• Hippyhead
    899
    1) Science is an effective tool for developing knowledge.

    2) Knowledge often delivers power to edit our environment, which is typically why we seek it.

    3) Knowledge development feeds back on itself, resulting in an ever accelerating rate of knowledge development.

    4) An ever accelerating rate of knowledge development results in an ever accelerating development of new powers.

    5) Thus, science gives human beings new powers at an ever accelerating pace.

    6) Human maturity and judgment advances at an incremental pace at best, if at all.

    7) To illustrate the above, imagine a car racing down the highway at ever accelerating speeds, while the driver's skill increases maybe a little bit now and then.

    8) If the above is true, what is the logical outcome?

    9) If the logical outcome is eventual chaos, what would be the point of developing more new knowledge, given that it would likely be swept away in that chaos?
  • KerimF
    162


    You described well the role of the human-like robots, mainly their powerful rich Elite, who form the majority in the world :D

    On my side, I was/am interested in getting continuously enough scientific knowledge (thru my experiments and analyses after graduation) to just gain my daily bread (and of the few who depend on me) only, not to control or even threat others as the universal trend of the great systems is :)
  • Philosophim
    449


    I believe what you are describing is called "the technological singularity". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity

    There are a few theories on it, one of course being the end of the human race. Because ANY good theory of the future has to have our apocalyptic end.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    690
    9) If the logical outcome is eventual chaos, what would be the point of developing more new knowledge, given that it would likely be swept away in that chaos?Hippyhead

    The point is what you state in 2), it give us more control over our environment.

    We don't know with any kind of certainty that the logical outcome is eventual chaos.

    Even if that would be the eventual outcome of "the process of knowledge accumulation", knowledge is not a singular thing. Some types may be dangerous, some not so much etc... I feel drawing conclusions at this kind of high level of abstraction is kind of meaningless.

    And even if we were to assume that such a general conclusion can be meaningful, it doesn't follow that this should be the only perspective a human being living here and now should take. The universe will eventually end in extreme chaos because of entropy regardless of what we do, that doesn't mean that nothing we do now has any point. Meaning shouldn't necessarily be measured by ultimate outcomes only.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k


    This is fascinating.

    You do leave out exactly what's in your post, and which could show up in more restricted domains, which is precisely the knowledge you could generate as you go of the capabilities for action you're developing and your capacity to control them. You might want more feedback.

    Of course we can still do some things even without a formal feedback system. Just look at work on the AI alignment problem.
  • Hippyhead
    899
    On my side, I was/am interested in getting continuously enough scientific knowledge (thru my experiments and analyses after graduation) to just gain my daily breadKerimF

    I hear ya. To be clear, I have no interest in demonizing scientists. We hire them to develop knowledge, and they do a good job of performing the service we asked them to perform.
  • Hippyhead
    899
    I believe what you are describing is called "the technological singularity". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularityPhilosophim

    From that page:

    The technological singularity—also, simply, the singularity[1]—is a hypothetical point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable changes to human civilization
  • Hippyhead
    899
    We don't know with any kind of certainty that the logical outcome is eventual chaos.ChatteringMonkey

    Yes, there is no certainty, agreed. I'm just speculating on the outcome of an ever widening gap between the power available to us and our ability to successfully manage that power.

    Even if that would be the eventual outcome of "the process of knowledge accumulation", knowledge is not a singular thing. Some types may be dangerous, some not so much etc...ChatteringMonkey

    Agreed again. I'm agreeable that most of the knowledge will be useful and constructive. The problem is that the negative powers grow in scale, steadily erasing room for error. As example, since the end of WWII a huge amount of positive progress has been made, too much to begin to list. But it only takes one bad day to erase it all, due to the scale of nuclear weapons.

    And even if we were to assume that such a general conclusion can be meaningful, it doesn't follow that this should be the only perspective a human being living here and now should take.ChatteringMonkey

    If one is ignorant of such calculations then one could enjoy a type of "ignorance is bliss" experience. If one dies before the you know what hits the fan, again a happy outcome. In my case, I'm not ignorant, but I am 68, so I'll probably get lucky and miss the chaos if it comes. What I'm ignorant of is the pointlessness of worrying about things which are probably inevitable and beyond anyone's control. :-)

    That said, I find this interesting largely because it may illustrate how the group consensus, even that of the very brightest and most highly educated people, could be horribly wrong.
  • Lokii
    8
    *Philosophy is an effective tool for developing knowledge.

