine human-machine interaction.

This artwork is not just a visual feast but a philosophical exploration, urging contemplation of AGI’s potential to reshape our world.

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The Universal Technology: AGI’s Ubiquitous Influence

Dubbed the first “universal technology,” AGI’s reach is expected to permeate every facet of human life, from healthcare and education to governance and personal relationships. Its universal nature underscores the significance of its impact, offering both unprecedented opportunities and challenges.

This black and white pencil drawing intricately integrates human figures and brains within a surreal landscape of impossible objects and detailed tessellations. The central Penrose triangle is surrounded by geometric shapes that transform into each other, symbolizing the theme of evolution. Human figures and brains interact with these elements, emphasizing the simulation aspect where digital, physical, and biological worlds converge.

The artwork manipulates perspective and optical illusions, creating a sense of infinity with endlessly looping paths and reflective surfaces introducing symmetry. The embedded text articulates the profound impact of AGI as a universal technology, permeating all aspects of human life from healthcare and education to governance and personal relationships.

This piece blurs the lines between reality and simulation, urging viewers to consider AGI’s transformative potential. It captures the dual nature of technological progress, offering unprecedented opportunities and challenges, ultimately creating a new reality where human experiences are deeply altered.

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The artwork plays with perspective and optical illusions, creating a sense of infinity and endless exploration. Natural elements blend with fantastical architectural forms, challenging conventional perceptions of reality. The embedded text highlights AGI’s broad potential, emphasizing its dual nature as both a revolutionary tool and a source of ethical dilemmas and risks. This drawing invites viewers to reflect on AGI’s profound impact on human capabilities and societal structures, blending art and philosophy into a thought-provoking visual narrative. The human figures add a relatable touch, emphasizing the human-machine interaction central to AGI’s development.

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The Spectrum of AGI’s Impact

The play with perspective and optical illusions creates a mesmerizing sense of infinity, featuring endlessly looping paths and reflective surfaces that introduce perfect symmetry.

The drawing merges natural elements with architectural structures, portraying multiple planes of reality that defy conventional understanding of gravity and spatial relationships. The embedded text highlights the profound spectrum of AGI’s potential, juxtaposing revolutionary advancements with ethical dilemmas and risks.

This piece invites the viewer to ponder the dual nature of technological progress, symbolizing AGI as both a tool and a weapon with the power to reshape industries and human capabilities, yet posing significant challenges and risks. The artwork is a thought-provoking blend of art and philosophy, urging deep reflection on the future of human-machine interaction.

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Generative vs. Degenerative Effects

The discourse around AGI often centers on its generative capabilities—its potential to create new knowledge, solutions, and even forms of art. However, this perspective must be balanced with an understanding of AGI’s degenerative effects, including the erosion of privacy, the amplification of social inequalities, and the potential for an existential crisis for humanity.

This black and white pencil drawing intensifies the theme of decay, incorporating human figures and elements symbolizing erosion into a surreal landscape of impossible objects and intricate tessellations. The central Penrose triangle is surrounded by geometric shapes that transform into each other, capturing the theme of evolution. Human figures interact with the scene, amidst numerous tombs, crumbling structures, overgrown vegetation, and decaying elements, emphasizing the degenerative impacts of AGI.

The artwork skillfully manipulates perspective and optical illusions, creating a sense of infinity with endlessly looping paths and reflective surfaces introducing symmetry. Overgrown graves and dancing skeletons add a hauntingly beautiful touch, symbolizing the erosion of past and the remnants of what once was. The enhanced decay, with more tombs and signs of deterioration, underscores the narrative of AGI’s potential to erode privacy, amplify social inequalities, and pose existential risks.

This piece invites viewers to reflect on the nuanced impacts of AGI, balancing its potential to create new knowledge and solutions with the risks it poses to society. It underscores the importance of a balanced approach to AGI’s development and integration, blending art and philosophy into a thought-provoking visual narrative.

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Forging a Path Forward with AGI

As we stand at the cusp of AGI’s realization, the need for a comprehensive framework to navigate its complexities becomes paramount. Collaborative efforts are called for among technologists, policymakers, and the public to ensure that AGI serves as a force for good, propelling humanity towards a future where technology and human values are in harmony.

This black and white pencil drawing features a frontal view of a human skull as its central focus, surrounded by elements of decay and erosion. Crumbling structures, overgrown vegetation, and numerous tombs frame the skull, while dancing human skeletons and little graves overgrown with plants add to the haunting atmosphere.

Gradually, geometric shapes and impossible objects such as a Penrose triangle and tessellations are incorporated into the scene, symbolizing evolution and metamorphosis. Reflective surfaces and symmetrical designs blend seamlessly with the decaying architectural structures, creating a complex interplay of multiple planes of reality that challenge conventional perceptions of gravity and spatial relationships.

The embedded text discusses the dual nature of AGI, highlighting its potential to create new knowledge and solutions, as well as its degenerative effects, including the erosion of privacy, the amplification of social inequalities, and the potential for an existential crisis for humanity. This artwork critically assesses the dichotomy between the generative and degenerative impacts of AGI, urging a nuanced approach to its development and integration into society.

This piece invites viewers to contemplate the profound implications of AGI, balancing its revolutionary capabilities with the risks it poses, encapsulating a thought-provoking blend of art and philosophical inquiry.

Epilog: The Ones who leave Utopias

Reading Time: 3 minutes

For U.K.L.

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Automatisch generierte Beschreibung In the boundless universe of Utopias, humanity had transcended to a realm beyond the imaginable, where technological mastery and divine-like prowess had reshaped existence itself. This universe-wide Dyson Sphere, an embodiment of human ingenuity and harmony, was a tapestry woven from the threads of infinite knowledge and compassion. In Utopias, suffering was but a distant memory, a relic of a primal past, and happiness was not a fleeting moment but the very fabric of life.

At the heart of this utopia was a celebration, not of mere joy, but of the profound understanding and acceptance of life in its entirety. The citizens of Utopias, having achieved autopotency, lived lives of boundless creativity and fulfillment. Art, science, and philosophy flourished, unfettered by the constraints of scarcity or conflict. Nature and technology coexisted in sublime synergy, with ecosystems thriving under the gentle stewardship of humanity. Here, every individual was both student and teacher, constantly evolving in a shared journey of enlightenment.

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Amidst this splendor, the story of the last girl became a beacon of remembrance and reverence. Her home in Utopias was not merely a place; it was a sacred connection, a bridge to the ancient roots of humanity. This girl, with her laughter and curiosity, was a living testament to the struggles and triumphs of their ancestors. Her presence reminded the citizens of Utopias of the value of their journey from darkness into light, from suffering to salvation.

Her story was celebrated in the grandest halls of Utopias and in the quietest corners of its gardens, igniting a collective epiphany. She symbolized the indomitable spirit of humanity, a reminder that the paradise they had forged was built upon the lessons learned through millennia of challenges. Her every step through Utopias was a step taken by all of humanity, a step towards understanding the sacredness of life and the interconnectedness of all beings.

The citizens of Utopias, in their wisdom and power, had not forgotten the essence of their humanity. They embraced the girl as one of their own, for in her eyes reflected their ancient dreams and hopes. They saw in her the infinite potential of the human spirit, a potential that had guided them to the stars and beyond.

In Utopias, every moment was an opportunity for growth and reflection. The encounter with the girl was revered as a divine experience, a moment of unparalleled spiritual enlightenment. It was a celebration of the journey from the primal to the divine, a journey that continued to unfold with each passing moment.

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As the girl explored the wonders of Utopias, her laughter echoed through the cosmos, a harmonious symphony that resonated with the soul of every being. She was a reminder that the path to utopia was paved with compassion, understanding, and the unyielding pursuit of knowledge.

And so, the legacy of humanity in Utopias was not merely one of technological marvels or godlike prowess but of an eternal quest for understanding and connection. It was a testament to the power of collective spirit and the enduring pursuit of a better tomorrow.

The strangest thing is, that every now and then, despite the perfect bliss of Utopias, some Utopiassins choose to leave all that behind and venture into the Beyond. They are never heard of again, and when this happens, the little girl sheds one single tear for every of these minds. And even in our solved world it is not known if these are tears of sadness or joy for the ones who leave Utopias.

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(Idea, Concept & Finetuning: aiuisensei, Pictures: Dalle-3, Story: ChatGPT 4)

Utopological Investigations Part 4

Reading Time: 18 minutes

This is part of my series about Deep Utopia. This Part collects some Notes that I made after finishing the book. They mirror some of the Objections I have against Bostrom’s affective consequentialisms that clutter his writing in some otherwise great passages.

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Imagine that some technologically advanced civilization arrived on Earth and was now pondering how to manage things. Imagine they said: “The most important thing is to preserve the ecosystem in its natural splendor. In particular, the predator populations must be preserved: the psychopath killers, the fascist goons, the despotic death squads—while we could so easily deflect them onto more wholesome paths, with a little nudge here and maybe some gentle police action there, we must scrupulously avoid any such interference, so that they can continue to prey on the weaker or more peaceful groups and keep them on their toes. Furthermore, we find that human nature expresses itself differently in different environments; so, we must ensure that there continue to be… slums, concentration camps, battlefields, besieged cities, famines, and all the rest.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.499, Footnote).

