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The Grand Mission

As I have previously noted, the meaning of one’s life is a subjective notion that is open to one’s own choice. Life is as significant as we want it to be. Well, if I want my life to be as meaningful and significant in a positive way as possible, then I need to act accordingly.

Power comes with responsibility. I have the power to live my life in any number of possible ways. I have a responsibility to live that life in a way that fits a coherent, rational, moral system. After much thought, I have decided that the most rational moral system is a form of Utilitarianism that maximizes the total Eudaimonia or long-term potential happiness of all sentient beings.

How can I, a mere human being, even contemplate such a grandiose objective? We start by optimizing a function that determines what kind of work to do. There is work that will improve happiness greatly, but be very difficult, such that a person of my particular combination of talents and abilities will not succeed at. There is also work that would be easy for me, but not particularly useful. The ideal is to find what is within my capacity to do well, and the most useful of these.

Determining the most useful requires looking at long term considerations of the major problems of human society, and their potential solutions. For instance, the solution to the energy problem is a carbon neutral energy storage system such as an algae-based biofuel technology, or some kind of new and superior battery cell technology.

One of the most significant problems however is the nature of human occupation. Our entire society is modelled around the expectations of labouring in the economy as producers of goods and services. Given how much of our lives are devoted to work, it is arguably the largest restriction on our freedom as human beings, and a cause of considerable unhappiness.

What if we could do away with mandatory labour or wage slavery? Imagine for a moment a world where altruistically programmed machines could do all the tedious and undesirable work, leaving humans to work or play as they pleased.

Even if you don’t agree with this utopian image, you have to admit that corporations are going to take advantage of robot labour if they can get away with it. Machines have high upfront “hiring” costs, but much lower maintenance “wages”. Intelligent machines are a fusion of capital and labour, and those that control these machines, will effectively control the means of production in the economy of the future.

Those that doubt the capacity of A.I., need only to see the recent examples of IBM’s Watson, and Apple’s Siri, to see that very smart people are making progress on the problem. Given its potential to revolutionize the world dramatically, I see it as an obligation and an opportunity to be a part of the development of such technology.

There is also a moral responsibility in this. The potential of A.I. is such that could also cause great unhappiness if directed irresponsibly. Sentient machines, regardless of how altruistically we program them, may well deserve civil rights. Amorally designed sentient machines could very well do considerable harm and pose an existential threat to the human species. It is a duty to design the neural networks of such machines with altruistic emotions to prevent this.

Moving a bit away from the science fiction for a moment, even something as simple as existing neural network technology has tremendous potential to do valuable things like predict the future. Given sufficient data, they can theoretically find any relationship. An obvious example of a potential application with enormous benefit, would be Earthquake prediction. Earthquakes, and the Tsunamis they cause are just about the most catastrophic and destructive natural disasters that occur in terms of human lives lost. Being able to accurately predict such events and thus mitigate the damage, would save countless numbers of lives and have an enormous impact on the future.

One possible version of the grand mission then, one tailored to my talents and abilities, is to try to improve and save as many lives as possible using technological superiority. Perhaps there are others. Different people may well be able to achieve different versions of the grand mission, tailored to suit their particular talents and abilities. The common thread of course, is the goal of maximizing Eudaimonia for all sentient beings.

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Page last modified on July 23, 2014, at 02:57 PM