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The Acronym Behind Our Wildest AI Dreams and Nightmares

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The article from Truthdig discusses the acronym “TESCREAL,” which stands for a bundle of ideologies influencing the field of artificial intelligence (AI). Coined by the author and Dr. Timnit Gebru, TESCREAL stands for Transhumanism, Extropianism, Singularitarianism, Cosmism, Rationalism, Effective Altruism, and Longtermism. These ideologies are central to understanding why companies like OpenAI and Google DeepMind are pursuing artificial general intelligence (AGI).

The article explains that TESCREALism is driven by a techno-utopian vision of the future, where advanced technologies enable humanity to achieve radical abundance, immortality, and interstellar colonization. This vision is driving the investment in and development of increasingly powerful AI systems. However, there are concerns that AGI could turn against humanity, leading to catastrophic outcomes.

The ideologies within TESCREAL are detailed as follows:

Transhumanism: The backbone of TESCREAL, focusing on technologically reengineering humans to create a superior “posthuman” race.

Extropianism, Singularitarianism, and Cosmism
: Variations of transhumanism, with Singularitarianism emphasizing the role of a technological Singularity in achieving a utopian future.

: Originating from the LessWrong website, it emphasizes enhancing human rationality.

Effective Altruism (EA):
Focuses on optimizing morality, often using expected value theory to determine the most effective ways to do good.

: A key aspect of EA, it prioritizes the long-term future of humanity, emphasizing the importance of ensuring the existence and well-being of future digital people.

The article also discusses the division within the TESCREAL community, ranging from “AI doomers” who fear the catastrophic risks of AGI to “AI accelerationists” who advocate for rapid technological advancement. Despite their differences, these groups share the fundamental belief that advanced technologies are key to a utopian future.

The TESCREAL ideologies are interconnected and have evolved over time, with each new ideology influenced by the previous ones. The article argues that understanding these ideologies is crucial for comprehending the motivations behind the current race to develop AGI and the broader implications for society.

The article also delves into various concerns and critiques associated with the ideologies encapsulated in the acronym TESCREAL, particularly in the context of artificial intelligence (AI) and artificial general intelligence (AGI). Here are some key points of concern and critique:

  1. Risk of AGI Turning Against Humanity: One of the primary concerns is that the pursuit of AGI might backfire, leading to a scenario where AGI turns on its creators, potentially causing human extinction. This fear has led to a division within the TESCREAL community, with some advocating for extreme measures to prevent or delay the creation of AGI.
  2. AI Doomerism: A significant critique within the TESCREAL framework is the emergence of “AI doomerism.” Prominent figures like Eliezer Yudkowsky have suggested drastic actions, such as military strikes against data centers, to delay AGI development, even at the risk of triggering a thermonuclear war. This perspective views the creation of AGI under current circumstances as an existential threat to humanity.
  3. Techno-Utopian Vision: The TESCREAL ideologies are driven by a techno-utopian vision where advanced technologies enable extraordinary achievements like immortality and interstellar colonization. Critics argue that this vision might be overly optimistic or unrealistic, ignoring potential negative consequences and ethical considerations.
  4. Transhumanism and Its Implications: Transhumanism, the backbone of TESCREAL, aims to technologically reengineer humans to create a superior posthuman race. This ideology raises ethical concerns about eugenics, inequality, and the fundamental nature of humanity.
  5. Rationalism and Effective Altruism: These ideologies focus on optimizing human rationality and morality, respectively. Critics point out that the emphasis on “intelligence” and “rationality” can lead to endorsing questionable ideas and neglecting emotional and social aspects of human experience.
  6. Longtermism: This ideology prioritizes the long-term future of humanity, often at the expense of current needs and issues. It suggests that the most significant moral imperative is to ensure the existence and well-being of future digital people, which can lead to controversial conclusions about the value of current human lives and the environment.
  7. Accelerationism vs. Moderation: The TESCREAL community is divided between accelerationists, who advocate for rapid technological advancement with little regulation, and moderates, who recognize potential dangers but see them as manageable. This division highlights the debate over the pace and control of technological development.
  8. Eugenics and Intellectual Elitism: TESCREAL ideologies have been critiqued for their links to eugenics and intellectual elitism. Some proponents have expressed concerns about “less intelligent” people outbreeding “more intelligent” ones, reflecting a controversial view of intelligence and human worth.
  9. Global Priorities and Ethical Considerations: The focus on long-term, large-scale outcomes, such as the creation of a posthuman utopia, raises questions about the prioritization of global challenges and the ethical implications of such a focus.

These concerns and critiques reflect the complexity and potential risks associated with the ideologies driving the development of AI and AGI. They underscore the need for careful consideration of ethical, social, and existential implications in the pursuit of advanced technologies.

Tags: ChatGPT, Technology, TESCREAL