Answers for ucim:
ucim wrote:Question 4: What do you mean by "motives"? Define it in a way that is compatible with your use of the word in the (second) quote above.
I have moved this question to the top, since it may be helpful to start with some definitions for "purpose", "interest", and "motive".
"Purpose" in the context of one of these processes, as discussed in an earlier thread
(with a hat tip to Rossegacebes and da Doctah
), is the answer to both sides of the "why" question: "how come" and "what for". For a process like evolution, which uses simple adaptation to survive, the answer to both questions is "survival". Because the process is a loop. The adaptation came about "because" survival, and it exists "for" survival. That which survives, survives.
Please note that this definition of purpose requires neither understanding or intention. It does, however, require a computational local ordering process capable of adaptation, rather than for example a non-computational local ordering process. So I attribute purpose to evolution, which has adaptation, but I attribute no purpose to evaporation and rainfall (treated as a single process loop), which lacks adaptation.
"Interests" are things important to a purpose. For example, sunlight and a hydrological cycle are interests vital to the evolutionary process. They are also vital to the shared thought process. These interests are common to the two processes at present. (However, in the event that the shared thought process eventually finds substitutes for these things, they would no longer be included among its vital interests.)
The interests of processes may also conflict. For example, open communication among human individuals is a vital interest of the shared thought process. But this communication is impeded by the competition among human individuals which is a vital interest of the evolutionary process. Each action of mine bears on both processes at once. If I take a competitive advantage over my conspecifics, I advance one process. If I refrain from taking such an advantage, I advance the other. I can't advance both processes at once because their interests conflict with each other.
An individual's "motive" is an intention to act towards a purpose. An intention is based on a model of the individual's surroundings which is sufficient to connect an action with an expected result. If the result advances the interests of the purpose then that action is to be pursued. If the result hurts the purpose, then the action is to be avoided.
This doesn't have to be a good model. It may fall short of conscious understanding. It may be an instinct, a learned behavior, a cultural tradition, or a habit. It may be maladaptive or flat wrong. But there is still an model behind every individual intention.
This means we cannot attribute motives to the evolutionary process itself. It maintains and adapts the genetic information of a species without the benefit of a motive. Only individual animals who carry an individual thought process can have motives, e.g., are capable of intentional action based on a model of their surroundings.
(It is possible we may find models at work in, e.g., plants, fungi, or the immune system of animals, and these models may be sufficient for us to attribute intentional action to e.g. a plant's responses. This would of course be evolutionarily motivated action towards an evolutionary purpose. However, for the present discussion I would like to restrict the attribution of motives to the individual thought process of an animal.)
Towards which purpose will an individual thought process intend its actions? For non-human animals there is only individual advantage within the evolutionary competition. One purpose. For humans, in contrast, each situation offers a choice of purposes.
Evolution provides us with many ready-to-use models in the form of instincts, learned behaviors, traditions, and habits. It can be difficult to turn away from those easy off-the-shelf models, and start constructing new models for a new purpose. Nonetheless, a human can choose to be motivated by the shared thought process instead of evolutionary competition.
ucim wrote:Question 1: What, exactly, do you mean by "improvement", as it applies to a species, specifically, to the species you are trying to "improve" using the "thinking process"?
"Improve" and "improvement" are your words, ucim. I have not used them in this thread. I went back through earlier threads. It looks like I previously talked about "improved" tools, explanations, and understandings; I also talked about individuals who tried to "improve" their status or their advantage over others in a competitive context. But I did not talk about "improving" an individual or a species.
That is because I find "maintain" and "adapt" to be more useful terms to describe what the evolutionary and shared thought processes are doing as they try to survive.
An ordinary eddy turns passively at the edge of a river. But these particular kinds of eddies maintain themselves and adapt to changes in the flow towards disorder. More accurately, they are using computational methods to maintain and adapt local information within a limited energy supply. Just staying alive is "improvement" enough.
ucim wrote:Question 2: As you are creating this "master race" using the thinking process, how will you know that you have succeeded? How will you know that you haven't created a time bomb instead?
Again, "master" is your word, ucim, not mine. We've been through this before
The "master" and the implied "slave" exist within a framework of evolutionary competition. Of course, this is the first thing that will occur to an evolutionarily motivated person when a genetic "improvement" to an individual or germline seems possible. "Can I use this to control someone?"
That is approximately the last thing that will occur to a person motived by the shared thought process. Any attempt to control someone will mean cutting off effective communication with that person, and perhaps also with other people who see what you're doing.
A more relevant issue is that we face a sharp cutoff in the development of artificial intelligence. I do not see a problem with the use of an AI that is kept significantly dumber than a dog, for example by breaking its separate functions into distinct modules that communicate with each other only in a very limited manner; that is a tool, not a slave. On the other hand, we do not yet have the ability to create AIs at our own level, and when we do they will be owed decent lives as our children and fellow citizens. Meanwhile, any attempt to create AI slaves should be treated the same as an attempt to enslave humans.
I'll defer the "time bomb" business to the next section.
ucim wrote:Question 3: Is this the goal you have in mind? A race of "better" humans created by deliberate germ line modifications?
Our present tools do not give us full control of genetic changes, our present models do not give us a full understanding of the implications of these changes, and our cellular mechanics do not allow us to fully remedy unexpected side effects. Nevertheless, the risks are probably acceptable when we are trying to cure a lethal disease in an individual.
When will we be ready to make such a correction in the germ line? Don't forget that curing individuals will allow lethal recessives to build up in the gene pool. Individuals who know they are carrying such genes already face a difficult decision over whether to attempt parenthood. In the past, they would have known about this only after earlier children had died. Now that we can read DNA, everybody is going to be forced to decide about parenthood with the knowledge of many more risks and susceptibilities that will be part of the lives of their descendents. As our tools improve, and our understanding of the implications improve, it will become irresponsible to pass on harmful mutations instead of fixing them.
While we are ending evolutionary selection in humans right now, we probably have several generations before the buildup of lethal recessives forces our hand. I have read (and written) dystopic science fiction, too. It is helpful to be aware of the dangers ahead. But those dangers must be measured against the greater danger of standing frozen where we are now. Yes, eventually we will take responsibility and choose our own genes.
ucim wrote:Question 5: As you wish to replace natural selection (competitive pressures) with some sort of artificial selection, how exactly is that selection supposed to take place?
We have not been talking about artificial selection at all. Artificial (or domestic) selection is practised on every farm and discussed in the first chapter of the Origin of Species
. Please note that artificial selection continues to rely on the excess of those being born over those that can live, with the successful variation being chosed by humans instead of by intraspecies competition and the environment.
What we have been talking about, in contrast, is that genetic information is subsumed into the shared thought process when humans use tools such as DNA sequencers
to read genetic information and CRISPR
techniques to write genetic information. The precise tools will change, but the point is that they do not rely on variation and selection.
ucim wrote:Question 6: You state, at the bottom of the OP, "One of the processes is wrong for our purposes, and the other one is right." What are "our purposes"? (...and why are you so presumptive as to assume that the "purposes" you have come up with, whatever they are, are purposes that anybody else here would agree with?)
It is not within my powers, presumptive as they are, to exclude you from among "us", ucim. You have a functioning human brain and you are capable of communicating. You can't opt out of what you are. Whether you like it or not, you are part of both a process that operates on genes and another process that operates on ideas. Each has its own interests and its own purpose, whether you are aware of them or not. Those two purposes are also your purposes, ucim.
Concerning your understanding of yourself, and the intentions you base on that understanding, I don't have much to say. Like most things in the shared thought process, that is entirely up to you.