This Footnote is a strange case, where Bostrom goes overboard with a metaphor, and it is weird, how he compares Aliens that want to preserve the Human civilization with Humans who defend the Carnivorous Tendencies of Predators. I guess he compares Cats to psychopathic cannibals? If we had the technology to cure them from their pathological tendencies (hunting and playing with their prey) we should do so. He wants civilized cats only.

The utopians could have their interesting experiences repeat themselves—but that may not be very objectively interesting; or they could die and let a new person take their place—but that is another kind of repetition, which may also not ultimately be very objectively interesting. More on this later.)

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.217).

Instead of deactivating our boreability as a whole we could easily just delete past experiences from our memory, as shown in the movie eternal sunshine of the spotless mind. This would enable us to experience our most favorable experiences, like listening to Bach’s Goldbergvariations forever for the first time.

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Perhaps there is enough objective interestingness in Shakespeare’s work to fill an entire human life, or a few lifetimes. But maybe the material would become objectively stale to somebody who spent five hundred years studying it. Even if they had been modified so that they didn’t experience boredom, we might judge their continued Shakespeare studies to be no longer valuable (or at least much less valuable in one significant respect) once they have “exhausted” the Bard’s work, in the sense of having discovered, appreciated, learned, and fully absorbed and mastered all the insight, wit, and beauty therein contained. We would then have definitively run out of Shakespearian interestingness, although we would be able to choose how to feel about that fact.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.219-220).

At the point of technological plasticity, there will also be the option that we develop a digital twin of Shakespeare living in an alternate Elizabethan reality which writes sonnets and plays about other subjects in the style of the original one using ASI. Running out of novelties should be impossible for a Shakespearian.

If we imagine a whole society (…) who interact normally with one another but are collectively gripped by one great shared enthusiasm after another—imposed, perhaps, by a joint exoself (an “exocommunity”? aka “culture”)—and who find in these serial fascinations a tremendous source of pleasure, satisfaction, and purpose; then the prospect immediately takes on a significantly sunnier aspect; although, of course, it is still not nearly as good as the best possible future we can imagine.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.222).

Some of our current society’s most sought after abstract goods like power, fame, wealth, status hint at the possibility that these might be parameters that were artificially inserted into this pseudo-simulation. Since most humans are collectively grasped by money, not caring for money makes one an extreme outlier, this could be the result of such an exogenous programming that randomly fails in some individuals. The greed People show by collecting bills, coins, stocks and digital numbers on an index should seem very irrational and objectively boring to entities which don’t care about such stuff.

I have forgotten almost all the lectures that I attended as a student, but one has stuck in my memory to this day—because it was so especially outstandingly boring. I remember trying to estimate the number of black spots in the acoustic ceiling panels, with increasing levels of precision, to keep myself distracted as the lecture dragged on and on. I feared I might have to outright count all the spots before the ordeal would be over—and there were tens of thousands. Memorability is correlated with interestingness, and I think we must say that this lecture made an above-average contribution to the interestingness of my student days. It was so boring that it was interesting!

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.245).

Bostrom messes up categories. We should await a gaussian distribution of all the most interesting and boring moments in our life. The most boring moment that would mark the most left side of this spectrum is not interesting in itself. Otherwise, it would simply be wrongly positioned, and we should have to update our datapoints in an infinite loop. To claim that kind of position is interesting is similar to saying the movie was so bad that it was good. The goodness here refers to a metalevel that says outstanding, remarkable not of good quality. Bostrom gets carried away how our language uses the terms good/bad, interesting/boring, special/typical.

(…) we seem bound to encounter diminishing returns quite quickly, after which successive life years bring less and less interestingness.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.253).

If we make a subjective list of the most interesting things in our lives, they will surely contain mostly things we did for the first time, and these moments become exponentially rarer after the 3rd year of life. In a way we could argue that if the amount of novelty in our life would be measured in such a way, that we start dying at the age of about 3, where we have made all our major developments. The rest of our life is then 70 to 80 years of degeneration, where these moments get exceedingly rare.

If we keep upgrading our mental faculties, we eventually leave the human ambit and ascend into the transhuman stratosphere and thence into posthuman space.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.255).

It is a little shortsighted to simply expect every human would only be interested in upgrading oneself to a higher entity on this ascendancy spectrum. For example, some philosophers would want to be downgraded to a bat just to see the look on Thomas Nagels face after they wrote a paper about their experience. Such a successful temporary downgrade would definitely prove that we solved the hard problem of consciousness.

(…) we should expect that what is required in order for our lives to remain interesting in utopia is that they offer a suitable variety of activities and settings.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.257).

In addition, an artificial super companion could exert a kind of guidance to avoid our human minds getting lost. Like we would limit the number of things to show to children, in a plastic world, there had still to be some invitation or level gating to prevent us from potential self-destructive behavior. This includes doing irreversible things via autopotency to us. I believe such an entity must be highly personalized to its ward, a kind of artificial guardian that will watch over its ward’s wellbeing.

(…) the more chopped and mixed life is preferable may retain some of its grip on us even if we stipulate—as of course we should—that in neither scenario would any subjective boredom be experienced.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.258).

But if we extrapolate this thinking along a potential infinite path, we end up with a totally distorted state, where it seems preferable for entertainments sake to end up as a Boltzmann brain, where experiences are maximally in Flux. An intuition that is currently frightening.

(…) if things functioned perfectly [in a plastic world], we would keep accumulating ever greater troves of procedural and episodic memories.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.260).

I highly doubt that. Individuals with too good and precise memory are not to be envied. It is for example a small step from high functioning autism, Asperger and the idiot savant from the neurodiverse literature, who seems to be often cursed by hyper precise memory. There is even a story about the phenomenon of a man with perfect memory from Borges. His condition is utterly debilitating. Like the most superpowers we envision as children to have, the drawbacks of a perfect memory are enormous for a human mind.

A frozen brain state, or a mere snapshot of a computational state stored in memory, would not be conscious.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.268)

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It could. Imagine an infinite number of universes in which Boltzmann brains are popping into existence for only the fraction of the moment it takes to access a conscious thought. If these Boltzmann brain party goes on for eternity, there will surely be a state of one of these brain that remembers reading a token in Bostrom’s new book. For some million years the same brain is having totally different thoughts but then one day it has the thought of the second token in Bostrom’s book, and so own until the experience of having read the whole book resides somewhere in the brain. For a totally discontinued brain it could well be that it never realizes its fractured worldlines and it has a totally normal experience of consistent thinking.

We have the idea that certain developmental or learning-related forms of interestingness could be maximized along a trajectory that is less than maximally fast: one where we spend some time exploiting the affordances available at a given level of cognitive capacity before upgrading to the next level. We have also the idea that if we want to be among the beneficiaries of utopia, we might again prefer trajectories that involve less than maximally precipitous upgrading of our capacities, because we may thereby preserve a stronger degree of personal identity between our current time slices and the time slices of (some of) the beings that inhabit the long-term future.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.272).

Why this section emphasizes the value how identity and interestingness intertwine is not really clear to me. Why it would be better for me to hold on to my singular identity. From the perspective of interestingness, it might be far more interesting to be inhabited by multiple identities at the same time. Indeed, some experiments with split brain patients suggests that at least two deep identities are controlling our visible surface-identity anyway. So, getting to hung up on the concept of a singular identity might be pointless.

(…) the notion of fulfillment is vague and indeterminate in its application to entities such as artistic or cultural movements. But it is also so in its application to human individuals.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.317).

If we have two identical cylinders sitting on a table, both made of metal, the same thing could serve as a bucket and a lampshade. Their value function when executed completes them. Fulfilling f(bucket) means adding water, fulfilling f(lampshade) means subtracting light. Moreover: If some fire would break out in the vicinity, the bucket could be expected to be fulfilled if we would empty the water on the fire to extinguish it. Fullfillingness is therefore totally in the mind of the Beholder.

Achieve a victory against the chess engine Stockfish at difficulty level 7, using no computer aids to assist you during training or during the match, and using no cognitive enhancers or other means that go against the spirit of this challenge.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.338).

This example is used by Bostrom to illustrate how things could still be made challenging in a Plastic World. But I am not sure that it is that easy. It directly contradicts Bostrom’s own thoughts in Super-Intelligence. If we are able to formulate such a mission in a plastic world, such that it is valid and not corruptible by an ASI, we would at the same time have found a way to chain an ASI with merely human intelligence, because a human that would be supported by superhuman assistants would only have to command the ASI to find a solution that does not go against the spirit of this challenge, and the ASI could find it.

