December 31, 2006

Must know terms for today's intelligentsia

At the dawn of European humanism, Florentines believed that reading Dante while ignoring science was ridiculous. Similarly, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo both recognized the great importance of understanding science, technology and engineering.

Despite these trail-blazers, not much has changed since then; a startling number of so-called 'intellectuals' remain grossly ignorant of pending technologies and the revealing sciences (the postmodernists immediately come to mind). Today's intelligentsia, in order to qualify for such a designation, must have the requisite vocabulary with which to address valid social concerns and effectively assess the future.

Here is a list of must-know terms (there are many, many more, but these are IMO the most critical and fundamental):
  • accelerating change
  • artificial general intelligence
  • augmented reality
  • automation
  • cosmological eschatology
  • existential risks
  • Fermi Paradox
  • friendly AI
  • human enhancement
  • human exceptionalism (aka human racism)
  • information theoretic death
  • memetic engineering
  • mind transfer (aka 'uploading')
  • molecular assembler
  • engineered negligible senescence
  • non-anthropocentric personhood
  • neural interface device
  • open source
  • participatory panopticon
  • political globalization
  • post-scarcity economy
  • postbiological organism
  • posthuman
  • quantum computation
  • radical Luddism
  • remedial ecology
  • self-improving and autopotent intelligence
  • self-replicating device
  • substrate chauvinism
  • Simulation Argument
  • Singularity
  • superintelligence
  • ubiquitous surveillance
  • uplift
  • virtual reality
  • Please let me know if you feel I have left something out, or if you believe something does not belong on this list. For example, I wanted to mention advanced weapons, but that seems awfully vague. In particular, I'm thinking of autonomous robotic soldiers, neuro-weapons, advanced non-lethal weapons, and non-human decision making on the battlefield. Also, I would have liked to mention something about how consciousness is still a hard problem in science, but I'm not sure how I could encapsulate that in a simple term.


    Elf Sternberg said...

    intelligence augmentation.



    biological romanticism / biological chauvanism

    ontological conservatism

    pangenderism / nongenderism

    privacy management

    ubiquitous computing

    ubiquitous intelligence

    George said...

    Hi Elf,

    - intelligence augmentation gets covered by human enhancement

    - amortalism: interesting consideration; perhaps that and 'deathism' belong on the list

    - bio romanticism/chauvinism gets covered with substrate chauvinism and human exceptionalism

    - pangenderism / nongenderism could most certainly be added, but I prefer the term postgenderism

    - privacy management - another interesting one

    - ubiquitous computing - yes

    - ubiquitous intelligence is probably covered with ubiquitous computing, or you could use the term distributed intelligence

    George said...

    I've thought of couple more:

    - anthropic principle
    - neurodiversity

    And how about one on bias management? I'm wondering if there's a better term, and perhaps something related to a reinvigorated rationalism.

    Jamais said...

    I've compiled a list of ten more, over at Open the Future.

    Steve said...

    It'd be useful to have explanatory links for these terms.

    Simply knowing them isn't sufficient - knowing what they mean is important.

    George said...

    Steve, I thought about adding links, but I figured that readers could simply go on information quests on their own.

    Jamais said...

    I made the same observation; the reason links are better than self-directed research, in this case, is that for many of the concepts there's enough variation in interpretation that it would be useful to know what precisely *you* mean when you say (for example) "accelerating change" or "remedial ecology." Offering a preferred definition provides a stronger basis for discussion.

    George said...

    Hi Jamais, okay point well taken. What I'll likely do is re-post in a couple of days with a revised list and I'll include links.

    I've just thought of another one: virtual teams.

    Anonymous said...

    progress porn (examples: about every issue of Popular Science you can remember, especially the ones with pictures of flying cars or new and now mysteriously MIA sources of energy on the over)

    Anonymous said...

    I look forward to the repost with links. Interesting read!

    Jeff P. said...

    I like Progress Porn.
    My girlfriend refers to the recent spate of CGI disaster documentaries and shows (It Could Happen Tomorrow, Supervolcano, Tens Ways the World Could End, etc) as Disaster Porn.

    When the state of Connecticut did a "What If" docu about how well the state could handle a Katrina-style storm hitting us, I used the phrase in passing during a production meeting. It has since caught on with some Emergency Management officials.

    I'd put forth the idea that physical human enhancement (most biotech) and Intelligence Augmentation (I prefer the term Cognitive Enhancement) might need seperation. I think the first inklings of true posthumanism will see two different markets develop along those lines.

    Dungan said...

    great list! I'd add:


    morphogenetic fields

    And how about these topics from a more lettered perspective on transhumanism:

    post/trans fallacy

    the multiplicity of dreams

    lucid dreaming

    intersubjective space

    Anonymous said...

    We need a term to describe the genre of surprisingly successful books which attack religious belief:


    Karen said...

    Hasn't it been at least a couple hundred years or so since a well-educated person could be up to date in all fields? Pretty much any educated person could come up with a list of specialised terms (or buzzwords) in their discipline that wouldn't be familiar to people in other fields. I think it's self-flattering arrogance to claim a special status for your little corner of things.

    I guess i don't pass the test to become an official member of today's intelligentsia, in spite of having a Ph.D., a couple dozen peer-reviewed articles and book chapters published, and thirty years of research and university-level teaching experience in a scientific discipline.

    I'm also fairly well informed in politics and economics of current events, history, and literature, and am well read in literature and poetry in my second language.

    But I don't know what a computronium is. Perhaps I need to go on an information quest. Or maybe I could simply look it up.

    George said...

    Hi Karen,

    The purpose of this exercise was to come up with a list of concepts that have the most critical potential impact on the human condition. If you look carefully, you'll notice that these are not niche terms; I tried to be as multi-disciplinal as possible. Put another way, I am trying to establish the fundamental vocabulary required to grok the changing zeitgeist.

    Max Hodges said...

    >>I would have liked to mention something about how consciousness is still a hard problem in science, but I'm not sure how I could encapsulate that in a simple term.

    How about: "the problem of consciousness"?

    personally, I think a big part of the problem is that people talk about consciousness as if it's a single thing. Things like memory and attention, or emotions like love, for example, are very multifaceted. I think people need to look at consciousness as being a suitcase word that we fill with all sorts of notions, and then talk about consciousness as if it's a single thing.

    Max Hodges said...

    Some interesting ideas, too bad they didn’t make a glossary instead of just a list.

    “remedial ecology”?

    But I think the rhetoric is offensively pompous, elitist, and naïve.

    I guess I don’t get the guidelines for the list. Concepts intelligent people should know? Concepts about the future people should know? Seems very arbitrary. Why words ordinary words like “automation” and “open source” and not “evolution” or “market economy”, “sustainable development”, “non-zero-sum”? I guess don’t really grok. Maybe I’m just an intelligentsia halfling.