Readers will note I've been unsatisfied with explanations of why the smartest people measured by wealth accumulation over time don't seem rationally concerned about solving aging and existential risk. In a more formal way, I'd like to explore conspiracy theories for way they might not be concerned, and also a conspiracy theory alternative to the "Great Filter" idea of Hanson/Bostrom.
1. Is it possible that human aging and existential risk have already been functionally solved?
2. Is it possible that the universe is teaming with intelligent life, and the smartest people are aware of that already?
There are good, maybe definitive reasons to answer "No" to both questions. But there's also some evidence that leads me to be open-minded.
For the first part of #1, I'll note that mainstream criticism of jewish people attempting to control american media functionally ended with greater jewish ownership and influence in american media. Secondly, I'll note that interest in technology leading to immortality seems to have been punctuated rather than consistent. For example Lindbergh and his collaborator's interest, and the gap in between that and cryonics.
It's a rather flimsy case to make, and I acknowledge that. At the same time, more mainstream explanations seem doubtful to me.
As for #2, our current situation is so weird and inexplicable that I don't see a conspiracy to not reveal widespread intelligent life as necessarily less probable than than none observably exists outside Earth. But I'd like an open-minded, smart person to hash through this more carefully.
A criticism of aspiring human reproductive cloners (Dr. Panayiotis Zavos, Dr. Severino Antinori and Dr. Avi Ben-Abraham seem like the most credible (although still rather uncredible) of 2001, when serious conversation pretty much ended) published in 2002, by esteemed molecular biologist Dr. George Weinberg.
In listing the difficulties, it does seem like this would best be done at a large scale, because the yield of successful clones would be less than 5% (though most would be lost as spontaneous abortions, rather than as dead or severely ill infants. A Dr. Ishii might have the organizational competency and ethical flexibility to carry out a project like this. One could probably see this coming, but it might be ideal to have 2 simultaneously running cloning projects: 1 to clone the most effective reducers of human existential risk and aging, and 1 to clone the most effective improvers of cloning technology. The latter is the sort of self-improving technology that I think Hansen describes as setting off singularities, though I think this would likely be a mini-singularity at most (I see humanity rapidly becoming a species of Von Neumanns, Einsteins, etc. without the more obvious flaws, but I don't see our general social aesthetics changing that much (pair bonding, status heirarchies, individual personalities) from mass reproductive cloning of our best existential risk minimizers per se.
Great paper with a lot of info about reproductive cloning and national and international perspectives. Make sure to check out the great tables. Apparently the Libertarian Party and about 10% of Americans support reproductive cloning, and there's a huge potential market to offer people reproductive cloning services. Although I'd rather they just bear and raise the clones of our best existential risk problem-solvers, of course.
I only skimmed the section I quoted, but I'm disappointed "cloning existential risk problem solvers" doesn't seem to be listed as a reason considered positive to support reproductive cloning.
"Arguments to Permit Reproductive Cloning Proponents of reproductive cloning, who comprise a minority of the American public, fall into two groups. Some believe that while it is not yet safe it would be ethical under certain circumstances if safety could be assured. For example, the World Transhumanist Association’s Statement on Cloning supports the “full reproductive rights to the use of cloning and other assistive technologies by competent adults aft er these have been demonstrated as safe and eff ective for human use”233 but states that the “use of cloning technology on humans at this stage of its development is highly unethical”233 because of the lack of animal safety data and that if attempted “could signifi cantly set back public acceptance of transhuman technologies.”233 Others favor attempting reproductive cloning right now; as described below, two fertility researchers have indicated their readiness to use the technology, although they have presented no evidence that they have succeeded in producing a cloned child. Th ose who advocate reproductive cloning have made one or more of the following arguments in support of their position. Reproductive cloning would allow couples who currently cannot to have children genetically related to themselves Some support reproductive cloning because it would aff ord an opportunity to those who currently are unable to produce genetically related children to do so.76,163 Unlike other forms of assisted reproduction, such as the use of donated gametes, cloning would not introduce the nuclear genome of a third party. For example, if a couple had a genetic condition leading to infertility, one member of the couple could be cloned so that one parent would have a biological connection to the child. By some accounts, there could be signifi cant demand for cloning for this purpose. In March 2001, scientists Severino Antinori (Italy) and Panos Zavos (U.S.A.) announced they were ready to begin reproductive cloning for infertile couples; they reported that close to 700 American couples already had volunteered.173 Cloning also could be used to produce biologically related children if one member of a couple carried a genetic mutation he or she did not want to pass on to the child. Finally, some Cloning: A Policy Analysis 21 have noted approvingly that cloning could allow gay couples to produce children genetically related to one member of the couple.163 Others within the gay community have argued, however, that resources would be “far better spent advocating for equal access to existing means of family building.”29 Reproductive cloning should be permitted as part of procreative liberty Related to the potential benefi t of reproductive cloning for couples unable to have biologically related off spring is the argument that the government should not interfere with the right of individuals to reproduce in any manner they choose. While the Supreme Court has in other contexts recognized a right to procreative liberty (e.g., contraception, abortion), no court has had occasion to address whether the Constitution protects the right to reproduce through cloning, and it has been the subject of much academic debate.58,61,101,107,191,192 Some argue that procreative liberty should extend to reproductive cloning. While they acknowledge the ethical diffi culties inherent in cloning, they maintain that “individuals, doctors, and scientists — not politicians” are best equipped to deal with these issues.174 Further, they take a generally optimistic view of the societal impact. For example, Libertarian Party chair Steve Dasbach disputed claims that cloning would lead to “armies of identical Frankenstein-like people,” stating that “cloning can’t recreate an individual human being, with his or her unique personality, beliefs, talents, and goals. It can only reproduce a genetically identical ‘blank slate’ upon which a new personality — formed by a lifetime of experience and learning — will gradually emerge.”174 Similarly, World Transhumanist Association chair Nick Bostrom has argued: “Th is is an opportunity for us to overcome some of our prejudices. Scaremongers have argued that a clone would somehow have a diminished degree of humanity. If the claim of human cloning is borne out, we will be faced with the concrete choice between rejecting this view, and denying the dignity of a living human baby.”233 Some who argue for the freedom to clone cite as potential benefi ts improved parenting by those who are familiar with the genome contained in their child and a greater sense of identity on the part of clones because they know where their genome came from.76"
It's an interesting blog. On the one hand, he seems crazy in rather mundane ways. Why would the govt. make him ill, heal him, make him ill again, etc. over decades? His explanation (admitted to good schools, student activism) don't seem compelling for that sort of expensive, exceptional treatment.
