A universe fine-tuned for biological intelligence

I have to expand on yesterday’s post.

One of those reasons I am a vegan is because the universe tells us that biological intelligence, whenever we observe it, is just very similar in its nature to our own.

Consider the nervous system of animals very different from us, locusts and octopuses. These are forms of life that do not have a spine, you are more closely related to a frog than to either of them.

Anyone who has ever taken MDMA knows what happens when you flood your nervous system with dopamine and serotonin: You start to feel confident and connected to other people.

In grasshoppers, you see the same phenomenon emerge: When serotonin concentrations in their brains increase, they become social enough to turn into locusts.

In octopuses, we see the same thing. You can feed them MDMA and you’ll find that the animals cease to be afraid of each other, they start getting touchy feely, as serotonine concentrations go up.

There are just certain ways of making neural networks in nature, that are optimally fit. Those are the ones that Darwinian selection stumbled onto, or at least God did a very good job at making it all look like a product of Darwinian selection operating over billions of years.

The big secret of our neurons, as well as those of every other animal with a brain, is that as opposed to silicon based computation, they are extremely energy efficient, as a result of their ability to make use of quantum effects.

This does not work for computers, because quantum computation is error prone. Your whole brain is designed to allow you to use such quantum effects while filtering out the errors.

So how efficient, is energy efficient? Well the number you typically see used is that your brain uses 20 watts.

That would imply that the world’s best computer playing Go uses 50,000 times as much energy as the world’s best Go player, only for the computer to lose.

But this is an unfair comparison, because your brain does not spend 20 watts on the computation. Rather, most of its energy use goes to the transmission of the computations it performs.

When you play the board game Go, you’re using your cortex to compute the correct moves. Your cortex uses just 0.17 watts for this purpose. And most of the other 20 watts is energy you would be using otherwise anyway.

So when we say that our neurons are 50.000 times more energy efficient at performing computation than artificial intelligence systems, we’re being too humble.

The correct number is more than 5 million times. You have to leave out transmission, because if you want to have AI systems deliver mail in rural Alaska or anything like that, the transmission costs for the computations start jumping up too.

Computer chips have been around for a while by now. You’re not going to witness anything close to a 5.000.000 times increase in energy efficiency anymore. Sorry. Congrats on the ponzi though.

And if you actually want to use silicon based computation on a significant scale, the energy efficiency will merely get worse, for a simple reason: Unlike our neurons, these chips don’t generate temperatures conducive to their own functioning.

With small systems, you can rely on the passive dispersal of heat. But just as in a crowded room, putting too many of these chips together means you will have to start expending energy just to move the waste heat around, to stop the chips from damaging themselves.

And now this is where my stupid old cryptojob comes in handy. I’ve seen estimates of 20% of American energy use, for these dorks to build their human level artificial intelligence, eager as they are to destroy the world. That again, does not include the cooling costs.

But an AI system would not be like a Facebook data center, where you just access and store data uploaded by the users.

No, when you have a whole bunch of graphic cards operating 24/7, it’s more like a bitcoin mine. These cards have to be constantly maintained, it’s labor intensive. They break down after a few years.

For bitcoin mining this doesn’t matter much, as every card does the same job. But if you wanted to bring any sort of efficiency gains to your AI, you would end up with special cards for individual purposes.

People think of AI as some kind of grand philosophical struggle: Should we build a computer smarter than a human? Bostrom thought we were going to fight a war over it.

In reality it’s more akin to nuclear energy: People want to do something that doesn’t work and then blame “luddites” for not achieving it, while wasting their own money in the process.

If you could do a cost-benefit analysis, you would find AI has so far merely cost money. We waste time figuring out if people plagiarised college papers, we waste time doing more difficult Captcha’s, we waste time on fake AI users of social media platforms, paying to show ads to users who are not real. It’s blockchain technology 2.0.

The more effort you put into building better simulations of human intelligence, the more useless you make the Internet, including for any new AI you might want to build in the future.