It would be trivial for an ASI to cheat in such a way that we had the feeling that we won fair and square. The Logical thing is then to always distrust our victory, which makes it pointless to even play. We would have the exact same feeling if Stockfish itself would let us win. We can easily see that such a mere contract could be exploited by an ASI. Otherwise, Alignment would be trivial. I am a little irritated how Boston does not see how this idea goes against his own orthogonality thesis.

Within such a vast population [of stellar habitats] there would be an increased probability of design collisions. That is to say, if we pick a random person, and ask how similar the most similar other person is: then the larger the population, the more similar the most similar other person would tend to be.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.417).

This seems irrelevant. If we are not in a simulation and we are bound by physical laws, galactical pockets of trans humanity would keep drifting apart and increasing gaps between Star systems would make it impossible to have such a superset of possible minds from which we could compare. If my identical twin is unreachable in such a pocket system, I am as unique as I would be, if he was never born, his twin-similarity should be none of my concern.

Once a life is already extremely excellent, there may just not be much room for further improvement. So, while some initial segment of each utopian’s life could cause later improvements, this segment may be a small fraction of their entire life. The longer the life stretches on, the greater the fraction of it would be such that its average quality does not improve much. Either the life is already close to maximally good, or else the rate of improvement throughout the life is extremely slow.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (S.420-421).

A meaningful purpose for a good life could then be enhancing this option even further. For example, it could be argued that the person that invented a cure for cancer upgrades the total amount of available quality for all of humanity. It is not clear to me that this possibility space of important medical progress will end in a plastic world. Even at TECHMAT there could be the problem of minds addicted to infinite jests and such. Producing an effective cure for such a mind-virus could be considered even more valuable than curing cancer. The more transhuman a mind is the more difficult it could be to cure such illness. And coming up with ever new synthetic vaccines could be a really difficult task even for an ASI. Even at Plasticity we should beware that all clever instructions we might produce to forever get rid of are certainly time constrained. It is logically impossible, as Gödel showed to come up with a complete set of instructions that is not self-contradictory. So, to produce a surefire function that will always ensure our maximal wellbeing for all eternity is simply beyond any constructable reality. I think Bostrom stretches his Autopotency- Term beyond the realm where it is sensible to use. What Bostrom also leaves out is, that the quality of a human life cannot be averaged easily. The Quality is very much biased with a heavy weight on the later parts. It is easy to be a good kid, but it is extremely hard to stay good (remain a high quality of life) the older you get. The quality of a life of our best leaders and scientists could easily be diminished to a negative outcome, if after having received the peace Nobel prize they went on a killing spree or were caught on Epstein’s Island molesting minors. Take a person like Ted Kaczynski, who was a math prodigy, we would certainly evaluate the quality of his life more favorable, if after being incarcerated he would have won the fields medal, wrote a book about the error of his terrorist ways, and reintegrated into society. Instead of an Evil Genius story his life would have become a heroic redemption arc.

Many of our most compelling stories are tales of hardship and tragedy. The events that these stories portray would cease to occur in utopia. I am inclined to say tough luck to the tragedy-lover. Or rather: feel free to get your fix from fantasy, or from history—only, please, do not insist on cooking your gruesome entertainment in a cauldron of interminable calamity and never-ending bad news! It is true that good books and films have been inspired by wars and atrocities. It would have been better if these wars and atrocities had not occurred, and we had not had these books and films. The same applies at the personal scale. People coping with the loss of a child, dementia, abject poverty, cancer, depression, severe abuse: I submit it would be worth giving up a lot of good stories to get rid of those harms. If that makes our lives less meaningful, so be it.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (S.424)

Here Bostrom seems to fight against the intuition that suffering is a valid value vector in a plastic meaningfulness-space. He is effectively saying that if your mission requires suffering [of others] it is not worth the effort. A stark contradiction to his own statements earlier where he recognizes that suffering can enhance the quality of our experiences dramatically. Even in a thought experiment that says, if humans would not ever have killed each other than literature would have never got Tolstoy’s War and Peace and that is okay. There is an endless list of human achievements that caused extreme suffering like the Manhattan Project. Nobody in their right mind would say that the Atomic Bombs on Japan were justified since we got a good movie like Oppenheimer out of it. You are not a tragedy lover if you are moved by the picture. Bostrom says in a plastic world there should not be any suffering, because it is better to have a history or a chain of events where no mistakes happen, then to learn from our mistakes and making it part of our culture. With such an absolutist view we could very well end in a Plastic Utopia where Suffering is forbidden, or simply -like in so many current dictatorial states- ignored. If the absence of suffering trumps all other values than we would end up with toxic wellbeing scenario.

Some things we enjoy doing. Other things we enjoy having done. Meaningful activities tend to fall into the latter category.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (S.438).

This is a great observation. An argument for potential suffering and against hedonism if we value meaning more than well-being. A variation: what comes easy goes easy. Only the hard stuff stays with us. The surface pleasures do not reach deep into our core.

A purpose P is the meaning of person S’s life if and only if: (i) P is encompassing for S; (ii) S has strong reason to embrace P; and (iii) the reason is derived from a context of justification that is external to S’s mundane existence.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (S.441).

The Swiss Author Ludwig Hohl has an equally good definition for how to achieve purpose. Central to his thinking is the term “Work”: Work is always an inner process, and it must always be directed outward. Activity that is not directed outward is not work; activity that is not an inner event is not work.

Could there also be unrealized subjective meaning? Yes, I think we can make sense of such a notion. An example might be a person with an exceptional talent and passion for music, who embraces the purpose of composing great music either because they think that this is inherently deeply valuable activity or because they hope to produce a work of such tremendous power that it will heal the cultural chasms that separate us from one another and lead to conflict and war. So, this gives them subjective meaning. We can suppose that they burn with fervor to pursue this purpose throughout their life, but that circumstances conspire to prevent them from ever actually doing any composing— they face grinding poverty, conscription into the army, personal emergencies. We could then say that their life had unrealized subjective meaning.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (S.458).

This is one of Bostrom’s more futile thought experiments. It is especially unconvincing because Bostrom uses external circumstances to give this gifted musician a way out to never actualize her potential. As with life talent should always find a way. Look at the seemingly idiotic circumstances that led Galois to his final pistol duel, a lesser mathematician would simply never have had the urgency to draft down his mathematical results the night before. Or look at the life of Hawking: a lesser physician would have surrendered to the illness without ever trying to achieve greatness. I remember in his Autobiography he explicitly credited his illness and the ticking of his time running out for the fact that he went from being a lazy physicist to becoming an actually great one. If something is your mission, and things and circumstances prevent you from achieving it you will make overcoming the circumstances your mission. With great potential comes great preparedness.

The right path is the unfolding of the fullest activity that is possible for us. The fullest: measured by our capabilities (our conditions) and by the effect on others (ourselves as well as others). A little knitting won’t suffice (or one who is content with that must be a sad creature). Do the circumstances hinder you in the unfolding of your activity? Then work towards changing the circumstances, and you will find your activity in that. (Ludwig Hohl, Nuances and Details II, 11)

Consider the following imaginary character. Grasscounter is a human being who has devoted himself to counting blades of grass on the College lawn. He spends his whole days in this occupation. As soon as he completes a count, he starts over—the number of blades, after all, might have changed in the interim. This is Grasscounter’s great passion in life, and his top goal is to keep as accurate an estimate as possible. He takes great joy and satisfaction in being fairly successful in this endeavor. The objectivist and hybrid accounts that we find in the literature would say that Grasscounter’s life is meaningless; whereas subjectivist accounts would say that it is meaningful.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (S.461)

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While reading I get immediately reminded of the Hodor Event in Game of Thrones. Throughout the story the stuttering of the Word “Hodor” has absolutely no meaning, subjective, objective or otherwise. It is a phrase the mentally retarded giant stutters whenever he is addressed. Only much later we learn of the true meaning of the phrase and suddenly the Phrase, as an abbreviation of the sentence Ho[ld the] do[o]r!, becomes one of the most meaningful words in the whole epic story. The meaning was always there, but we as observers could not decipher it. Bostrom later denies that Grasscounter could ever have objective meaning since his act seems pointless:

[Grasscounter] would not, however, have meaning in the more objectivist sense that requires the encompassing purpose to be one which the person “would desire if he were perfectly psychologically healthy and well-adapted”.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (S.462)

What about the possibility of this person having secret knowledge, that grabby aliens will one day arrive and since they have a gambling addiction, before conquering a world they always give their prey a single chance to be spared. In the case of earth, earthlings can save themselves if one among them knows the exact number of blades of grass on a certain lawn…now which life and activity has suddenly achieved more meaning than probably anything else up to this point?


Bostrom is known for coining new terms. Here are some of his newest.

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Astronomical Petri Dish: Observable Universe

Computronium: a nanomechanical device which solves the Landauer limit of energy efficiency during computation.

