5 Existential Risks and the Transparent Society

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Published on April 13, 2008

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Existential Risks and the Transparent Society:  Existential Risks and the Transparent Society Second Meeting, Winter Quarter Stanford Transhumanism Association January 27, 2005 Presenter: Michael Jin The Vision of the Stanford Transhumanism Association:  The Vision of the Stanford Transhumanism Association Transhumanism is an emergent school of speculative philosophy analyzing or favoring the use of technology, especially neurotechnology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology, to improve the human condition—Wikipedia.org StanTrans encourages balanced, intellectual discussion about the future. We see a role for both reason and faith, but rigidly oppose dogma Transhumanism carries the torch of the Enlightenment into the new century Slide3:  TERRORISM Modern World in the Part One Chemical Weapons: Incidents show “relatively” small threat:  Chemical Weapons: Incidents show “relatively” small threat In 1995, Aum Shinrikyo unleashed a sarin gas attack in a Tokyo subway Saddam Hussein gassed 5,000 Kurds out of 70,000 in Halabja Lewisite was mass produced during World War I, but dilution and distribution problems prevented use Biological Weapons:  Biological Weapons Smallpox—30 percent fatality, but vaccines now available; half the population (pre-1972) already vaccinated Aum Shinrikyo attempts with anthrax and botulin toxin failed Genetically engineered mousepox is 100 percent fatal Quarantine, contingency plans can provide September 2001 Anthrax Scare:  September 2001 Anthrax Scare “Conversely, the culprit…remains a mystery, at least to the public--this despite the fact that the perpetrator used a strain of anthrax known to be of U.S. origin, that it was milled in a highly sophisticated manner, also suggesting it was likely produced in one of a limited number of facilities, and that in all likelihood the perpetrator works or worked among a fairly limited universe of possible suspects in government or government-contract laboratories” (Atomic Bulletin, 2004). Nuclear Weapons:  Nuclear Weapons “Rethinking Doomsday” (Rothstein, Auer & Siegel, 2004):  “Rethinking Doomsday” (Rothstein, Auer & Siegel, 2004) 2002: Seven minutes from midnight—ABM withdrawal, terrorists, little disarmament 1953: Two minutes—U.S. and Soviet Union test thermonuclear devices 1991: Seventeen minutes—Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and unilateral cuts Doomsday Clock Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Examining the Nuclear Threat: Bulletin’s Analysis for 2004:  Examining the Nuclear Threat: Bulletin’s Analysis for 2004 Purchasing intact nuclear bomb or making own—very unlikely Dirty bomb—possible, but less deadly, most damage economic Human error—Davis-Besse, Ohio; bad security, even at Three Mile Island Deliberate nuclear exchange, false firing and “launch on warning” “Time is Ticking Out” (Dolores O’Riordan, The Cranberries):  “Time is Ticking Out” (Dolores O’Riordan, The Cranberries) We better think about the things we say We better think about the games we play The world went round, yeah, around and round We better think about the consequences We better think about the global census If time went down, yeah, if time went down What about Chernobyl What about radiation We don't know, we don't know What about deprivation, gluttony, the human nation We don't know, we don't know For me love is all Time is ticking out Looks like we've screwed up the ozone layer I wonder if the politicians care The dime went down, yeah, if time went down What about our children then Is there nothing left for them We don't know, we don't know For me love is all I need the oxygen, I need the oxygen For me love is all To do do do Time is ticking out yeah time is ticking out Slide13:  Part II Existential Risks The reality of change and its potential for destruction:  The reality of change and its potential for destruction Never doubt that a of thoughtful, committed can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has – Margaret Mead Thus, the number of people a group of ten determined individuals with appropriate resources can kill will rapidly approach the entire population of the planet without radical changes in the rate of technological development and the current state of global sociopolitical unrest What the Game of Life tells us about the future of humanity:  What the Game of Life tells us about the future of humanity Game Of Life Stable states: patterns of stability or total, absolute destruction Next century will likely determine how our game “ends.” Stephen Wolfram thinks it may not even be a metaphor! Typology of risks (Bostrom 2002):  Typology of risks (Bostrom 2002) Bostrom II: Typology of existential risks:  Bostrom II: Typology of existential risks Bangs, crunches, shrieks, whimpers Examples of bangs: Misuse of