The Universal Upgrade as underlying framework

I just noticed that my framework of the Universal Upgrade could be the basis for the Fractal Future world. It has a generally utilitarian transhumanist line of reasoning behind it and is similar to a “soft take-off” “Singularity” scenario.

Anyway, there are some ideas that go beyond the post that I’ve written quite a while ago, regarding phases of the Universal Upgrade. Those phases could last about 15-20 years each, for example:

The Network Phase (2015-2030):

  • Network technology takes off. Decentralization is on the rise
  • Humans start the first serious efforts to use brain-to-machine and machine-to-brain and brain-to-brain interfaces, though the technology isn’t sophisticated enough yet to be especially useful
  • It’s the age of narrow AI agents and assistants, but no real artificial general intelligence, yet.
  • New modes of network enabled economy (cryptocurrencies, reputation economy, attention economy) become relevant on the fringe.

The Modification Phase (2030-2045):

  • Gene sequencing costs are very cheap. Everyone can afford a device that can do that at home (although these private sequences are not legal in a lot of places). People start doing DIY genetic experiments on themselves.
  • We really start understanding the human brain and how to augment it with neural implants. Technological telepathy and empathy becomes possible, but are still very rough.
  • The first AGIs appear, but are still below human level in many respects. In some respects they have definite advantages over humans. Tensions between humans and AGIs arise.
  • The first human minds are uploaded, but their performance is not on par with the human brain. The uploads run slower. But they have the advantage to be able to improve themselves more easily. But that’s mostly outlawed, because of fears of the public.
  • The economy is radically transformed by the use of network economies, 3d printers, AI, and AGIs. Also universal basic incomes become widespread.

The Wild Phase (2045-2060):

  • AGI are now at the human level and are about to surpass them quite significantly.
  • Atomically precise manufacturing becomes widespread and creates full abundance in conjunction with the now fully transformed economy.
  • Space starts getting seriously colonized. Mainly by uploads and AGIs using robot bodies.
  • Early versions of group minds and hive minds appear.
  • P (philosophical/principled) factions become really influential and start existing as virtual nations.
  • Some humans start fusing with AI/AGI components to become hybrid intelligences: The first “upgraded minds”

The Sophisticated Phase (2060-2075):

  • Very advanced and complex upgraded minds appear and basically take over control of most affairs
  • Telepathic communication has become the norm and is far more efficient at transmitting information than any kind of conventional language. Memories, perception, concepts, skills, qualia can be transferred almost perfectly and instantaneously
  • The economy is transformed into a fully upgraded economy that truly optimizes need and desire fulfilment efficiently, because everyone is deeply networked into a global system that can optimize all economic activity with extreme performance. This sounds like central control, but is wholly voluntary and based on a mix of centralized and decentralized operations.
  • Many p factions secure “territory” in the outer reaches of the solar system. There’s a great boom in the construction of space habitats.
  • The ecosystem of Earth is massively being redesigned: Suffering is minimized, super-wellbeing is introduced, the lives of animals are gamified.
  • There’s a dense network of replicators and dispensers that can create practically any good like in Star Trek.

The Upgraded World (2075-2090):

  • Technology becomes extremely advanced. We can manipulate matter on the femto scale and create new kinds of matter
  • The stellar civilization starts tapping the energy of the sun on a truly stellar scale. A Dyson cloud is being constructed around the sun
  • The furthest reaches of the solar system are colonized

Technological Maturity (2090 and later):

  • It becomes really difficult advancing technology any further, because it’s so insanely complicated and advanced already.

  • We can do perfectly realistic simulations of the past and other universes.

  • We start colonizing other star systems, because all the “real estate” in our star system is already taken.

I like the idea of using the universal upgrade concept and it seems like you’ve just set up the basis for what might be our general timeline.

I like the way you divided the century in phases and I think humanity may really develop that way.

The only point i which I think you are to optimistic is space colonization. I think it’s impossible that we have colonized the whole solar system by 2090. Even if people stop dying and we have a populational boom there won’t be enough people to ocupy all planets and moons by that time.

This population growth thing is a really complex issue. The reason for your intuition is because you are considering the population growth of humans. It can be exponential, but it would still be way too slow to colonize the whole solar system.

But I’m not talking about conventional people here. I’m talking about upgraded minds who can self-replicate or create versions of them by taking dirt and printing out computational substrate and robot bodies (if they desire to use those at all). The limiting factor would most likely be energy and not the old biological limitations that keep biological reproduction slow for humans.

And when we are talking about energy, we can assume that from the sophisticated phase onwards, at least something as powerful as nuclear fusion will be available. In the inner solar system solar power is plentiful, so that’s a cheap and good energy source to use. In the outer solar system much less solar power is available, so you would have to fuse the hydrogen that’s available there. The only problem might be regions in which hydrogen (or other light elements) are really scarce. Those would be the areas which develop most slowly. Unless we find an energy source that’s even better than nuclear fusion.

I’m not sure how realistic my assumptions are. In the Our Ascent and Exaltation Verse they use a technology I call “descent power” which is inspired by Greg Egan’s ideas in his novel “Hot Rocks”. So, at least in my fictional verses there’s really great energy abundance and hence population growth is naturally extremely fast.

Now this might change when we consider incentives for and against reproduction as well as government regulation of rapid reproduction. People really don’t like the idea of the AI equivalent of cockroaches populating every niche in the universe.

Most can actually come quicker, like gene sequencing, DIY genetics, neural implants and the advent of p factions (if my interpretation of what this is, its correct).