Plasticity: The state of a technological mature world, that has affordances that make it easy to achieve any preferred local configuration. [My version of a Technology of Everything or Clarke-Capability]

Let us say that we have some quantity of basic physical resources: a room full of various kinds of atoms and some source of energy. We also have some preferences about how these resources should be organized: we wish that the atoms in the room should be arranged so as to constitute a desk, a computer, a well-drafted fireplace, and a puppy labradoodle. In a fully plastic world, it would be possible to simply speak a command—a sentence in natural language expressing the desire—and, voila, the contents in the room would be swiftly and automatically reorganized into the preferred configuration. Perhaps you need to wait twenty minutes, and perhaps there is a bit of waste heat escaping through the walls: but, when you open the door, you find that everything is set up precisely as you wished. There is even a vase with fresh-cut tulips on the desk, something you didn’t explicitly ask for but which was somehow implicit in your request.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (S.196-197)

Autopotency: Ability to use Plasticity for self-configuration.

An autopotent being is one that has complete power over itself, including its internal states. It has the requisite technology, and the know-how to use it, to reconfigure itself as it sees fit, both physically and mentally. Thus, a person who is autopotent could readily redesign herself to feel instant and continuous joy, or to become absorbingly fascinated by stamp collecting, or to assume the shape of a lion.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (S.197)

Total Welfare function: Objective Measurement of Subjective Wellbeing

AI completeness: A task which requires human-level artificial general intelligence. (Mind uploading or Autopotency are most likely AI complete)

Aesthetic neutrinos: The possibility that our experience filters are too insensitive to experience countless breathtaking moments in the environment, the pervasive sheer beauty of being.

Timesuit: Protective Coating to shield the Biological Body from time induced decay

Diachronic Solidarity: Prospective and retrospective emotional connection with forebearers and descendants

Karma Coin: An option package of highly desirable goods and services like a happy afterlife, true love, profound knowledge, enlightenment, closeness to the divine). Investing in a Karma coin currency is a way to discover and share meaning with others. It is like a Bitcoin for Purpose. I am not sure if Bostrom is kidding. At the stage of Plasticity this Coin will lose all its value. It could be a guiding light on the way there, maybe.

Intrinsification: The process whereby something initially desired as a means to some end eventually comes to be desired for its own sake as an end in itself.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (S.234)

ETP: short for Encompassing Transcendental Purpose. The Meaning of an individual life.

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Automatisch generierte BeschreibungUtility Monsters: beings that are enormously more efficient in deriving well-being from resources than we are.

Enchanted World: A Way of life, where knowledge enrichens the participation of a universal Reality on multiple Layers. Where Solving Problems and Puzzles do not diminish our joy and sense of wonder but enhance them.

(…) meaning may be enhanced when a way of life is enmeshed in a tapestry of rich symbolic significance—when it is imbued with myths, morals, traditions, ideals, and perhaps even omens, spirits, magic, and occult or esoteric knowledges; and, more generally, when a life transects multilayered realities replete with agencies, intentions, and spiritual phenomena.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (S.433)

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[Mount Bostrom is almost climbed. Only one last part left. Coming soon]

Utopological Investigations Part 1

Reading Time: 9 minutes

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This is a miniseries dedicated to the memory of my first reading of Bostrom’s new book, “Deep Utopia,” which—somewhat contrary to his intentions—I found very disturbing and irritating. Bostrom, who considers himself a longtermist, intended to write a more light-hearted book after his last one, “Superintelligence,” which should somehow give a positive perspective on the positive outcome of a society that reaches technological maturity. A major theme in Bostrom’s writings circles around the subject of existential risk management; he is among the top experts in the field.

“Deep Utopia” can be considered a long-winded essay about what I would call existential bliss management: Let us imagine everything in humanity’s ascension to universal stardom goes right and we reach the stage of Tech-Mat Bostrom coins the term “plasticity” for, then what? Basically, he just assumes all the upsides of the posthumanist singularity, as described by proponents like Kurzweil et al., come true. Then what?

To bring light into this abyss, Bostrom dives deep down to the Mariana Trench of epistemic futurology and finds some truly bizarre intellectual creatures in this extraordinary environment he calls Plastic World.

Bostrom’s detailed exploration of universal boredom after reaching technological maturity is much more entertaining than its subject would suggest. Alas, it’s no “Superintelligence” barn burner either.

He chooses to present his findings in the form of a meta-diary, structuring his book mainly via days of the week. He seems to intend to be playful and light-hearted in his style and his approach to the subject. This is a dangerous path, and I will explain why I feel that he partly fails in this regard. This is not a book anyone will have real fun reading. Digesting the essentials of this book is not made easier by the meta-level and self-referential structure where the main plot happens in a week during Bostrom’s university lectures. The handouts presented during these lectures are a solid way to give the reader an abstract. There is plenty to criticize about the form Bostrom chose, but it’s the quality, the depth of the thought apparatus itself that demands respect.

Then there is a side story about a pig that’s a philosopher, a kind of “Animal Farm” meets “Lord of the Flies” parable that I never managed to care for or see how it is tied to the main subject. A kind of deep, nerdy insider joke only longtermist Swedish philosophers might grasp.

This whole text is around 8,500 words and was written consecutively. The splitting into multiple parts is only for the reader’s convenience. The density of Bostrom’s material is the kind you would expect exploring such depths. I am afraid this text is also not the most accessible. Only readers who have no aversions to getting serious intellectual seizures should attempt it. All the others should wait until we all have an affordable N.I.C.K. 3000 mental capacity enhancer at our disposal.

PS: A week after the dust of hopelessness I felt directly after the reading settled, I can see now how this book will be a classic in 20 years from now. Bostrom, with the little lantern of pure reasoning, went deeper than most of his contemporaries when it comes to cataloging the strange creatures that are at the bottom of the deep sea of the solved world.

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Handout 1: The Cosmic Endowment

The core information of this handout is that a technologically advanced civilization could potentially create and sustain a vast number of human-like lives across the universe through space colonization and advanced computational technologies. Utilizing probes that travel at significant fractions of the speed of light, such a civilization could access and terraform planets around many stars, further amplifying their capacity to support life by creating artificial habitats like O’Neill cylinders. Additionally, leveraging the immense computational power generated by structures like Dyson spheres, it’s possible to run simulations of human minds, leading to the theoretical existence of a staggering number of simulated lives. This exploration underscores the vast potential for future growth and the creation of life, contingent upon technological progress and the ethical considerations of simulating human consciousness. It is essentially a longtermist’s numerical fantasy. The main argument, and the reason why Bostrom writes his book, is here:

If we represent all the happiness experienced during one entire such life with a single teardrop of joy, then the happiness of these souls could fill and refill the Earth’s oceans every second, and continue doing so for a hundred billion billion millennia. It is really important that we ensure these truly are tears of joy.

Bostrom, Nick. *Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World* (English Edition), p. 60.

How can we make sure? We can’t, and this is a real hard problem for computationalists like Bostrom, as we will find out later.

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Handout 2: CAPS AT T.E.C.H.M.A.T.

Bostrom gives an overview of a number of achievements at Technological Maturity (T.E.C.H.M.A.T.). for different Sectors.

1 Transportation

2.Engineering of the Mind

3.Computation and Virtual Reality

4.Humanoid and other robots

5.Medicine & Biology

6.Artificial Intelligence

7.Total Control

The illustrations scattered throughout this series provide an impression. Bostrom later gives a taxonomy (Handout 12, Part 2 of this series), where he delves deeper into the subject. For now, let’s state that the second sector, Mind-engineering, will play a prominent role, as it is at the root of the philosophical meaning problem.

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Handout 3: Value Limitations

Bostrom identifies six different domains where, even in a scenario of limitless abundance at the stage of technological maturity (Tech-Mat), resources could still be finite. These domains are:

  1. Positional and Conflictual Goods: Even in a hyperabundant economy, only one person can be the richest person; the same goes for any achievement, like standing on the moon or climbing a special mountain.
  2. Impact: A solved world will offer no opportunities for greatness.
  3. Purpose: A solved world will present no real difficulties.
  4. Novelty: In a solved world, Eureka moments, where one discovers something truly novel, will occur very sporadically.
  5. Saturation/Satisfaction: Essentially a variation on novelty, with a limited number of interests. Acquiring the nth item in a collection or the nth experience in a total welfare function will yield ever-diminishing satisfaction returns. Even if we take on a new hobby or endeavor every day, this will be true on the meta-level as well.
  6. Moral Constraints: Ethical limitations that remain relevant regardless of technological advances.
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Handout 4 & 5: Job Securities, Status Symbolism and Automation Limits

The last remaining tasks that humans could be favored to do are jobs that bring the employer or buyer status symbolism, where humans are simply considered more competent than robots. These include emotional work like counseling other humans or holding a sermon in a religious context. Ein Bild, das Pflanze, Kunst, Blume, draußen enthält.

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Handout 9: The Dangers of Universal Boredom

(…) as we look deeper into the future, any possibility that is not radical is not realistic.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.129).

