Podcast No. 58 Posted 8/8/2011   Leave a comment

Podcast No. 58 Posted 8/8/2011

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TITLE:  Truths of Terasem – The When of Terasem  4.6 – 4.6.6

SUB TITLE:  Consensus as the fastest path to voluntary unity of the highest kind.

SUMMARY: Synergy and mutual understanding will be vital in applying Geoethical Nanotechnology to burning questions of priorities and risk, where reaching a reasonable middle ground when the dangers are great, is even less dangerous than not pressing forward.  Open communication, mutual empathy and education are the keys to making this happen.


Music – “Earthseed” fades out, as the voice recording begins.

 (Fred)  Hi, we’re Fred & Linda Chamberlain, with podcast 58 on the Truths of Terasem.

(Linda)  And… we want you to know… we’ve both consented to being here today!

(Fred)  Right!  Today it’s Group 4.6 through 4.6.6, consensus as a vital element in reaching Geoethical Nanotechnology, and other ethical issues associated with a migration into cyberspace.

(Linda)  When I think of trying to reach “consensus” within a culture as diverse as ours, I see difficulty and conflict over the rights of independent choice.  Will the Singularity demand that we have to choose between personal freedom and survival?

(Fred)  It’s more a matter of agreeing how we’re going to handle dangerous and risky technologies.  We have, as a culture developed very strong laws about driving responsibly, and the consequences if we damage others or their property by accident or neglect.  People consent to such laws both for their own protection and out of regard for others.  With cyber-conscious beings thinking far more rapidly than those with biological brains, and on the verge of developing replicator nanotech, a misstep could wipe out the biosphere.  It’s as if one match on dry pine needles could end the world.

(Linda)  Would total consensus really be possible, though, given our evolutionary drives to force others to our own will and advantage?  It’s one thing to consent to the driving laws in order to get a driver’s license.  A few dissenters here and there may be devastating to individual lives, but they don’t wipe out the biosphere.  Consensus over issues like how to ethically handle nanotechnology is an order of magnitude different.

(Fred)  We have to intelligently choose a middle ground.  Some Luddite mentalities would like to foster fear, strangling open, private work on high technologies.  That could result in covert military projects, where spy vs. spy and sales to illicit interests would hold the field.  The opposite end of the spectrum would be to tolerate an absence of restraint, where competitive companies toss caution to the winds in the pursuit of quick profits.  Neither of these extremes would be likely to give us the best chances of surviving the Singularity.

But the history of our species, as slow and painful as it has been, and in spite of set-backs, gives us much reason to be positive.  Carl Sagan, in his 1992 book Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, makes this point most beautifully:

“The many sorrows of our recent history suggest that we humans have a learning disability.  We might have thought that the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust were enough to inoculate us against the toxins there revealed and unleashed.  But our resistance quickly fades.  A new generation gladly abandons its critical and skeptical faculties.  Old slogans and hatreds are dusted off.  What was only recently muttered guiltily is now offered as political axiom and agenda.  There are renewed appeals to ethnocentrism, xenophobia, homophobia, racism, sexism, and territoriality.  And with a sigh of relief we are apt to surrender to the will of the alpha, or long for an alpha we can surrender to.

“Ten thousand generations ago, when we were divided into many small groups, these propensities may have served our species well.  We can understand why they are almost reflexive, why they should be easy to evoke, why they are the stock in trade of every demagogue and hack politician.  But we cannot wait for natural selection to further mitigate these ancient primate algorithms.  That would take too long.  We must work with what tools we have—to understand who we are, how we got to be that way, and how to transcend our deficiencies.  Then we can begin to create a society less apt to bring out the worst in us.

“Still, from the perspective of the last ten thousand years extraordinary transformations have lately been playing themselves out.  Consider how we humans organize ourselves.  Dominance hierarchies requiring debasing submission and obedience to the alpha male, as well as hereditary alphahood, were once the global standard of human political structure, justified as right and proper and divinely ordained by our greatest philosophers and religious leaders.  These institutions have now almost vanished from the Earth.  Chattel slavery—likewise long defended by revered thinkers as preordained and deeply consonant with human nature—has been nearly abolished worldwide.  Just a minute ago, all over the planet, with only a few exceptions, women were subordinate to men and denied equal status and power; this also was thought predetermined and inevitable.  Here too, clear signs of change are now evident nearly everywhere.  A common appreciation of democracy and what are called human rights is, with some backsliding, sweeping the planet.

