Accelerating Change 2005. September 16-18, Stanford University. Artificial Intelligence and Intelligence Amplification. Transforming Technology, Empowering Humanity

Where Might Accelerating Change Take Us in the 21st Century?

Humanity is engaged in a grand, accelerating adventure. Leading thinkers are now asking fundamentally important questions relevant to our historical record of accelerating social and technological change. Many answers and models are conflicting, controversial and poorly testable, at present. Yet their implications are profound, and their insights so valuable they can be used in virtually every decision of our daily lives.

ASF is dedicated to building a community for ongoing discussion of these fundamental and future-important questions. If present trends continue, we may witness more scientific, technological, and even social learning and change in our own lifetimes than has occurred since the birth of science.

Several physicists of the very small structures in our universe (Steven Weinberg, Leon Lederman) and of the very large (Stephen Hawking, Martin Harwit) have proposed that we may soon capture much of the essence of both the very small and the very large physical domains within our accelerating and increasingly powerful scientific instrumentation and simulations.

If true, that may leave only the middle zone of the very complex as our final frontier, as some scholars (Ian Stewart, Paul Davies) have proposed. This suggests to some that artificial intelligences, if they emerge in the 21st century, will be engaged in "hard problems" such as the origin, physical basis and larger meaning of life, the roles and use of language, thought, emotion, consciousness, justice, compassion, and spirituality, the proper role of conflict, the balance between innovation and sustainability, the relationship between the biological human and its electronic counterparts, and the future trajectory of local intelligence.

As our technology progressively moves the world's human population to a "postscarcity" environment in physical needs, and as our economy becomes increasingly service based, virtual, and abstract, we can forsee major new economies emerging for the service of our psychological and self-actualization needs. The higher we can all climb on Maslow's hierarchy, the more dominant these new economies may become.

How do we help our sociotechnological systems to strengthen our common interests, to create a continually better, cleaner, safer, and yet more creative world for all the minds that inhabit it? Such goals as improving ethics, compassion, interdependence, resilience, security, risk management, and immunity from potential catastrophes may be a function of physical intelligence, properties that are statistically highly likely to emerge in our coming networks, as long as we use caution and common sense in their development.

We are still early in asking the big questions about the accelerating future, and in wisely guiding acceleration in our modern lives. But the more we give ourselves permission to carefully consider these issues, the better equipped we will be to create the personal and collective futures that we truly desire.


Key Questions
How does computation affect our environment?
What is accelerating technological change?
Why is accelerating change important?
What is the universal story of accelerating change?
What is the "technological singularity" hypothesis?
Where might accelerating change take us in the 21st century?
What are our main benefits and risks with regard to accelerating change?
How do we improve the study of accelerating change?


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