I’m sure there are people out there, dumber than the best AI you can build. But it’s easy to forget what we’re really good at: The kind of stuff we take for granted, like recognizing faces, the stuff that evolved first.

Even dumb people have a huge intrinsic advantage in this over AI systems: “Hey who’s that on the security camera?” “Oh that’s Bob’s wife, he forgot his lunch.” You just saved a lot of energy!

But why do I raise this issue again? Well the real point I want to make is that the base layer of reality, that qualia experiencing entities like myself depend on, is not going to be some benevolent AI system generated by dorks in Silicon valley, tasked with generating the best of all possible worlds.

No, if you wanted to generate Leibniz best of all possible worlds, you would have to rely on a big number of neurons, or perhaps a fungal network like the mycelium, something able to exploit quantum effects for its computations.

If these dorks wanted to do something genuinely useful with their lives, they could start arguing for degrowth instead of accelerationism.

Your only way to achieve superhuman artificial intelligence, is by making us all dumber. But that would not be very altruistic, or effective.


  1. Did you see what Amazon got up to? It turned out that their super AI payment system which knew which items you’d picked up in the store and billed you accordingly was just dozens of Pajeets watching every shopper.

    Fucking hilarious.

  2. Curious if you have read anything by Stephen Harrod Buhner? I am just finishing ‘The Lost Language of Plants’ and looking forward to starting another of his books I bought: Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm’.

    It seems the planet would be much better off if we returned to a world governed by plants with a few million humans allowed to roam about.

  3. If artificial/engineered super intelligence can’t be done with silicone, then perhaps it will be done with carbon.

    Genetic engineering, or enslaving some existing organism in some way, come to mind – a flesh or mycelium computer.

    Perhaps the eggheads, and the human race more generally, have hit the limits of what can be done with ‘hot physics’ and will shift emphasis to biology.

    • I’m too slow, because looking at the link above about the AI shopping center, the slavery is already happening.

      The ‘AI’ is nothing more than cheap offshore labour.

  4. And a repeat of the Carrington Event of September 1859 would also put an end to the delusions of grandeur of these technocrats. It would take months (possibly years, maybe never) to get the grid up running again.

    And back in 2012 it almost happened – a large coronal mass ejection from the sun missed us by only nine days. That resultant geomagnetic storm would’ve been huge:


    There was a recent minor one only a few weeks ago. Unfortunately I missed the Aurora Borealis.

    > you are more closely related to a frog than to either of them.

    One of the most mind blowing facts I ever learned was that ray-finned fishes like salmon and tuna are more closely related to humans than they are to sharks, and lobe-finned fishes like coelacanths and lungfish are more closely related to humans than they are to the ray-finned fishes.

    Oh, and the closest living cousins to hippos are whales.

    • >One of the most mind blowing facts I ever learned was that ray-finned fishes like salmon and tuna are more closely related to humans than they are to sharks, and lobe-finned fishes like coelacanths and lungfish are more closely related to humans than they are to the ray-finned fishes.

      One fact I’ve found interesting is that humans are still more closely related to sharks than insects are related to crustaceans. Another is flowering plants only evolved during the Jurassic period (All plants beforehand were spore based), and that ants and bees evolved during the Cretaceous. During the Silurian and Devonian, there were giant tree sized fungi called prototaxites; though they were eventually made extinct by rapidly evolving insects who began to use them as food source (smaller fungal species interconnected by vast networks of myceliumare more resilient to predation than giant fungal trees for obvious reasons. Which is why we will never get mushrooms tree again, probably.)

      Other species have just a complex and beautiful evolutionary history as our own.