“Taken together, these dramatic societal shifts—often in ten generations or less—provide a compelling refutation of the claim that we are condemned, without hope of reprieve, to live out our lives in a barely disguised chimpanzee social order.  Moreover, the shifts are occurring so swiftly that they cannot possibly be due to natural selection.  Instead, our culture must be drawing forth propensities and predispositions that already reside deep within us.  Given the reality of our mutual interdependence, our intelligence, and what is at stake, are we really unable to break out of behavior patterns to benefit our ancestors of long ago?”

(Linda)  That’s very powerful and inspiring.  And, it’s hard to argue with.  But many might agree that this makes sense, while still being skeptical that we could make it work in time, considering today’s challenges with technologies like nanotech.   Many might ask, where do you get a consensus building movement that’s strong enough to make an impact?  How would you organize such a thing?

(Fred)  Open communication, mutual empathy and education are the keys to making this happen. One possible first step, and it might lie some distance in the future, would be for the participants of the Terasem colloquia and the resulting journals to evolve into a core professional association of those in related disciplines, where the charter is to build a set of standards that define the kind of “middle ground” we’re talking about here.  Groups organized around ‘critical disciplines’, could propose sets of criteria to be reviewed by and consented to by the others.  This might take time, but in the end it could lead to such a comprehensively structured proposal that it would then be a compelling set of ideas to use in spreading these memes until a tipping point is reached and Society comes to consensus as well.

(Linda)  How those critical disciplines would be chosen, and relate to one another will be critically important.  Earlier, you mentioned how this relates to ways maximum reliability was achieved in interplanetary space missions, right?

(Fred)  Yes!  You couldn’t translate directly from one to the other, but there are enough similarities to suggest the interaction of various disciplines, each of which would have an input constraining the others.

Here’s the spacecraft development picture.  It starts with mission strategy people who study all the various opportunities for reaching other planets in terms of launch windows, launch vehicle payload capacities vs. velocities, and so forth.  These are one set of constraints.  Then, science teams and spacecraft system people try to find mission goals that match the strategy limits in a sensible way.  There are financial analysts who ballpark the costs and budget profiles, and investigate the feasibilities of getting funding.  Each of these constrains the others.

Finally, a mission gets enough approval to go back to the drawing board and make a detailed proposal.  And that’s only the first set of constraints.  Nothing gets cast in concrete, because the feasibility of staying within budgets has yet to be determined, as each subsystem proposes what it will take in terms of budget and schedule to make its contribution work.

More and more groups join the picture, and each of them impacts the other.  Quality and Reliability people get involved.  Planning for system integration and checking out electromagnetic compatibility among subsystems prior to final assembly of the spacecraft raises further issues.  The number of different areas that all have to consent and find common ground with the others expands and expands.

(Linda)  Are we talking about something like putting up a skyscraper, where one or two year delays can be tolerated?

(Fred)  Not at all!  All of this may hinge on a launch window only ten days long, with the next best opportunity twenty five years later at the cost of cutting the payload weight by thirty percent.  It’s a set of interlocking consent items that might seem unsolvable, but time after time this kind of consensus has been reached, and held together in spite of unforeseen difficulties, as were experienced with missions like the Viking Lander/Orbiters and Voyager Spacecraft.  These were extremely complex missions with narrow launch windows and substantial unexpected impacts, yet they made it out of their windows on time and performed in a highly reliable manner.

Geoethical Nanotechnology is far more demanding, though.  There, the task is to do a failure-mode analysis of everything that might go catastrophically wrong in a Singularity’s development of cyber-technology and replicator nanotech, where critical turning points can be foreseen, and specify groups of disciplines that best address each of these, and gather the right teams of minds.  It’s not going to be easy, or quick, but Humankind’s future may hang on it.  Considering all of that, there’s no time to waste.

(Linda)  With the gravity of the issue, it’s encouraging to find that we are not the first to think of these issues!  I was inspired when I recently re-read Eric Drexler’s book, Engines of Creation, when I found that back in 1986 he had already proposed the need for building mechanisms for finding consensus and mechanisms for safeguarding ourselves against the technological challenges that are facing us.  Based on a concept proposed by Dr. Arthur Kantrowitz, a member of the National Academy of Sciences at that time, Drexler outlined the use of Western culture’s due process mechanisms to build scientific fact forums and a science court to make major decisions of this nature.  After conducting an experimental process of this kind at University of California at Berkeley, regarding birth defects and genetic hazards at the Love Canal chemical dump site, Kantrowitz concluded: “in contrast to the difficulties experienced in the many attempts to implement a science court under government auspices, encouraging results were obtained in the first serious attempt…in a university setting which make them natural settings for such efforts.”