On the other hand, the apparently documented history of u.s. govt. experimentation on citizens does seem irrational and inefficient in places.
If some sort of tuskeegee syphallis type government experiment isn't allowing him to putter along for decades, with sufficient resources to maintain websites and maintain these leisure time speculations and advocacies, where are his financial resources coming from? Inheritance or a trust from his "physician parents"?
Smart, crazy, conspiracy theorists are interesting. If they're really smart, one can wonder if they've spotted a conspiracy that the rest of us haven't noticed yet. After all, the history of the 20th century has had its share of them, many of which Richard Perlman mentions on his blog. Should we imagine none exist in 2008? What's the likely range and focus of secret human medical experimentation?
Unlike Richard Perlman, I'd like to state for the record I have no desire to end whatever existing secret medical, mind control, etc. experimentation that is going on in the U.S. or elsewhere. However, I do encourage the experimenters to adopt the solving human aging/ reducing existential risk priorities of Bostrom and De Gray, and the scientific excellence standards of the best scientists today, even while maintaining the flexible, (consequentialist?) ethics of Ishii.
Anders Sandberg has a great articulation of this, in that he implies developing the right large institutions that check and balance each other (presumably super intelligent AI powered to do what follows) may allow us humans to survive coexisting with superintelligent AI, just as we survive and even have decent quality of life in a world of markets, governments, religions, and corporations, alll of which can check each other from abuse and degredation of quality of human life. I like the analogy, because I think it's possible that subsets of the aforementioned may already be entities functionally more intelligent than the smartest individual humans, just as subsets of humans (competent scientists, for example) may be functionally smarter than the most effectively survivalist unicellular organism.
So we may already be surviving in a world of things smarter than us, throught their own checks and balances of each other.
Of course, we could just be in a transitionary period, rather than in a permanently good or better period, or the analogy may not hold. I wouldn't be suprised if the substrate jump to digital happens at the level of governments, corporations, or markets, rather than human minds first. In fact, with regards to markets, it arguably has already occured. Similary to Eliezer's AI in a box, markets could be described as using incentives to get us to engage in nano-manufacturing. We'll see if it ends in a cure for aging, or for a reassembly of the species (and the planet, solar system, etc.) into something that will more efficiently maximize the persistence odds of the most effective market algorithms.
One way to determine who the best existential risk minimizers to clone or breed might be the most cited scientists. Possible corrections against rewarding people who cite each other a lot or fields that cite themselves a lot might be most unidirectionally cited outside their field. By unidirectionally, I mean cited by scientists they haven't themselves cited. I imagine this would favor applied mathematicians quite a bit, which is probably how it should be.
Also, I'm interested in mass sterilization. For necessary genetic diversity, we probably need far, far less than 1% of the population procreating. People who want the pregnancy and parenthood experience can gestate and raise in vitro fertilized embryos or clones of the best existential risk minimizers. Beyond that it's waste, in my opinion, and given the challenges we face we don't have that kind of luxury, in estimation.
However, the gradient against this type of policy is of course steep in our current political and social reality. And so we suffer and die because of a bias of creating and procreating one's own biological children, dumb as they'll be, rather than raising the biological offspring most likely to save our collective asses in the next couple of generations.
" In 1946, Project Paperclip secretly brought more than 1,000 Nazi scientists to the US. Among their ranks were Kurt Blome, who had tested nerve gas at Auschwitz, and Konrad Schaeffer, who forced salt into victims at Dachau. Other experiments at mind control via drugs and surgery were folded into the CIA's Project Bluebird. Japan's Dr Shiro Ishii, who had experimented with prisoners in Manchuria, came to Maryland to advise on bio-weapons."