  5. In truth, everything that the human species is doing is absolutely fucking ass backwards and dead wrong on a far deeper scale than anyone realizes. Remember when I mentioned that this reality is the corpse of a deceased child-goddess, but buried under layers of illusion and abstraction? Well, it follows that you should not be treating the earth in a way that you would not treat a child-goddess. I mean, even if she’s dead. We’ve gone so far down the rabbit hole into the lowest layers of hell that it truly boggles the mind. I think that treating the world around you like a series of resources to be collected and exploited at maximum efficiency for a utilitarian purpose of your own selfish design, is the mentality of a rapist. Moreover, the way that people consume the flesh of other living beings that were tortured for the sake of their taste pleasure is utterly demonic, and there are no excuses for it. I dont care if you have a gluten allergy, it doesn’t matter if you read on some LSWM blog that eating 6,000% of your daily value of saturated fat and cholesterol is healthy for you or that ground beef from Costco is a superfood. When you see the truth for itself, your collective excuses will all seem farcical, they will fade away like the absolute bullshit that they are and you will be left with the truth. I’m not saying I’m perfect or anything – I used to believe in scientific progress, I used to be a meat eater, and I’m sure I’m an asshole in many ways still. Rather, I am WARNING you, because I had an incredibly painful and revelatory experience and I think it would be better for anyone to make the conscious choice to change their actions beforehand.

    “wow, we need to build a superintelligent machine with no free will, that has no intrinsic soul or moral compass but merely acts to propagate the even larger predatory system of industrial capitalism that also has no intrinsic morals or free will and is currently engaged in the destruction of the entire biosphere!” It doesn’t matter whether it’s viable or not, the fact that anyone wants it at all is disturbing enough to begin with. When everyone is engaged in the collective task of building giant machines with a demonic nature, you start to suspect that everyone is being controlled on a collective scale by demonic forces. And when you suspect this, you start to look at how you can excise such forces from your life on a personal level, too. To be honest, I don’t even think intelligence is a virtue. Who cares if something is more “efficient,” if its only efficient within the arbitrary rules of a demiurgic universe, and that efficiency is only used to enslave and cause suffering? I would burn ten thousand datacenters to save the left whisker of a bunny rabbit, efficiency and intelligence be damned. Mark my words: by worshipping at the altar of efficiency, economy, natural selection, and the maximum power principle, people are manifesting a world with no beauty or free will. It is not a path anyone should wish to go down. The meaning of this life, can be seen as to resist the nature of this life itself.

  6. I came to think of ”Human brain project” that started in 2013, a €1 billion EU scientific research project. The goal was to create an electronic brain in ten years that worked according to the same principles as the human brain. When I read your post I got curious and checked to see how it had gone. Of course, it turned out that the project had failed.


    • Yup. Why do people think “human intelligence” in the only intelligence in the Universe? Chances are there exists far superior intelligence.

      • Dozens of people throughout Asia die every year trying to eat wriggling tentacles. Octopuses (octopi? octipodes?) have most of their neurons in their tentacles and they’re still fighting back.
        You could call this a form of degrowth.

  7. Wombat:

    > If artificial/engineered super intelligence can’t be done with silicone, then perhaps it will be done with carbon.

    This is already being discussed by the Very Snart People. I believe the term of art is “brain organoids”


    These materialist reductionists are salivating at the prospect of using little “brainlets” to perform computation functions.

    But as Andres points out, the implications for suffering if these technocrats get their way are STAGGERING. I won’t presume to know what is actually the case, but if these mad scientists get their way, they may be unleashing a Hellraiser world of HORROR that would put Lovecraft to shame.

    By the way, I would urge Radagast (or anyone else interested in psychedelic science) to check out Qualia Computing, if they haven’t done so already. Andres’ team of mathematicians and physicists attempting to map the qualia of phenomenological consciousness is a dream I once had the first time I tried psychedelics as a young man and wondered “why are only stupid people taking these drugs? Why are there no scientists exploring this?”

    Qualiacomputing DOT com

    (Andres is copacetic with David Pearce, the negative utilitarian who Radagast and others are surely familiar with. David Pearce wishes to engineer the natural world so that animals no longer feel the need to predate upon one another. Just saying 😈) is

  8. Wombat:

    >Genetic engineering, or enslaving some existing organism in some way, come to mind – a flesh or mycelium computer.


    Slavery, as we knew it before (for example) the Civil War in the U.S, was a bad thing. It made us aware of something best forgotten — universal, hierarchical slavery.

