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Ep 35: David Deutsch & Humanity's Infinite Reach

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David Deutsch explains the physics of humanity’s profound place in the cosmos—and our potentially unlimited future.


Bio:

David Deutsch is an Oxford Physicist, a pioneer in the field of Quantum Computing, the founder of Constructor Theory, and the author of the books The Fabric of Reality, and The Beginning of Infinity.


Takeaways:

  • Humans occupy a profound place in the cosmos, because of our “special relationship with the laws of physics”
  • Human minds have reached a sort of escape velocity. There is nothing in the universe we cannot understand, and nothing that is possible in the universe that we cannot do.
  • This means there is no categorical difference between any of us—or between us and any alien species, or super-intelligent AI
  • We need a culture of problem-solving, not problem-avoidance
  • Knowledge confers power without limit


Relevant links, essays, and talks by David Deutsch:


How might religion engage with these ideas?


Pull-quotes:

“The one advantage that good has over evil…is that the bad guys are wrong” — David Deutsch (click to tweet!)

“Wayward teenagers are also AIs” — David Deutsch (click to tweet!)


Key concepts and definitions:

  • Knowledge is the defining characteristic of life
  • Explanatory knowledge is the defining characteristic of persons
  • Humans are the only persons we know of
  • Explanatory knowledge means:
    • We have a “special relationship with the laws of physics”
    • We have infinite reach
    • We can understand anything in the universe
    • We can do anything that is possible in the universe
    • We are the most significant phenomenon in the universe
  • The creation of new explanatory knowledge is what persons do
    • We don’t yet know how this works—which means Artificial Intelligence is a Philosophical Problem, not a technical one
    • Because humans are persons, with infinite reach, there is no categorical difference between us and any alien species, or future AI, no matter how intelligent
    • Human minds have reached a sort of escape velocity
    • Human Universality is a consequence of the theory of computation—and demonstrates that we have no fundamental limits, and that our biological differences are irrelevant
  • We need a culture of problem-solving, not problem-avoidance
    • We are guaranteed to have problems, but we can solve them.
    • Pursuing knowledge will not prevent problems, and will sometimes create them, but it is the only way for good to triumph.
    • “The one advantage that good has over evil…is that the bad guys are wrong” — David Deutsch
    • The pursuit of new knowledge is the one area where good has an advantage over evil. To stop the pursuit of knowledge is to sacrifice good’s one advantage.
  • “Traditions which stabilize change” are the paradoxical phenomenon necessary for ongoing progress, and must be “traditions of criticism”
    • The scientific revolution was one particular tradition of criticism, involving the pursuit of “good explanations”
      • “Good explanations” are explanations which are hard-to-vary
      • Micah’s maxim: “Truth is the thing that’s hard to shake”
      • The scientific process itself is subject to evolution and change
    • Democracy, and many other institutions which achieve ongoing progress, are other examples of traditions of criticism
      • The one criterion by which we judge political systems should be, does this make it more or less easy to remove bad policies, and bad leaders, without violence?
  • David Deutsch’s take on The Omega Point Theory and other cosmological models: One way or another, we have a virtually unlimited cosmological future


Ep 35: David Deutsch & Humanity's Infinite Reach
Christian Transhumanist Podcast
Micah Redding
2017-07-29
7:26:43



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