Others, like space colonization, might be slower, but not entirely impossible. If there are enough resources in disposal, people will start a pilgrimage like no other seen in history. And there are over 7 billion humans, more than enough to populate the solar system, if given the chance.

Now, there is much buzz over the atomic manipulation of matter. It is incorrect assume that much can be done without understanding the energy requirements. You can definitely transform lead into gold, today, with our current technology. The cyclotron just made that possible. But the energy required by this, made it simply not economical. There are more clever ways to use the energy at disposal (like space travel -and mining-).

As for upgraded minds, I suspect other scientific discoveries can get in the way, but it can still happen. Just not with silicon.

The little consideration of the future use of genetic manipulation and how it can affect the world itself concerns me. It is very ignored in the general public what can actually been done, and how much can affect us. A simple change affecting skin color on the babies, or even more, on a fully growth human being, is an obviously complex scenario.

Notice by understanding that factions with other ideologies might arise, and considering humanity as any other animal guided by an evolution that is not lineal but more like a tree, policies like this one may not be widely implemented. Because malice can still exist in some influential faction, and these kind of faction might try to force others to negate the implementation of any form of UBI if they see frighten their leadership and power. Pretty much like nuclear testing, but more like the introduction of capitalism, because geopolitics influence by continuously introducing tensions.

In deed we can be at the mercy of overpowered evils, because ideological reasons exists, like the long lasting discrimination that existed since long ago, and the favorite since the 1800’s, the argument of “overpopulation”, which is used as an excuse for a lot more, like racism and racists wars.

The guided evolution we have with biotechnology could be an argument against that human evolution resolves under many paths, BUT, can be used in favor of narrowing our chances even more on how human beings should be. If by any chance “one and only one type of intelectual/emotional genetic trait” becomes trendy, and widely accepted, it could be our doom (“endogamy”). It is simply the most easy and less suspected way that an existential risk can take over. It certainly has happened millions of times in the history of life, and it will happen again other billion of times.

Yes, they can come quicker, but the main roadblock will be societal resistance which pushes many of these developments underground. The more radical the possible transformation of everything facilitated by technology, the more massive the (at least initial) societal resistance. Of course, with enough power the resistance can be violently overcome. I suspect that China will adopt biotechnology much more ruthlessly than the West. Which in turn will push the West to start adopting these technologies, too.

Right. The energy requirements are a most important considerations. But what you’ve written about is nuclear transmutation, which will be economically impractical even in the far future, except maybe in very special circumstances. Atomically precise manufacturing just means that you move around atoms with a precision of about 0.1 nm. Per se, that doesn’t require huge amounts of energy. The computation required for APM might be more energy intensive than the physical manufacturing process itself. But even that can be minimized with the application of reversible computation.

When it comes to printing bodies, it would be most economical to use the resources that are available at the desired location, as long as they are good enough to make a sufficiently functional body. And yes, silicon is probably not the best way to go. Carbon is much more versatile.

You are right in that genetic manipulation is often overlooked in transhumanist circles. That’s probably because most transhumanists have a higher affinity for computer science than for biology (though both could become more or less one and the same in the future). I am indeed assuming that this genetic modification technology will have huge impacts, but that the impacts of information technology and artificial intelligence will overshadow them to some degree and that both will eventually merge anyway.

Yeah, this is something which we will need to keep in mind. Different ideologies and opposition to those ideologies. But eventually some ideologies pretty much die out entirely or become insignificant. Examples: Feudalism, and slavery. There is no nation in the world which still holds up either feudalism or slavery up as ideal or at least approved social order. Capitalism might suffer the same fate. As well as the narrow focus on the human race. Though that is only speculation at this point.

Very good point! This is indeed a danger that could come from too extreme global centralization combined with application of certain technologies in a very narrow way. Too much biological similarity could also increase the risk of certain diseases spreading very far. The same would go for software on which AGIs or uploads run: If they are all the same, someone could go ahead and create a virus that infects them all. So, we need a high degree of diversity in many different areas: Ideology, societal structures, biology, software, hardware, body morpholohies, mind morphologies, etc.


Exactly, we need to consider not only technical factor but also social ones. I recognize that AIs could reproduce much faster than humans, but would people let them? And more important than that, would they want to?

Enough to put a few humans in each planet or moon but not enough to ocupy all the available territoty by the end of the century.

True, but, as we are trying to create a mainly optimistic universe, let’s assume that people will understand the importance of diversity and avoid such a dystopian scenario.

I don’t know. Every story uses tensions and conflicts to generate a background and a memorable experience. But please go ahead if an optimistic future is what you want.

Of course we need tensions and conflicts but that doesn’t mean that we need to make our universe a dystopia.

As I said when I first proposed the project to you, Fractal Future should be optimistic but not panglossian. The world would become a better place but bad things would still happen.

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This is for you Joao. A brief sci-fi film featuring what can be:


Aweasome! Too bad it’s so short.

Yes, I completely agree. Even in a wonderful future people will still have substantial disagreements over certain matters and these conflicts will be more or less severe. And some things will just be annoying. Like travel and communication between different planets taking so long, once they are actually colonized. I think we shouldn’t assume someone comes with a way for superluminal travel or communication: No information transmission faster than the speed of light.

Anyway, conflicts may arise within and between nation states, and along cultural fault lines (religion, adaptation of advanced technology, democracy vs despotism?). Eventually there may be conflicts between p factions. So, I probably need to write something about them next.

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