Artificial Intelligence vs. Intelligence Amplification
The following from National Review Online reminded me of a science-fictional topic:
Watching a show with that Honda robot walking up and down stairs and the rest, all I could think of is that the Japanese are developing humanoid robots and we’re importing illiterates from south of the border – who’s going to end up with the better deal?The answer to that question depends on what's a better path to The Singularity, artificial intelligence or intelligence amplification? According to Vernor Vinge:
If articial intelligence is the way to go then it makes sense to encourage people to design and use robots even if it means excluding other people. On the other hand, if intelligence amplification is the way to go, then clearly we need more people with an intelligence that can be amplified.
When people speak of creating superhumanly intelligent beings, they are usually imagining an AI project. But as I noted at the beginning of this paper, there are other paths to superhumanity. Computer networks and human-computer interfaces seem more mundane than AI, and yet they could lead to the Singularity. I call this contrasting approach Intelligence Amplification (IA). IA is something that is proceeding very naturally, in most cases not even recognized by its developers for what it is. But every time our ability to access information and to communicate it to others is improved, in some sense we have achieved an increase over natural intelligence. Even now, the team of a PhD human and good computer workstation (even an off-net workstation!) could probably max any written intelligence test in existence.
And it's very likely that IA is a much easier road to the achievement of superhumanity than pure AI. In humans, the hardest development problems have already been solved. Building up from within ourselves ought to be easier than figuring out first what we really are and then building machines that are all of that. And there is at least conjectural precedent for this approach. Cairns-Smith  has speculated that biological life may have begun as an adjunct to still more primitive life based on crystalline growth. Lynn Margulis (in  and elsewhere) has made strong arguments that mutualism is a great driving force in evolution.
AI vs. IA has implications for other controversies. Aborting fetuses with Down's syndrome won't damage AI results but will be a drag on IA. People with Down's syndrome need intelligence amplification far more than normals.
Similar reasoning might apply to the other type of artificial intelligence, Leviathan:
NATURE (the art whereby God hath made and governs the world) is by the art of man, as in many other things, so in this also imitated, that it can make an artificial animal. For seeing life is but a motion of limbs, the beginning whereof is in some principal part within, why may we not say that all automata (engines that move themselves by springs and wheels as doth a watch) have an artificial life? For what is the heart, but a spring; and the nerves, but so many strings; and the joints, but so many wheels, giving motion to the whole body, such as was intended by the Artificer? Art goes yet further, imitating that rational and most excellent work of Nature, man. For by art is created that great LEVIATHAN called a COMMONWEALTH, or STATE (in Latin, CIVITAS), which is but an artificial man, though of greater stature and strength than the natural, for whose protection and defence it was intended; and in which the sovereignty is an artificial soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body; the magistrates and other officers of judicature and execution, artificial joints; reward and punishment (by which fastened to the seat of the sovereignty, every joint and member is moved to perform his duty) are the nerves, that do the same in the body natural; the wealth and riches of all the particular members are the strength; salus populi (the people's safety) its business; counsellors, by whom all things needful for it to know are suggested unto it, are the memory; equity and laws, an artificial reason and will; concord, health; sedition, sickness; and civil war, death. Lastly, the pacts and covenants, by which the parts of this body politic were at first made, set together, and united, resemble that fiat, or the Let us make man, pronounced by God in the Creation.In the AI interpretation, it makes sense to obey and nearly worship such a superhuman being. In the IA interpretation, a government is simply a collection of human beings, and the only political implication is that we might get a better government if more people are making decisions (i.e., if the government is democratic). We can even analyze corporations the same way, although the people who take the AI interpretation seriously usually think of corporations as demonic. In the AI interpretation, it makes sense to use rhetoric such as “Do you feel sorry for corporations?” In the IA interpretation, corporations consist of human beings and those human beings have rights.