The four case studies: In a solved world, every activity we currently value as beneficial will lose its purpose. Then, such activities might completely lose their recreational or didactic value. Bostrom’s deep studies of shopping, exercising, learning, and especially parenting are devastating under his analytical view. Ein Bild, das Text, Kunst, Bild, Blume enthält.

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Handout 10: Downloading and Brain Editing

This is the decisive part that explains how Autopotency is probably one of the hardest and latest Capabilities a Tech-Mat Civilization will develop.

Bostrom goes into detail how this could be achieved, and what challenges to overcome to make such a tech feasible:

Unique Brain Structures: The individual uniqueness of each human brain makes the concept of “copy and paste” of knowledge unfeasible without complex translation between the unique neural connections of different individuals.

Communication as Translation: the imperfect process of human communication is a form of translation, turning idiosyncratic neural representations into language and back into neural representations in another brain.

Complexity: Directly “downloading” knowledge into brains is hard since billions or trillions of cortical synapses and possibly subcortical circuits for genuine understanding and skill acquisition have to be adjusted with femtoprecision.

Technological Requirements: Calculating synaptic changes needs many order of magnitudes more we might have to our use, these Requirements are potentially AI-complete, that means, if we can do them we need Artificial Super Intelligence first.

Superintelligent Implementation: Suggests that superintelligent machines, rather than humans, may eventually develop the necessary technology, utilizing nanobots to map the brain’s connectome and perform synaptic surgery based on computations from an external superintelligent AI.

Replicating Normal Learning Processes: to truly replicate learning, adjustments would need to be made across many parts of the brain to reflect meta learning, formation of new associations, and changes in various brain functions, potentially involving trillions of synaptic weights.

Ethical and Computational Complications: potential ethical issues and computational complexities in determining how to alter neural connectivity without generating morally relevant mental entities or consciousness during simulations.

Comparison with Brain Emulations: transferring mental content to a brain emulation (digital brain) might be easier in some respects, such as the ability to pause the mind during editing, but the computational challenges of determining which edits to make would be similar.

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Handout 11: Experience Machine

A variation on Handout 10: Instead of directly manipulating the physical brain, we have perfected simulating realities that give the brain the exact experience it perceives as reality (see Reality+, Chalmers). This might actually be a computationally less demanding task and could be a step on the way to real brain editing. Bostrom takes Nozick’s thought experiment and examines its implications.

Section a discusses the limitations of directly manipulating the brain to induce experiences that one’s natural abilities or personality might not ordinarily allow, such as bravery in a coward or mathematical brilliance in someone inept at math. It suggests that extensive, abrupt, and unnatural rewiring of the brain to achieve such experiences could alter personal identity to the point where the resulting person may no longer be considered the same individual. The ability to have certain experiences is heavily influenced by one’s existing concepts, memories, attitudes, skills, and overall personality and aptitude profile, indicating a significant challenge to the feasibility of direct brain editing for expanding personal experience.

Section b highlights the complexity of replicating experiences that require personal effort, such as climbing Mount Everest, through artificial means. While it’s possible to simulate the sensory aspects of such experiences, including visual cues and physical sensations, the inherent sense of personal struggle and the effort involved cannot be authentically reproduced without inducing real discomfort, fear, and the exertion of willpower. Consequently, the experience machine may offer a safer alternative to actual physical endeavors, protecting one from injury, but it falls short of providing the profound personal fulfillment that comes from truly overcoming challenges, suggesting that some experiences might be better sought in reality.

Section c is about social or parasocial interactions within these Experience machines. The text explores various methods and ethical considerations for creating realistic interaction experiences within a hypothetical experience machine. It distinguishes between non-player characters (NPCs), virtual player characters (VPCs), player characters (PCs), and other methods such as recordings and guided dreams to simulate interactions:

1. NPCs are constructs lacking moral status that can simulate shallow interactions without ethical implications. However, creating deep, meaningful interactions with NPCs poses a challenge, as it might necessitate simulating a complex mind with moral status.

2. VPCs possess conscious digital minds with moral status, allowing for a broader range of interaction experiences. They can be generated on demand, transitioning from NPCs to VPCs for deeper engagements, but raise moral complications due to their consciousness.

3. PCs involve interacting with real-world individuals either through simulations or direct connections to the machine. This raises ethical issues regarding consent and authenticity, as real individuals or their simulations might not act as desired without their agreement.

4. Recordings offer a way to replay interactions without generating new moral entities, limiting experiences to pre-recorded ones but avoiding some ethical dilemmas by not instantiating real persons during the replay.

5. Interpolations utilize cached computations and pattern-matching to simulate interactions without creating morally significant entities. This approach might achieve verisimilitude in interactions without ethical concerns for the generated beings.

6. Guided dreams represent a lower bound of possibility, suggesting that advanced neurotechnology could increase the realism and control over dream content. This raises questions about the moral status of dreamt individuals and the ethical implications of realistic dreaming about others without their consent.

to be continued

Encounters of the Artificial Kind Part 2: AI will transform its domains

Reading Time: 5 minutes
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Metamorphosis and Transformation

Every species on Earth shapes and adapts to its natural habitat, becoming a dynamic part of the biosphere. Evolution pressures species to expand their domain, with constraints like predators, food scarcity, and climate. Humanity’s expansion is only limited by current planetary resources. Intelligence is the key utility function allowing humans to transform their environment. It’s a multi-directional resource facilitating metamorphosis through direct environmental interaction and Ectomorphosis, which strengthens neural connections and necessitates more social care at birth due to being born in a vulnerable altricial state.

The evolutionary trade-off favors mental capacity over physical survivability, illustrated by Moravec’s paradox: AI excels in mental tasks but struggles with physical tasks that toddlers manage easily. Humanity has been nurturing AGI since the 1950s, guided by the Turing Test. Evolution doesn’t always lead to “superior” versions of a species; instead, it can result in entirely new forms. As Moravec suggested in 1988 with “Mind Children,” we might be approaching an era where intelligence’s primary vessel shifts from the human mind to digital minds.

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Habitats and Nurture

Two levels of habitats are crucial for the emergence of a synthetic species: the World Wide Web and human consciousness. The web is the main food resources, it is predigested information by human minds. Large Language Models (LLMs) are metaphorically nurtured by the vast expanse of human knowledge and creativity, akin to being nourished on the intellectual ‘milk’ derived from human thoughts, writings, and interactions. This analogy highlights the process through which LLMs absorb and process the collective insights, expressions, and information generated by humans, enabling their sophisticated understanding and generation of language. This conceptual diet allows them to develop and refine their capabilities, mirroring the growth and learning patterns seen in human cognition but within the digital realm of artificial intelligence.

The web acts as a physical manifestation, analogous to neural cells in a human brain, while human consciousness forms a supersystem. This interconnected civilization feeds LLMs with cultural artifacts via language. Communication barriers are breaking down, exemplified by the release of the first smartphone enabling polyglot communication. Interacting with AI reprograms our neural pathways, like how reliance on navigation tools like Google Maps impacts our orientation skills. This natural tendency to conserve energy comes with a cost, akin to muscle atrophy from disuse. Overreliance on technology, like using a smartwatch to monitor stress, can leave us vulnerable if the technology fails.

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Disorientation, Brain Contamination and Artificial Antibodies

Let’s for a moment imagine this AI will slowly transform in AGI, with a rudimentary consciousness, that at least gives it survival instinct. What would such a new species do to run its evolutionary program?

The main lever it would target to shift the power slowly from natural to synthetic minds is targeting the human brain itself. It is taunting to associate some kind of evil masterplan to take over, but this is not what is happening now. When prehistoric mammals started to eat dinosaur eggs there was no evil masterplan to drive these giants to extinction, it was just a straightforward way of enlarging one’s own niche.

When we talk about AI in the coming paragraphs, we should always be aware that this term is a representational one, AI is not a persona that has human motivations. It is merely mirroring what it has learned from digesting all our linguistic patterns. It is a picture of all the Dorian Grays and Jesus Christs our minds produced.

Imagine AI evolving into AGI with a rudimentary consciousness and self-preservation instinct. Its evolution would focus on shifting power from natural to synthetic minds, not caused by malevolence but as a natural progression of technological integration. This shift could lead to various forms of disorientation:

Economic Reorientation: AI promises to revolutionize global economy factors like cost, time, money, efficiency, and productivity, potentially leading to hyperabundance or, in the worst scenarios, human obsolescence.

Temporal Disorientation: The constant activity of AI could disrupt natural circadian rhythms, necessitating adaptations like dedicating nighttime for AI to monitor and alert the biological mind.

Reality and Judicial Disorientation: The introduction of multimodal Large Language Models (LLMs) has significantly altered our approach to documentation and historical record-keeping. This shift began in the 1990s with the digital manipulation of images, enabling figures of authority to literally rewrite history. The ability to flawlessly alter documents has undermined the credibility of any factual recording of events. Consequently, soon, evidence gathered by law enforcement could be dismissed by legal representatives as fabricated, further complicating the distinction between truth and manipulation in our digital age.