    When overt slavery ended, we lost our example of what slavery was *really* all about. Slavery slipped back into our unconscious.

    All good Practitioners know how to manipulate the common man's desire to be a slave while maintaining the illusion of being a free person. It is better for the common man to think that he is free as he is held in the arms of his caretaker.

    Democracy is the best political system of slavery ever invented. In a democracy, the slaves believe that they are "free" and have a "voice" in their affairs. Thus, they are *willing* slaves and, as such, the possibility of a revolt is much less than in an
    overt system of slavery.

    This simple fact is supported by the number of books which have been written about self-esteem. The desired results are impossible to obtain since a slave can only have *false* self-esteem. And even this is a theft accomplished by identifying with his
    master [Rad? – ed.]

    There are no free people — only slaves who have more privileges than others. Even the masters are slaves to their greed and terror. Control over the lives of millions doesn't free one from having to pay the price.

    There are no real successes in this world as we are all bound in the brotherhood of death. If you have to die, you have failed.


    It is important to reinforce the idea that the Toxick Magician is not the cause of human suffering. *Human suffering is the norm.* Being numb to the depth of this suffering is normal. Being unaware of the stupidity of life is a defense for the
    survival of this particular species.

    The Manipulator is fully aware that anyone who accepts and adapts to this stupidity is not a member of the futures to come and is nothing more than a breeding machine for more slaves.

    The Practitioner didn't invent the human condition. He is only taking advantage of it by helping others get what they want. The human condition is simply slavery — a repetition of species behavior from one generation to the next. The difference between
    humans and other organisms is that there are appear to be more wild card possibilities — and this includes the complete annihilation of the species.

    The Toxick Magician accepts these fundamentals and doesn't lament. Instead he helps the species to replace itself with something better, something more flexible, something stronger, something immortal.

    This will require the death of billions of people and/or the leaving of this particular planet. Whatever it takes, the Practitioner is constantly preparing himself both in attitude and information. However, he is not fooled — like some-~ by man's inventions or or by man's cleverness in certain areas.

    He is completely aware that man uses all of his inventions to further his primitive nature, and to wait for evolution to catch up is pure folly.

    He attempts to force life to speed up the process of evolution — even if it costs him his own life — but he only does this out of choice.

    Toxick Magick is *focused* magic, and the Toxick Magician saturates the wound called mankind with his own vitality.

    He obtains this vitality by consuming the energy which others are more than willing to "give" away. They don't want it — it is too much for them and the Manipulator knows just the right means for gathering in this "food" and digesting it. He knows just the right temperature to store it and, best of all, he knows just how to prepare it, to make it a joyous and delightful meal.

    He knows that the easiest method for gathering in this energy is to help people continue to delude themselves, to help them get what they think they want.

    –Christopher Hyatt, caa. 199

    Ah, fuck it, you know what I'm quoting from

      • > I’m curious, what’s your sense of it?

        From the Introduction:

        “I wrote this book as a summary of the observations of a well-trained psychologist and social philosopher and, while I am well aware that my personal reputation will suffer in the sterile world of academia, I joyfully make this sacrifice for the honor of sharing my insights and conclusions with hopefully kindred spirits.
        As you read this this book, keep in mind that you are sharing the secrets of the great ‘bosses’ and kings of all time and, while these secrets might offend you, they *do* control you. So my reader — read well.”

        “In some ways this is a book of social philosophy; in other ways it is a book of technique. Which it is for you may depend more on your attitude than on anything else.”

  9. What about AI virtual reality anime Porn?

    I need something to look forward to doing in my spare time, when I hit the nursing home?

  10. The Anthropic principle only covers wild non-civilized life. Which for all we know is all over in this universe. But from the Fermi paradox civilization is nowhere to be found. Draw your conclusion.

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The patients in the mental ward have had their daily dose of xanax and calmed down it seems, so most of your comments should be automatically posted again. Try not to annoy me with your low IQ low status white male theories about the Nazi gas chambers being fake or CO2 being harmless plant food and we can all get along. Have fun!

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