    Just correcting you. Science only cuts off aspects of reality, and with that all you have is information, not knowledge. Science without philosophy that is the queen of all sciences (that is why there are PhDs) is nothing to take serious ;)
  • ChatteringMonkey
    690
    That said, I find this interesting largely because it may illustrate how the group consensus, even that of the very brightest and most highly educated people, could be horribly wrong.Hippyhead

    Sure some may have it wrong, but most are probably well aware of the dangers... and take a pragmatic attitude on it :

    What I'm ignorant of is the pointlessness of worrying about things which are probably inevitable and beyond anyone's control. — Hippyhead

    It's not one or even a group of scientists driving this process. It's countries locked in geopolitical struggles and companies in market struggles with eachother who pump huge amounts of money in these things... the rest follows. This is beyond anyone's control and probably inevitable... if it happens ;-).
  • Hippyhead
    899
    Sure some may have it wrong, but most are probably well aware of the dangers... and take a pragmatic attitude on itChatteringMonkey

    If we are well aware of the dangers, why do we continue down the same path as fast as we possibly can? What is pragmatic about largely ignoring thousands of hydrogen bombs aimed down our own throats? Seems like the definition of insanity to me.

    It's not one or even a group of scientists driving this process. It's countries locked in geopolitical struggles and companies in market struggles with eachother who pump huge amounts of money in these things... the rest follows. This is beyond anyone's control and probably inevitable... if it happensChatteringMonkey

    I hear you. Not arguing with that, except the "if it happens" part. Doing anything about this may very well be impossible, agreed. But we are great philosophers :-), so we're supposed to try.

    If I had to bet money on this right now I would lay my bet on the notion that we are trying to build a
    highly globalized technological civilization for the first time, and getting such huge things right on the first try is typically unlikely. If one takes a long enough view, everything may work out in the end.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    690
    If we are well aware of the dangers, why do we continue down the same path as fast as we possibly can? What is pragmatic about largely ignoring thousands of hydrogen bombs aimed down our own throats? Seems like the definition of insanity to me.Hippyhead

    Like I said, because it follows market and geopolitical logic. Countries and large companies need to invest into this because otherwise the become economically irrelevant. And scientist need to go where the money is, otherwise they are out of a job...

    If I had to bet money on this right now I would lay my bet on the notion that we are trying to build a
    highly globalized technological civilization for the first time, and getting such huge things right on the first try is typically unlikely. If one takes a long enough view, everything may work out in the end.
    Hippyhead

    Yeah agreed, unfortunately five years term democracies typically are not very conductive to taking a long view on things.

    I hear you. Not arguing with that, except the "if it happens" part. Doing anything about this may very well be impossible, agreed. But we are great philosophers :-), so we're supposed to try.Hippyhead

    As a great philosopher I have tried :-). I identified the source of the problem in geopolitical and market dynamics, which surpas the national level at which things usually get deciced. Therefor you need to have a dialogue and agreements on it at an international level. Not that this will be easy, but that's where you need to look for a solution I think.
  • Hippyhead
    899
    Therefor you need to have a dialogue and agreements on it at an international level.ChatteringMonkey

    Yes, and to do that we need publics which are educated enough to understand and accept the necessary compromises. And so here we find ourselves, back in this thread. :-)
  • Chris1952Engineer
    33
    I agree with your points but would take issue with your conclusion. I do not believe it will all end in doom, gloom and destruction as you suggest.

    In my view Science has only accelerated technological development, offering the "engineer" within us all ever more powerful tools to effect change and exercise power over their environment. This has culminated in the computers and communication tools available today which allow us to observe and act in concert across the globe for the first time ever.

    I believe these tools will give a voice for the "Silent Majority" and thereby:

    1) Offer everyone the chance to monitor and effect change within political establishments.
    2) Make us all more appreciative of the diversity and cultural difference existing among us.
    3) Give us the ability to promote and sustain individual lifestyles.
    4) Provide a more open society both nationally and globally.
    5) Enable us all to take responsibility for our planet and the ecosystems and realities it supports.
  • Lokii
    8
    To assume that "science" knows reality is impossible, because it can only know objects previously cut to adapt to the availability of its methods. These objects do not exist in themselves, they do not exist as reality.

    Everything that exists, exists simultaneously in various dimensions of reality. For example, you take a cow "Ah, the cow is a biological being!" well and isn't she a chemical being? Isn't a physical one? Or an economic one? Is it not a sociological being? She belongs to all of this at the same time! Is there any science that can study it on all these aspects? No. This thing has different aspects and dimensions that intersect, this is what is called the concrete being.

    Concrete comes from concrescere, that is to say that which grows together despite having nothing to do with the other. There is no science of the concrete object, science only studies an abstract object, an object as such that exists only for it. It is not the same object that exists for another science.

    Science does not teach us reality, it highlights certain aspects that, properly articulated with other aspects, help us to see reality.

