sam harris

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intro’d to Sam via his tedsummit 2016 – Can we build AI without losing control over it?

we seem unable to marshal an appropriate response to ai

imagine.. how bad would it have to be for us to prevent us from making improvements in our tech permanently .. so .. we continue to improve our intelligent machines.. soon – we’ll come up w machines smarter than us.. then intelligence explosion.. process could get away from us..

most likely scenario – machines so competent.. that the slightest diversion from their goals and our could harm us..

concern – that we will some day build machines that will treat us like we treat ants..


1\ intelligence is a matter of info processing in physical systems… we have already built narrow intelligence into machines.. and we know that mere matter can give rise to what is called gen intelligence: ability to think flexibly across multiple domains.. just atoms inside brain.. as long as we make systems of atoms.. we’ll eventually build gen intelligence… rate of progress doesn’t matter.. just need to keep going

2\ we’ll keep going.. continue to improve intelligent machines.. intelligence is either the source of everything we value or the safe guard of everything..we value.. we will do this if we can – ie: cure disease.. improve climate..

3\ we don’t stand on a peak of intelligence ..the crucial insight.. what makes our situation so precarious.. our intuitions about risk so unreliable..  if only half stories of smartest person.. overwhelmingly likely spectrum of intelligence is much further than we perceive.. so machines will explore this.. by virtue of speed alone..

imagine best case scenario – ai with no safety concerns.. this machine would be perfect labor saving device.. end of human drudgery.. also end of most intellectual work

? don’t know about that

what would happen under our current economic and political order.. seems likely we would witness level of wealth inequality and unemployment.. few trillions while rest of world free to starve..

so.. use this opp time – to create a nother way to live that makes current econ/political order irrelevant

what would rest of countries do.. play into war.. even mere rumors of this kind of break thru could cause our species to go bezerk

the kinds of things ai researchers say when they want to be reassuring: timing.. won’t happen for a while.. no one seems to notice.. that referencing the time horizon is a nonsequiter..

we have no idea how long it will take us to create the conditions to do that safely..

this inappropriate response to something we see coming..

safest/only prudent path forward.. is to implant directly into our brains.. usually ones safety concerns have to be worked out before sticking inside head..

co’s/govt’s see selves as a race against all others.. seems likely.. whatever is easier to do .. is likely to be what’s going to be done first..

i think what we need is like a manhattan project.. to avoid an arms race.. seems we have only one chance to get conditions right..

indeed.. a people experiment.. ie: hosting-life-bits via self-talk as data.. in the city .. as the day...

global systemic change .. for (blank)’s sake

the moment we admit that info processing is source of intelligence.. and that we will improve these systems continuously.. and that the horizon very far exceeds what we know.. we have to believe we’re building some sort of god.. now is the time to figure/plan for building a god we can live with


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Author of The End of Faith, The Moral Landscape, Waking Up, and other books published in over 20 languages. Host of the Waking Up podcast.

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Samuel BenjaminSamHarris (born April 9, 1967) is an American author, philosopher, and neuroscientist. He is the co-founder and chief executive of Project Reason, a non-profit organization that promotes science and secularism, and host of the podcast Waking Up with Sam Harris. His book The End of Faith (2004), a critique of organized religion, appeared on The New York Times Best Seller list for 33 weeks and also won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction in 2005. Letter to a Christian Nation (2006) was a response to criticism of The End of Faith. In The Moral Landscape (2010), Harris argues that science can help answer moral problems and aid human well-being. He subsequently published a long-form essay Lying in 2011, the short book Free Will in 2012, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion in 2014 and, with British activist Maajid Nawaz,Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue in 2015.

Harris is considered a member of the “Four Horsemen of New Atheism,” alongside Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and the late Christopher Hitchens. He is an advocate of separation of church and state, critic of religion, and proponent of the liberty to criticize it. He has praised Advaita Vedanta and Dzogchen, however, as “they contain empirical insights about the nature of consciousness that do not depend upon faith.” Harris’ writings on religion have drawn both praise and criticism.

Harris has written articles for The Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Newsweek, and the scientific journal Nature. His articles discuss topics including religion, morality,neuroscience, free will, terrorism, and self-defense. He regularly gives talks around the United States and the United Kingdom, including a speech at TED, where he outlined the arguments made in his book The Moral Landscape. Harris has made numerous television appearances, including interviews for Nightline, Real Time with Bill Maher, The O’Reilly Factor, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and The Last Word, among others. He has also appeared in the documentary films The God Who Wasn’t There (2005) and The Unbelievers (2013).