And, of course, Drexler went on to create the Foresight Institute for exactly the purposes we have discussed here.  And Martine Rothblatt has created the workshops and journals on Geoethical Nanotechnology designed to continue to work toward solving these challenges.  So, these issues are not being ignored or forgotten.  Many of our best minds are already working on solutions.  But these technological changes are like a locomotive bearing down on us.  We can’t become insensitive to the need to continue to foster attempts to hasten consensus regarding these life and death issues.

In this regard, why don’t we start looking at this week’s Group of Truths.  On the surface, they seem much like what we’ve encountered before, but underneath, they’re geared for a very different level of challenge.

(Fred)  That’s certainly the case.  Don’t confuse this group of Truths with just how to find your way to the corner drugstore and back.  They’re more about how to adjust to changes coming so rapidly that those who aren’t aware of them will be more surprised than beachgoers who see a tsunami coming over the horizon.  So, let’s get started.

Truth of Terasem 4.6 says: “Consensus may appear to slow the When of Terasem, but this is only an illusion.”  Perhaps the way to understand this is that the ‘when of Terasem’ in some of the Truths are based on how fast technology can advance if risks are not a problem and some limitations of natural law can be overcome.  Reaching consensus where cyberconsciousness and replicator nanotech are involved, on the other hand, involves real-world events with outcomes ranging all the way from catastrophic backsliding to optimal progress.  This inevitably adds delays, but is faster than being road-blocked by political dissention or hastened into unsafe practices by too little need for consensus.

Geoethical Nanotechnology, seeking new formulas for consent in balancing risk and opportunity, pursues the middle ground between standing pat on the status quo or rushing blindly in, crying “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”  As opposed to traditional consensus seeking, Geo-Nanotech places great emphasis on the risks of “refusing to take risks”.  It advocates rapid technology advances, but with reasonable reliability and safety.  This requires that if risks of damage or other problems might result from companies or individuals excessively pushing the state of the art, enforceable agreements on compliance must be used for added layers of protection, and we must “buy insurance” against adverse outcomes to mitigate impacts upon those who are the most vulnerable.

(Linda)  In these terms, then, it appears that consensus doesn’t slow down Terasem, but enables it to move forward with less resistance.

In this way, Geo-Nanotech may speed consensus and accelerate the advance of technology, rather than the other way around.  With this background, let’s go to the sub-truths of this Group.  The first is, 4.6.1 “Appear fast or appear slow, without unity only down can anything go.”

This Truth is phrased so poetically way!  Let me read it again: “Appear fast or appear slow, without unity only down can anything go.”  Poetry and music, along with rhythm, are heavily right-brain centered.  Could it be that the insight which inspired this Truth came from a powerful right-brain realization, or is it possible that there is an intent to help the reader of this Truth reach back from left to right brain to create a strong right-brain impression, along with whatever the left brain might make of it?

Let’s put these words into a more linear style.  A way of restating this might be, “If, in disagreement and conflict, you either force action or inaction, the outcome is more likely to be damaging and destructive, than creative and constructive.”  If you lack unity and push ahead anyway, without a synergistic infrastructure, or if you postpone endlessly and never get started, either way you’re more likely to fail.

If one were to say, “To hell with everyone else, we’ll do it my way or not at all!” this might destroy unity, but still not be disastrous, if that’s being done while organizing the local bridge club.  If, however, you’re developing powerful cyberconsciousness software or replicator nanotech, the lack of unity on either going ahead or forbidding development might, in either case, be disastrous.  Even with biotech warfare or old fashioned nuclear weapons, everyone’s at risk.  Consensus is vital.

(Fred)  The next Truth today is 4.6.2 “Pathways to consent are paved with open communication.”  Rephrasing to the opposite meaning, one might say, “If we use hidden agendas or covert manipulation, consent may be easier to achieve, but even if we get it, once the deceptions are discovered, the consent obtained backfires, difficult if not impossible to enforce, and any future consent may be unobtainable.”  Open communication is essential in seeking lasting consensus.  We don’t have to wait for a think tank to get us moving on this.  We can, each of us, every day, work on being more open in our communications with others.

(Linda)  Earlier, Fred, you mentioned empathy.  4.6.4 says “Empathy is a precursor for honest communication and conscious decision.”  If you understand what the other person is feeling, you’ll connect more deeply with the other person’s values.  That makes consensus easier.  There’s an underlying meaning too, worth mentioning.  In an earlier Truth 1.6, on consciousness, 1.6.6 states “Synergy of empathy and reason yields consciousness.”  Without going deeply into that Group of Truths, the message is this, If you lack empathy, by Terasem standards you are not fully conscious.  Conscious, that is, of what might be going on in the minds of others.