    But one science does not replace the other, and it cannot speak about the object of the other.
  • Possibility
    1.7k
    1) Science is an effective tool for developing knowledge.
    2) Knowledge often delivers power to edit our environment, which is typically why we seek it.
    3) Knowledge development feeds back on itself, resulting in an ever accelerating rate of knowledge development.
    4) An ever accelerating rate of knowledge development results in an ever accelerating development of new powers.
    5) Thus, science gives human beings new powers at an ever accelerating pace.
    6) Human maturity and judgment advances at an incremental pace at best, if at all.
    7) To illustrate the above, imagine a car racing down the highway at ever accelerating speeds, while the driver's skill increases maybe a little bit now and then.
    8) If the above is true, what is the logical outcome?
    9) If the logical outcome is eventual chaos, what would be the point of developing more new knowledge, given that it would likely be swept away in that chaos?
    Hippyhead

    This accounts for the quantitative aspects of knowledge, but not the qualitative aspects - the relational structure of knowledge. Science that accelerates power without relational structure will produce a logical outcome of eventual chaos.
  • TheMadFool
    7.9k
    In my humble opinion, if I catch your drift, there are two active agents in this volatile mixture, to wit:

    1. Logic and allied abilities that make humans capable of comprehending the natural world in ways that, as you mentioned, enable us to "edit the environment" to suit our needs.

    2. Wisdom that, based on our expectations from it, should serve as a guide that makes sure that we make the right moves every time the occasion arises.

    It's no secret that our proficiency in logic, individual and collective, exceeds our combined wisdom and thus the state of the world - on the event horizon of global catastrophe.
  • Mayor of Simpleton
    627

    7) To illustrate the above, imagine a car racing down the highway at ever accelerating speeds, while the driver's skill increases maybe a little bit now and then.

    8) If the above is true, what is the logical outcome?

    9) If the logical outcome is eventual chaos, what would be the point of developing more new knowledge, given that it would likely be swept away in that chaos?
    Hippyhead

    If the outcome is 'chaos' (assuming we don't have chaos prior to the 'addition of chaos') why blame the car?

    This kind of reads like 'why not ban hammers as they can be used to hurt people rather than build'?

    I'm not sure if this is the point, but I have the notions it sounds like 'dumb it down for the sake of convenient controlled order'.

    Science isn't the 'death trap', but rather humans are their own 'death traps'.
  • Hippyhead
    899
    If the outcome is 'chaos' (assuming we don't have chaos prior to the 'addition of chaos') why blame the car?Mayor of Simpleton

    I'm not blaming science, which does an excellent job of performing the service we ask it to perform. I'm blaming our relationship with science, or rather knowledge. We're like the driver in the car who wants to go faster, faster, faster, but is too dumb to realize that sooner or later he's going to lose control of the car and crash.

    Why do we not give driver's licenses to 10 year olds? We are the 10 year olds. Not evil, not really stupid exactly. Just not ready for ever more power delivered at an ever faster rate.
  • Hippyhead
    899
    It's no secret that our proficiency in logic, individual and collective, exceeds our combined wisdom and thus the state of the world - on the event horizon of global catastrophe.TheMadFool

    Yes, that's all it is. The gap between power and wisdom is widening at an ever accelerating rate. Power races ahead while wisdom inches along at best.

    A key problem that is until we hit the chaos wall the knowledge explosion delivers a wonderful array of amazing goodies.
  • Hippyhead
    899
    This accounts for the quantitative aspects of knowledge, but not the qualitative aspects - the relational structure of knowledge.Possibility

    What's the relational structure of knowledge?
  • Hippyhead
    899
    I believe these tools will give a voice for the "Silent Majority" and thereby:Chris1952Engineer

    Yes, I readily acknowledge that the knowledge explosion comes with many benefits, including those that you've listed in your post. The problem, as I see it, is the scale of the destructive powers being generated by the knowledge explosion, nuclear weapons being the easiest example. Genetic engineering and AI etc may pose similar existential risks, though that is far harder to calculate.

    To stick with the easy example, the scale of nuclear weapons means that it only takes one bad day to crash the entire system. Put another way, the knowledge explosion steadily shrinks the room for error.

    In the past the powers available to us were limited so when we screwed up we could then clean up, learn from the mistake, and try again. Powers the scale of nuclear weapons may erase that option.
  • Mayor of Simpleton
    627


    For most scientific studies published in journals it requires a link (or a subscription). Not everyone can access these links (or subscriptions)... the funny thing is this has less to do with economics, but actual accreditation.

    In short, many of these journals realize that if people who do not understand the particular science involved this information (if misunderstood and misapplied) could prove to be dangerous; thus is it not open access.

    A former member of the old Philosophy Forums, an actual physicist in dealing with the philosophy of science section of the Forums one wrote to someone who was obviously unqualified, misinformed and quite misguided wrote them the following:

    "You are taking your sense of wonder, combining it with your inability to conceive of certain things, and demanding from everyone else that they remain as ignorant. That's not good."
    ― Kwalish Kid

    It's not really an elitist stand point, but one that simply acknowledges that some folks who have indeed studied the fields of science will have notions and opinions that out weigh the notions and opinions of those without such acquired knowledge. Basically all opinions are not equal.