In April 2012, Harris voiced support for profiling, stating, “We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it.” The following year, columns in Al Jazeera and Salon accused Harris and other New Atheists of expressing irrational anti-Muslim animus under the guise of rational atheism. Glenn Greenwald wrote a column in which he agreed, “The key point is that Harris does far, far more than voice criticisms of Islam as part of a general critique of religion. He has repeatedly made clear that he thinks Islam is uniquely threatening … Yes, he criticizes Christianity, but he reserves the most intense attacks and superlative condemnations for Islam, as well as unique policy proscriptions of aggression, violence and rights abridgments aimed only at Muslims.”[42] Harris wrote a response to this controversy, which also aired on a debate hosted by The Huffington Post on whether critics of Islam are unfairly labeled as bigots:

Is it really true that the sins for which I hold Islam accountable are “committed at least to an equal extent by many other groups, especially [my] own”? … The freedom to poke fun at Mormonism is guaranteed [not by the First Amendment but] by the fact that Mormons do not dispatch assassins to silence their critics or summon murderous hordes in response to satire. … Can any reader of this page imagine the staging of a similar play [to The Book of Mormon] about Islam in the United States, or anywhere else, in the year 2013? … At this moment in history, there is only one religion that systematically stifles free expression with credible threats of violence. The truth is, we have already lost our First Amendment rights with respect to Islam—and because they brand any observation of this fact a symptom of Islamophobia, Muslim apologists like Greenwald are largely to blame.


Harris says the idea of free will is incoherent and “cannot be mapped on to any conceivable reality.” Humans are not free and no sense can be given to the concept that we might be. According to Harris, science “reveals you to be a biochemical puppet.


Sam Harris: The Self is an Illusion

Original Tweet:

francis crig said.. you’re nothing but a pack of neurons… that misses the fact that half the reality we are talking about is the qualitative experiential side

embodiment ness

1 min – so when trying to study human consciousness by looking at states of the brain.. all you can do is correlate experiential changes with changes in the brain states.. but .. no matter how tight these correlations become.. that

never gives you license to throw out the first person experiential side..

that would be analogous to saying.. if you flipped a coin long enough .. you would realize it had only one side..

it’s true you can be committed to talking about one side.. you can say that heads being up is just a case of tails being down.. but that doesn’t actually reduce one side of reality to the other..

ie: we have very 3rd person objective measures of things like anxiety and fear..  bring to lab.. tests.. but if half people come to lab tomorrow and show none of these signs and said they have fear.. these objective measures would no longer be reliable measures

2 min – we’re forever going to rely on people’s subjective reports.. to understand whether our correlations are accurate

so.. the hope that we are going to talk about consciousness shorn (shaved/cut out) of *any type of qualitative/internal/experiential language.. i think.. is a false one

idio jargon ness

we have to understand both sides of it.. classically subjective and objective

3 min – not saying consciousness is a reality beyond science/brain.. floats free of brain at death.. i am saying.. the self is an illusion.. the sense of being an ego and i a thinker of thoughts in addition to the thoughts.. and experiencer in addition to the experience.. the sense that we all have of riding around inside our heads as a kind of passenger in the vehicle of the body.. that’s where most people start when they think about any of these questions.. most people don’t feel identical to their bodies.. they don’t feel like they have bodies.. they feel like they’re inside the body.. and most people feel like they’re inside their heads..

now that sense of being a subject.. a locus of consciousness inside the head.. is an illusion.. it makes no anatomical sense.. there’s no place in the brain for your ego to be hiding.. we know that everything you experience.. your conscious/emotions/thoughts/moods.. the impulses that initiate behavior..

4 min – all of these things are delivered by myriad diff processes in the brain that are spread out over the whole of the brain.. that can be independently erupted..

we have a changing system.. we are process.. and there’s not one unitary self that’s carried thru from one moment to the next..unchanging..

begs we live a nother way

and yet we feel that we have this self.. that’s just this center experience

now it’s possible.. i claim.. and people have claimed for thousands of years.. to lose this feeling.. to actually have the center drop out of the experience .. so that you just.. rather than feeling like you are on this side of things.. looking in.. over your own shoulder.. appropriating/experiencing each moment..

you can just be identical to this experience.. 