nanotechnology, nuclear holocaust, simulation shutdown, badly programmed superintelligence (subgoal stomp, wireheading, autonomic blindness), genetically engineered biological agent, physics disaster (breakdown of metastable vacuum state), asteroid impact, runaway global warming Bostrom III: Implications for policy and ethics:  Bostrom III: Implications for policy and ethics “Existential risks have a cluster of features…the extreme magnitude of the harm…the futility of the trial-and-error approach; the lack of evolved biological and cultural coping methods; the fact that existential risk dilution is a global public good; the shared stakeholdership of all future generations; the international nature of many of the required countermeasures; the necessarily highly speculative and multidisciplinary nature of the topic; the… methodological problems involved in assessing the probability of existential risks; and the comparative neglect of the whole area.” Bostrom IV: Policy suggestions:  Bostrom IV: Policy suggestions Raise awareness levels, international cooperation (WIRE suggested by The Lancet), pre-emptive strike, differential technological development, SETI in relation to the Fermi Paradox Maxipok: Maximize the probability of an okay outcome should be the interim, guiding moral imperative Slide20:  Part III Transparent Society Inexorable Trends in Privacy:  Inexorable Trends in Privacy ACLU Pizza Demonstration The miniaturization and mass production of tracking and surveillance devices—e.g. tracking RFID in products, clothing Researchers at Tokyo University to implant silicon into living cockroaches, to help search for victims after earthquake The Argument for Transparency:  The Argument for Transparency We in the neo-West live in a unique era in history of unparalleled wealth, security, and freedom Historically, these periods eventually give way to tyrannies To implement a 1984 scenario, those in power must employ surveillance Unfortunately, the cameras are getting smaller while human nature remains the same Argument Cont’d I:  Argument Cont’d I Governments and aristocrats have historically been threats to freedom. Today, add multinational corporations and the techno-elite to the list. Finally, terrorism is now a threat. Encryption technologies and secrecy may prevent the powerful from snooping, but also empower criminals and do nothing to combat tyranny tactics like indoctrination, subornation, terror, physical surveillance, and informers Argument Cont’d II:  Argument Cont’d II Hobbling government is a bad solution. Weak-blind governments like 1788 France, 1917 Russia, 1926 Italy, 1933 Germany, and 1948 China were too weak and too blind to stop an overnight change to totalitarianism The choice: Scylla and Charybdis?:  The choice: Scylla and Charybdis? “In [City Number One], all the myriad cameras report their urban scenes straight to Police Central, where security officers use sophisticated image-processors to scan for infractions against the public order—or perhaps against an established way of thought…At first sight, things seem quite similar in City Number Two…[but] these devices do not report to the secret police. Rather, each and every citizen of this metropolis can lift his or her wristwatch/TV and call up images from any camera in town.” – David Brin Freedom, security, secrecy, transparency:  Freedom, security, secrecy, transparency Freedom as the cardinal ideal. Security and privacy are derivative No necessary trade-off between security and freedom; we are proof of it! Secrecy more vulnerable less stable than transparency. Only tenable as a last-ditch option, an “underground” against oppression Transparency: Allows criticism, accountability An Experiment in Transparency:  An Experiment in Transparency “The trend began in Britain a decade ago, in the city of King's Lynn, where sixty remote controlled video cameras were installed to scan known "trouble spots," reporting directly to police headquarters. The resulting reduction in street crime exceeded all predictions; in or near zones covered by surveillance, it dropped to one seventieth of the former amount.” Where the future could lead:  Where the future could lead Strong privacy: Encryption and electronic anonymity versus European model; purist, doctrinal position; head-in-sand approach Transparency: Increasing two-way information flows; keeping essential privacies like medical records and bedroom sanctity; global government; dropping the ideal of total anonymity; pragmatism Discussion:  Discussion Should existential risks be taken seriously? Does it imply a need for stronger world government and unity? Is the transparent society a good option over secrecy, given rapid changes in technology? Sources:  Sources “Rethinking Doomsday” (Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Nov/Dec 2004) “Existential Risks: Analyzing Human Extinction Scenarios” by Nick Bostrom The Transparent Society by David Brin

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