    A funny side note is the illegible handwriting of doctors for prescription medicines is intentional. The 'scribble' was actually a 'code', as the pharmacy could read it, but the patient often couldn't... it kept the notion of prescribing medication in the hand of those who have knowledge.
  • Hippyhead
    899
    It's not really an elitist stand point, but one that simply acknowledges that some folks who have indeed studied the fields of science will have notions and opinions that out weigh the notions and opinions of those without such acquired knowledge.Mayor of Simpleton

    We might keep in mind that scientists have a built in bias towards the acquisition of ever more knowledge, because that is their ability, and the source of the rewards they receive from society etc.

    I used to try to discuss this with scientists, but I came to realize that doing so is much like going on a Catholic forum and claiming Jesus was just a nice guy. It generates far more heat than light.
  • Mayor of Simpleton
    627
    ... that scientists have a built in bias towards the acquisition of ever more knowledge, ...Hippyhead

    Why call that a 'bias'?

    If anything the acquisition of more knowledge via scientific methods is itself the prevention of a bias.

    This might be worth a read: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917255/

    EDIT:

    In addition to this I'd add in that for quality science to be applied one needs to be fully aware of cognitive biases... here are examples in that a check list that is applied when a study is peer reviewed or as I like to call it a mental colonoscopy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases
  • Hippyhead
    899
    If anything the acquisition of more knowledge via scientific methods is itself the prevention of a bias.Mayor of Simpleton

    The acquisition of knowledge is indeed driven by an escape from bias, to the degree that's humanly possible.

    I'm referring our RELATIONSHIP with that knowledge, and the power that flows from it.

    Imagine that we were somehow to prove beyond doubt that science is a death trap. What happens to the scientist then? They may lose their job, their salary, their elevated position in society, their ability to send their kids to college etc. All such factors are a very strong form of bias which work against a scientist agreeing that more and more knowledge delivered at an ever faster pace could be lethal to modern civilization.

    My experience in such conversations with scientists has been that first they will try to argue for the status quo. When they realize that's going to be more difficult than they first imagined, they often try to bulldoze over inconvenient arguments from a position of authority. If that doesn't work then they may retreat in to the "above it all" defense, claiming they are too important to waste their time on such nonsense. And if none of that works, you get banned from the site hosting the conversation. I've been banned quite a number of times. It's not a theory.

    All that said, scientists are not evil. They are human beings doing the job we hired them to do, and they very reasonably prioritize their kids college education over the fate of civilization etc, which as parents is also their valid job.
  • Mayor of Simpleton
    627
    In short... a scientist is responsible for the things they say, but are not responsible for someone else's understanding what has been said.

    Indeed they will try to explain a statement, but at some point in the fray the listener has to make some effort in the understanding and some indication that they are (possibly) not a scientist.

    Perhaps the problem isn't science or the scientists, but the people (laymen) who are presumptuous and self-assuming of understanding of science or the finding of scientists?

    In science if you don't understand something a scientist asks a question, but what a scientist doesn't do is issue an accusation those who understand or a grievance against their ability to understand. In science you make an effort to learn.

    Also, in science, if you don't know or it's not your field in all cases I've experienced a good scientist will make reference another colleague who is knowledgeable in the field, saying 'ask them'. If they do make a statement it always has the preface of 'this is not my particular field of study, so take what I say with a grain of salt'.

    Ironically this is the hubris of the layman... the one who has not studied in the field, who is too quick to understand and who employs psychological deflection in the blaming to those who are actually being humble in their statements in science as being arrogant.

    All that said, scientists are not evil. They are human beings doing the job we hired them to do, and they very reasonably prioritize their kids college education over the fate of civilization etc, which as parents is also their valid job.Hippyhead

    This assumes that scientists have been hired to simply do a job (who is the 'we' who hired them?), as many do it out of a passion for understanding and building upon knowledge further knowledge where the 'hired for the job' aspect plays a lesser role. It also assumes they have kids and it assumes they want their assumed kids to go to college and assumes that they prioritize their assumed kids over the possible greater good of humanity (whatever that means).

    Why is all of this perceived within the context of economics and assumed social dynamics of parenting?

    Also, if scientists are human and some humans have agendas and goals deemed to be 'evil' within a given social structure, why assume that scientists are not potentially evil?

    Again... science isn't the problem or a death trap, but rather humans.
  • Hippyhead
    899
    You're confusing the acquisition of knowledge, and our relationship with knowledge.

    Scientists are experts on the acquisition. Not the relationship. They suffer from a built-in bias against examining that relationship too closely, for understandable reasons.
  • Mayor of Simpleton
    627


    Why are scientists responsible for someone else's relationship with knowledge?
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