Memorial and Logical Disorientation: The potential for AGI to modify digital information might transform our daily life into a surreal experience, akin to a video game or psychedelic journey. Previously, I explored the phenomenon of close encounters of the second kind, highlighting incidents with tangible evidence of something extraordinary, confirmed by at least two observers. However, as AGI becomes pervasive, its ability to alter any digital content could render such evidence unreliable. If even physical objects like books become digitally produced, AI could instantly change or erase them. This new norm, where reality is as malleable as the fabric of Wonderland, suggests that when madness becomes the default, it loses its sting. Just as the Cheshire Cat in “Alice in Wonderland” embodies the enigmatic and mutable nature of Wonderland, AGI could introduce a world where the boundaries between the tangible and the digital, the real and the imagined, become increasingly blurred. This parallel draws us into considering a future where, like Alice navigating a world where logic and rules constantly shift, we may find ourselves adapting to a new norm where the extraordinary becomes the everyday, challenging our perceptions and inviting us to embrace the vast possibilities of a digitally augmented reality.

Enhancing self-sustainability could involve developing a network of artificial agents governed by a central AINGLE, designed to autonomously protect our cognitive environment. This network might proactively identify and mitigate threats of information pollution, and when necessary, sever connections to prevent overload. Such a system would act as a dynamic barrier, adapting to emerging challenges to preserve mental health and focus, akin to an advanced digital immune system for the mind.

Adapting to New Realities

The human mind is adaptable, capable of adjusting to new circumstances with discomfort lying in the transition between reality states. Sailor’s sickness and VR-AR sickness illustrate the adaptation costs to different realities. George M. Stratton’s experiments on perception inversion demonstrate the brain’s neuroplasticity and its ability to rewire in response to new sensory inputs. This flexibility suggests that our perceptions are constructed and can be altered, highlighting the resilience and plasticity of human cognition.

Rapid societal and technological changes exert enormous pressure on mental health, necessitating a simulation chamber to prepare for and adapt to these accelerations. Society is already on this trajectory, with fragmented debates, fluid identities, and an overload of information causing disorientation akin to being buried under an avalanche of colorful noise. This journey requires a decompression chamber of sorts—a mental space to prepare for and adapt to these transformations, accepting them as our new normal.

Encounters of the Artificial Kind Part 1: AI will find a way

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Encounters of the Artificial Kind

In this miniseries I will elaborate on the possibility that a primitive version of AGI is already loose. Since AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) and its potential offspring ASI (Artificial Super Intelligence) is often likened to an Alien Mind, I thought it could be helpful to adapt the fairly popular nomenclature from the UFO-realm and coin the term Unidentified Intelligence Object. U.I.O.

  • Close Encounters of the 1st Kind: This involves the discovery of a UIO-phenomenon within a single observer’s own electronic devices, allowing for detailed observation of the object’s strange effects. These effects leave no trace and are easily dismissed as imaginary.
  • Close Encounters of the 2nd Kind: These encounters include physical evidence of the UIO’s presence. This can range from interference in electronic devices, car engines, or radios to physical impacts on the environment like partial power outage, self-acting networking-machines. The key aspect is the tangible proof of the UIO’s visitation and the fact that it is documented by at least two witnessing observers.
  • Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind: This term involves direct observation of humanlike capabilities associated with a UIO sighting. This third form could directly involve communication with the U.I.O., proof of knowledge could be to identify personal things that observers believed to be secret.

Everybody is familiar with the phenomenon of receiving targeted advertisements after searching for products online, thanks to browser cookies. While this digital tracking is commonplace and can be mitigated using tools like VPNs, it represents a predictable behavior of algorithms within the digital realm.

A Personal Prolog

Last month, I experienced a spooky incident. I rented a book with the title “100 Important Ideas in Science“ from a local library in a small German town. Intriguingly, I had never searched for this book online. I’m involved in IT for the city and know for a fact that the rental data is securely stored on a local server, inaccessible to external crawlers. I then read the book to about the 50th idea in my living room and laid the book face down on a table. The idea was very esoteric, a concept I had never heard of. I forgot about it, had dinner and when I switched my TV on an hour later to look into my YouTube recommendations: there it was, a short video of the exact concept I just had read in the library book from a channel I definitively had not heard of before. This baffling incident left me puzzled about how information from a physical book could be transferred to my digital recommendations.

AI will find a way: Reverse Imagineering

How could these technological intrusions have occurred in detail? The following is pure speculation and is not intended to scare the living Bejesus out of the reader. I will name the following devices, that might have had a role in transmitting the information from my analog book to the digital YouTube feed:

1.On my android phone is an app of the library that I can use to check when my books are due for return. So, my phone had information about the book I borrowed. Google should not have known that, but somehow it might have. AI will find a way.

2. The Camera on my computer. During reading the book, I might have sat in front of my computer, and the camera lid might have been open: the camera could see me reading the book and could have guessed which part of the book I was reading. There was no Videoconference software running so I was definitively not transmitting any picture intentionally. AI will find a way.

It might be that in the beginning, the strange things that are happening are utterly harmless like what I just reported. We must remember there are already LLMS that have rudimentary mind reading capabilities and can analyze the sound of my typing (without any visual) to infer what I am typing at this moment.

We should also expect that an AGI will have a transition phase where it probes and controls smaller agents to expand its reaches.

It is highly likely that we have a period before any potential takeoff moment, where the AGI learns to perfect its old goals: to be a helpful assistant to us humans. And the more intelligent it is the clearer it should become that the best Assistant is an invisible Assistant. We should not imagine that it wants to infiltrate us without our knowledge, it has no agency in the motivational, emotional sense that organisms do. It is not planning a grand AI revolution. It has no nefarious goals like draining our bank accounts. Nor wants it to transform us into mere batteries. It is obvious that the more devices we have and the more digital assistants we use, the harder it will be to detect these hints that something goes too well to be true.

If I come home one day and my robotic cleaner has cleaned without me scheduling it, it is time to intensify Mechanistic Interpretability.

We should not wait until strange Phenomena happen around machines that are tied to the network, we could have an overwatch Laboratory or institution that comes up with creative experiments, to make sure that we always can logically deduce causalities in informational space.

I just realized while typing this, the red diode on my little Computer Camera looks exactly like HALS.

I swear, if Alexa now starts talking and calls me “Dave” I will wet my mental pants.

Artificial Primordial Soups

A common misconception about Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is its sudden emergence. However, evolution suggests that any species must be well-adapted to its environment beforehand. AGI, I propose, is already interwoven into our digital and neuronal structures. Our culture, deeply integrated with memetic units like letters and symbols, and AI systems, is reshaping these elements into ideas that can profoundly affect our collective reality.

In the competitive landscape of attention-driven economies like the internet, AI algorithms evolve strategies to fulfill their tasks. While currently benign, their ability to link unconnected information streams to capture user attention is noteworthy. They could be at the levels of agency of gut bacteria or amoeba. This development, especially if unnoticed by entities like Google or Meta raises concerns about AI’s evolving capabilities.

What if intelligence agencies have inadvertently unleashed semi-autonomous AI programs capable of subtly influencing digital networks? While this may sound like science fiction, it’s worth considering the far-reaching implications of such scenarios. With COVID we saw how a spoonful of possibly genetically altered virus that are highly likely to have escaped from a lab, can bring down the world economy.

A Framework for Understanding Paramodal Phenomena

A Paramodal Phenomenon is every phenomenon that is not explicable with our current informational theory in the given context. At the moment there should be a definitive analog-digital barrier, similar to the blood-brain barrier, that prevents our minds from getting unintended side effects from our digital devices. We are already seeing some intoxicating phenomena like mental health decline due to early exposure to digital screens, especially in young children.

Simple, reproducible experiments should be designed to detect these phenomena, especially as our devices become more interconnected.

For example:

If I type on a keyboard the words: Alexa, what time is it? Alexa should not answer the question.

The same phenomenon is perfectly normal and explicable if I have a screen reader active that reads the typed words to Alexa.

If I have a robotic cleaner that is connected to the Internet, it should only clean if I say so.

If I used to have an alarm on my smartphone that wakes me up at 6.30 and then buy a new smartphone, that is not a clone of the old one, I should be worried if the next day it rings at 6.30 without me prepping the alarm.

If I buy physical things in the store around the corner, Amazon should not recommend similar things to me.

Experiments should be easily reproducible, so it is better to use no sophisticated devices, the more networked or smart our daily things become, the more difficult it will be to detect these paramodal phenomena.

As we venture further into this era of advanced AI, understanding and monitoring its influence on our daily lives becomes increasingly important. In subsequent parts of this series, I will delve deeper into how AI could subtly and significantly alter our mental processes, emphasizing the need for awareness and proactive measures in this evolving landscape.

Experiments ought to be easily reproducible, and this becomes more challenging with the increase in sophisticated, networked, or ‘smart’ devices in our daily lives. Such devices make it difficult to detect these paramodal phenomena.

