FLI January, 2019 Newsletter

New Podcasts: Identity, Reality & the AI Revolution

Our perceptions of reality are based on the physics of interactions ranging from millimeters to miles in scale. But when it comes to the very small and the very massive, our intuitions often fail us. Given the extent to which modern physics challenges our understanding of the world around us, how wrong could we be about the fundamental nature of reality? And given our failure to anticipate the counterintuitive nature of the universe, how accurate are our intuitions about metaphysical and personal identity? Just how seriously should we take our everyday experiences of the world? Anthony Aguirre, cosmologist and FLI co-founder, returns for a second episode to offer his perspective on these complex questions. This conversation explores the view that reality fundamentally consists of information and examines its implications for our understandings of existence and identity. Listen here.

In the 1984 book Reasons and Persons, philosopher Derek Parfit asks the reader to consider the following scenario: You step into a teleportation machine that scans your complete atomic structure, annihilates you, and then relays that atomic information to Mars at the speed of light. There, a similar machine recreates your exact atomic structure and composition using locally available resources. Have you just traveled, Parfit asks, or have you committed suicide?

Would you step into this machine? Is the person who emerges on Mars really you? Questions like these — those that explore the nature of personal identity and challenge our commonly held intuitions about it — are becoming increasingly important in the face of 21st century technology. Emerging technologies empowered by artificial intelligence will increasingly give us the power to change what it means to be human. AI enabled bio-engineering will allow for human-species divergence via upgrades, and as we arrive at AGI and beyond we may see a world where it is possible to merge with AI directly, upload ourselves, copy and duplicate ourselves arbitrarily, or even manipulate and re-program our sense of identity. Are there ways we can inform and shape human understanding of identity to nudge civilization in the right direction? Listen here.

You can find all the FLI Podcasts here and all the AI Alignment Podcasts here. All of our podcasts are also now on Spotify and iHeartRadio, or find us on SoundCloudiTunesGoogle Play and Stitcher.

Our Favorite Reads

If your New Years resolution was to read more, FLI has got you covered. We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite books on existential risk, existential hope, technology, society and more. These are essential reads for any effective altruist, aspiring philosopher, concerned humanist or curious thinker. Browse the guide here.

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