TED Talk and PJW Comment

TED talk of possible interest:

Comment I posted there:
Here is an interdisciplinary “moon-shot” suggestion that we should at least start talking about, now, before it is too late. Let’s massively collaborate to develop a very mission-specific AI system to help us figure out, using emerging genetic editing technologies (e.g., CRISPR, etc.), ideally how to tweak (most likely) species-typical genes currently constraining our capacities for prosociality, biophilia, and compassion, so that we can intentionally evolve into a sustainable species. This is something that natural selection, our past and current psycho-eugenicist, will never do (it cannot), and something that our current genetic endowment will never allow cultural processes / social engineering approaches to adequately transform us. Purposed-designed AI systems feeding off of growing databases of intra-genomic dynamics and gene-environment interactions could greatly speed our understanding of how to make these genetic adjustments to ourselves, the only hope for our survival, in a morally optimal (i.e., fewest mistakes due to unexpected gene-gene and gene-regulatory (exome) and epigenetic interactions; fewest onerous side-effects) as well as in a maximally effective and efficient way. Come together, teams of AI scientists and geneticists! We need to grab our collective pan-cultural intrapsychic fate away from the dark hands of natural selection, and AI can probably help. END

About Paul Watson

BA Zoology and BA Botany, University of Montana, 1981; PhD Behavioral Biology and Ecology, Cornell University, 1988. Adjunct Associate Professor, University of New Mexico Department of Biology, 1991 - present. Special interests: Evolution of sexual and social behavior in animals and humans; evolution of religiosity and psychological pain, esp. unipolar depression. Use of evolutionary psychology as an "objectifying" and therefore potentiating influence in a individual's "spiritual" search and efforts to accentuate compassion.

2 thoughts on “TED Talk and PJW Comment

  1. Learning to govern our own ‘evolution’ appears to be the only viable path to a future worth being part of. I look forward to viewing the video and discussing this further. Thanks for posting!

  2. Excellent talk. The current situation (likely to persist for years) is that we usually are blind to the inner logic of AI algorithms. She points to evidence of poor-performing algorithms’ outputs being used in highly consequential decision scenarios, including judicial sentencing. Even when they perform well, we don’t know why. (But we can, presumably, tell whether they work well–at least in many areas.)

    “Purposed-designed AI systems feeding off of growing databases … could greatly speed our understanding of how to make these genetic adjustments to ourselves, the only hope for our survival…” I agree human long-term survival in any state worth existing in will require remaking ourselves. I think another earlier necessary application of AI would be to aid us in identifying the ways our innate and learned cognitive biases influence our values, goals and objectives, success criteria selection, and other factors that affect the details of what we might seek to change in our genes. For example, I suspect part of the basis for the common perception that engineering human nature must always be unethical stems from past abuses by authoritarians (so-called eugenicists). Understanding how what began as a concept for improving quality of life for all quickly became violently abusive will be necessary to avoid the wrong parties taking lead–and to preclude well-intentioned parties causing unacceptable unintended outcomes.

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