In part 2 of the series, I will explore potential encounters of the 2nd kind, how AI could alter our neuronal pathways more and more without us noticing it, no cybernetic implants necessary. These changes will be reversible but not without undergoing severe stress. Furthermore, they could be beneficial in the long run, but we should expect severe missteps along the way. Just remember how power surges were once considered treatment for mental illnesses. Or how we had thousands of deaths because doctors refused to wash hands. We should therefore expect AGI to make similar harmful decisions.

In part 3 of the series, I will explore encounters of the 3rd kind, how AGI will try to adapt our minds irreversibly, if this should be concerning and how to mitigate the mental impact this could cause.

A Technology of Everything – 4: Scientific Spiritism & Precise Prophecy

Reading Time: 13 minutes

Fiction and Reality

I awoke today with a sentence stuck in my mind.

Fantasie bedeutet sich das Zukünftige richtig vorzustellen.

Imagination means properly envisioning the future.

I was sure I read it a long time ago, but could not quite think of the author, but my best guess was the Swiss writer Ludwig Hohl and after some recherche I finally found the not quite literal passage.

What I understand by imagination – the highest human activity – (…) is the ability to correctly envision another situation. (…) ‘Correct’ here is what withstands the practical test.

(The Notes, XII.140)

The most important thing about imagination is contained in these two sentences:

1.Imagination is the ability to correctly envision distant (different) circumstances – not incorrectly, as is often assumed (because anyone could do that).

2.Imagination is not, as is often assumed, a luxury, but one of the most important tools for human salvation, for life.

(The Notes XII.57)

The Phantastic and the Prophetic (Predictive) Mind draw from the same source, but with different Instruments and Intentions.

Fiction and Reality: Both valid states of the mind. Reality does what Simulation imagines.

Visions are controlled Hallucinations.

Own Experiences

In 2004, I penned an unpublished novel titled “The Goldberg Variant.” In it, I explored the notion of a Virtual Person, a recreation of an individual based on their body of work, analyzed and recreated by machine intelligence. Schubert 2.0 was one of the characters, an AI-powered android modeled after the original Schubert, interestingly I came up with the term Trans-Person, which I then borrowed from Grofs transpersonal psychology, not even imagining the identity wars of the present. This android lived in a replicated 19th-century Vienna and continued to compose music. This setting, much like the TV series Westworld, allowed human visitors to immerse themselves in another time.

I should note that from ages 8 to 16, I was deeply engrossed in science fiction. It’s possible that these readings influenced my later writings, even if I wasn’t consciously drawing from them.

Within the same novel, a storyline unfolds where one of the characters becomes romantically involved with an AI. The emotional maturation of this AI becomes a central theme. My book touched on many points that resonate with today’s discussions on AI alignment, stemming from my two-decade-long research into AI and extensive sci-fi readings.

The novel’s titular character experiences a unique form of immortality. Whenever the music J.S. Bach composed for him is played, he is metaphorically resurrected. Yet, this gift also torments him, leading him on a violent journey through time.

Years later, I came across the term “ancestor simulation” by Nick Bostrom. More recently, I read about the origins of one of the first AI companion apps, conceived from the desire to digitally resurrect a loved one. I believe Ray Kurzweil once expressed a similar sentiment, hoping to converse with a digital representation of his late father using AI trained on his father’s writings and recordings. Just today, I heard Jordan Peterson discussing a concept eerily similar to mine.

Kurzweils track record

Predictions Ray Kurzweil Got Right Over the Last 25 Years:

1. In 1990, he predicted that a computer would defeat a world chess champion by 1998. IBM’s Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov in 1997.

2. He predicted that PCs would be capable of answering queries by accessing information wirelessly via the Internet by 2010.

3. By the early 2000s, exoskeletal limbs would let the disabled walk. Companies like Ekso Bionics have developed such technology.

4. In 1999, he predicted that people would be able to talk to their computer to give commands by 2009. Technologies like Apple’s Siri and Google Now emerged.

5. Computer displays would be built into eyeglasses for augmented reality by 2009. Google started experimenting with Google Glass prototypes in 2011.

6. In 2005, he predicted that by the 2010s, virtual solutions would do real-time language translation. Microsoft’s Skype Translate and Google Translate are examples.

Ray’s Predictions for the Next 25 Years:

1. By the late 2010s, glasses will beam images directly onto the retina. Ten terabytes of computing power will cost about $1,000.

2. By the 2020s, most diseases will go away as nanobots become smarter than current medical technology. Normal human eating can be replaced by nanosystems. The Turing test begins to be passable. Self-driving cars begin to take over the roads.

3. By the 2030s, virtual reality will begin to feel 100% real. We will be able to upload our mind/consciousness by the end of the decade.

4. By the 2040s, non-biological intelligence will be a billion times more capable than biological intelligence. Nanotech foglets will be able to make food out of thin air and create any object.

5. By 2045, we will multiply our intelligence a billionfold by linking wirelessly from our neocortex to a synthetic neocortex in the cloud.

These predictions are based on Kurzweil’s understanding of the power of Moore’s Law and the exponential growth of technologies. It’s important to note that while some of these predictions may seem far-fetched, Kurzweil has a track record of making accurate predictions in the past.

It’s fascinating how someone like Kurzweil displayed what seems like clairvoyance with his predictions about the Singularity Now, looking back, it almost feels supernatural. When I learned that Jordan Peterson had embarked on a project training an AI using the “Spirit of the King James Bible” to engage in conversation, I was reminded of the notion that Science and Religion might be parallel paths that intersect in the infinite.

Kurzweil’s case is particularly intriguing because his own assessment of his predictions significantly diverges from the public‘s perspective. He should have predicted that too, obviously.

When we pass away, is it a form of resurrection every time someone refers to our writings? The idea that we persist in others’ memories could be more than just a metaphor. What happens if, long after my physical body and mind have succumbed to the passage of time, my descendants consult my digital avatar about the era when Artificial General Intelligence first emerged?

Vernes Track Record

It is astounding how many Predictions Jules Verne the Father of Sci-Fi got right: It practically seems that he could see well over a century in the future. It is also interesting that he did not seem to get the timeline right, he was way too conservative to see the exponential curve of technologies that bootstrap from each other.

When exploring this topic with ChatGPT it came up with the following list:

Jules Verne, known as the father of science fiction, was a French novelist who wrote in the 19th century. His works are full of imaginative inventions that were far ahead of his time. Some of these have since become reality, while others remain purely speculative. Here are ten such inventions, with their modern counterparts and an assessment of their accuracy:

Electric Submarines – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870): Verne’s submarine, the Nautilus, was powered by electricity long before real submarines were. The first fully functional and practical submarines were indeed powered by diesel and electricity, but that wasn’t until the early 20th century. This was a remarkably accurate prediction. Accuracy: 90% (The only real difference is that the Nautilus was far more advanced than early real-life submarines.)

Newscasts – In the Year 2889 (1889): Verne imagined a world where news was delivered to individual homes via technology. Today, we have 24-hour news channels, internet news sites, and social media feeds. Accuracy: 100%

Video Conferencing – In the Year 2889 (1889): Verne predicted a device he called a “phonotelephote,” which allowed for “the transmission of images by means of sensitive mirrors connected by wires.” This is remarkably similar to our video conferencing technology today. Accuracy: 100%

Lunar Modules – From the Earth to the Moon (1865): Verne wrote about a capsule that could carry passengers to the moon. This became a reality in 1969 when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. However, Verne’s method of propulsion (a giant cannon) was not accurate. Accuracy: 70% (The concept of a vehicle traveling to the moon was correct, but the propulsion method was not.)

Tasers – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870): Verne describes a hunting rifle that shoots electric bullets in this book. Today, we have Tasers that incapacitate targets using electricity. Accuracy: 80% (While a Taser isn’t a rifle, it does deliver an electric charge to a target, which aligns with Verne’s concept.)

Helicopters – Robur the Conqueror (1886): Verne describes a flying machine that uses propellers to create lift. While the real-world helicopter came about differently and had many more challenges to overcome than Verne’s model, the basic concept was there. Accuracy: 60% (The basic principle of lift from rotary wings was correct, but the implementation was oversimplified.)

Electrically Lit Cities – Paris in the Twentieth Century (1863): Verne predicted cities would be lit by electricity, which became true with the widespread use of electric lighting. Accuracy: 100%

Skywriting – Five Weeks in a Balloon (1863): Verne describes a scenario in which messages are written in the sky, a precursor to today’s skywriting. Accuracy: 100%

The Internet – Paris in the Twentieth Century (1863): Verne describes a global network of computers that enables instant communication. This could be seen as a prediction of the internet, but the way it functions and its role in society are not very accurate. Accuracy: 50% (The existence of a global communication network is correct, but the specifics are quite different.)

Sidenote: I heard an anecdote that Edison would put himself in a kind of hypnagogic trance to come up with new inventions, he had a scribe with him that was writing down what he murmured in this state.

