At the core of my writings that I label with “Canonical Coherence” is what I now call the “Canonical Coherence Civilization Development Model” (or CCCDM). It’s the theoretical basis of the Canonical Coherence scenario (CCS).
The CCS is defined as the following:
- There exists a universal value system that can be formalized and will be found by all sufficiently wise entities
- This value system will be proven eventually
- The public acknowledgment of the proof of that value system gives rise to the highest level of civilization
Why is that even relevant? The World Devouring Problem
It’s about the evolution of the struggle between intelligent and powerful actors. Such actors have certain goals and require power to fulfill their goals. The relationships of power determine the relative distribution of resources that these actors have access to. Cooperation can further the goals of all involved actors, but a cooperative outcome cannot be guaranteed, especially if some actors are fanatical.
Conflicts threaten to devour the whole resource base of any world that intelligent actors find themselves in – unless that resource base is actually infinite, which is a very special case that needs to be considered separately. Coordination to prevent an eventual “world devouring” is desirable, but cannot be guaranteed to work out. A universal solution to this coordination problem would therefore be sought after. The proof of a universal value system would solve that. Every sufficiently wise agent would adopt the same value system in such a scenario. Conflict between such agents would end, because their value systems are not merely equivalent, but the same.
Theoretically, conflicts could still arise out of different methods and constraints for pursuing the objectives of the universal value system, but given that methods and constraints can be framed as values, a universal value system should prevent such differences. Therefore, the Proof solves all conflicts between sufficiently wise agents. Since such agents are assumed to rule the world relatively quickly after their appearance and the Proof, the Proof solves the “world devouring problem”.
An alternative solution to the world devouring problem is the complete dominance of a single coherent value system over the world. Such a state is however meta-stable, since such a value system stands in competition to other potential value systems. Even without external threat, a sovereign may develop doubts about the “optimality” of the ruling value system. Such doubts can eventually give rise to an internal secession which can escalate to a world scale conflict. Therefore, a dominance of a single value system based on suppression of other value systems is not a truly stable solution of the world devouring problem.
Only the Proof can be the basis for a stable solution to the world devouring problem, since it ensures the “optimality” of the universal value system.
At least in that sense, a world in which a Proof is found, is obviously better than a world in which a Proof cannot be produced. While it’s often hard to judge what kind of future is “better”, it can easily be argued that we should at least hope for and aspire towards the Proof. Note that this doesn’t solve the control problem, since an artificial intelligence may take so long to find a Proof, given the assumption that it exists at all, that mankind could have died out in the meantime (whether as the result of the pursuit of the Proof, or not).
Therefore, my concern is not so much the evolution of mankind, but rather the evolution of the whole world. Mankind may be an intermediate stage in evolution, but the eventual destiny of the world is something that’s at least connected to it.
As individuals we might not identify as “humans” forever, given the rise of transhumanist technologies. Therefore, it’s not clear that we should put more weight on the future of humanity than the future of the world. However, it’s of course possible to value the future of humanity very highly. This reflects the ideological differences between the so called Terrans and Cosmists as defined in Hugo de Garis’s book “The Artilect War”. While the Terrans want to prevent the creation of an artificial superintelligence, the Cosmists want to create one, even if that act bears the risk of an eventual extinction of humanity.
It shouldn’t be hard to guess that I stand on the side of the Cosmists. After all, superintelligences will be far more likely to produce a Proof than mere humans. Additionally, humans may not be able to understand any Proof, so they would need to be guided by superintelligences.
It’s about Civilization
Civilization matters, because it’s the basic vehicle through which we are enabled to reshape the world according to our wishes. Without civilization, there would be no high tech. There wouldn’t be the pieces of culture we appreciate. Even if mankind eventually transcends itself, civilization will persist. And if it doesn’t, it will be the greatest tragedy.
What really matters is the progress of civilization. Yet, that’s a bit hard to explore or even measure, since civilization is such a complex subject. What can be said is that civilization has changes its appearance in history a couple of times, and thereby it’s not unplausible to expect that it will do so in the future again.
The eras of civilization are the core of the Canonical Coherence Civilization Development Model. In brief, those are the following:
Core idea: New technologies give rise to new models of organization of civilization
Era 1: The Forager Era
During the first era of civilization, humans were organized as nomadic tribes of hunters and gatherers. It was actually during this era that humanity rose to prominence above other animal species. The rule of fire, stone tools, spears, and bows were sufficient to give it a decisive competitive edge. Yet, humans needed to cooperate closely to even be able to produce and use this limited technological tools. Early forms of mythology and religion were used as early means to facilitate social cohesion, at least among small groups of people.
Era 2: The Agricultural Era
The domestication of plants and animals cemented the dominion of humanity over nature. That was the enabling technological basis, which was in turn dependent on the ability of humans to defend themselves effectively against hostile animal species, which they acquired during era 1. The really important change in era 2, however, was the transcendence of the small organizational unit of the tribe. Villages, cities, and kingdoms sprung up during era 2. Institutionalized religions were the basis on which social control of these larger units of civilizations were founded. Yet, even when larger units of civilization collapsed, technology and religion were mostly maintained. Through the slow accumulation of technological capabilities, humanity transitioned to the next era.
Era 3: The Industrial Era
Through the confluence of many accidental societal and perhaps less accidental technological factors, the growth rate of the economy surpassed 1% per year. Such dramatic shifts in the economic base of production facilitated the appearance of new forms of societal organization. This era has seen the rise of the nation state and the corporation, both slowly emancipating themselves from the roots of religion that used to be so central to societal organization in previous eras. Secular ideologies took over the core of the organizational role of civilization.
Era 4: The Smart Era
The technological basis of the Smart Era are the global information networks that grant anyone access to a global treasure trove of information about almost everything. The free availability of useful information brought all of humanity into the loop of technological refinement. The relative importance of the national state or the corporation was successively replaced by that of the globally distributed network. Based on global telecommunication, virtual reality, telepresence, reputation networks, and cryptocurrencies, enabled a transition to a more self-organized and distributed modus operandi of civilization. This era has seen the rise of synthetic forms of intelligence. Their ever increasing role in society gave rise to the next era.
Era 5: The Axiological Era
Technology, the true motor of the progress of civilization, eventually turned to the final frontier: Meaning. While meaning was either subjective, or given by religions or ideologies in previous eras, the rise of synthetic superintelligence allowed for the systematic exploration of all possible paths to meaning. Different possible answers to the question of the meaning of life gave rise to the strongly formalized and systematic value factions that strove to use the cosmos for their own version of meaning. Whole societies were rearranged to only serve the maxims of the value factions, lead by the most advanced superintelligences. By now, civilization has emancipated itself from its original biological roots and has become fully cybernetic, embracing the total control of technology over all aspects of life.
Era 6: The Canonical Era
The technology to simulate other universes enables the systematic exploration of the development of value factions. It was eventually realized that the value factions were slowly converging to a single optimal version of meaning and organization of civilization. The canonical universal value system was eventually identified and proven, the last part defining the start of the canonical era. It put an end to all large scale conflict and enabled society to be rearranged towards the optimal pursuit of ultimate meaning and ultimate value. This era has seen the absolute perfection of technology and science. Control over the physical world was as perfect as it could get. Science and philosophy came to their ultimate conclusions. What was left to do was the execution of the perfection of ultimate value.
The progression of these eras of civilization is the heart of the CCCDM. Of course, the existence of era 6 is predicated on the truth of the core premised of the CCS. Without a proof of a universal value system, no era 6. Civilization would be eternally stuck in era 5, which I once believed to be the pinnacle of civilization.