eudaimonia ness

that is all the color and light and feeling and energy of consciousness..  but there’s no sense of center there.. so this is classically described as .. self/ego transcendence.. in spiritual/new-age literature.. it is in large measure the baby in the bathwater that religious people are afraid to throw out.. if you want to take seriously the project of being like jesus/buddha.. self-transcendence is at the core of the phenomenology that is described there

5 min – what i’m saying is.. it’s a real experience.. it’s clearly an experience that people can have.. and while it tells you nothing about the cosmos.. it tells you nothing about what happened before the big bang.. the divine origin of certain books.. doesn’t make religious dogmas any more plausible.. it does tell you something about the nature of human consciousness.. tells you something about the possibilities of experience.. but then again any experience does.. people have extraordinary experiences..

6 min – and the problem with religion is that people extrapolate from those experiences and make grandiose claims about the nature of the universe.. but these experiences do entitle you to talk about the nature of human consciousness.. and it just so happens that this experience of self transcendence .. does link up with what we know about the mind thru neuroscience.. to form a plausible connection between science and classic mysticism/spirituality..


because if you lose your sense of the unitary self.. you lose your sense that there’s a permanent unchanging center to consciousness.. you’re experience of the world actually becomes more faithful to the facts.. it’s not a distortion of the way we think things are at the level of the brain.. it’s actually.. it brings your experience into closer register with how we think things are



This *is* a well-reasoned piece.


This piece on IQ, race, Charles Murray, Sam Harris, education — read it, all of it.…

Murray’s work on The Bell Curve, Harris insists, merely summarizes the consensus of experts on the subject of intelligence.

The consensus, he says, is that IQ exists; that it is extraordinarily important to life outcomes of all sorts; that it is largely heritable; and that we don’t know of any interventions that can improve the part that is not heritable. The consensus also includes the observation that the IQs of black Americans are lower, on average, than that of whites, and — most contentiously — that this and other differences among racial groups is based at least in part in genetics.

Harris is not a neutral presence in the interview. “For better or worse, these are all facts,” he tells his listeners. “In fact, there is almost nothing in psychological science for which there is more evidence than for these claims.” Harris belies his self-presentation as a tough-minded skeptic by failing to ask Murray a single challenging question. Instead, during their lengthy conversation, he passively follows Murray to the dangerous and unwarranted conclusion that black and Hispanic people in the US are almost certainly genetically disposed to have lower IQ scores on average than whites or Asians — and that the IQ difference also explains differences in life outcomes between different ethnic and racial groups.


Good thinkers do well at lots of things, so a test that measures quality of thinking is a good predictor of life outcomes, including how well a person does in school, how well she performs in her job, even how long she lives.

wtf – yeah to school and job.. both unnatural.. just like claims.. sci of people ness

but also in their marital status, their political views, and TV-watching habits.

again.. not us ness.. nice .. being so scientific and intelligent and all.. and missing the main point.. what does it mean to be human ie: tv habits.. legal marital status.. political views.. (have you seen our ridiculous convos today).. job .. school.. )

his interpretation is much too strong — a gross oversimplification. Heritability is not a special property of certain traits that have turned out to be genetic; it is a description of the human condition, according to which we are born with certain biological realities that play out in complex ways in concert with environmental factors, and are affected by chance events throughout our lives.

embodiment ness. we create the environment.. ie: where school, job, marriage success are king.. so people aren’t themselves.. data is not legit to human nature

These “DNA-based” heritability studies don’t tell you much more than the classical twin studies did, but they put to bed many of the lingering suspicions that twin studies were fundamentally flawed in some way. Like the validity of intelligence testing, the heritability of intelligence is no longer scientifically contentious.


The new DNA-based science has also led to an ironic discovery: Virtually none of the complex human qualities that have been shown to be heritable are associated with a single determinative gene! There are no “genes for” IQ in any but the very weakest sense. Murray’s assertion in the podcast that we are only a few years away from a thorough understanding of IQ at the level of individual genes is scientifically unserious. Modern DNA science has found hundreds of genetic variants that each have a very, very tiny association with intelligence, but even if you add them all together they predict only a small fraction of someone’s IQ score. The ability to add together genetic variants to predict an IQ score is a useful tool in the social sciences, but it has not produced a purely biological understanding of why some people have more cognitive ability than others.

whew.. there you go

Most crucially, heritability, whether low or high, implies nothing about modifiability.