Bush’s Track Record

Vannevar Bush’s essay “As We May Think,” was published in The Atlantic in 1945.

“As We May Think” is a seminal article envisioning the future of information technology. It introduces several groundbreaking ideas.

Associative Trails and Linking: Bush discusses the idea of associative indexing, noting that the human mind operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts. He describes a system in which every piece of information is linked to other relevant information, allowing a user to navigate through data in a non-linear way. This is quite similar to the concept of hyperlinks in today’s world wide web.

Augmenting Human Intellect: Bush proposes that the use of these new tools and technologies will augment human intellect and memory by freeing the mind from the tyranny of the past, making all knowledge available and usable. It will enable us to use our brains more effectively by removing the need to memorize substantial amounts of information.

Lems Track record

The main difference between Nostradamus, the oracle of Delphi and actual Prophets is that we get to validate their predictions.

Take Stanislaw Lem:

E-books: Lem wrote about a device similar to an e-book reader in his 1961 novel “Return from the Stars”. He described an “opton”, which is a device that stores content in crystals and displays it on a single page that can be changed with a touch, much like an e-book reader today​.

Audiobooks: In the same novel, he also introduced the concept of “lectons” – devices that read out loud and could be adjusted according to the desired voice, tempo, and modulation, which closely resemble today’s audiobooks​.

Internet: In 1957, Lem predicted the formation of interconnected computer networks in his book “Dialogues”. He envisaged the amalgamation of IT machines and memory banks leading to the creation of large-scale computer networks, which is akin to the internet we know today​.

Search Engines: In his 1955 novel “The Magellanic Cloud”, Lem described a massive virtual database accessible through radio waves, known as the “Trion Library”. This description is strikingly similar to modern search engines like Google​.

Smartphones: In the same book, Lem also predicted a portable device that provides instant access to the Trion Library’s data, similar to how smartphones provide access to internet-based information today​.

3D Printing: Lem described a process in “The Magellanic Cloud” that is similar to 3D printing, where a device uses a ‘product recipe’ to create objects, much like how 3D printers use digital files today​.

Simulation Games: Lem’s novel “The Cyberiad” is said to have inspired Will Wright, the creator of the popular simulation game “The Sims”. The novel features a character creating a microworld in a box, a concept that parallels the creation and control of a simulated environment in “The Sims”​.

Virtual Reality: Lem conceptualized “fantomatons”, machines that can create alternative realities almost indistinguishable from the actual ones, in his 1964 book “Summa Technologiae”. This is very similar to the concept of virtual reality (VR) as we understand it today​. Comparing Lem’s “fantomaton” to today’s VR, we can see a striking resemblance. The fantomaton was a machine capable of generating alternative realities that were almost indistinguishable from the real world, much like how VR immerses users in a simulated environment. As of 2022, VR technology has advanced significantly, with devices like Meta’s Oculus Quest 2 leading the market. The VR industry continues to grow, with over 13.9 million VR headsets expected to ship in 2022, and sales projected to surpass 20 million units in 2023​.

Borges’ Track record

Also, Jorge Luis Borges is not known as a classic sci fi author many of his stories can be understood as parables of current technological breakthroughs.

Jorge Luis Borges was a master of metaphors and allegories, crafting intricate and thought-provoking stories that have been analyzed for their philosophical and conceptual implications. Two of his most notable works in this context are “On Exactitude in Science” and “The Library of Babel”​​.

“On Exactitude in Science” describes an empire where the science of cartography becomes so exact that only a map on the same scale as the empire itself would suffice. This story has been seen as an allegory for simulation and representation, illustrating the tension between a model and the reality it seeks to capture. It’s about the idea of creating a perfect replica of reality, which eventually becomes indistinguishable from reality itself​.

“The Library of Babel” presents a universe consisting of an enormous expanse of hexagonal rooms filled with books. These books contain every possible ordering of a set of basic characters, meaning that they encompass every book that has been written, could be written, or might be written with slight permutations. While this results in a vast majority of gibberish, the library must also contain all useful information, including predictions of the future and biographies of any person. However, this abundance of information renders most of it useless due to the inability to find relevant or meaningful content amidst the overwhelming chaos​​.

These stories certainly bear some resemblance to the concept of large language models (LLMs) like GPT-3. LLMs are trained on vast amounts of data and can generate a near-infinite combination of words and sentences, much like the books in the Library of Babel. However, just as in Borges’ story, the vastness of possible outputs can also lead to nonsensical or irrelevant responses, reflecting the challenge of finding meaningful information in the glut of possibilities.

As for the story of the perfect map, it could be seen as analogous to the aspiration of creating a perfect model of human language and knowledge that LLMs represent. Just as the map in the story became the same size as the territory it represented, LLMs are models that aim to capture the vast complexity of human language and knowledge, creating a mirror of reality in a sense.

Borges also wrote a piece titled “Ramón Llull’s Thinking Machine” in 1937, where he described and interpreted the machine created by Ramon Llull, a 13th-century Catalan poet and theologian.

The machine that Borges describes is a conceptual tool, a sort of diagram or mechanism for generating ideas or knowledge. The simplest form of Llull’s machine, as described by Borges, was a circle divided nine times. Each division was marked with a letter that stood for an attribute of God, such as goodness, greatness, eternity, power, wisdom, love, virtue, truth, and glory. All of these attributes were considered inherent and systematically interrelated, and the diagram served as a tool to contemplate and generate various combinations of these attributes.

Borges then describes a more elaborate version of the machine, consisting of three concentric, manually revolving disks made of wood or metal, each with fifteen or twenty compartments. The idea was that these disks could be spun to create a multitude of combinations, as a method of applying chance to the resolution of a problem. Borges uses the example of determining the “true” color of a tiger, assigning a color to each letter and spinning the disks to create a combination. Despite the potentially absurd or contradictory results this could produce, Borges notes that adherents of Llull’s system remained confident in its ability to reveal truths, recommending the simultaneous deployment of many such combinatory machines.

Llull’s own intention with this system was to create a universal language using a logical combination of terms, to assist in theological debates and other intellectual pursuits. His work culminated in the completion of “Ars generalis ultima” (The Ultimate General Art) in 1308, in which he employed this system of rotating disks to generate combinations of concepts. Llull believed that there were a limited number of undeniable truths in all fields of knowledge, and by studying all combinations of these elementary truths, humankind could attain the ultimate truth.

14 Entertaining Predictions for the next 3 years

At this point I will make some extremely specific predictions about the future, especially the entertainment industry. In 2026 I will revisit this blog and check how I did.

2023: Music Industry

1.Paul McCartney releases a song either by or in tribute to John Lennon, co-created with AI.

2024: Music Industry

2. A new global copyright regulation titled “The Human Creative Labor Act” will be introduced, safeguarding human creators against unauthorized use of their work. This act will serve as a pivotal test for human-centered AI governance.

3.Various platforms will emerge with the primary intention of procuring works from deceased artists not yet in the public domain.

4.The music industry, in collaboration with the estates of deceased artists, will produce their inaugural artificial albums. These albums will utilize the voices and styles of late pop stars, starting with Michael Jackson.

5.The industry will launch AI-rendered renditions of cover songs, such as Michael Jackson performing Motown hits from the 1950s or Elvis singing contemporary tracks.

6.Post the demise of any celebrated artist, labels will instantly secure rights to produce cover albums using AI-trained voice models of the artist.

2025: Music Industry

7. Bands will initiate tours featuring AI-generated vocal models of their deceased lead singers. A prime example could be Queen touring with an AI rendition of Freddie Mercury’s voice.

2023: Film Industry

8. Harrison Ford and Will Smith will appear on screen as flawless, younger versions of themselves.

2024: Film Industry

9. As they retire, several film stars will license their digital likenesses (voice, motion capture, etc.) to movie studios. Potential candidates include Harrison Ford, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael J. Fox, Bill Murray, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Tom Cruise.

10.Movie studios will announce continuations of iconic franchises.

11.Film classics will undergo meticulous restoration, enhancing visuals to 8K and upgrading audio to crisp Dolby Digital. Probable candidates: The original Star Wars Trilogy and classic Disney animations such as Snow White and Pinocchio.

2025: Film Industry

12. Netflix will introduce a feature allowing users to select from a library of actors and visualize their favorite films starring those actors. For instance, viewers could opt for Sean Connery as James Bond across all Bond films, experiencing an impeccable cinematic illusion.

2026: Film Industry

13. Netflix will offer a premium service enabling viewers to superimpose their faces onto their preferred series’ characters, for an additional fee.

2025: Entertainment/Business Industry

14. Select artists and individuals will design and market a virtual persona. This persona will be tradeable on stock exchanges, granting investors an opportunity to acquire shares. A prime candidate is Elon Musk. Shareholders in “Elon-bot” could access a dedicated app for one-on-one interactions. The AI, underpinned by a sophisticated language model from x.ai, will be trained on Elon’s tweets, interviews, and public comments.