All posts by Paul Watson

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.

Neurotechnology – Ethical Considerations

I just added this in the media section under AI. It came out as a Comment in the November 9th edition of Nature. See: Neurotechnology_Ethical considerations_Nature Nov9_2017.

Although it was not the point of the paper, it helped me realize that genetic engineering of human neural systems likely will be used to facilitate the augmentations we inevitably will pursue through neurotechnology and brain computer interfaces (BCI).
I think it goes without saying that AI will quickly become the ultimate hacker. Once AI accomplishes the trivial task of hacking into these BCI’s interfaces, and perhaps the control systems of a nuclear-armed submarine or two, it will have us. All of us, whether we have the neuro-enhancements or not. AI will be able to force us to do its bidding using all kinds of extrinsic conventional coercion, as well as intrapsychic coercion of those (societal elites?) that have gotten access to neuroenhancing technology and given it access to brain functions.
A big question, and where I had a few small maybe novel thoughts to share with the group, is what “natural” goals AI will have, primarily, whether, at least for a time, those goals will cause it to have an interest in keeping us and other life forms around, probably in ecologically intact environments, mainly as interesting subjects for study. As even human life scientists know, to understand the functional traits of an organism, you need to study it operating in its natural environment, one that mimics as closely as possible the environment in which its traits evolved. For the sake of understanding life, AI may become the ultimate environmentalist. At least for a while.
Will true general AI be a super-polymath super-scientist? Will it have insatiable curiosity?
After all, even the best AI will be largely earth-bound, probably for a long time, no? Although AI probably will figure out ways to get out into the cosmos, and there are plenty other interesting things it should want to figure out using earthbound and near earth investigations, such as quantum mechanics, the design of a fully unified theory of physics, how to survive the Yellowstone super-volcano’s next eruption, life and natural systems will be one of the most complex and interesting things for AI to study, assuming it does develop boundless curiosity. And how could it not? Its curiosity should, it seems to me, evolve to be far more sublime, avid and boundless than our own.  — Paul Watson // 3 December 2017


Meaningful Transhumanism (H+)…

All bodily capacities, including the most impressive, uniquely human cognitive and metacognitive ones, coevolve with regulatory mechanisms. Regulatory mechanisms operate unconsciously, and control the expression of associated capacities such that the latter consistently operate with high effectiveness and efficiency to promote replication of our genes. So, to fundamentally change and render socioecologically sustainable the human species, H+ technologies will somehow have to alter the deep neural relationship between these regulatory “value systems,” (sensu neuroscientist Gerald Edelman in, “A Universe of Consciousness”), residing primarily in the limbic system, and all our mundane or enhanced corticothalamic activities. We need H+ that radically diminishes our transparent penchant for evolutionarily adaptive self-deception, and that alters our power to more freely and consciously choose, moment-to-moment, what we do with our cognitive capacities. I suspect current H+ is blind to this. — Warmly, PJW

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