To try to wrap up this side trip,  which is not easy without an extensive discussion, that Group of Truths also makes logical ethics a precondition of consciousness… that is, being conscious of right vs. wrong.  There’s a lot of depth in the way the word “consciousness” is used in the Truths of Terasem.  And, here, we can see the implications of the importance of working to keep our logical, ethical, conscious side in control over our frequently emotional, blind reactions. What some Buddhists would call responding rather than reacting.

(Fred)  I wish we had time to go further into those ideas!  In 4.6.5 we find, “Accept patience as a fair price for progress.”  This in some ways restates 4.6, “Consensus may appear to slow the When of Terasem, but this is only an illusion.”  The idea is that lacking consensus, waiting may be the fastest way to come to consensus.  A perfect example of the price of frustration is that if your computer stalls and you impatiently hit one key after another, you may have to reboot the system and start over.  Take four deep breaths, and you may find that you’re back on track.  Frequently, patience is the fastest way.

The final Truth for this Group is 4.6.6 “Reciprocity and norms will be as accepted as they are consented to.”  Let’s restate that as: “Reciprocity and norms will be accepted to the same extent as that to which they have been consented.”  If you wait until you have a higher degree of consent, you’re back to business as usual in an even more synergistic way, getting more done more rapidly, and both sides are more likely to honor the agreements to which they’ve consented.  This might sound mundane, but sometimes that which sounds mundane is exactly what’s needed to get you safely to the surface of the Moon and back home in one piece.

(Linda)  We’re out of time, Fred.  So, let’s preview what’s coming up.  (pause)  Next week we’re going to look at how progress is almost always “unsmooth”.  You no sooner think you’re done, then you’re doing it over, but the result is one notch closer to perfection than it would have been, so it’s OK.

(Fred)   Seems like that’s how it always works, particularly if you rush the ‘consent’ process.  It takes a lot of confidence to keep pushing ahead; what’s sometimes needed is to try enough diverse approaches so you’re not just stuck in dead ends.  But, the bottom line is that the Universe continues to self-organize, even when you feel it’s falling apart, and this is somewhat like that old saying, “Its darkest just before the dawn!”

(Linda)  Or before the Singularity!  But we’ll talk a lot more about that next week.  If you want to emerge in cyberspace sooner rather than later, then, as we said earlier, ‘joining’ Terasem is a very fundamental step.  We need your strength in building a social order based on compassion and consensus.  Find out more about joining Terasem at terasemfaith.net.

(Fred)   Be part of this exciting future. Build your own mental “starship” at the same time you help others.  The launching pad for “waking up in cyberspace” is at either CyBeRev.org or LifeNaut.com.  Remember, there are no fees for building or storing your mindfile.  And if you want to create a BioFile by preserving your DNA, you can do that at LifeNaut.com, too, very inexpensively.

(Linda)  For those of you who love games, Mike Clancy, at Terasem, has created the new maze-based, mindfile game for the Android. It’s addictive because the difficulty ramps up quickly with multiple layers of challenges.  While you are trying to build motor neurons inside a brain, plaques are obstructing your path and you have to avoid macrophages that are hunting you down!

(Fred)  Here’s the premise from the introduction to the app: “You are an artificial intelligence charged with controlling a nanobot inside a human brain. The brain belongs to a person who has just been resuscitated after being cryonically stored for almost 50 years. You have been chosen because, ironically, the person being restored to life is the same person on whom you (the AI) were based! Their mannerisms, personality, recollections, feelings, beliefs, attitudes and values were recorded and stored with the CyBeRev project and later coupled with mindware to create your digital persona”.  Check it out on PersonalityMD.com.

(Linda) And I’d like to invite everyone to discover, if you haven’t already, my favorite blog:  mindclones.blogspot.com.  Martine Rothblatt will treat you to fascinating discussions about mindclones, mindfiles and mindware that will take you far, far beyond what we are able to just sample lightly in these podcasts.  And you can find the text version of these podcasts at truthsofterasem.wordpress.com.

(Fred)  If you’ve been enjoying the music that we use on this podcast series, it’s called Earthseed.  It’s the Terasem Anthem.  It was written by Martine Rothblatt, who also plays the flute and the keyboard.  If you’d like to experience that music in a video, with spectacular astronomical artwork, go to the Join! tab on the terasemfaith.net website.

(Linda)  So, please join us, and our quest for an endless future…

(Fred)  Come with us – into Tomorrow!

Closing music – Earthseed – no fade – full length.


Posted July 19, 2011 by Truths of Terasem - Podcasts in Uncategorized

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