These observations do not undermine the conclusion that intelligence is heritable, but rather the naive assumption that heritable traits cannot be changed via environmental mechanisms. (Murray flatly tells Harris that this is the case.)

still troublesome that every other sentence in this piece references iq as some measure..

The topic of whether race is a social or biological construct has been as hotly debated as any topic in the human sciences. The answer, by our lights, isn’t that hard: Human evolutionary history is real; the more recent sorting of people into nations and social groups with some degree of ethnic similarity is real; individual and familial ancestry is real. All of these things are correlated with genetics, but they are also all continuous and dynamic, both geographically and historically.

In reality, the racial groups used in the US — white, black, Hispanic, Asian — are such a poor proxy for underlying genetic ancestry that no self-respecting statistical geneticist would undertake a study based only on self-identified racial category as a proxy for genetic ancestry measured from DNA.

all labeling.. kills us

They know that science is not designed for proving absolute negatives, but we will go this far: There is currently no reason at all to think that any significant portion of the IQ differences among socially defined racial groups is genetic in origin.

lovely.. but ‘diff in iq’ – what does that even mean.. all i hear is.. they scored differently on a random math test.. so wtf

  • It is true (and unsurprising) that poor children exposed to special educational programs such as Head Start tend to regress once the program ends and environmental disadvantages reassert themselves. But the gain in social and intellectual capital from the best available early childhood education can result in an increase of one-third in the likelihood of graduating from high school, can triple the rate of college attendance, can produce a two-year advantage in reading ability of young adults, and can result in a two-thirds increase in the likelihood that they will be either gainfully employed or enrolled in higher education. The best available K-12 programs also result in substantial gains in intellectual and social capital.

this is crap.. step back and listen to selves.. measuring things kills us

There is a fairly widespread intellectual movement among center-right social theorists and pundits to argue that strong adherence to the scientific method commits us to following human science wherever it goes

But passively allowing oneself to be led into unfounded genetic conclusions about race and IQ is hardly a mark of rational tough-mindedness.

passively (or whateverly) allowing us to be spend our energies on such unnatural topics (basically measuring/labeling people) as race and iq is hardly a mark of sanity..

Protest, when founded on genuine scientific understanding, is appropriate; silencing people is not.

pushing race iq ness.. silences people.. labels silence people..

public consensus always oppresses someone

The left has another lesson to learn as well. If people with progressive political values, who reject claims of genetic determinism and pseudoscientific racialist speculation, abdicate their responsibility to engage with the science of human abilities and the genetics of human behavior, the field will come to be dominated by those who do not share those values. Liberals need not deny that intelligence is a real thing or that IQ tests measure something real about intelligence, that individuals and groups differ in measured IQ, or that individual differences are heritable in complex ways.

Our bottom line is that there is a responsible, scientifically informed alternative to Murrayism: a non-essentialist view of intelligence, a non-deterministic view of behavior genetics, and a view of group differences that avoids oversimplified biology.

why a view of group differences.. in 2017..? when we can facil 7bn diff’s .. idio jargon et al..

our obsession in trump times (w talking about he said she said all day long) could be showing us how ridiculous this discussion (iq and race and measuring things) is.. fractally one and the same..


via luke – landscapes of mind – kevin in convo w sam

Large scale collaboration in realtime with connection

(starts at 5 min)

10 min – (on why it’s so hard for most to see into future) ..experts most often blinded by the changes ..  people who knew the most about things.. often most wrong.. we know too much and find it hard to release/believe things that seem impossible..

11 min – things most surprising..  things done in collab at a scale we have not seen before.. ie: wikipedia.. we are org ing work/collab at a scale that was unthinkable before.. our ability to collab in real time in scales that were unthinkable before so seem impossible.. most of these surprises have had that connection..

the math gets us coming and going – it binds/blinds us if we seek to control it – ie: measuring us ness – keeping us from us.. and its seeming impossibility (ginorm small ness) blinds us from letting go enough to swim in it – ie: exponentiality ness of our interconnectedness – can get us back to us

a nother wayhlb – from 2 convos – that io dance 

14 min – free albums was less about no cost.. and more about remix ing ability

shift from owning to having access

shift from static/monumental to incomplete/in-progress

shift from centralized to decentralized..

24 min – only skill .. you should graduate with ..learning how to learn.. esp your own power of learning.. if you can get to that state.. how you personally learn best..

so why school?

25 min – what schools should be aiming for.. how to learn how to learn and how you learn best

get back to age 5.. and just facil curiosity

31 min – machines will lack common sense.. we’re misled by concept of intelligence..  i think it’s more like effectiveness.. ie: an ability to meet goals.. – sam

33 min – poor understanding of what our intelligence is as humans.. common conception of iq very misleading notion of intelligence in humans.. that we could rank it..

40 min – can’t max everything.. so have to make trade offs

? – isn’t that a not letting go and letting math ness again..?

41 min – super intelligence that excels us in every dimension.. i don’t accept that

don’t agree with last bit – sam

me either – though i don’t know if i’d call it super intelligence.. and i’m sure we’re off on what excel means – ie: flavors of success

54 min – almost all problems of today are generated by tech of past.. solution not to rachet back.. it’s actually to have more/better tech..  would generate whole/new problems.. gets at more choices/possibility.. increased freedom/options.. progress is propelled by problems..

55 min – we’ll have ai tools to help us understand ai

and/or – we’ll use ai as augmented interconnectedness.. so that we are still the ones running things.. no need to worry about ai running things

57 min – sam: to me the singularity is the point at which ai/super intelligence runs away from us.. our grasp of understanding

58 min – evolution has aligned us with utility function – to get genes to next generation.. on basis of that that every other goal/value has come into existence.. yet many of them have nothing to do with getting genes to next gen – sam

1:00 – we could build super intell machines aligned with code we think is important.. but.. new world could emerge.. that are fundamentally surprising to us.. subverting original goals – sam

1:03 – wanting them to align with current values

what if our current values are way off

real challenge for us .. is deepening our own values/ethics

a nother way – that emerges us as we go.. ongoingly

1:05 – we need to build machines who’s goal is to learn what we want – sam

rather.. who’s goal is to connect us.. not to think for us

1:06 – if we could find the master heuristic of more fully conforming to what we want.. – sam

instead of telling us our values.. relying on us to determine what values actually are

story about people grokking what matters

1:08 – want it to be a perfectly content slave – sam

rather.. tech .. that listens w/o agenda/judgment..

1:09 – intelligent systems becoming ultimate mirror of minds.. monitoring what you’re doing w your attention.. allowing you to live a better life.. – sam

hlb – but not used to measure our life with.. rather.. used to better connect us.. to better see the interconnectedness that is already there..

1:16 – finding out who we are as we are changing who we are.. defining and redefining.. these techs are going to allow us to do this.. to examine ourselves..

this is equity.. everyone getting a go everyday.. but again..  not so much to examine/define us.. but mech to facil our connections.. coupled with bravery to change our mind everyday..  and still be ourselves..

1:19 – on not knowing what it would be like after language..

*connecting 7 bn people all the time.. this global connection.. planetary system of some sort.. that is beyond our ability to imagine/perceive for a while.. that to me is a much more probable singularity.. at a scale outside of our experience..  i don’t see evidence of expo growth in intelligence.. but of  **growth of this organism.. this is another level of this complexity to ai..

*mech simple enough

**growth.. and/or .. uncovering.. ie: of our interconnectedness..

1:31 – i don’t think this is going to happen overnight.. good.. so that we can do this in a deliberate/conscious way..

but it could.. and perhaps should.. for (blank)’s sake… so build it to emerge as we go..

1:33 – it should be evidence based.. let’s not be too guided by what we imagine happening.. i can’t think of a single tech we have rehearsed so much before it has come.. which i think is a real improvement in civilization


1:35 – i have no doubt that there’s a massive shift in occupation/employment.. not so certain it’s going to happen as rapidly as people think/imagine.. that being said.. i see most jobs as bundles of tasks.. anything where efficiency counts.. goes to robots.. bots..

1:36 – humans very good at inventing things we want/desire.. not so efficient at first.. so forever process.. humans inventing jobs to give to robots.. and then inventing more jobs.. we are very good at identifying inefficiencies humans like..

1:37 – think different is really the engine of this new economy..t

then let’s go deeper.. let’s think really different..

1:38 – truck drivers losing jobs.. military.. learning to train .. educate.. not a problem in training truck drivers to be auto car repair people.. etc.. i don’t think we’re unable to do that.. we lack the political will to do that..

how is that different..?


1:40 – ubi is an experiment worth trying..we don’t know haw effective it will be until we try

we already have for years..

we can’t know until we try.. i’m in favor with experimenting with it..t

me too.. but not with stuff we’ve already tried.. ie: bi


interview with Geoffrey West